Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Barges full of mettal

Among the treasures on display in the Great Lincolnshire Exhibition (which was part of the Magna Carta celebrations last year) was a book of which I had often heard - the British Library’s copy of ‘Dugdale’s Monuments’ of 1641, which including drawings by William Sedgwick of a number of the brasses in Lincoln Cathedral.  It was published only three years before Parliamentary soldiers came to the Cathedral, as John Evelyn was later to record, and shut themselves in, till they had rent & torne of some barges full of mettal, not sparing the monuments of the dead, so hellish an avarice possess’d them.  Perhaps two hundred brasses were removed leaving indentations in the stone where they had been much like the single example outside the south door at St Nicolas’, Great Coates. 

It set me to wondering whether Sedgwick’s drawings and the shapes of the indentations means that the names of those originally buried beneath the stone slabs could be recovered.  It seems an obvious piece of work for someone to have done, and twice in recent weeks, when I have been in Lincoln for other things, I have had the opportunity to read some relevant material in the Cathedral’s Library.  I did know that quite a few of the slabs had been moved in the 1780s when the floor of the Cathedral was repaved so they no longer mark the position of the original burials.  It turns out that the illustrations in ‘Dugdale’s Monuments’ are not as comprehensive as all that and few matches can be made.

One of them is this Belgian marble slab at the entrance to the south choir aisle which is identified as being that of John de Haddyn, a Canon of the Cathedral who died in 1374.  I have walked across it many times without paying any attention to the pattern in the stone.  It clearly shows the crowned Virgin with her Child symbolically framed at the top of a tree-like structure, and there is the Canon on the left kneeling beneath it with the words of a lost prayer appearing above his head like the speech bubble in a modern cartoon (just as the prayers ‘Lord, have mercy’ and ‘Let it be so’ appear coming from the mouths of the Barnardistans in their surviving early sixteen century at St Nicolas’, Great Coates).

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