Past Talks

Churches have memories - the memorials of St Edburg's Church

Date: 21st January 2019
Speaker: Christopher Young

Churches have memories - the memorials of St Edburg’s Church – Christopher Young

21 January 2019

Christopher Young highlighted a selection of memorials in St Edburg’s Church and the personal and social history they portray.

The only wooden memorial is to Sarah Kendall (d. 11.7.1803) and has the most theological epitaph, being metric Psalm 4 written in the 1540s and still in use in the 19th century. 

The remaining memorials mostly have a low theological content; include biographical information and burial details. 

The form of current memorials is wood (1), stained glass, stone, plate (silver vessels etc), brasses and other gifts to the church, and number more than eighty.

Visitations in the 16th century list coats of arms displayed and show what has been lost in terms of wainscots, glass and boards.  After the storm of 1765, very little mediaeval glass survived and there are no pre-1500 tombs.  People may, in any case, have opted to be buried in the Priory church.  Dunkin’s history mentions at least four memorials that are no longer in place.  Drawings from the period of extensive restoration work in 1862/3, led by the Rev’d John Watts, show changes in the church and its memorials, some of which are gone.

Brasses date from the 16th-17th centuries and the 19th century and include that of Roger Moore (d. 1551).  This memorial, which contains extensive biographical detail, is currently being conserved. 

Stone memorials date from the early 17th century. Early examples were recessed into the stonework.  In the late 17th century/early 18th century a baroque style became popular and prominent among these are that of Sir Thomas Grantham (d. 1718).  He was a tobacco trader and naval commander who worked for the East India Company.  His monument was designed by Delvaux and Scheemakers, well-reputed Belgian sculptors, and would have been an expensive construction.

Towards the end of the 18th century plainer memorials were favoured. 

The stone memorial to Lewis Aubrey Coker (d. 1953) and Margaret Rosalys Coker (d. 1978) was installed at a time when the use of stone for memorials had largely ceased. 

Of the stained-glass memorials, only one remains from before the restoration of 1862.  This is the St Peter window, installed in memory of Lewis Coker who died on 9 April 1858, aged 38.

The ascension window was installed in the 1860s in memory of Sir Gregory and Lady Page-Turner and is located in the south transept.  Designed by Edward Burne-Jones, a prominent member of the pre-Raphaelite moment, it depicts the angels of hope, faith and charity trampling on the vices of despair, unbelief and hate.

The Gordon of Khartoum window, located above the vestry, was dedicated in May 1885. 

By the late 19th century, and particularly after World War One, people tended to be remembered by items donated to the church.  These include the reredos behind the high altar and its six candlesticks, the altar cross and, more recently, bibles.  The baptistry was re-named in memory of the Rev’d Cowland-Cooper.  This trend reflects the lack of space for memorials; the fact that people are no longer buried in the church; the need for a faculty from the diocese for additions to the church fabric and the sentiment that a donation will perpetuate the memory of the deceased.