I think I haven’t yet done enough posts dedicated to single medieval effigy tombs on this blog.
I know many might regard them as boring, pompous, formulaic and somehow silly martial monuments to the medieval dead. Well yes, but they are also infinitely variable and interesting for the manner of their carving, location, representation of the human body, and their subsequent treatment and translation.
Ok, I’ve talked about them before. I’ve discussed effigial slabs, semi-effigial slabs, their place as part of assemblages at churches (e.g. at Gresford, Wrexham and Caerwys, Flintshire), how effigy tombs interact with each other, their comparative expressions, and their 20th-century manifestations, but not about them as single monuments. Oh, and I did mention the fragment of effigy from Overton, Wrexham, as well as other fragments of medieval memorial stonework from the church.
Maybe I just like them after all, or at least effigy tombs are growing on me. So here goes a blog about a single effigy tomb in my region, just because I kind of like it.
In the south-west corner of the south aisle of the nave of St Chad’s Farndon, the effigy tomb in question is dislocated and its niche was probably originally in the north wall of the church prior to restoration in the 15th century. It now sits on wooden blocks.
The monument dates to the mid-14th century. It is attributed to Sir Patrick de Barton (d. c. 1333-43). Despite being over the border in Cheshire, Colin Gresham described it in his 1968 book in North Welsh monuments. Sir P’s family must have owned land close to Farndon where the church sits on the historic border with Wales. Barton is only two miles east of Farndon (not west as Gresham states: that would put it in Wales!).
The inscription runs around the shield in ‘Welsh fashion’ and reads ‘Here lies Patrick of Barton, Pray for him’. (HIC: ICAE/T: PATRISCIUS/:DE:BARTUORPEP). Gresham notes how the carver ran out of space with the inscription and shoved it all in without spacing at the end with heavy abbreviation.
- The slab is decorated down the side with a ball-flower ornament (12 in number, not 11 as Gresham states);
- the head rests on 2 cushions;
- there are the worn and broken traces of a dog at the figure’s feet, allegedly on top of a dragon (says Gresham, but I didn’t see that detail);
- there is a spear inscribed down the figure’s right-hand side, going underneath the clothing of the body at the waist.
The head of the figure are completely destroyed by later damage. Key dimensions of the body are worn but still discernible and include:
- The bascinet, which Gresham regards as ‘an eccentricity of the sculptor’s imagination rather than an exact copy of an actual piece of equipment from the period’. I’d like to hear from military historians about whether this remains a fair appraisal. To me, it certainly looks rather crazy;
- he is dressed in a hauberk covered by a sleeveless surcoat;
- his right hand is on his sheathed sword;
- his left hand’s fingers are visible underneath the shield;
- the shield bears a heraldic symbol: ‘a bend between two cotises’;
- mail chausses cover the legs; incomplete on the right-hand side (left leg) perhaps to save time on a side where it would never have been seen;
- spur straps can be seen on the ankles.
The Welsh style of the memorial reflects its border location. The other effigy from Farndon, now destroyed, is said to have commemorated a ‘Madog of Daven’. I’m unsure where Daven is, but Madog is evidently a Welsh name.
The church does provide a useful drawing and basic details about the monument and it is mentioned in the church guide book.
Gresham, C.A. 1968. Medieval Stone Carving in North Wales, Cardiff: University of Wales Press