You don’t have to spend long in a Church of England parish church to see that the condition of many of the older memorial and monuments within them is deteriorating: cracks, spalling/flaked surface, loss of paint/gilding, lost elements. Some of this damage is the result of iconoclasm, the deliberate destruction of religious imagery, particularly during the 1540s and 1640s. Other damage is simply caused by the passage of time.
So, who is responsible for the maintenance and repair of memorials in our parish churches and churchyards? And what repair are they allowed to do?
The only son of Henry Percy, 3rd the earl of Northumberland and Eleanor Poynings, the 4th earl is (in)famous for not joining the battle of Bosworth – an act that many have credited with contributing to Richard III’s defeat.
Earlier in the Wars of the Roses, his father had died fighting for the Lancastrians at the Battle of Towton (1461). Initially imprisoned by Edward IV, the young Henry Percy did homage to the Yorkist king in 1469 and Edward restored him to the earldom of Northumberland in March 1470. He remained in England during Edward IV’s exile of 1470-1 and was crucial to Edward’s retaking of the throne – when Edward landed at Ravenspur to retake the throne, the 4th earl of Northumberland made no move to stop him, allowing Edward to recruit supporters and march south without major opposition.
During Edward IV’s reign of 1471-83, Northumberland’s power in the north of England was challenged by the influence of Richard, duke of Gloucester. The two men appear to have initially had a good relationship, and Northumberland’s army helped back Richard’s claim to the throne in 1483. However, rather than rewarding Northumberland with increased power in the north, Richard chose to retain direct control of the area and to continue to build his own following. This is generally believed to have motivated Northumberland’s decision to keep his army on the sidelines at Bosworth (though poor communication and positioning may also have made it difficult for him to join the battle!). In the immediate aftermath of the battle, he was imprisoned but was soon released to help control the north for Henry VII.
The tomb pictured above is located in St John the Baptist church, Healaugh, North Yorkshire. However, Lord Wharton had two tombs erected to his memory – the second is located in St Stephen’s church, Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria.
Who was Thomas Wharton?
Thomas Wharton was a member of longstanding gentry family based in the Westmorland/Cumberland area. He rose to prominence during Henry VIII’s reign – first through service to the Clifford and Percy familes, and then through royal service. Although he was an MP and administrator, his greatest claim to fame was as a military leader. In November 1542, he defeated a Scottish army at Solway Moss – he had just 3,000 men to 18,000 Scots. As a result of this victory he was created Lord Wharton in 1544. He had an extensive spy network in Scotland, led frequent raids across the border in the 1540s, and was responsible for keeping garrisons supplied during the English campaigns against Scotland in 1547-1550.
Although a successful soldier, Wharton seems to have been widely hated by contemporaries. The list of people he quarreled/feuded with included the Cliffords (his former patrons); William Grey, Lord Wilton; Robert, Lord Maxwell; his subordinate officials; and his tenants!