Outlook Issue 19 Spring 2015
News and Views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
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Chequered history
11     Chequered history   Woodbridge  owes  much  to  the  great  and  generous   Thomas  Seckford,  not  least  for  two  of  its  best-­‐known   buildings  –  the  Shire  Hall  (1575)  and  the  Abbey   mansion,  which  he  built  as  his  town  house  after   purchasing  the  site  of  the  former  priory  in  1564.   Another  important  Seckford  building  has  not  survived   –  he  called  it  ‘the  chapel  adjoining  to  the  parish  church   at  Woodbridge,  by  me  lately  erected  and  builded’.       Seckford  extended  St  Mary’s  north  aisle  12’2”   eastwards  to  form  a  chapel,  with  a  burial  vault  beneath   it,  for  himself  and  his  family,  which  (after  his  death  in   1587)  contained  his  tomb.  Robert  Hawes  wrote  in  the  early  1700s:  ‘At  the  upper   end  of  the  north  aisle  is  an  ascent  by  steps,  through  two  folding-­‐doors,  to  an  altar-­‐ like  tomb.  It  consisteth  of  a  spacious  grey  marble  table,  supported  by  eight  attick   pilasters,  with  arches.  In  the  east  window,  over  the  tomb,  are  the  Seckford  arms  in   glass’.  David  Elisha  Davy  in  the  1820s  noted  that  the  tomb  was  ‘covered  with  a   thick  slab  of  Purbeck  marble,  the  upper  side  of  which  is  plain,  but  the  underside   (seen  from  below)  has  indents  for  brasses’.  His  sketch  identifies  it  as  the  great  slab   now  beneath  the  present  tomb.     Demolition!   Lady  Elizabeth  was  the  last  Seckford  to  be  buried  in  the  vault  (1673).  From  1711   the  Carthews  used  it  for  their  family  burials,  until  1839  when  George  Thomas   offered  to  ‘beautify’  the  church  and  George  Carthew  ‘liberally  gave  up  what  was   then  his  family  chapel’.  Thomas  duly  demolished  Seckford’s  chapel  (and  tomb),   replacing  it  with  an  entrance  lobby,  with  stairs  to  the  church’s  north  gallery  –and   room  for  a  broom-­‐cupboard!     Phipson’s  1875  restoration  transformed  the  lobby  into  the  organ  chamber,   revealing  the  brick-­‐lined  vault  beneath,  containing  nine  Carthew  coffins,  two   anonymous  Seckford  ones,  and  fragments  of  others.  Shortly  afterwards  the  tomb   was  reconstituted  as  we  see  it  now.  The  great  Purbeck  marble  slab  with  the   brass  indents  of  c.1400  (re-­‐used  to  form  the  underside  of  the  original  top-­‐slab)   now  reposes  beneath  it.       Although  the  generous  Thomas  Seckford’s  memorial,  so  unceremoniously   removed  and  re-­‐jigged,  may  lack  the  Pitman  monument’s  airs-­‐and-­‐graces,  it  still   draws  visitors  and  pilgrims,  who  come  from  far  and  near  to  see  it.         Roy Tricker