Where is the tomb?
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!
He married Eleanor Stapleton and Anne Talbot.
The Healaugh tomb
The tomb at Healaugh is located in the north chapel of the Norman church. It is an alabaster tomb chest with recumbent effigies of Lord Wharton and his two wives. The effigies are damaged with missing their arms and weathered facial heir. The two female effigies are almost identical, the main difference being the bodices on their dresses and their headdresses. This was probably a cost saving decision!
Wharton is depicted in armour and mantle and is bareheaded. On close inspection it appears that the effigy is too long for the tomb and his shoulders rather his head are resting on his helm.
On the sides of the chest are heraldic shields, on the chancel side, the carving on the shields is worn but slight traces of heraldry can be made out. The other side is in better condition and the heraldry can be clearly made out. Each shield is flanked by a male and female effigy, their hands clasped in prayer – the figures are miniature replicas of the effigies. The head of the chest is divided in three – two shields, the carving now almost completely worn away, flanking a central shield with supporters and a banner above. On the foot of the tomb is rectangular panel, shaped as a scroll, inscribed in relief with a Latin epitaph that reads:
‘Gens Whartona genvs dat honoris dextera victrix Tres Aquilonares rigni [illegible] gvbirno Bina mihi coninnx stapliton ivvinim elionora prolibeat fovet anna senem stirps clara salopvs nati eqnitis bini thomam svssexa propago anna facit patrem sine pro[?] henricvs obibat bina[?] itidem natae penlitono Ioanna G[?]ilimo Agnis mvsgravo conivx [?]vnda ricmardo’.
Beneath this, two lines of Latin have been etched into the tomb, including the dates 1568 and 1584 – the dates of Wharton’s death and his second wife, Anne. The two lines of carving are faint and hard to read but too well executed to be graffiti. A third inscription is carved in relief around the edge of the tomb slab but weathering and later repairs mean it is also difficult to read.
The Kirkby Stephen tomb
This tomb is located behind the organ in the north chapel. It is also a tomb chest but the top slab extends beyond the chest and is supported on baluster shafts. Again, there are effigies of Lord Wharton in armour between his two wives. Around the sides of the chest are shell-headed niches carved on the sides of the chest containing coats of arms and statues representing his children – three kneeling male figures one side and two female figures on the other side. There are carved coats of arms under the remaining niches. Like the Healaugh tomb, the effigies are badly damaged as is the top slab of the tomb.
On the east end there is an inscribed tablet. In 1801, Thomas Pennant recorded the inscription as:
‘Gens Whartona genus dat honores dextra victrix In Scotos. Stapletona domus mihi quam dedit uxor Elionora fecit ter bina prola parentum: Binam adimunt teneris, binam juvenilibus annis Fata mihi; dat nomen avi mihi bina superstes. Anna secunda uxor celebri est de gente Salopum’
Another inscription, now damaged, runs around the edge of the tomb slab and was recorded by Pennant as:
‘Thomas Whartonus jaceo hic: Hic utraque conjux; Elionora suum hinc, hinc habet Anna locum. En tibi terra tuum, carnes ac ossa resume; Tu Caelos anima, tu Deus alme, tuum’
Leach and Pevsner, Yorkshire West Riding: Leeds, Bradford and the North, p. 329; Hyde and Pevsner, Cumbria. Cumberland, Westmorland and Furness, p. 470. 933; Thomas Pennant, A Tour from Downing to Alston-Moor, (London, 1801), p. 126; Grummitt, D.; Wharton, Thomas, first Baron Wharton (c. 1495–1568), soldier and administrator. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 4 Mar. 2021, from https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-29172.