Fermor Chapel Hatchments
WORK CONTINUES ON THE HATCHMENTS – CLICK HERE TO READ MORE
The Fermor Chapel contains three large diamond-shaped hatchments. These were in very poor state of repair and in 2014 they were sent for conservation by Sally Woodcock in Cambridge. They have now been rehung and look magnificent.
The conservation was made possible by generous grants from Viridor Credits, the Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust and the Church Buildings Council.
Sally has sent us an excellent PowerPoint presentation, explaining what she had to do – click here to view .
The following note about the hatchments by Chris Rothero uses information about them in volume 4 of Hatchments in Britainby Peter Summers (1983). It was written before the hatchments were conserved, but the pictures are of the hatchments after conservation.
Families who had coats of arms were very proud of them since they denoted status in society. As a sign of mourning it was the custom to display such ‘armorial bearings’ outside the home of someone who had died. These were termed hatchments (perhaps from the French achevement lit. completion or achievement) or funeral escutcheons. After the period of mourning the hatchments were often placed in the parish church.
Each hatchment contains the full armorial bearings of the deceased person including in the case of a married person the arms of the spouse, but the family motto was usually replaced by a Resurgam (Latin for “let me rise again ” –ie at the Last Judgment) or a similar phrase. Crests were omitted in the case of a woman but sometimes a cherub was placed above the shield or lozenge. The background behind the arms of the deceased person was painted black. That behind the arms of the spouse was white if she or he was still alive. If the whole background behind the husband and wife is black then both were dead.
Occasionally a “death’s head” was placed over the shield instead of a crest and this is thought to indicate that the deceased person was the last of his or her line.
The three in Somerton are described below in the very precise technical language of heraldry and then in simple layman’s terms.
Hatchment 1 (Henry Fermor of Tusmore who died in 1747. He had married Frances the daughter of Edward Sheldon who survived him until 1790).
Dexter background black, Argent a fess sable between three lions’ heads erased gules (Fermor), impaling, Sable a fess between three sheldrakes argent (Sheldon). Crest: From a ducal coronet or a cock’s head gules beaked combed and wattled or. Mantling: Gules and argent
Fermor: A silver background with red lions heads, two above and one below a black horizontal bar. Placed beside the arms of Sheldon. These are a silver bar with three ducks, two above and one below on a black background.
The crest is a ducal coronet (there are various crowns in heraldry denoting the ranks of the peerage), with a red cock’s head and a cloth cover falling left and right in red and silver.
Hatchment 2 (Frances Fermor who died in 1787. She was the eldest daughter of John Errington of Beaufront, Northumberland wife of William Fermor of Tusmore)
Sinister background black. Fermor, impaling, Argent two bars and in chief three escallops a/.ure.(Errington) Two cherubs’ heads above shield
Again the arms of Fermor as in hatchment 1 but this time placed beside the arms of Errington. The Errington arms are as follows. Silver background, two bars with three blue shells in the top section. The motto is Resurgam and there are two gold cherubs above the shield. The left hand background as you look at the shield is black so William Fermor of Tusmore is shown as deceased.
Hatchment 3 (William Fermor of Tusmore who died in 1806)
All black background Arms: As 2. Crest: defaced Mantling: Gules and argent Motto: Horac sempre
All the background is black, so perhaps this is the end of line or his wife was dead already – or he was unmarried.
The same crest is used but this is nearly impossible to pick out on the hatchment.
The motto”Horac Sepre” (? “Now and for Ever”) is a scroll at the base of the shield.