A few years ago, I ventured into the parish church of St Andrew at Curry Rivel in south Somerset and couldn’t help but admire this extraordinary tomb monument from the early-17th C. The stone, plaster and paint bring it alive in a unique way that we don’t often see today. With my mobile phone camera, I was able to take photos through railings of the tomb monument. Whilst some of the work could be described as ‘crude’, it does bring to the fore that interesting period of the English Renaissance (early-16th C to early 17th C) with a mixture of classical-inspired art and a touch of the local naive style.

St Andrew’s Parish Church, Curry Rivel, Somerset

 

The tomb of Marmaduke and Robert Jennings dates from circa 1625. It is surrounded by railings and is painted, which is a rare survival. It is sited in the north aisle of the church near the chancel. The effigies that lie on top of a marble slab are the 2 incumbents in half-armour. Above them is a semi-circular arch and beneath the effigies on the north and south sides of the tomb are weepers, with chrisom babies on the ends.

The Jennings Monument surrounded by Iron railings

The painted inscription above their head reads:

here lyeth the body of Mar-

maduke Jennings Esq: who was

buried the 5 day of April ANO

                   1625

And also Robert Jennings

Esq who was buried the 7th

of May ANNO: 1630

There are some words that appear illegible. A publication by the Rev. G. W. Saunders on the north chapel, states that for Marmaduke Jennings there is also carved ‘aetat 58’ (aged 58) and for Robert Jennings ‘aetat 32’.[i] That would mean the dates for each man is:

Marmaduke Jennings: c. 1567 – 1625

Robert Jennings: c. 1598 – 1630

I am assuming, based on the dress, that the father is on the north side (Marmaduke Jennings, who wears a ruff), and the son on the south side (Robert Jennings), who is attired in fashion of the time of Charles I. The ruff went out of fashion by 1625, when Charles I ascended to the throne. The women weepers on the north side also have ruffs.

Whilst the armour has similarities on the two men, the collars and cuffs are quite different. Marmaduke Jennings, sited on the north side has a neck ruff and ruffed cuffs. Robert Jennings on the south side has a falling band collar with scallops and scalloped cuffs. He also wears an embroidered sash. The ungloved hands are held in prayer for both effigies.

The half-armour worn by Robert Jennings covers the arms, chest, and front of the lower portion of the body. From the waist down can be seen black, heavily folded breeches. His head rests on green cushions with gold detailing and tassels.

The top of the boots has a red scallop design and then there is a projection out, or maybe suggests a part that folds down. The ankles have extra protection. Leg protection began to change with the introduction of firearms. Mobility was preferred over stiff leg armour. It probably made riding easier too.

 

 

Marmaduke Jennings’s armour is similar to that of Robert’s. Whilst still plate armour is made in this period, it was not necessary that it needed to be full. The front of the body and arms are protected. The legs are protected by high leather boots. There is a sword visible. There is no sword visible on the other figure, but it likely lies on the left side and cannot therefore be seen easily. He also wears a sash, but the detail is different – plain with a gold trim. The plump green cushions with gold detailing and tassels are beneath his head. The underneath of them is a burgundy colour. He also has a similar moustache and beard to Robert’s. However, it is difficult to see how long the hair is – perhaps not as long as Robert’s. He has a receding hairline and wrinkles around his eyes.

His boots are of a different design to Robert’s.

Charles I Fashion

The bronze statue of Charles I (created in the 19th C) at Kingston Lacy, Dorset, gives an idea of the fashion at the time of his reign (1625-1649). It can be seen how the sash holds the sword. Notice the distinctive hair style, moustache, and beard. Charles is wearing a falling band collar. Robert Jennings sports a similar style.

It maybe that the tomb was started after Marmaduke died in 1625. Presumably his image and weepers were conceived at the time (or even previously in preparation) due to the presences of the ruffs. Robert is in the Charles I style of dress and has his fashion of longer hair, moustache and pointed beard.

MONUMENT LATIN INSCRIPTION

I have done my best to translate the Latin. Latin is definitely not my forte. However, here is the gist:

Et pater et Natus

Tumulo Conduntur eodeum

Qui Renuat, Cum Mors

Imperiosa Vocat

PraeVius est Genitor Patre

Dempro ViVere Nollet

Filius Officium

Prestitit Ille Suum.

Hinc Sibi bina Meus

Lectur Documenta Capessat

Qua possit Recte

Vi Vere, Velle Mors

Both the father and son were laid in the same tomb

 

Who refuses to die when imperious death calls

 

Previous is the father not willing to live

 

His son performed his duty

 

Here are two lessons to be read

 

By which he can rightly live to wish true death

 

THE WEEPERS

Weepers on the South Side (presumably related directly to Robert Jennings)

On the south side of the tomb are 6 weepers: 3 girls and 3 boys. The girls on are the left-hand side, underneath the head-end of the effigies, and the boys on the right, underneath the feet-end. The 2 groups face towards each other.

The Girls: Eliza Jennings, Mary Jennings & Anna Jennings

From right to left, the banners above the girl weepers read ‘Eliza Jennings, Mary Jenn & Anna Jennings’. The banner for Mary’s name truncates the surname and there is a flourish in the middle. The girls kneel on green cushions, their hands clasped together in front of them (not in upright prayer). Their dresses have sleeve slashes in them revealing the undershirt.

