Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Old Churches

Here are some of the dozens of churches we visited during out 15th century tour.

Bere Regis
We visited this church in Dorset mainly to see its magnificent 15th century carved oak beams, even though these were said to be the gift of John Morton.
Morton became Archbishop of Canterbury in Henry VII’s reign, and it is possible (probable?) he conspired with Margaret Beaufort to put Henry on the throne instead of Richard III.
What is more certain is that Thomas More served as a page in Morton’s household and his later ‘History of Richard III', if not written by Morton himself, certainly contained Morton’s 'invented' account of the murder of the princes, and the Richard later portrayed by Shakespeare as
Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them.
One of the central bosses of the roof shows Morton’s face, so he wasn’t particularly handsome himself, was he?

Chelsea Old Church
Actually, this one is not as old as many churches in Britain. Although it was originally built in the 13th century, it was extensively damaged by bombing during World War II, and was rebuilt after the war.
Ironically, the least damaged part of the church was the chapel on the south side, which had been rebuilt in 1528 as the private chapel of Sir Thomas More – who is definitely persona non grata to supporters of Richard III, as explained in the previous section!
Outside the church is a statue of More, and inside is a monument composed by him, commemorating his first wife, and expressing the wish that he and his second wife should be buried in the same tomb. More was beheaded in 1535, and his head, after being displayed on London Bridge for a month, was placed in a niche in the Roper Vault at St Dunstan’s Church in Canterbury. It’s likely that his headless body was buried in the chapel at the Tower of London, but there is a tradition that his daughter Margaret Roper, brought his body to Chelsea to be buried at the old church.

After those two churches with their Lancastrian links, we need some Yorkist links!

Sheriff Hutton
Sheriff Hutton is a small village about 10 miles north of York. It has the ruins of what was once a Neville Castle, which came into royal possession after Richard Neville’s death at the battle of Barnet, and was used by Richard of Gloucester when he was Lord of the North.
Tradition says that an unnamed alabaster tomb in the church is that of Edward of Middleham, Richard’s only son who died in 1484. However, there are doubts about this. One historian maintains that the figure on the tomb was wearing clothes that were fifty years out of date; another that as the son of the king, Edward would not have been buried in an ordinary parish church. On the other hand, it’s possible that this was a temporary resting place, as Richard intended to build a chantry chapel at York for himself and his family. Maybe it’s one of those questions to which we’ll never know the answer!

Gipping Chapel
This small chapel in the tiny village of Gipping in Suffolk has an interesting connection with Richard III. There had been an earlier chapel on the spot, but the present chapel was built by Sir James Tyrell, one of Richard’s knights, in the 1470s. The inscription around the doorway reads Pray for Sr James Tirell : Dame Anne his wyf.
It was this same James Tyrell who, in Henry VII's reign, supported Edmund de la Pole, the leading Yorkist claimant to the throne. He was accused of treason and, under torture, he ‘confessed’ to the murder of the two princes in the Tower of London, on Richard’s orders. Many questions have been asked about this supposed confession, since anything confessed under torture is suspect. You can read more about him here
15th century pew with the carved Tyrell knot



  1. Love old churches, Paula - these are amazing!

  2. I love old churches and take pictures of them wherever I go:))

  3. How lovely! Old churches and castles! Such a sense of ancient history in England that we don't have here in Canada to the same extent. Next time I go to England, I know who to ask to be my tour guide!

  4. I love old churches too, Rosemary and Talya - so much history to be discovered in them.

    Cathy, I'm gathering together quite a few people for my 'tour group' of medieval England now! Mind you, you'll need about a year to spare to cover even a quarter of it!

  5. Beautiful. Early architecture is so inspiring in comparison with the cardboard boxes being erected these days.

  6. Envious! I'd love to take that tour. Not much in the way of old architecture here in the states. There's a beautiful church in St Georges, Bermuda; it's one of the few photos I've taken that turned out well enough to enlarge and frame.

  7. Great photos! You do a very good job. I really enjoy following your posts. Thank you.

  8. The Chelsea old church looks lovely. I like old churches too.