Monday, 22 February 2016

A tile tells a tale

This tile, found buried in the ground when the major part of St Michael’s was being built 1913-15, is set in an inside wall at the bottom of the church tower.  I have pointed it out vaguely as a mediaeval relic to people over the years - although I discover now that it is actually Tudor.  Hugh Winfield, who took the picture at the head of the previous post, took this ‘enhanced colour’ picture of it last week, and I’ve been paying proper attention to it for the first time.  I’ve found a lot in a very short period.

First, I’ve found some background information about the Tudor ownership of the Manor of Little Coates. 

I’d already been told that the seventeenth century antiquarian Gervase Holles records the 1421 Will of a Sir John Cotes of Little Coates and an example in a window in the church of an Inglethorpe coat of arms ‘who heyr Cotes marryed... The inheritance came after by marriage to Del See and from Del See to Hildyard likewise – Sr Christopher Hildyard now enjoyeth it, Ano 1634’.  He also records several sets of ‘Del See’ coats of arms in the church windows – all now long gone.

I haven’t been able to chase down a reference to either a Cotes-Inglethorpe nor to a Del See-Cotes marriage, but I have identified a late fifteenth century marriage of a Peter Hildyard to a Joan de la See, the parents of a Christopher Hildyard (1490-1538, this is a hundred years before the Christopher Hildyard who was Holles’ contemporary and owner of the Manor of Little Coates at that time).  I have also identified a grant to Joan’s grandfather Brian de la See in 1419 when he is described as being ‘of Parva Cotes near Grymsby’ (although his wife inherited the Manor of Barmston, near Bridlington, and it is there that their son Martin, Joan’s father, lived).

So it is at least clear that a Brian de la See lived at Little Coates, and, whether or not he held the Manor of Little Coates himself, the Manor had certainly come to his family by the time his granddaughter Joan married Peter Hildyard.  The Hildyard family, beginning with Joan and Peter’s son Christopher, continued to hold the Manor over a number of generations (but only as a piece of property – the Hildyards and all subsequent owners of the Manor of Little Coates lived elsewhere).

Secondly, I’ve found some background information about the tile itself.

I find the design actually appears all along in an art book we have (Medieval Floor Tiles of Northern England J Stopford 2005 page 242).  It was used by (and it was may have been commissioned by) this older Christopher Hildyard when building the Manor House in which he actually lived at Winestead, which is about ten miles from Little Coates albeit across the Humber. 

It shows the coat of arms of Brian Tunstall  (1480-1513) and his wife Isabel (c1483-1535).  They are of some significance - Brian was killed at the Battle of Flodden and was brother of the Cuthbert Tunstall who was a contemporary lawyer of Thomas More, a friend of Erasmus and a prominent conservative Bishop of London and then of Durham through the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I. 

This all links up because Isabel Tunstall’s mother was a de la See (a half-sister of the Joan de la See who married Peter Hildyard – which means Isabel, whose great-grandfather came from Little Coates and whose coat of arms is on the tile, was a cousin of the older Christopher Hildyard, who held the Manor of Little Coates and who had the tile made).

Thirdly, some remaining questions.

Was Gervaise Holles right to suggest that the de la Sees acquired the Manor of Little Coates by marriage with a Cotes sometime after 1423?  Brian de la See was already ‘of Little Coates’ in 1419 and his heiress wife was a Monceaux not a Cotes.  Perhaps Little Coates was part of her inheritance (she did inherit Lincolnshire property)?  Their son Martin’s wives were a Spencer and a Wentworth and it is at his death that it goes to his daughter Joan and her husband Peter Hildyard.

If Brian de la See and John Cotes were both ‘of Little Coates’ (one or other holding the Manor) at about the same time (1419 and 1423), where did they live?  There is no surviving identifiable Manor House site.  Perhaps, in the same way that the Barnardistan Manor House at Great Coates gradually disappeared after they ceased to use it in the seventeenth century (although we know where it was), any Little Coates Manor House gradually disappeared two centuries earlier when there ceased to be a resident holder of the Manor there?  Those who have discovered impressive dressed stone near Toothill speculate about a lost church building there – but just perhaps these stones come from a lost Manor House instead?  Or does the total isolation until a century ago of Little Coates Church make more sense if there was in fact a lost Manor House and/or village nearer to it?

Why would Christopher Hildyard use tiles with the coat of arms of a cousin?  He must have wanted very badly to parade his link with the Tunstall family.  Was it because his cousin Isabel’s husband was a famous war hero?  Was it rather because the war hero’s brother (Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall – not a direct relative of his at all) was one of the great men of state?  If so, would this have been about personal patronage and loyalty (we know that Christopher’s brother Richard was the Bishop’s Chaplain for a period)?  Or would this have been about strong religious conservative party affiliation in the years leading up to the Act of Supremacy (1534) which was only finally enacted four years before Christopher Hildyard died?

How did the tile end up in the ground?  There is an obvious general link since the same tile was being laid at Winestead Manor not too far away and its owner held the Manor of Little Coates.  But more specifically?  Were there (in addition to the de la See coats of arms in the church windows) de la See monuments in the church or churchyard?  Might the sorts of changes which resulted in the loss of the windows have also resulted in the breaking up or replacing of some floor tiling relating to any of these?  Might what we assume from a major date stone on the outside must have been a major restoration of at least the chancel in the 1690s have been a possible occasion for this?

What does OBOII above the coat of arms mean?

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