The detailing of Mary and Elizabeth’s clothing is different. Their hair is slightly different too – Mary’s has more of a curl. Their faces are similar.

Anna has a different look. Her cheeks are fuller. Again, there is different detailing in her collar and cap than that of the other two girls.

The Boys: Marmaduke Jennings Esq, William Jennings & Robert Jennings

The boys kneel on cushions with their hands clasped in front of them. Across the 3 banners is written: ‘Marmaduke Jennin., Esq:, and Robert, Jennings’. The banner above the smallest boy has a flourish upon it to complete it. According to the publication on the north chapel by the Rev. G. W. Saunders, the middle boy is William Jennings.[ii]

Marmaduke wears half-armour, leather boots and a red sash, similar to the effigies. His falling band collar, as with his brothers’, is plain. His armour is less ornamented than his father and grandfather (assuming that is who they are). The other two boys wear black jerkins and breeches. There is a lot of detailing of small buttons. Their collars and cuffs are plain. The jerkin of the middle figure has slashed arms to reveal the shirt beneath. They kneel on green cushions, the tassels visible.

Marmaduke has a very different look from his younger brothers. Presumably he is an adolescent. He features are portrayed somewhat simply and angular, rather than the plump faces of the younger children. His hair is stylised to be finer and longer than his brothers’. His feet and hands are missing through damage. There may have been a sword but if so, it has gone. The face seems a somewhat incongruous with the plump faces of the other weepers.

Weepers on the north side (presumably directly related to Marmaduke Jennings)

Woman and 2 children on the right: below the head-end of Robert Jennings – Elizabeth Towse and her Children.

Whilst the woman does have a long black veil, the children only have black caps. They are similarly dressed to the children on the other side – apart from not possessing long black veils and appearing smaller. Only their initials are written in banners above their heads. The headline reads ‘Elisabeth Towse and her children’. The initials left to right are ‘A.T.’, ‘E.T.’ and ‘A.T.’

Woman and 2 children on the right: below the feet-end of Robert Jennings – Mary Powel, Fran(cis) Bishop & Marmaduke Jennings

There are two adult women attired in black dresses with slashed sleeves, large neck ruffs, embellished white caps and long black veils. Marmaduke is wearing a white collar, black jerkin, breeches that end at the knee, stockings, and shoes. Again, the weepers on this side are kneeling on green cushions. Those of the adult women have tassels. Those of the children appear to be plain.

The weepers and effigies are all reproduced with fair or pale auburn hair. The noses are all somewhat straight in them too.

BABIES

At the ends of the tomb there are babies. At the east end there are 2 tucked up in a bed, and at the west end are 3 in bed. These probably represent babies that had died in early infancy. They wear caps and have defined collars.

Babies at the east end of the monument.

Babies at the west end of the monument.

IRONWORK RAILINGS

The ironwork railings have a decorative top of alternate fleur-de-lys and spearheads. The rails also alternate with twists and plain. There are finials painted red and gold at the corners and halfway along. There is a decorative scroll frieze below the fleur-de-lys and spearheads.

Attached to the railings with a heavy chain at the west end is what looks like a block of stone made to look like a box. Perhaps to secure the ironwork from being stolen?

CANOPY ARCH

Canopy Arch from the south side

Canopy arch from the north side

The canopy arch is coffered with red, gild-edged roses. It is headed by heraldry and 4 wingless putti that hold hourglasses. These rather hermaphrodite forms are curious, possessing defined breasts, chubby arms, large hips, and a rounded stomach. The hourglass is balanced on the knee of a crossed leg.

Putto on south side of the canopy

Putto on north side of the canopy

The putto in the centre of the arched canopy holds a banner with ‘Gloria Deo’ on it. This putto is less defined with gold wings. Although it does have the gilded hairstyle, similar to the 4 putti above the canopy. Perhaps it was meant more as an angel. The white blobs behind I assume are meant to be clouds.

The coat of arms is an ‘argent, a chevron or, between three bezants, on a chief ermine, three cinquefoils gules. Crest a redbreast sitting on a moulded morion’.[iii]

Argent = the tincture of silver

Bezant = the gold circles

Chevron or = an inverted ‘V’ shape, the ‘or’ being the tincture of gold

Chief Ermine = the white background at the top of the shield with the black pointed and spot design separating the cinquefoil (5-petalled) gules

Gules = tincture of the colour red

Morion = A type of helmet or helm

BURTON PYNSENT HOUSE

According to the Historic England Listing, Burton Pynsent House was the family home of the Jennings family from the mid-16th C until 1679, when it passed to a female relation and her 2nd husband Sir William Pynsent. A Marmaduke Jennings commenced the building of the house circa 1565. The building work continued with his successor, also a Marmaduke Jennings, into the early 17th C.[iv]

 

NOTES

[i] Saunders, Rev. G. W., ‘The North Chapel of St. Andrew’s Church, Curry Rivel.’, p. 45.

[ii] Saunders, p. 44.

[iii] Saunders, p. 44.

[iv] ‘Burton Pynsent’, Historic England List Entry 1001139, (1984), <https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1001139> [accessed 2 Oct 2021].

BIBLIOGRAPHY

‘Burton Pynsent’, Historic England List Entry 1001139, (1984), <https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1001139> [accessed 2 Oct 2021]

Saunders, Rev. G. W., ‘The North Chapel of St. Andrew’s Church, Curry Rivel.’