Extract from the:


MDCCCLIX. [1859]

Pages 84-88

Mr. Alexander Nesbitt communicated the following notices of ancient monuments in the church of Bosbury, Herefordshire; — “The slab, of which I exhibit a representation, is in the south aisle of the church of Bosbury. There is no inscription, but from its style it appears to be of the thirteenth century. On it, within a narrow border, is a floriated cross, on the dexter side of the stem of which is a staff with a cross pattée head, and on the sinister side a similar staff and also a sword. The entire head of the floriated cross is in very low relief; the stem, the cross-headed staves and sword are incised. The lower part of the slab is lost, but it appears that the floriated cross rested on a base, the form of which is doubtful. The chief interest of this slab arises from the possibility that it may he the memorial of one of the Templars who occupied the adjacent Preceptory still known as the Temple Court. It has often been assumed that the circular form of cross patée, which is found upon this slab, was the distinctive kind of cross borne by the Order of the Temple; while the ordinary cross patée, of which the limbs arc bounded by straight lines, has been regarded as appropriated by the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. It would, however, appear, that there is an insufficiency of proof that such was the case. In the figure given by Dugdale,- the ‘Templarius’ is represented carrying a staff with a circular cross patée of this form as its head; but Dugdale does not give his authority for this representation, and the like cross is not found in the very few examples of sepulchral memorials of members of the Order which have yet been noticed. The slab in the Temple Church at Laon which commemorates a chaplain of the Order, a rubbing of which I exhibited some years ago at a meeting of the Institute, and of which the woodcut is here reproduced,

Laon cross

has a botonée cross not of unusual form. A wish to obtain further evidence of the form of the Templar’s cross led me to examine carefully the pavement of the church at Bosbury, and I found, besides the slab here figured, one entire bearing a cross, and two fragments of other slabs, all apparently of the thirteenth century. One of these fragments had upon it part of the head of a floriated cross, and below its arms on each side a cross patée of the same form as those on the slab first mentioned. The entire slab and the other fragment bore only one cross, the form of which was nearly identical on both, and may be described as consisting of a Greek cross, the arms of which are united by two concentric circles, midway between the arms of the cross is introduced a pointed oval. It will be seen that, if the portions of the circles which are within these ovals were omitted, there would remain a cross patée with curved ends.

woodcut cross

It is to be regretted that the lower end of the slab at Bosbury is mutilated, as it must remain uncertain whether the stems of the smaller crosses terminated in gradated bases, or should be considered as cross-staves. The question remains, Why are two crosses represented, and only one sword? It has, I believe, been conjectured that two crosses on the same slab indicated the burial of two persons, as for instance husband and wife, in the same grave or near together. If this is to be assumed, it will seem to militate against the supposition that this stone covered a knight or two knights of the order, as it may naturally be asked. If only one knight were there buried, why do we find two crosses; and, if two brethren in arms, why only one sword? Another question is suggested, are we to look for the memorials of the members of a religious Order in a parish church? Generally, no doubt, deceased members were buried within their own precincts; but most probably smaller establishments of the Order of the Temple may not have had consecrated cemeteries, and their chapels may have been too small to allow of interment within them. A careful observation of the slabs of early date, which remain in churches of parishes in which Preceptories of the Temple formerly existed, may, however, furnish data throwing light upon this subject.

slab cross

Besides these slabs the church of Bosbury contains several other remarkable sepulchral memorials, and some architectural features worthy of notice. Of the first the most striking are two tombs of members of the Harford family, which are placed against the walls on each side of the chancel: they are very similar in design, each having an arch supported on pilasters (in the one on the northern side with caryatides) within which are sarcophagi resting on lions and supporting effigies; they are much enriched with sculpture of no great degree of elegance of design or excellence of execution, but present a general effect of much richness. The design is obviously borrowed from the Italian tombs of the sixteenth century, and the sculptor was evidently by no means ashamed of his work, for he has inscribed his name, John Guldo of Hereford, with the date of 1573. It is in large characters, and in a very conspicuous situation, on the tomb on the south side. The other seems to be by the same hand. A tomb in the churchyard, near the southwest part of the nave, deserves notice for its handsome railing of iron, the upper part of which is wrought into bunches of tulips and other flowers with considerable elegance. It would seem to be of the seventeenth century.

