East Markham church c.1882

X.—The Church of East Markham.

The architecture of East Markham Church shows that the building was due to, and took place in the time of Judge Markham and his two immediate successors, the two Sir Roberts.* There was an earlier church, and there had been an edifice of some kind since the conquest, served apparently by the monks of Blyth. The tithes were alienated. Tickhill Castle was part of the dower of Eleanor, wife of Henry II, who founded the chapel of St. Nicholas there, and endowed it with the tithes of East and West Markham. But in 1315 the Archbishop of York claimed the patronage of East Markham vicarage and church. The presentation afterwards belonged to the Lowdham and Foljambe families.

1. The Nave and Aisles.—East Markham Church consists of a nave with four bays and a clerestory, two aisles, and a chancel of much less height than the nave, and of considerable length: the whole in the perpendicular style of architecture. The lofty nave, with its very fine western arch, presents a noble effect, but the pillars which support the arches and clerestory are not pleasing. They are octagonal, with shallow crenelated capitals and mouldings. The clerestory consists of eight windows, which might be mistaken for decorated, but they are clearly of the perpendicular period, and the flat timber roof has carved beams, with heads and foliage of the same age. The north aisle has three large perpendicular windows, and a small doorway on the side, and a window at each end. The south aisle has similar windows, and a very picturesque old stone porch, with timber roof, and a carved head, forming the central boss, having a curling beard spreading over the beams at their junction. The gurgoyles consist of grotesque figures of unusual size, one of them a man in armour with battle-axe. At the angle of the south aisle and chancel there is a turret rising above the roof of the nave with a spiral staircase, evidently leading to a rood loft long since destroyed; but the doorway which opened upon it remains. There is now a carved screen. The old poppy-headed oaken seats, in the nave and aisles, were replaced by others of very coarse workmanship, in 1680.

2.  The Chancel.—The chancel is long, with a roof much lower than that of the nave, and an ordinary arch. On the north side are two perpendicular windows and a blank space; on the south side are three windows and a doorway under the centre one, the corner and mouldings of the window being worked round the arch on one side of the door—a peculiar, but not unsightly arrangement. The east window is poor. It has five lights; a mitred abbot's head, and that of a bearded king carved on the corbels of the drip stone.

3.  The Judge's Tomb.—On the north side of the chancel was placed the altar tomb of Sir John Markham, the Judge, who was no doubt the founder. The tomb consists of slabs of the gypsum or alabaster, which is found in several parts of Nottinghamshire, fastened to a core of brickwork. Plain shields are carved on the sides; and the following inscription is carried round the upper slab :—


Near the Judge's tomb was a stone coffin with a lid on a level with the pavement. Upon the lid was carved a head and bust, with hands joined in prayer. The head-dress indicates a woman. It is surrounded by an ogival moulding. At the foot of the slab there are indications of drapery; lions' heads at the upper corners. If this was, originally, by the side of the Judge's tomb, it may have been the coffin of his first wife.

The Meryng brass

4.  Lady Mering's Tomb.—The Judge's second wife, Milicent Bekeryng, was buried at the east end of the south aisle, and a stone, inlaid with brass work, once formed a beautiful memorial of this lady; but it is now much defaced. The figure, however, remains with an elaborate head-dress, a robe and sleeves falling from the elbows to the ground, and the hands joined in prayer. The hands cross the centre of an ornamental belt, on which there are trefoils and the letters x u on each side. There were once two shields of arras, now gone, and the following inscription round the stone:—


5. The Stained Glass.—Formerly there was a great deal of stained glass in the windows of Markham Church, but much of it has been wantonly destroyed. In the window above the tomb of Milicent there are her arms of Bekeryng (chequy argent, and gules a bend sable), impaled with those of her first husband Burdon (argent, three palmer's staves gules.) Once there were also the arms of Markham impaling Cressy. In the window at the east end of the north aisle there is a head of St. Catherine. In the next, a coat of arms (sable, a chevron ermine between three mullets argent); and formerly there were also the arms of Cressy (argent, on a bend cotised sable, three crescents or), and the inscription, "Orate pro anima Thomae Cressi. Civis. London. These have now disappeared. In the centre window of the north aisle there are fragments of a sun in splendour, the cognizance of Edward IV; and in the next window to the westward is the head of a saint. There is another sun in splendour, in one of the north clerestory windows. In the centre window of the south aisle is a lady praying. On that on the east side are still the arras of Fitz Hugh (azure, three chevronels interlaced in base, a chief or)In the time of the antiquary St. Lo Kniveton there were also the arms of Markham, Longvilliers, Lowdham, Foljambe, and several others, all now disappeared.

