Our Church – North Transept

Our Church

North Transept

Church plan view
The north transept dates to the same c. 1240 building campaign as the chancel and south transept. In the west and north walls you can see the remains of the original lancet windows that would have lit both transepts and the chancel – they even have fragments of red paint on the surrounds, all that is left of what must have been a vibrant scheme of medieval wallpainting.

Medieval Paint Fragments
This transept was also used as a chancel before the reformation – the trefoil headed piscina on the east wall indicate that an altar would have been placed here. Possibly this was the family chapel of the families holding the manor on the north side of the church – including the Yates and Throckmortons who have expensive memorials here. The brass memorial to John Yate (died 1578) and his wife Mary on the west wall is particularly interesting, as it was a genuine (and rare) attempt at a portrait of the deceased – right down to the stubble on John’s face! There are also stones in the floor that would once have held memorial brasses. One of these is in an early 14th century stone with a blue shade, certainly not from a local quarry, and held a cross and an inscription in Latin reading you who pass this way pray for Dame Felice la Blonde, that Mary the mother of Jesus may be the true salvation to the soul. Who Dame Felice was, or why she was buried at Buckland, we do not know.

As well as the manor memorials there are three hatchments, painted wooden boards depicting coats of arms that would have been carried in the funeral procession of the dead nobleman to whom they belonged, and placed ceremonially in the church after the burial. The three in the north transept are those of Sir Robert Throckmorton (died 1791), Sir John Courtney Throckmorton (died 1819), and Sir Charles Throckmorton (died 1840).

Against the east wall of the transept is the parish chest, a wooden chest reinforced with blacksmith made iron strapping and hasps for three locks. These chests are often imagined to have been for money, but it is more likely that they held things that were considered even more valuable, such as the parish records, books, and the vessels used for Mass. Written records were very important and very vulnerable in the medieval period, particularly those that recorded endowments or holdings of land. Often there was only one copy, and attempts to destroy or counterfeit were fairly common – Abingdon Abbey was one local institution that had a number of dubious records backing up its claims to valuable land. The three locks would have had different keys, held by different people (usually the two churchwardens and the priest) to prevent misuse of the contents. The precise date of the chest is unclear as it has had new pieces of iron and a new liner added to it, and a slot cut in the top for coins.

Monuments

The north transept was used by the Yates and Throckmortons of Buckland Manor as their family mausoleum. There are three surviving monuments to the Yates family at the north end of the transept.

Goat Crest
The oldest of these is a stone slab inlaid with brasses depicting figures, coats of arms and an epitaph. It is currently mounted on a plinth against the north wall but it would originally have been set into the floor. There is a small possibility that it could have been the slab on top of a tomb chest but this is unlikely given the unfinished edges to the stone and the relatively minor gentry status of the Yate family when the monument was created. The two figures represent John Yate (d. 1578), who purchased Buckland manor from Henry VIII and his wife, Mary Justice. Beneath the epitaph, are brasses depicting their five sons and seven daughters. The coats of arms depict combinations of Yate and Goddard (John Yate’s mother’s maiden name) with other Yate ancestors, including the Fettiplaces, and his wife’s Justice coat of arms. The central coat of arms is topped by a goat’s head – the crest of the Yate family. This type of monument was common throughout the middle ages, particularly amongst the gentry and merchant classes. However, by 1570, it was falling out of fashion with carved, wall mounted tablets becoming increasingly popular. Whilst the monument itself is not remarkable, the central figures are notable for their lifelikeness. It was possible to buy brasses ‘off the shelf’ but these show an attempt at portraiture. Both are dressed in civilian dress appropriate to the date and the detailing of their features includes John’s stubble. This will have cost much more than purchasing a brass made to a generic design.

The most elaborate of the Yate tombs is also set against the north wall of the transept and commemorates Sir Edward Yate (d. 1645) and his wife Katherine Baker. It is an alabaster and black marble altar tomb on which is set a reredos consisting of a central inscribed panel surrounded by strapwork and garland carving flanked by two marble pillars and topped by a pediment and a Yate/Baker coat of arms with the goat’s head crest. On the front of the lower part of the monument is an inscribed marble panel, also surrounded by carved alabaster. It has been attributed as the work of Thomas Stanton, a London based sculptor and mason who specialised in the creation of tombs and memorials. Stylistically, the monument is fairly common for the late-sixteenth to seventeenth centuries. Across the two panels the inscription references their ancestry; lists their children and their marriages; and details their virtues before exhorting the reader to follow their example. This is also typical of this time period, when fame after death was sought through the extolling of the virtues, deeds and character of the deceased.

On the west wall of the transept is the monument to Sir John Yate (d. 1658). It is a large wall-mounted tablet memorial with black columns, carved garlands and fruit, a central inscribed panel and topped with an ‘open scrolly pediment’ and coat of arms. The pediment is notable as the design is innovative for the date of the monument. Also of note is the second part of the inscription which is in Latin – rarely used on monuments since the first half of the sixteenth century – and recording that Sir John had been received into the Roman Catholic communion. The monument is attributed to Jasper Latham. It is unclear whether this is the Jasper Latham who one of the principal masons involved in rebuilding London after the fire of London (in the 1650s he would have been early in his career), or his lesser known father, also called Jasper. The scale and design of this monument stands in stark contrast to the plain, nineteenth century tablet commemorating William Throckmorton, esq and his wife, Frances, which is mounted alongside it.

There are two floor ledger stones of note in this transept. One has been stripped off its brasses but we can tell from the idents that it would have been similar to the John Yate ledger. There were two central figures with figures of their children underneath and four shields, one at each corner. However, unlike the Yate monument, there were scrolls coming from the mouths of the central figures. Unfortunately, without the brasses, it is impossible to identify the people commemorated or a precise date. It is probable that is from no later than the mid-sixteenth century. The second ledger is a much earlier monument with the ident of a floriated cross. The French inscription around the margin of the stone is in written in Lombardic characters and asks that those who pass by pray for the soul of Dame Felice la Blonde. It has been suggested that the stone may have been moved from to Buckland from a local nunnery and that Dame Felice was an abbess of the la Blount family, however, much of this is speculative.