IMG_8051I recently visited Breedon-on-the-Hill, Leicestershire: subject of another recent post about its early medieval stones. Equally striking is that the medieval priory church became the focus of some impressive 16th- and 17th-century Shirley-family memorials. The Shirley family took over the monastic estates at the Dissolution.

The biggest is a terrifying two-tier memorial monstrosity with sinister babies above together with praying adult family members, and alabaster skeleton below. This was to commemorate the death of George Shirley but was apparently completed 20 years before he finally kicked the bucket. I am warming to these early modern tombs, but this one still gives me the creeps.

Other Shirley tombs are more typical – a husband-and-wife effigy tomb and a male effigy tomb – found together in the north aisle. There are also some standard forms of mural monument of the 18th and 19th centuries.

I also want to draw attention to the fabulous slate 19th-century churchyard memorials, some continuing traditional motifs of cherubs and urns, others with new ‘antique’ motifs such as the Roman lamp. My favourite of all, however, is a rare survival of iron railings around one Victorian tomb. I have quite an obsession with the detail and texture of funerary ironwork, and this one’s vegetal design is quite striking.

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