Notes on the Tombs, Chapels, Images, and Lights, in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Nottingham

By Mr. F. Arthur Wadsworth

THE origin of this paper was the desire on the part of the writer, in the first place, to establish the identity and the date of the death of John Samon, whose tomb in the south transept, is an important factor in the architectural history of the church, and in the next place to locate the situations in the church of the various chantries and chapels. These objects have been almost entirely attained, but the result of the searches proved to be so interesting, that the enquiry has been continued further than was originally intended.

The wills, from which it is proposed to quote, are all at York; the greater number are in the Probate Registry, but some, that were proved in the Consistory Court, are in the Archbishop's Registry. It is believed that all the Nottingham wills from the earliest date up to 1514, have been examined, and a certain number of later wills have also been referred to, in cases where the Testators were known to have been connected with St. Mary's.

The index of Registered Wills proved in the Exchequer and Prerogative Courts of York, commences in the year 1389, but there are a few wills prior to this date, entered in the Archbishops' Registers. The earliest known Nottingham will, is that of John Le Collier, which was proved on 20th June, 1344.

Canopied Tomb in South Transept.

This canopy and effigy lying under it, is all that remains of the tomb of John Samon, who was Bailiff of the town of Nottingham for the year 1381, Mayor for the years 1383, 1396, and 1407, and who died in the year 1416. The tomb itself on which the effigy formerly rested, was destroyed in 1840,2 and the ironwork in front of the tomb was placed there in 1913.

This tomb for a considerable number of years has been attributed to John Samon, but up to the present time it has always been a matter of doubt as to which John Samon, in particular, was commemorated, and what was the exact date of his death. The recent searches amongst the York Wills, have now settled these questions. The will of a John Samon, senior, has been found, who is undoubtedly the same John Samon, described by Thoroton in the pedigree which he gives of the family as "Benefactor of the church of the Blessed Mary," and in the Visitation Pedigree of 1614 as "John Samon of the towne of Nottingham a benefactor to the building of St. Maryes Church there." The will by a somewhat curious coincidence, inasmuch as he was to be buried in St. Laurence's Chapel, is dated "In the feast of St. Laurence the Martyr" (August 10) A.D. 1415, and was proved in the Consistory Court at York, on 12th September, 1416. There is a direction in the will, that the Testator was "to be buried in the chapel of the parish church of St. Mary on the south side (ex parte australi)" which clearly indicates the chapel in this transept, which we know from the will of Richard Samon, to be mentioned presently, was dedicated to St. Laurence. He gives as a mortuary, his best horse with saddle and bridle, and his sword, and also £10 to the fabric of the church. There can be little doubt that the John Samon, of whom we are now speaking, was the son of another John Samon who was Mayor of Nottingham five times viz:—in the years 1361, 1365, 1370, 1375 in which year he is described as "John Samon, Senior," and 1378.1 This John Samon, who is also described in the Borough Records as "John Samon, the Elder,"3 married Margaret, daughter of John Tannesley and Alice his wife, both of whom we shall have occasion to refer to later, when dealing with the tombs in the north transept.

It is interesting to learn from a devise to his son and heir Richard Samon, that the dwelling-house or "capital tenement," as it is called in the will, in which John Samon (the Benefactor) lived, was in "le Gret Smyth-gate," now known as Pelham Street. Thoroton gives the name of John Samon's wife as Joana, but according to his will, his wife's name was Agnes. In regard to this discrepancy, it can only be concluded in face of the evidence of an original contemporary document, that Thoroton was mistaken in saying that the name of the Benefactor's wife was Joana, and that her real name was Agnes as mentioned in the will. The only suggestion that can be made as to how Thoroton fell into this error, is that John Samon's will contains a bequest to Lady Joan, Anchoritess of Nottingham, and it is possible that Thoroton may, in some way or other, have confused the Lady Joan with John Samon's wife. This conclusion having been arrived at, enables us finally to identify this tomb as that of John Samon, who died in 1416, and who together with his wife Agnes, is commemorated by the inscription recorded by Thoroton, as formerly being in the window (doubtless the great south window over the tomb) of the south aisle, i.e.—transept, viz.—"Orate pro Anima Johannis Samon et Agnetis uxoris ejus" (Pray for the soul of John Samon and of Agnes his wife).

Other Tombs in South Transept.