Of the architectural features the most striking and peculiar is the massive bell-tower, which stands to the south of the church, but sixty or eighty feet away from it. It has three stages, in the lowest of which is a plain doorway on the north side, the other three sides, and all four sides of the next stage, have each a single lancet window; while the upper stage has had similar windows in each face. The church itself is chiefly of ‘Transitional’ character, having pointed arches with late Roman ornament. The windows of the nave are peculiarly small, and the south door retains its original iron-work. At the east end of the south aisle is a small chapel of late Perpendicular work with fan-groining, a feature not of common occurrence in a village church.

Another object of interest is the churchyard cross, which, though it is said to have been removed from its original place, is complete, the shaft being still surmounted by the cross. The base of a cross is to be met with in almost every churchyard in the neighbourhood, and the shaft in many; but this is the only instance of the cross having been preserved entire, which I have noticed in that district, and examples are, I apprehend, very rarely to be found in any part of England.

On the north side of the churchyard are the remains of a palace of the Bishops of Hereford, now converted into a farmhouse. A few rooms in the south wing have ceilings boarded with oak, apparently of the fifteenth century, and the entrance gateway remains in a mutilated state. The arch on the exterior is of stone, but that on the interior is formed by two massive pieces of oak, so cut as to form a pointed arch, very slightly inclined to an ogee. The only ornament is a hollow moulding, with what seems to have been small roses placed in it at short intervals. This gateway may belong to the fourteenth century. There was formerly a dovecot of that or even earlier date, but this has been destroyed. Of the Preceptory of the Templars no remains now exist, the site being occupied by a house of no very ancient date.

A former incumbent of Bosbury (whose name I regret not to have ascertained), introduced a plan, the adoption of which is much to be desired by all who feel an interest in the study and preservation of local antiquities, namely, that of drawing up, and intrusting to the care of the clerk or sexton, a short notice of all the objects of interest in the church and parish, for the use of visitors, with such information as to their history as could be collected. By this means, not only is the attention of strangers drawn to objects deserving of notice, but circumstances are put on record which may be incorrectly reported or altogether forgotten when left to tradition only. This practice is peculiarly desirable in these days, when “restoration” is so much in fashion. It might be made the means of preserving a record of the condition of the edifice and monuments before undergoing any alteration; by the help of such a guide future observers would be saved the perplexity frequently felt by those who examine churches which have been subjected to the process of restoration. It would moreover, no doubt, often secure the preservation of some object which the architect or the churchwardens might regard as unsightly or uninteresting, though in fact possessing strong claims to be carefully preserved.

The notion to which Mr. Nesbitt adverts, that the staff with a cross patée head was a distinctive mark of the Templar, has been frequently expressed: but we have sought in vain for any published authority, or representation of a Knight of the order in which it is found, prior to the well-known etching by Hollar, first given in Dugdale's History of Warwickshire, produced in 1656, and repeated in the Monasticon, in 1073. Examples of sepulchral slabs with crosses patée are numerous, and several varieties may be found in the Rev. E.L.Cutts’ Manual. It must, however, be observed that in nearly all the instances there given the cross is gradated, or placed on a base with steps, and it is not what may properly be termed a cross-staff. Mr. Franks has pointed out a sketch of a figure formerly to be seen in one of the windows in Peterborough Cathedral, which may have served as the authority for the plate of a Templar engraved by Hollar for Dugdale. In the valuable Collection of Drawings of Monuments, etc., formed, as it is believed, under Dugdale’s direction, and now in the possession of the Earl of Winchilsea, at Eastwell Park, Kent, there occurs, among the Memorials at Peterborough, a Knight, “in Capella beate Marie in australi fenestra.” This bears resemblance in many particulars to Hollar’s figure, and may very possibly have been its prototype. The Knight appears in a long surcoat over a hauberk; he wears a singular cap, the lower part being turned up, like a cap of estate; on his left arm is a shield charged with a cross patée, and in his right hand a short staff, with a cross head of the like fashion. He holds up this staff, so that the cross is level with his head; whilst its haft or handle does not rest on the ground, as in Hollar's plate, but reaches only to the knee. Its head appears to be a cross inscribed within an octagon; the limbs are cut off straight, not bounded by a curve like the crosses on the slab at Bosbury figured above. It is extremely probable, as Mr. Franks has suggested in regard to the figure at Peterborough, that the octagonal form in question is to be attributed solely to the leading of the painted glass, through an inadvertent error which might easily occur to a draughtsman not familiar with the technical mode of working glass, the cross-head thus assumed, as shown likewise in Dugdale’s plate, the appearance of a flat octagonal surface upon which a cross patée was carved or painted.