Saturday, 21 July 2018

Hemingbrough and Bubwith hatchments

In my last post I mentioned that I had been church visiting and I continued the theme on Tuesday by visiting Bubwith church with my WEA groups where we received a lovely welcome, learned a lot, drank tea, ate biscuits and bought jam.

One of my students and friends [they tend to morph from one into the other!]  Pauline Stainton of Goole is particularly keen on hatchments and so I shall turn the  rest of this post over to her.....

She first explains that

 The diamond-shaped hatchment, which we see often on the walls of churches, originated in the Low Countries. The word has evolved from  the medieval 'achievement' – the shield, helm, and other accoutrements carried at the funeral of a noble or a knight. 

In Britain it was customary for the hatchment to be hung outside the house during the period of mourning and thereafter be placed in the church. This practice was begun in the early 17th century. 

With hatchments the background is of unique significance, making it possible to tell at a glance whether it is for a bachelor or spinster, husband or wife, widower or widow.  The rules of heraldry forbid to any lady, except the Queen, the use of shield, crest, motto, helmet or mantling in her own right. She is however, permitted before marriage to display the arms of her family upon a lozenge, a diamond shaped figure, sometimes called a cartouche.

Then goes onto explain her own interest.

      I have no professional historical or academic qualifications, so when I was asked recently how I knew so much about hatchments and where and when did my interest start, an  explanation seemed appropriate. 

About 20 years ago I joined the WEA on Tuesday evenings for church visits. Our tutor was the late Geoff Bell. He was a lovely gentleman  and an inspiring teacher. He was my mentor. Most of our very large group had their own interest; one lady used to drive over the Humber Bridge for every meeting just to look at stained glass. I probably chose armorial bearings because Art & Architecture were one subject at Goole Grammar School and was my favourite subject taught by another excellent teacher Mr D. C. “Angus” Turner. When I saw my first hatchment, I was speechless and that was the moment I was “hooked”.

      In the past few weeks, members of the Goole & Howden WEA local history classes have visited Hemingbrough and Bubwith parish churches, both of which have a hatchment. They are vastly different. 

To quote a church leaflet that I have in front of me, “Some hatchments were prepared under the instruction of the Heralds, but most were painted in a hurry by local craftsmen and were often incorrect”.  
That appears to be the case with the Vavasour [Bubwith]  Pilkington [Hemingbrough] examples respectively - BUT – and this is my personal opinion, to a 21st century historian, they are equally valuable.

     Hemingbrough was our first visit. The Pilkington hatchment is sited where only the angels can read it. Thankfully I can rely on my friend Gilbert Tawn who is double my height  and never leaves home without his camera. I could just read the writing at the base of the hatchment and I did wonder at the time why Dame Len[n]ox Pilkington’s name had been added. 


Pilkington hatchment in Hemingbrough church

When Gilbert’s photographs arrived, I could see a possible answer. The lady had outlived her first husband George Smith then married Sir Lyon Pilkington who then outlived her. 

The hatchment has two thirds black background  and one third white which is correct, but the hatchment maker has put the white segment in the wrong position and so it reads as, the lady was alive and had buried two husbands. The maker has also given Dame Lenox a shield, a helmet & mantling. Ladies didn’t have the trappings of war which also suggests that a Herald had nothing to do with this hatchment. 

There are three armorial bearings shown - those of  the Pilkington family, the Smith family of  Osgodby  and the Harrisons of Acaster Selby.

 Bubwith’s hatchment has the “WOW” effect on me. Not quite true. It is also up with the angels. High above that chancel arch, to my old eyes, it’s a Pollack abstract blur, but Gilbert’s photos are excellent.

 It was made for Sir Henry Vavasour who died in 1813. When Henry’s wife Ann inherited the Spaldington estate, the couple lived in Dorset  and so the eight coats of arms on his shield are not local,  being mostly Dorset and surrounding counties.  Ann’s shield is termed as “In pretence”. She is the Vavasour’s sole heiress and being higher up the social ladder, she is superior to her husband. This is one of the rare occasions when a lady is allowed a shield.  Ann’s shield represents Spaldington history back to the De la Hay family of the 16th century. 

 It is possible that this hatchment will be re-sited a little lower in the future so local historians are in for a real treat.


Vavasour hatchment in Bubwith church.

I now know more about hatchments than before - and will look at them with new eyes. And I hope Pauline will educate me further on those in local churches.

Incidentally I came across an interesting note about Dame Lenox mentioned above. Her father Cuthbert Harrison set up a trust fund for her in 1698 just before her marriage to Lyon Pilkington. Which was just as well as when her father died the following year Lyon was able to claim all her  inheritance. He then apparently abandoned her and left her to survive on this fund. Could this have any bearing on her unconventional hatchment?

I never fail to marvel at the fact that how much you think you know about local history there is always more to learn.






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