6.  Lost Tombs.—There were other tombs which have been destroyed. Francis Markham, writing in 1601, says: "In Markham churchyard be many tombs of stone, cut a l'antiquo, cross-legged, with shields, and other ornaments." Throsby, in his edition of Thoroton, figures the effigy of a lady with angels at her head, and another of a cross-legged knight, now gone.

7.  The Font.—The font is curious. The lower part consists of stone ribs rising from a base, forming angles, and joining the lower rim of the bowl.

8.  The Tower.—The tower of Markham Church is beautifully proportioned, and 71 ft. 6 in. high. "With the pinnacles the total height is 81 ft. 6 in. It is a work of the time of Edward IV, that great period for tower building, probably erected by the same Sir Robert Markham who fought at the battle of Towton. On the south face, in a canopied niche, there is a roughly carved figure, with the hands joined in prayer, which may be intended for Sir Robert Markham, the founder. There are good perpendicular windows in the upper storey containing the bells, winged griffins as gurgoyles, and crocketed pinnacles at the angles, and in the centres. From the top there is a glorious view, with the hills of Lincoln, and the cathedral, to the eastward; and a bright expanse of hill and dale to north and south.

9.  The Bells.—The tower contains a very fine peal of four bells, and a small one. They each have a quaint motto; all with the date 1637.

The Big Bell :— "All men that hear my mornful sound, Repent before you lye in the ground."

Second Bell :—"I sweetly toling men do call, To taste on meat that feeds the soule."

Third Bell :—"God save the Church."

Fourth Bell :—"All glory be to God."

10. The Dedication.—The church is dedicated to St. John the Baptist; and, from remote times, the feast of the church's dedication has been celebrated on the first Sunday in July. Markham Feast is not now, if it ever was, a scene of riot and dissipation. It is a happy anniversary, an occasion on which the people of the historical village assemble with their neighbours, in pleasant social intercourse.

XI.—Lord Chief Justice Markham.

In the days when the church was steadily rising from its foundations, there was born in the old manor-house a younger son of the Judge, by his second wife Milicent, who was named John, after his father. This child was destined to become the most distinguished worthy that Markham village has produced. Eivalling his father in the honours of his profession, he handed down his name to posterity, as an incorruptible dispenser of justice, in the most corrupt period of English history. He first appears as an advocate in the year 1430, and became a King's Serjeant in the year 1444. In process of time he was appointed a Judge of the Court of King's Bench. Sir John Markham was a staunch supporter of the House of York, and, when the Lancastrian party was dispersed, including Chief Justice Fortescue, who fled after the battle of Towton, all eyes were turned upon Markham to fill his place. He was, therefore, selected by Edward IV for the office of Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench. "Although he was such a strong Legitimist", says Lord Campbell,"he was known not only to be an excellent lawyer, but a man of honourable and independent principles. The appointment, therefore, gave high satisfaction, and was considered a good omen for the new regime"

In comparing the merits of Markham and Fortescue, Fuller, in his Worthies, says: "These I may call the two Chief Justices of the Chief Justices, for their signal integrity; for though one of them favoured the House of Lancaster, and the other the House of York in the titles to the Crown, both of them favoured the House of Justice in matters betwixt party and party."

Markham Tomb at Laneham.
Markham Tomb at Laneham.

Indeed, Sir John Markham was so strictly impartial, and so rigid in forming his decisions according to the exact merits of the case, that he very frequently gave offence to his own party; and in one memorable instance his inflexible sense of justice, and his determination to adhere to what was right at all hazards, notwithstanding the frowns and menaces of a powerful party about the Court, eventually cost him his place. He presided in the Court of King's Bench from 1462 to 1471. He rebuked the tyranny of Edward IV, and established the great constitutional principle that no man can be arrested by the Sovereign. "A subject", said Chief Justice Markham to King Edward, "may arrest for treason; the King cannot, for if the arrest be illegal, the party has no remedy against the King." This dictumof the Chief Justice is quoted with admiration, by Hallam in his Constitutional History, and by Macaulay in one of his Essays. Sir John Markham retired to his seat at Sedgebrook in Lincolnshire, where he died in 1481, and was buried under a fair marble tomb, which is now sadly defaced. His line continued to flourish at Sedgebrook. Its head was created a baronet in 1642, and Sir George Markham of Sedgebrook, the last baronet, died without issue in 1736. A great-grandson of the Chief Justice was Ellis Markham, an active politician who was appointed sequestrator of the See of York by Queen Mary. His son, Gervase Markham, long served Queen Elizabeth in her wars, and resided, during his latter years, at Dunham on the Trent, only a few miles from East Markham, where he died in 1636. There is a handsome monument in Laneham Church, with the father in his magisterial robes, and his son behind him in armour, with a love-lock falling from his temple and fastened to his belt. Both are kneeling in the attitude of prayer.

* The neighbouring church at Tuxford was being built in 1478, the chancel in 1495.