If I were to make an achievable new year’s resolution for 2017, it would be to appreciate more church monuments. In what little time has come to pass of January already I’ve visited eight East Riding parish churches, ones which I’d previously only read about in books. Of these eight churches, St. Giles at Goxhill and St. Mary’s at Brandesburton contained sepulchral monuments to local, late-medieval individuals in stone and brass respectively. Their quality in design and decoration was unlike anything I had seen previously in a parish church in the county; affirming a concern I’d been harbouring that I had probably missed a good number of other great monuments in previous visits to historic churches, when I might simply have passed them by.
In December last year I’d began to take an interest in monuments as I spent some time, on multiple visits, in front of the clusters of various funerary monuments in the north and south choir aisles at York Minster (I wrote an article on the grand, perpendicular tomb and effigy of Archbishop Thomas Savage (d. 1507) in the south choir aisle). Since then I’ve spent more time thinking about monuments and I can now see for myself a new sun rising over a world of monumental sculpture and it’s appreciation there-of, in 2017.
Something clicked when I visited St. Mary’s church at proud Brandesburton. I recognised the family name to which the individuals represented in the monumental brasses belonged. These were the St. Quintins. I’d seen sepulchral monuments to other medieval St. Quintins at St. John of Beverley’s church in Harpham some months before. In also having recently read Brian and Moira Gittos’ essay ‘A Survey of East Riding Sepulchral Monuments Before 1500′, in which the pair discuss the development of many recorded monument types present across the county, I feel enthused to share some of my images of the St. Quintin monuments and the parish churches in which they remain.
[At the very bottom of the article are a selection of images of other late-medieval brasses in parish churches across the East Riding. I’ll list them now in case anybody might want to skip ahead and have a look at them:
- William & Joan de St. Quintin, c.1400, Harpham (detail).
- William Darrell, 1364, Brandesburton (detail).
- Johanna de Lellay, c.1400, Goxhill (detail).
- Roger Godeale, 1429, Bainton (detail).
- George Salveine, 1417, Lowthorpe (copy).
- Anonymous (female), c. 15th century, Garton-on-the-Wolds.]
To begin with I’ll start at the church of St. John of Beverley in Harpham, since this was the chief seat of the St. Quintin’s up until the 17th century. Supposedly the origins of the village can be traced back to a time when the Lord was one Roger de Stutville, one of the first landowners who had come to England with William the Conqueror. When Roger’s son Anselm died some time before 1199, Harpham passed to his sister, Agnes, who was married to another substantial landowner, Herbert St. Quintin.
There is a notable amount of early stonework in the fabric of the church to place the presence of a church in Harpham at some point within the 12th century. But for as fun as tracing the architectural development of the building in the church fabric may be (a variety of different period windows in the south nave wall, for example, is impressive in itself), I would argue that one’s time is better spent at this particular church studying the monuments in the north chapel. A large chapel founded by and exclusively for the St. Quintin family.
The most eye-catching sepulchral monument in this crowded chapel is undoubtedly the alabaster tomb chest, topped with a 14th century, incised slab with a fine depiction of William de St. Quintin (d. 1349) and his wife Joan (d. 1384) – and a small dog-lion at their feet (see image at very bottom of article). You can’t miss this particular tomb since it sits beneath a finely gableted, ogee canopy between the north wall of the chancel and the St. Quintin chapel (in a way similar to other East Riding sepulchral monuments with surrounding ogee arch ornamentation, such as the knight’s tomb in St. Andrew’s church in Bainton and the St. Percy tomb at Beverley Minster).
Although because of what is likely to be a limitation of working with the closed dimensions of the slab’s surface, the two figures of William and Joan are depicted much more intimately than other two-dimensional representations of recumbent husbands and wives in brass or stone. In this sense it evokes a feeling of warmth and compassion; a sentiment further heightened in the understanding that it’s believed to have been ordered by one of their sons, Anthony (rector at the nearby coastal town of Hornsea 1397 – 1423), whose own tomb chest in St. Nicholas’ church at Hornsea shares some similarity in its own surviving incising.
I can’t claim to know much about the way in which the figures of William de St. Quintin and his wife Joan are dressed and their place in the study of medieval art. I suppose I’m only qualified to say that the detail and artistry of his cumbersome armor and her sophisticated layers of dress are simply beautiful. Yet even though they appear somewhat squashed beneath elaborately decorated niches and are rubbing elbows with their incised, architectural frames, I feel this is a particularly charming representation of two medieval figures.
William de St. Quintin and Joan’s alabaster chest is the earliest monument to a St. Quintin surviving in any East Riding parish church. The other St. Quintin monuments of this late-medieval period, or ones I’ve at least seen are to William’s children. To begin exploring this succeeding generation of St. Quintin’s it’s best to begin with the large brasses of John de St. Quintin and his wife Lora (Laura) 12 miles away at St. Mary’s church in Brandesburton.
Brandesburton is a truly marvelous little village. Clearly quite well-to-do and lovely for a day visit. It boasts the grandest, surviving medieval market cross in the county, from which the battlemented tower of St. Mary’s church can be seen as you sit on the bench munching some quality fish and chips from the chippy directly opposite the cross. I have one complaint about the church – that there were no church guides available despite two separate notices encouraging visitors to take a copy of one in return for a small donation. This is regrettable since in preparation for writing this short article I’ve had to rely solely on a handful of contradictory online sources for information on St. Quintin ancestry. Although there’s likewise no guarantee in the accuracy of information put across in church guides either, I would feel more comfortable relaying information on the St. Quintin’s alive on the threshold of the 15th century if it were drawn from a guide written by someone connected to the church as opposed to an anonymous author behind a computer screen (therefore you shouldn’t believe anything I say here either!!).
