Monument of the Month
September 2015


Ralph of Shrewsbury, Bishop of Bath and Wells (d. 1363)

 Wells Cathedral (Somerset)

Fig. 1        

Fig. 2
  One of the earliest surviving alabaster effigies to a member of the higher clergy is that to Ralph of Shrewsbury, Bishop of Bath and Wells (d. 1363), in Wells Cathedral (Somerset) (Fig. 1).Bishop Ralph’s effigy was originally in a place of high honour in the middle of the choir before the high altar in Wells cathedral. However, it was apparently moved out of the choir about 1550 and appears to have been in its present position in the North Choir Aisle at least since the early eighteenth century. The graffiti pattern and dates indicate this. It is very dense on his left side but almost absent on his right side, against the wall (Fig. 2). Apart from this, the effigy is relatively well preserved.

Fig. 3
Bishop Ralph is shown lying recumbent, with his head supported by a pair of pillows and his hands held in prayer. The carving is very well executed and the head of his staff, which is broken off, was originally fully undercut. His most curious feature is his mitre, which is shown hinged at both sides and secured by pins (Fig. 3). The effigy was evidently used as a model for that of Bishop Harewell (d. 1386), which is also alabaster and again has a hinged mitre. A special difference is at Harewell’s feet where the two collared dogs shown with Bishop Ralph are replaced by two hares, as a pun on Harewell’s name.
Previously Chancellor of Oxford University 1328-29, Ralph of Shrewsbury, a man of obscure origins, was the unanimous choice of the monks of Bath and of the canons of Wells when elected to that see in 1329. His consecration took place without the assent of the Pope, for which unfortunate haste Bishop Ralph had subsequently to pay 2,000 florins into the Roman treasury. His legacy rests on his pastoral activities during the years that he was diocesan bishop, as a result of which he gained a reputation for sanctity. Bishop Ralph also restored many of the palaces belonging to the see and surrounding, with lofty walls and a deep moat, the episcopal palace at Wells. It is probable also that the recasting of the eastern limb of Wells Cathedral was mainly the work of this bishop. Although not closely linked to Edward III’s court, Shrewsbury’s contribution to the monastery doubtless led to his commemoration by a fine monument in the latest fashion, which for some thirty years after his death was a popular place of veneration.

Fig. 4
However, Ralph’s principal benefactions at Wells were in support of the minor clergy.He founded the college of vicars, procuring license of incorporation for them, building them dwellings, a chapel, and hall, in ‘the vicars close,’ that they might live together; providing them with an endowment separate from the capitular estates, and drawing up rules for their conduct. The close survives (Fig. 4). At Wells Cathedral is a commemorativepanel painting, dating from the later-sixteenth or early-seventeenth century, in which the vicars are seen kneeling at the feet of the bishop, with this inscription attached: ‘Per vicospositivillae, pater almerogamusUtsimuluniti, tedante domos, maneamus [We are lodged in the streets of the town, but beseech you, dear father, that if you give us houses, we may be able to live together]’. The bishop benignly responds: ‘Vestrapetuntmerita, quod sintconcessapetita, Utmaneatisita, locafecimus hic stabilita [Your merits plead for you that what you ask should be granted; we have built permanent lodgings so that you can live as you ask]’ (Fig. 5).

Fig. 5
Copyright: Sally Badham Photos 1-4 Brian and Moira Gittos Photo 5:  Jez Fry (by permission of the Chapter of Wells Cathedral)
        Monument of the Month - Contributions Wanted!
This page is designed for the general reader and is intended to feature monuments of all types and all ages: those to the famous and to the unknown, those by famous sculptors and those by unknown local craftsmen, the artistically spendid and the simple but beautiful or curious. So far mostly members of the Council have contributed but contibutions are welcome from everybody - members or non-members of the Society. We would welcome a photograph or two and a short text telling us why the monument interests you: it may be of an ancestor, of someone you admire, something you have discovered or just something you just like or find interesting.
Please send the text as a word document and the photographs as separate jpg files ; please do not send the photographs embedded in the text as I cannot then edit the document. However, it is always useful - but not essential - if an embedded version could be sent as well, as then I can lay out the document as you intended. Please send contributions to . We will feature the monument for a month and it will then be archived.