There was formerly here also a memorial slab, with incised effigy, to Richard Samon (son of the Benefactor), who was Mayor of Nottingham six times between the years 1418 and 1451, and who died in 1457-8. From his will (dated 8th March, 1455, and proved 7th January, 1457-8) it appears that his wife's name was Elizabeth, and that he was "to be buried in the chapel of St. Laurence in the Church of St. Mary of Nottingham." The inscription round the edge of this stone, is given by Thoroton as "Richardi Samon quondam majoris et aldermanni istius villae qui obiit XVIII die mensis Decembris Anno Dom. MCCCCLVII." William Stretton (who died in 1828) gives in his MSS., two sketches of the stone, which he describes as " an old plaster floor stone in the South Transept of St. Mary's Nottm lying between the two South East back columns of the Loft."

The Stretton MSS. also contain a plate of a cross-slab to Richard Samon, junior, the inscription round which reads as follows " Hie Jacet Ricardus Samon Junioris.......obit.......mensis.......Anno Dom Milo IVC XXVII." This stone which bears the arms of Samon— argent, a bend azure between a mullet pierced and an annulet gules—still exists in a mutilated condition, near the northwest door of the church. It will be noticed that the inscription is imperfect, and the date is expressed in an unusual and almost certainly incorrect form, which makes one think that in Stretton's time, the inscription was partly worn away and difficult to read. These circumstances seem to justify the suggestion, that the stone in question does not commemorate Richard Samon, junior, of whose existence there is no other evidence; but John Samon, junior, who is known to have died in the year 1427, and who willed his body "to be buried in the Parish Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Notyngham." But against this theory, it may not only be argued that John Samon, senior was then dead; but also that it seems quite likely, that Richard Samon may have had a son with the same Christian name as his own. The John Samon who died in 1427, does not appear to have been a son of Richard, as in default of issue he (John Samon) left his property to the right heirs of Richard Samon his uncle (avunculus).

In addition to the tombs already mentioned, it is probable that the tomb of William de Amyas, the founder of the chantry of St. Laurence, originally stood in this transept. Thoroton describes a somewhat singular coat of arms "In a high window of the middle and on a old tomb;" and from the context it would seem as if the "high window" was here and not in the north transept, as suggested by the late Thomas Close. The arms so described, which have never been identified, may therefore very well be those of William de Amyas, as his tomb would most likely have been against the east wall, on the north side of the altar of St. Laurence. It must however be borne in mind that the transept, if one existed at all in the previous church, was rebuilt and most probably enlarged about the beginning of the 15th century, and the tomb of William de Amyas may not have survived this reconstruction of the church.

Mr. H. Gill has put forward the suggestion, that the Purbeck marble slab, now attached to the alabaster table-tomb under the canopy in the north transept, is part of this tomb. This is quite a reasonable conjecture ; but there is no documentary evidence to support it.

Canopied Tomb in North Transept.

It has been shewn by Rev. A. Du Boulay Hill and Mr. H. Gill, in the papers recently published in the Transactions of the Thoroton Society,4 that this tomb is made up of two, if not three separate parts, namely: (1) The canopy. (2) The alabaster table-tomb. (3) The Purbeck marble slab; but it is not proposed to go into the evidence as to this.

(1) The Canopy.

The canopy, which appears from internal evidence to have been erected after this portion of the church was completed, is attributed to Thomas Thurland, who died in 1473-4; and there is no reason to doubt that this is correct, inasmuch as, apart from other considerations, he was by far the most important person who was buried in the church at the period which corresponds with the date of the canopy. He was moreover a benefactor of the Trinity Gild, which had its chapel in this transept, and was also one of the aldermen of the Gild at the time of his death; this latter fact may be gathered from the will of John Tewar, a chaplain of such Gild, who in 1473 appointed "his masters Tho. Thurland and Thomas Loketon" as his executors. It may be mentioned, that whilst no direct evidence as to whose tomb this canopy belongs to, has been discovered, Dame Joan Thurland, the widow of Thomas Thurland, who desired to be buried in the church of "oure Lady" at Nottingham, beside the sepulchre of her husband, left a legacy of 26s. 8d. "to the works of St. Marys," from which perhaps the inference may be drawn, that certain portions of the church were not completed at the date of her death in 1479.

(2) The Alabaster Table-Tomb under Canopy.

