Out on a walk, a chance visit to the Church at Little Wittenham, near Dorchester, and a discovery there of a beautiful array of early modern tombs and inscriptions. All seem to be connected to the Dunch family, who must have had an ancestor who was hard of hearing, or outright deaf. The man who makes the money was William Dunch, auditor to the mint for three Tudor monarchs:
"Here lyeth buryed William Dunche esquire Auditor of the myntes to our late soveraigne lordes king henrie the eight, and kinge edwarde the sixte and esquire sworne extraordinarie for the bodye of our sovereigne ladie Elizabeth, he married Marie Barnes they had yssue between them two sonnes Edmonde the Eldest, and Walter the younger, which William deceased the [ } daie of [ ] in the yeare of our Lorde God [ ]"
The Dunches all lived in a manor house just yards from the church; it is odd that no-one got round to adding the dates.
Mary Barnes gets commemorated in a long set of verses in that thumping early Tudor verse form, poulter’s measure on a separate plaque. Again, there’s no set of dates, and the brass plaque seems to have a later and less capable inscriber add her name as an afterthought in an extra piece of metal. Maybe this plaque was moved when the main alabasters for Walter Dunch and his wife were installed:
"The touch stone of our life, is death, as I decerne
For by the present passing hence, the former life we lerne
And so through worlds reaport, they live that lie full lowe
The grave can claime nomore of right, then flesh & blud ye know
The people steies the same behinde, for causes good
By which devise the honest name is knowne and understode
Then lo this widow here a farington by birth
Must have the praise that she hath donne, whilst she was on earth
Her sober maners milde, and upright dealing just
In minde of man shall shrined be, though barns be turned to dust
By marriage barns she hight, by life a matron calld
And so among the gravest sort in seat she shalbe stalld
Well likd of poore and rich, her works so virtuous were
That much good will & neighbours love therefore hence did she beare
Of right theis verses sure, she claimes, I say nomore
And you that reades them, after must, for she is goon before
The heavens doo holde her ghost, the earth accompt must make
Of everything it hath receavd, when god shall reconing take
when lo the wormes shall yelde her bodie whole againe,
and she with us and we with her, in endless joy remaine."
The full effigies of Walter Dunch and his wife form my main image here. He died in 1594 aged 42, there is no date given for Deborah Pilkington, his wife, but there they both are, looking like uncomfortable passengers in a wagon lit or cross-channel ferry. Walter is in full plate armour, and I was struck by how realistically the sculptor has rendered the movement away from the body of this most unyielding of forms of outerwear, as he lies down, unable to sleep. Deborah is in high Elizabethan fashion, with ruff, shaved-back hairline, ‘wirey coronet’ and hood. The obelisks are in viviparan (Purbeck) marble (what did they think about that intricate matrix of what just had to be snail shells?).
In front of the tomb, the usual line up of children. I was interested in the way that the earliest monument, the brass plaque to William Dunch the early modern auditor, his children are presented as smaller than him, but simultaneously as adults: his boys have moustaches and beards.
On the floor in front of the chest tomb, an early modern woman writer has her say in one of the few poetic forms then allowed to women:
"In memory of her lovinge husband William Winchcombe, sonne and heire to Francis Winchcombe esquire of Buckleberry who died the 38th yeare of his age on the 29th of July 1614, Mary the eldest daughter of Edmund Dunch bestowed this monument
I lovd thee living and lament thee dead
But what in measure cannot be exprest
Yet love and sorrowe both will needes be read
Even in this marble (Deare) they do theire best
And tis for others too I put this stone
To me thy tombe shalbe my heart alone
Twise eighteene yeares he viewed heavens day
Sixteen he spent in happy wedlocks bonds
The Graces, Muses, and the Fates did lay
Untimely on his webb theire hastening hands
Of heire his house, of all there hopes his friends
Of progenie his wife bereft he ends."
Maths was not her strongest subject, but she was excellent at English.