Some tips on the photographs:
1. It is always polite to ask the vicar or rector of the church for permission to take photographs, stressing they are not for profit or commercial purpose. It is important to confirm when the church is normally open. Don't forget to enclose a stamped addressed envelope for your reply.
2. Cathedrals and some other large churches have a visitors' desk and permission may often be obtained there on the day; sometimes there is a modest cost. Some of these churches do not normally allow photography although permission may be obtained if one writes before hand. To date the only place that I have been refused  is Durham Cathedral. Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral also do not allow photography.
3. Try to carefully remove items that block the view of the monument if you are able. Especially don't leave your camera case in the way as I have on occasions! Or alter the angle of the photograph to minimise this problem.
4. Try to avoid excessive contrast in taking the photographs - dark shadows and bright sunlight. In other words, try to see what the camera sees, not your eyes! Flash can be difficult to use as it creates harsh shadows and burned out highlights; this is especially difficult when a photograph is taken of a subject of some depth when the foreground becomes too bright and the background too dark, because of the rapid falling off of the brightness of the flash with distance.
5. Please send photographs as jpg or gif attachments; do not embed them in the text where they cannot be edited and require a lot of memory space. If you wish I can scan printed photographs if they are sent to me; they will always be returned.
Click on the link below to see earlier Monuments of the Month
January 2010 Thomas Moore (d. 1586) & his widow Marie at Adderbury (Oxfordshire) Sally Badham FSA
February 2010 The so-called ‘Stanley boy’ monument at Elford (Staffordshire) Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA
March 2010 William Shakespeare’s monument, HolyTrinity, Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire Dr Adam White PhD
April 2010 The Lovell Tomb at Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire Dr Ellie Pridgeon PhD
May 2010 The chantry of Humphrey Duke of Gloucester 1391-1447 at the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban Jane Kelsall
June 2010 Thomas Babington of Dethick (d. 1518) and his wife Edith at Ashover (Derbyshire) Dr Kelcey Wilson-Lee PhD
July 2010 Baptist Noel, Third Viscount Campden (c. 1612-1683) at Exton, Rutland C B Newham
August 2010 Isabelle of Angoulême at Fontevraud Abbey J K Bromilow MInstP
September 2010 The Monument to Thomas Strode at Beaminster, Dorset Dr Clive J Easter PhD
October 2010 The cadaver monument of Guillaume de Harcigny (d. 1393) at  Laon (France) Dr Sophie Oosterwijk FSA
November 2010 The John Donne Monument (d. 1631) by Nicholas Stone in St Paul's Cathedral, London Dr Philip Cottrell
December 2010 Walter Helyon (d. c. 1357) at Much Marcle (Herefordshire) Sally Badham FSA
January 2011 Hungerford, Berkshire Dr Ellie Pridgeon PhD
February 2011 The Schaw Monument Dumfermline Abbey Church Dr Jenny Alexander
March 2011 Two wooden Epitaphien from Königsberg Jerome Bertram
April 2011  Abbot Adam of Carmarthen, Neath Abbey South Wales Dr Rhianydd Biebrach Ph D
May 2011 Sir John Newdigate, 1610, Harefield, Middlesex Jon Bayliss
June 2011  The joint tomb of João I of Portugal (d.1433) and his queen, Philippa of Lancaster (d. 1415) Founder’s Chapel, monastery of Our Lady of Victory, in Batalha, Portugal  Joana Ramôa
Photographs by  José Custódio Vieira da Silva
July 2011 Today and not tomorrow’ Doctor James Vaulx and his two wives Editha and Philip   St Mary’s Church, Meysey Hampton Joan and Robert Tucker
August 2011 The Bourchier Monuments in St Andrew’s Church, Halstead (Essex) Mark Duffy
September 2011 Two Monuments in Bedfordshire Cameron Newham
October 2011 Floor slab of Joost Corneliszoon van Lodensteyn, burgomaster of Delft (d. 31 April 1660), his wife Maria van Voorburch, and their descendants, Oude Kerk (Old Church), Delft (Netherlands), Belgian hardstone, 223 x 136 cm. Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA
November 2011  Berengaria of Nevarre, Queen of Richard the Lionheart in L'Épau Abbey J K Bromilow MInstP
December 2011  The Watton Monument at Addington, Kent Dr Clive Easter
January 2012  The monument of Lady Margaret  Grey (d. 1330) at Cogges  Oxfordshire Sally Badham
February 2012 The Effigy of Walter Stewart, Earl of Menteith, at Inchmaholme Priory, Scotland Mark Downing FSA
March 2012  Thomas Walwyn (d. 1415) and his Wife  at Much Marcle (Herefordshire)   Sally Badham 
