Sunday, 17 July 2011

Knights of St Oswald's Church, Ashbourne

Normally when we are travelling up to Sheffield or back, and we stop in Ashbourne, it is merely to stretch our legs but on a recent occasion we had a look around the antique shops (of which there are several) and the owner of one recommended we explore the interior of St Oswald's Church nearby. She mentioned the tomb of a little girl, which was executed in marble, and so finely worked that the limbs felt like touching skin, the dress like silk and the sash like velvet . . .

What she didn't mention was that there were the tombs and marble effigies of the Co(c)kayne family, some dating back to the early 15th century. Sadly their noses are somewhat defaced . . .

I feel this was a somewhat unflattering effigy, as she looks very pudding-faced! Perhaps she was a little chubby in life. . . Mind you, the effigies were done by a company who were "inexpensive and popular", so you obviously got what you paid for!

A little lion roars at his feet.

As you can see, noses (and chins!) were popular for being a prime subject to be defaced. I fear the subsequent rhinoplasty was not a total success . . .

This is the little girl - Penelope Boothby - I mentioned earlier. This beautiful life-size memorial did little to ease her parents' heartbreak following her death on 19th March 1791. She was their only child. Her mother subsequently left Derbyshire for her Hampshire home, and then on to Dover where she spent her remaining years and had taken her maiden name again. HERE is a link to a Wikipedia article about Sir Brooke Boothby, 6th Baronet and grieving father.

This is so well done I'm sure you would recognize him if you had met him. Perhaps his rather fierce demenour belied a kindly heart.

Without his nose, this could almost have been the model for Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter books.

In life, St Oswald was King Oswald, the Anglo-Saxon King of Northumbria from 633 to 642 and he encouraged Celtic missionaries to spread Christianity in his kingdom. His father, King Aethelfrith, had controlled the Northumbrian kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira, but his brother acceded to the thrown on his death and his sons Oswald and Oswiu fled to Iona, where they became adherents of the Christian faith. Oswald was subsequently killed in battle by King Penda, probably near Oswestry in Shropshire and venerated as a martyr, and was subsequently canonised.


  1. I have been in that church many times BB when I lived in Lichfield, which was not all that far away. Those tombs are lovely aren't they?

  2. Glad they were familiar to you Weaver.

  3. What an interesting day you have had. Sad about the little girl.

  4. Hello BB,

    Seems like you had a wonderful day here. These are fantastic monuments and memorials to attain long past. The carvings are magnificent, especially the one of the little girl. So tell me, did her arms feel like flesh and the dress like Satin?

    Thanks for an interesting article once again.


  5. Al - yes indeed. The Carrara marble effigy of the little girl really DID feel so lifelike.

  6. What a sad story about Penelope and her parents. It doesn't sound as though it can have been a very happy marriage if Susannah left her husband just when you'd expect them to support each other. I've been to Ashbourne a couple of times years ago but haven't visited the church. These days it's the first place I'd head for:)

  7. Thanks for the visit to the tombs, they were incredible, how sad about the girl. Some of the carvings were so lifelike.

  8. What an interesting church to visit.

    I wonder if some of those tombs were defaced in the Civil War, by Cromwell`s men passing through?

    The effigy of the little girl, Penelope, is quite beautiful. She reminds me of the little girl in Romsey Abbey in Hampshire, who, if I remember correctly, was the beloved daughter of a doctor in the town.

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  10. I visited the tombs with you last evening, but too addled to leave a comment. Isn't it astonishing to realize that it was only a generation ago that so many "killer" childhood illnesses were subdued by innoculations. So many blighted families.
    BTW: I see the Aevonte pest has made his presence known here as well. Always something!

  11. MM - I removed that suspicious post without even checking it as I thought it probably had se*ual content! As for little Penelope - I wonder what her cause of death was? As you say, so many easily-cured childhood illnesses wiped out whole communities . . . My g.g. grandmother Bow lost her entire family (3 children under 5) in the space of a week.