DERBYSHIRE HERITAGE Derbyshire Peak District - higger-tor

BERESFORD TOMBin St Edmund's church at Fenny Bentley

Beresford tomb Beresford tomb
Beresford tomb

Thomas Beresford who lived at Bentley Hall in the reign of Henry VI raised a private army of troops and fought at Agincourt. He died in 1473 ten years after the death of his wife Agnes.

No doubt the best known feature of the church is The Beresford Tomb, in the Beresford chapel with its painted aluminium ceiling, with its shrouded figures of Thomas Beresford and his wife Agnes Hassall is one of the foremost features of St Edmund church. On one side and one end of the tomb are incised figures, also in shrouds, of the sixteen sons and five daughters, and all round the cornice of the tomb top are incised military accoutrements, helmets, shields, gauntlets and halberds. Agnes died in 1467 and Thomas in 1473, but the various accoutrements all seem to be of a style dating from the following century, so that it would appear that the tomb was not erected until a considerable time after their death, and indeed, as all 21 children are also shown in shrouds, probably after their deaths as well.

Of the sixteen sons, only Hugh is mentioned. He lived at Newton Grange until his death in 1524, and had a son, Laurence, who died in 1577.

It has been suggested that the figures are shown in their shrouds because the tomb was carved a century after their death, and as the sculptor did not know what they looked like, he took the easy way out and put them in shrouds. This seems unlikely as a renowned familly such as the Beresfords must have had potrait which could have been used and in any case effigies up to about the 16th century were never accurate likenesses.

The tomb has been moved about considerably over the years. A plan of the church dated 1863 shows it against the north wall of the chancel, by the communion rail. In 1864 it had been moved a little to the west, still against the north wall of the chancel. By 1889 it was in the new north aisle to the chancel, but behind the organ, until the Beresford Chapel was set up in 1895, when it was removed to its present position. So that the incised figures on the base can still be seen, and the figures can still have their feet towards the east, the top was turned 180 degrees with respect to the base during the last removal.

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