Monuments in St Mary, Willesden Parish Church
An ancient church with parts dating back to the 13th Century, much changed and altered since then,
but seemingly always in a sympathetic vein, if not style, so the result is rather atmospheric,
this being heightened inside by the tall, curved ceiling to the Nave with beams and panelling.
Thick arches on various different piers split off Nave from lower aisles.
Willesden Parish Church of St Mary.
From the outside, we see a rubble-and-flint building, the nave with its tiled, pitched roof dominating over the smaller aisles –
the effect is much less pronounced within – and short, square tower with battlements
(the engraving above shows the aspect before the battlements were emplaced). The Church stands in its own churchyard
with many simple upright slabs and a few tomb chests, but despite this open position, the view from across the road
is rather spoilt by the many signposts, a shame which the Council should rectify. The tower dates from about 1400.
After various medieval and later alterations, and Victorian restorations and additions in the 1850s, 1870s, and 1890s,
what we see from the exterior apart from the tower is mostly the 19th Century work on earlier lines.
Willesden Church's atmospheric interior.
Inside, as said, a mix of styles and ages, with the 13th Century part, so the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments tells us,
being the south arcade of the nave, and the charming chapel on the south side being 16th Century.
There are five 17th Century monuments, all significant, and about 10 later ones, with something of a breadth of styles.
17th Century monuments
Richard Paine, d.1606, and wife Margerie, d.1595, kneeler monument.
- Richard Paine, d.1606, and wife Margerie, d.1595, a kneeler monument,
thus based on the statues of the couple, facing one another, kneeling and praying with a double prayer desk between them.
The monument is conventional for its time: Richard Paine is shown in plate armour, and wearing a wide double ruff.
Margerie Paine wears a great black skirt, pushed out with stays; her upper garment is also painted black, and is ruffed.
She wears a head-covering which has a curious, long board on top, bent over like a large paperclip; additionally a narrow robe
or train hangs down from her back. Often in such figures the bulk of the skirt below would meld into a breadth of fabric above
to give one mass not showing the lines of the figure at all, but here we see a youthful arched back,
a swelling roundness to the breast, and the face is youthful, rather than the uncompromisingly grim, elderly matriarchal look
so popular in Elizabethan and Jacobite monuments. It should be noted that it would be unusual to have a true portrait likeness
of an effigy at this time, unless they were very grand indeed, with the sculptor typically providing a generic figure,
or working from a small and perhaps not very good painting of the deceased.
Anyway, for the rest of the monument, the two figures kneel on tasselled cushions, which is the norm,
as is the double sided prayer desk covered with a hanging cloth. They are within a double-arched niche with a central pendant,
which is again conventional – here it rather interferes with the couple looking at each other. The spaces above the arches –
the spandrels – contain lightly-inscribed carvings of flowers, and in the centre is a circular depression containing a jawless skull
– again, a common accoutrement on such monuments to act as a memento mori, reminding the viewer of approaching death.
To the outside, behind each figure, are Ionic pilasters (flattened pillars against the back wall), with panels upon their fronts, each bearing a relief carving of fruits,
ribbons, tassels and crossed axes. Above is an entablature of alternating panels and black disks. Above this is a shelf,
and then a central shield of arms with the usual knight’s helm, in a surround of strapwork, and with the pinnacle being a ball
with a spike upon it; to the sides are smaller shields, each with a similar ball and spike.
The base of the monument has a strapwork-filled central apron, properly shaped and cut out, and to each side,
a bracket with a carved bunch of grapes emerging from a leafy surround.
- John Barne, d.1615, noting his wife and descent, and that he had in his lifetime 58 grandchildren
and great grandchildren. Black tablet with colourful pinkish alabaster pilasters to the sides,
entablature above with narrow blank panel and two carved flowers, then a shelf, then a large shield of arms
surrounded by curly acanthus and minor strapwork, with crystal-like spikes and baubles at the corner positions.
At the base, a small panel with low relief strapwork with a small central flower, purely decorative it seems:
a bit unusual to have a rectangular rather than a shaped lower panel or apron in this position.
Monuments to John Barne and Richard Franklyn, typical early 17th Century panels.
- Richard Franklyn, d.1615, whose second wife was Francys, daughter of Francis Roberts noted below.
To the same design as the John Barne monument.
- Francis Roberts, d.1631, who married Marye, eldest daughter and a co-heir to John Barne,
whose monument we noted above. They had 9 sons and 7 daughters. Another grand panel, gilt lettering on black surrounded
by pink marble or alabaster, and to the side, two free-standing columns with Corinthian capitals. Above on each side,
a winged cherubic head, very small, and above those, a completely open pediment, to give space for a large painted shield of arms
with knight’s helm and dog above. Like John Barne’s monument, at the base is a rectangular apron, here with a central painted shield of arms.
To left and right, corbels under the pillar positions are carved as clusters of grapes.
- Sir John Francklyn, Knight, d.1647/48, with a eulogy, including the line
‘To Publike services no man brought more of Integrity or zeale; To ye publike sins and calamities of ye state:
no man less of feweil [fuel], more of sorrow’.
The inscribed panel is a black oval, gripping at eight points onto a narrow moulded frame.
To the sides, a pair of free-standing Ionic pillars, with black marble shafts, and further out and back, a further pair.