In complete contrast to the lack of information provided at St. Mary’s, Brandesburton on their remarkable brasses; the individuals in the care of St. John of Beverley’s church at Harpham went above-and-beyond the call of duty in providing historical information on their church. With their information regarding William de St. Quintin and his tomb, I felt more assured reiterating in the above passages as more credible.
Beneath a large piece of red carpet in the chancel of St. Mary’s church are two large brass figures to John de St. Quintin and his wife Laura. The scale of the brasses are near enough life-size. Interestingly there is another smaller brass adjacent to John and Laura on the south side of the chancel floor, underneath another red floor mat (I have shared a picture of this at the very end of this article).
John’s figure is without a head, but about his armoured body are portions of stunning decoration in an overall design of balanced realism and proportion; his belt, gauntlets and chain-mail neck-piece are of particular intricacy. The depiction of the worryingly loose fastenings holding together the armour on his legs express a vulnerability you would expect to be absent from such a piece of sculpture. Also significant is that one of John’s hands is turned slightly enabling us to see in the inside of one gauntlet – palms are not often depicted. John holds a heart between his fingers, cupped to his chest; an unusual addition to the piece as well. I can’t help but wonder what sort of a man John de St. Quintin may have been; does this monumental depiction present a sincere, truthful picture of John’s mortal nature? Since it was rarely anybody other than the elite of medieval society who could afford to be memorialised in churches, John’s embellished brass probably doesn’t reflect the nature and character of the man himself. If any of the online sources are to be believed, it appears John de St. Quintin often campaigned against the Scots and in one instance is claimed to have neglected to take care of the estate at Harpham. Who knows what the man was like.
Laura’s figure survives complete. Above her right shoulder is a heraldic shield bearing the St. Quintin coat of arms. Laura died in 1369 and had taken John as her second husband in c. 1367. There is a story (how much of it is true I do not know) which tells of John’s wishes for a plan of interment after Laura’s untimely death. In the remaining years of his own life, John, now a re-married man, left an instruction that upon his own death he would be buried beside his first wife Laura in the church at Brandesburton. He also expressed a wish for his second wife, Agnes Herbert, to be buried alongside he and Laura at Brandesburton when she died. Agnes passed away in 1405 and was buried next to her first husband, a different John, in St. Lawrence’s church at nearby Sigglesthorne.
Laura’s brass is noted for her finely incised headdress detail; a style known as ‘reticulated’, and is finely jeweled. B. & M. Gittos note another instance of a similar headdress and neck pendent on a deeply cut effigy monument in St. Giles church at Goxhill. The Goxhill figure of c.1400 resides within the chancel of the Georgian (rebuilt medieval) church and is unique in that it is so deeply cut away around the figure. It commemorates Johanna de Lellay, possibly the first wife of one Radulphus de Lellay. Johanna, similarly to William and Joan de St. Quintin at Harpham, is framed within an architectural niche of such quality surpassing that of the two former mentioned, whose alabaster chest in St. John of Beverley’s church does not feature a surrounding inscription as Johanna’s does as well. Her tomb at Goxhill is decorated with a number of small supporting figures and beasts, and the four symbols of the Evangelists in each corner.
Returning to Brandesburton, I was able to find one small piece of written information on a windowsill in the chancel which contained the lines: “Sir John was a member of the Harpham St. Quintins: a younger brother of Thomas, whose brass is in Harpham church. Another brother, Anthony was sometime rector of Hornsea”. On this, no more was written. Perhaps the then unavailable church guide contains more information on John and his brother(s). But from these two sentences we can learn something. John was a younger brother of Thomas. It doesn’t say whether John was younger or older than Anothony, or whether Anthony was younger or older than Thomas.
Indeed, two Thomas’s are represented in monumental brasses of the early 15th century at Harpham. There is one brass to a Thomas de St. Quintin (d. 1418) with his wife. Another to a Thomas de St. Quintin (d. 1445) depicted on his own. Unfortunately I can’t distinguish between the two individuals. They may have been brothers, they may not have been brothers. As I praised the church wardens at Harpham for their time and effort providing information on the church, they seem to have avoided the matter of the relationship between the two Thomas de St. Quintin’s altogether. Sources online seem to point to many Thomas de St. Quintin’s emerging in the family and cadet branches of the family around this time and well into the following centuries, as well as further Anthony’s as well (discussion over whether some Anthony St. Quintin’s are ‘made-up’ being the crux of one particularly confusing Google thread)
Sadly when I visited Harpham a few months ago I didn’t take any pictures of the brasses to either Thomas de St. Quintin. If I get a chance to return I will take photographs of them and be sure to insert them into this article. I’ll also have a dig around and see if the church provides further information on them elsewhere.
I thought I’d end this article by sharing a few images of the churches and other monuments in the area.
Sources (not counting dubious ancestry websites):
The Church Monument Society Online: http://churchmonumentssociety.org/York_E_Riding_2.html
Gittos, Brian and Moira; “A Survey of East Riding Sepulchral Monuments in the East Riding” and Badham, Sally; “Monumental Brasses: the Development of York Workshops in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries” in Medieval Art and Architecture in the East Riding of Yorkshire (1989, The British Archaeological Association)