All the evidence points to this being the tomb of John de Tannesley, who was Bailiff of Nottingham in 1395, Mayor in 1399 and 1410, and who died about 1413-4 His will dated the Thursday next after the feast of St. Hilary, 1413-4, ordered his body "to be buried in the church of the Blessed Mary, Nottingham on the North side (ex parte boreali) or wheresoever God may will," and he left a legacy of £80 to four chaplains, to celebrate divine service for his soul, in the chapel of the Blessed John at the altar of same within the church of St. Mary, before which altar he had arranged his body to be buried. The copy of the enrolment of this will, as given in the Borough Records,5 is in some respects imperfect, and in particular omits the important fact, that he was to be buried in the north part of the church. His wife Alice Tannesley, in 1439, desired "to be buried in the church of St. Mary, Nottingham in the chapel of St. John Baptist on the north side of that church, next the body of John Tannesley lately her husband." There can therefore be no doubt, that John Tannesley and Alice his wife were buried before St. John Baptist's altar in this transept, probably against the west wall, in front of the panel formed by the string course and the projecting shafts which frame the windows, where the tomb could have conveniently stood. The facts on which the conclusion is based, that this is the tomb of John Tannesley, are (1) the representation of the Holy Trinity appears on the tomb, and from the Borough Records6 it is known that John Tannesley was at one time an Alderman of the Trinity Gild; and (2) the tomb has on it the figure of St. John Baptist, before whose altar he was to be buried. These two facts taken together, appear to complete the identification, as far as it is possible to do so. The will of Alice Tannesley contains another reference to the chapel of St. John Baptist, which will be referred to in connexion with that chapel; but it may be mentioned here, that she was the daughter of Henry Bradmer and Cecily his wife, as appears from a devise in her will, whereby she gave a messuage in Fleshewergate, Nottingham, to Nicholas Widemerpool and Elizabeth his wife, on condition to sustain every year in future times, a certain anniversary, and her obit on the day of her burial for ever, according to the use and custom of the Town of Nottingham, in the church of St. Mary, to the value of at least twenty shillings a year, to pray for her soul, and the souls of John Tannesley her husband, Henry Bradmer and Cecilia his wife, her father and mother, and all the faithful departed.

(3) The Purbeck Marble Slab.

Mr. Harry Gill's suggestion as to this slab, has already been mentioned; but if it formed part of some tomb formerly in this transept, the most likely claimants would seem to be Robert Glade and Joan his wife, both of whom were buried in the Trinity Chapel.

Table-Tomb formerly against East Wall of North Transept.

This tomb was destroyed in the "restoration" of 1839. The mutilated effigy that formerly reposed on it now lies in the north aisle, and a portion of the body of the tomb was in 1907 fixed against the north wall of the transept, under the Thurland canopy.5 It has been suggested by Mr. W. Stevenson, with some degree of probability, that this was the tomb of Robert English,6 who had his chief dwelling-house in Weekday Cross, abutting on what is now Garners Hill, then apparently called Calverton Lane. He died in 1483, and his will, which is a quaint and early example of a will written in English, contains the following direction as to his burial. "I bequeth my saule to God almighty and to oure Lady Seynt Marie and to all the holy company of heven and my bodie to be beried in the chirch of God called Seynt Marie Chirch in Nottingham." This will therefore confirms Leland's statement, that Robert English was buried in St. Marys; but it throws no further light as to the position of his tomb. As an alternative, it is suggested that this was the tomb of John Alestre of Nottingham, merchant, who died in 1431. According to the latter's will, he was "to be buried in the Church B. M. Nottingham in the chapel of SS. John Baptist, John the Evangelist and Anne on the south side of the altar." This chapel is now known to have been in this transept, and his tomb, supposing he had one, must therefore have stood against the east wall, in the position which it is known the tomb under consideration formerly occupied. On the whole, although it may be said that the evidence for this tomb being the tomb of John Alestre is stronger than the evidence for its being that of Robert English, the final identification must be left undecided.

(1) Orange's History of Nottingham, vol. II., page 516.
(2) Probably Mayor again this year, John Samon, junior, was Bailiff in 1381.
(3) Vol. I, 289 ; see also Cal. of Patent. Rolls (1391-96), p. 114,
(4) Vol. XX. (5) Vol, II. 88. (6) Vol. II., 68.
(5) Presented to the Church by Mr. James Ward. (6) Merchant and of the Staple of Calais, see Cal. Pat. (1461-67) p. 352.