Rather than a Classical pediment above an entablature, we have a completely open curly pediment, effectively two curled shapes springing from directly above the pillars,
and with some gap between them at the top; a flower is carved at the centre of each roll. Above, a carved shield of arms,
with excessive leafy ribbons to each side, and a toothy fish above the knight’s helm on top; three similar,
smaller fish are on the shield. To the sides of the scrolling in what we may, just, call the acroterial positions
(the places at the sides of a pediment where there are often extra decorations, called acroteria, sticking up like ears),
are two carved emblems: a hand clasping what may be a crown from a leaping fish – though I may have this entirely wrong –
and a hand holding an anchor resting on a book or press. At the base is an apron, with curled over edges as acanthus leaves,
a central shield of arms, and a charmingly carved scallop shell at the base. To the sides, beneath each pillar is a corbel
carved as a snarling lion; the Ionic capital above each forehead gives them the look of bison at first glance,
which is an unfortunate design point, but they are really rather well carved. The whole ensemble,in a mix of jet black
and beige marble, forms a particularly striking memorial.
The sculptor is attributed as William Wright (d.1654), who is documented as making a number of monuments,
including two in Westminster Abbey, and has been suggested as the sculptor for a larger number of others on stylistic grounds.
Monument to Sir John Francklyn, d.1647/48, and detail.
19th Century monuments and later
- Thomas Shore Woodman, d.1822, and an unnamed infant son. An almost circular oval with
narrowly moulded edging, and on top, a small carving of a dog (see picture at top of page, left), a bit shaggy and with ear down.
The whole is on a pale marble backing.
- Charlotte Otway, d.1827, as a tomb chest end, thus the inscribed panel forms the side of
a box-shaped affair, with upper shelf, receding sides, and two feet, here as shield-shaped ones with carved acanthus leaves.
On top of the tomb is a shelf, plinth, and relief carving of a broad pot or funereal urn, asymmetrically draped with a cloth
which is artistically draped on one side. On a shaped backing of the same colour, and signed by the sculptor, Humphrey Hopper.
- Revd. Henry John Knapp, vicar, d.1850, erected by his sister, Anne Knapp.
Panel with upper and lower shelf, a black backing panel shaped to form a Gothic top and with ‘ears’ or acroteria to the sides.
On the central Gothic arch is a carving of a dove, now headless, flying downward over a sunburst. The sculptor was J. S. Farley
of Kensal Green, not a familiar name, but significant because he did create one extraordinary work, which is the Gibson tomb
at Kensal Green Cemetery, with its four angels leaping into the air towards each other from the corners of a Classical canopy
above a tomb.
Revd. Knapp and Maj-Gen Franklin, mid-19th Century white on black panels.
- Elizabeth Jackson, d.1810, and relatives through to 1861. With upper shelf, pediment above, and below,
a heavy base and two block brackets to provide support.
- Major General Charles Franklyn, d.1861, with inscription noting that he commanded a brigade at Gibraltar,
and he was a son of Richard Franklyn of the Royal Mint – presumably as well descended from the 17th Century Sir John Francklyn
noted above. The panel is in the shape of a shield, with a thin boarder, and on a black backing panel, also shaped,
and which also bears a cartouche of arms with ribbon underneath which would be his regimental arms.
- Frederick Thomas Sergeant and wife Henrietta (Burgoyne), erected 1865,
by the sisters of the latter, and noting that the couple were promoters and benefactors of the Willesden Infant School.
With a carved wreath of pointed leaves around the main inscription, and above it, a star of David with a crucifix in it,
an iconographically unusual combination. The backing panel is cream rather than the usual black marble.
By the very prolific monumental masons Gaffin of Regent Street.
Sergeant monument, 1865, by Gaffin of Regent Street.
- Evadne Pritchard, d.1874, with a Latin inscription, unusual for that late date. Panel with lower shelf,
two moulded brackets below, and a curved top, on a backing of the same curved form.
- Henry Finch, d.1913, and wife Mary, daughter of Richard Franklyn.
Both he and his wife’s father were ‘moneyers’, and Henry Finch was, according to the inscription,
‘the last survivor of the company of Moneyers and their apprentices’. Pale marble panel with thin border, upper and lower shelf,
the upper one being arched in the centre to admit a cartouche of arms carved in low relief.
- May Watling, d.1924, a local teacher. Blocky marble tablet with a pointed top,
and a small inscribed crucifix in a roundel, on a pale backing panel.
- Alice Mary Greening, d.1927, a Headmistress of St Mary’s School. Panel with frame,
on which are medieval-style squares of stylised carving of flowers. Unlike the austere panel to May Watling,
this one is in the Arts and Crafts tradition which still produced the odd monument as late as this one.
- Revd. George Cecil Oakley, d.1981, Vicar for 23 years. A slender oval panel of black marble
with a bevelled edge, and a low relief cross in a roundel under the inscription.
- Cyril Verres Davis, d.2003, churchwarden. A black panel with gilt lettering.
We may also mention one modern brass, to
Revd. Brownlow Thomas Atlay, Vicar until 1902, the panel being typical of its period,
with black capital lettering, the principal capitals picked out in red, and an inscribed double border with
repeating little crucifixes and decorative lines.
Also in the Church:
One of the Angel candleholders.
With many thanks to the Church authorities for permission to show pictures from inside St Mary's;
their website is http://www.shrineofmary.org/.
Top of page
West to Harrow Church // South-West to Perivale Church // South to Acton Church
Monuments in some London Churches // Churches in the City of London
// Introduction to church monuments
Angel statues // Cherub sculpture
London sculpture // Sculptors
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