April 2012  Lady Barbara de Mauley, St Nicholas, Hatherop   Joan and Robert Tucker  
May 2012 The tomb of John Marshall in Llandaff Cathedral Dr Madeleine Gray PhD FRHistS
June 2012 The double tomb monument to Reinoud III van Brederode (d. 1556) and Philippote van der Marck (d. 1537) in Vianen (Netherlands) Trudi Brink
July 2012 Lowsley Family Tomb, Hampstead
Norris, Berkshire
Dr Andrew Sargent
August 2012 Oliver Cromwell's Coffin Plate J K Bromilow MInstP
September 2012 A Monument in Holy Trinity Church Hull Sally Badham FSA
October 2012 East Worldham (Hampshire) Sally Badham FSA
November 2012 Floor slab of Cornelis Pietersze (d. 1532) and his wife Jozijne van Domburch (d. 1557), Sint-Maartenskerk, Sint Maartensdijk (province of Zeeland, Netherlands), Belgian hardstone, 254 x 141 cm. Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA and Kees Knulst BA
December 2012 An exercise in white marble and whitewashing: Cenotaph of Lieutenant-Admiral Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam (d. 13 June 1665), by Bartholomeus Eggers, situated in the choir of the Jacobskerk, The Hague (Netherlands), white, red and black marble and wood. Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA
January 2013 Martin Kistenmaker and his Parents
Heiligenkreuz, Rostock
Jerome Bertram
February 2013 The monument to Archbishop James Sharp (d.1679) in Holy Trinity Church, St Andrews (Fife) Phoebe Armstrong
March 2013 The Monument at Sheriff Hutton (Yorkshire).
Is this the tomb of Richard III’s son?
Dr Jane Crease
April 2013 Zacharias Johannes Szolc, 1682, and Stanisław Bużenski, 1697 Frombork Cathedral, Poland Jerome Bertram
May 2013 The monument to Dr Thomas Turner, died 1714. Stowe-Nine-Churches, Northamptonshire  Dr Clive J Easter FSA  
June 2013 'Left for dead' Major Thomas Price Robert Tucker
July 2013 An unusual saint: Floor slab of Jacopmine Huyghendochter, wife of Foert Christiaenszoon (d. 1553), Sint-Maartenskerk, Wemeldinge (province of Zeeland, Netherlands), Belgian hardstone, 185 x 114 cm Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA
August 2013 Thomas and Mary Acton, erected 1581, Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire Jon Bayliss
September 2013 Cholmondeley Monument, St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London  Dr George Roberts
October 2013 Revd Theophilus Pickering (d. 1710) and John Dryden, Poet Laureate (d. 1700), Titchmarsh (Northamptonshire) Sally Badham FSA
November 2013 Thomas Manners, 1st Earl of Rutland, 12th Baron de Ros of Helmsley (c.1492 – 1543) Bottesford, St Mary (Leicestershire)   Edward Higgins MA BSc (Hons)
December 2013 Maria Rebekka Schlegel, 1736, Stadtmuseum, Meissen, Germany Jon Bayliss
January 2014
Lady Elizabeth Clinton (d. 11 September 1423) Haversham (Buckinghamshire)
 Sally Badham
February 2014 LUGENS MŒRENSQUE Moira Ackers
March 2014 A son’s delayed memorial to his dead mother: The tomb of Catharine of Bourbon, Duchess of Guelders (d. 1469), Stevenskerk, Nijmegen (Netherlands). Sophie Oosterwijk and Trudi Brink
April 2014 Robert Crane (d. 1500), Chilton (Suffolk) Sally Badham
May 2014 A monument with a story
Double monument said to commemorate Lady Constantia and her son John, St Leonard’s church, Scarcliffe (Derbyshire).
Sophie Oosterwijk and Sally Badham
June 2014 A military effigy
St James's Church, Iddesleigh, Devon
John K Bromilow MInstP
July 2014 Brecon Cathedral: a post-Reformation cross slab Dr Maddy Gray PhD
August 2014 The monument to Lady Wolryche, 1678: the Lady with the Lute Dr Clive J Easter FSA  
September 2014 Row On Row (1) Robert Tucker
October 2014 A Fool’s Monument?
The Tomb Slab of Hans Has at Wertheim, Germany
Dr Martin Spies
November 2014 A Ledgerstone at Aldenham, Hertfordshire Dr Jean Wilson
December 2014 Heaven under our feet: the Laleston triple cross Dr Madelaine Gray PhD
January 2015 Llancarfan and Carisbrooke: some thoughts on a seventeenth-century cross slab in the Vale of Glamorgan Dr Madelaine Gray PhD
February 2015
A medieval miniature adult? An unidentified female miniature effigy at St Giles’s church, Coberley (Gloucestershire)
Sophie Oosterwijk
March 2015 Monument to William Villiers died 1643 Dr Clive J Easter FSA
April 2015 An Effigy in the Porch of Beaumaris Church Dr Madelaine Gray PhD

May 2015

Edward, the Black Prince, d. 1376, Canterbury Cathedral, Kent Sally Badham MBE, FSA
June 2015 The Farnham Monuments: Myths, Legends and Family Fables (Pt.1) Moira Ackers
July 2015 The Farnham Monuments: Myths, Legends and Family Fables (Pt.2) Moira Ackers
August 2015 The monuments to Charles Leigh and Francis Longe at Spixworth, Norfolk Dr Jean Wilson