Brass and Glass: Rector Thomas Patesley and Great Shelford Church (Cambridgeshire)
During the 14th and 15th centuries, several Cambridgeshire incumbents are documented as having contributed substantially to the rebuilding of their parish churches. In 1382, Henry de Snaith bequeathed 100 marks to the making of a new east window of five lights and the roofing of the nave of Haddenham Church. Lost glass at Orwell included an inscription stating that the chancel and sacristy were constructed with a bequest from Rector Richard Anlaby (d.1396). John Highnam, vicar of Burwell 1439–67, left money for his church’s completion and is commemorated by a shield of arms on a chancel corbel.
The benefactions of three others are recorded on their monumental brasses. The inscription on the slab to William de Longthorpe (rector 1345–52) states that the splendid and spacious Decorated chancel of Fenstanton was ‘founded’ by him. At Balsham the fine brass to John Shelford (d.1401) in full mass vestments is intact, together with its inscription noting that he provided the stall and ‘ecclesiam struxit’ (‘built the church’). The third clerical memorial is of particular interest for historians of stained glass. It is that for Thomas Patesley, rector of Great Shelford; as at Balsham, his effigy is in mass vestments [Fig. 1]. The lost accompanying inscription was recorded in antiquarian notes:
Hic jacet Dominus Thom. Patisley quondam Rector istius ecclesie et prebendarius de North Wickam in ecclesia Collegii de Southwell qui istam ecclesiam cum Cancello et Campanulis cuiusdam sumptibus suis propriis de novo fieri fecit et ipsam libris vestimentis, imaginibus vitro pictura et pluribus ornamentis multipliciter decoravit, qui migravit ad Dominum ultimo die mensis octobris Ano. Dom. M.ccccxviij cuius anime propicietur deus. Amen
Details of Patesley’s career are sparse, other than that was rector of Great Shelford between 1396 and 1418. He has not been traced in the archives of either the universities of Cambridge or Oxford, but his name appears from time to time in exchanges of livings. As the inscription shows, he was a prebendary at Southwell Minster (of North Muskham, wrongly transcribed as North Wickam). One of the two shields of arms on the slab links him with an armigerous family bearing the toponym of a lost village twenty or so miles east of King’s Lynn, Norfolk.
The inscription is remarkably detailed about the wholesale ‘good works’ Patesley had performed for Great Shelford Church, including the explicit statement that he paid for the glazing; pictura may have encompassed the fine Doom mural over the chancel arch. The fabric indeed indicates that the church was reconstructed in one campaign. After its collapse in 1798, the tower at the west end was rebuilt to a new design and the nave shortened by a bay. With the exceptions of the chancel east window (1868) and the west windows of the nave aisles, the fenestration is the same throughout, the nave windows being larger [Fig. 2]. Slight traces of the glass survive in the north aisle (windows nV, nVI and nVII). In nV (the east window of the north aisle) are two small shields of arms and canopy fragments in situ; more complete canopies are in the heads of the main lights in the next two windows (nVI, VII), together with a sunburst in the apex of nVII [Fig. 3]; and a few fragments are in the aisle west window (nIX). Presumably much of the glazing was included amongst the ‘34 superstitious pictures … 58 pictures, and two crucifixes, and 12 cherubims…and 2 superstitious inscriptions’ destroyed during William Dowsing’s ‘visitation’ in March 1644.
Patesley’s brass and Great Shelford Church are of value to historians of medieval glass. Firstly the patron of the entire glazing is known, and secondly the lost inscription provides a quite precise dating between 1396 and 1418 for the north aisle canopies. Also relevant is the distinction made between church (i.e., the nave) and the chancel, a phraseology recurring regularly in medieval documents, notably wills, and one that needs to be borne in mind when attempting to relate them to glazing.
S. Cotton, ‘Perpendicular Churches’, in C. Hicks (ed.), Cambridgeshire Churches, Stamford, 1997, pp. 98, 311, 336, 343
T. Cooper (ed.), The Journal of William Dowsing, Woodbridge, 2001, p. 264
W. Lack, H. Martin Stuchfield and P. Whittemore, The Monumental Brasses of Cambridgeshire, Monumental Brass Society, 1995
W. M. Palmer (ed.), Monumental Inscriptions and Coats of Arms from Cambridgeshire, Cambridge, 1932, p. 237
Victoria County History, The County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely, vol. 8, London, 1982, pp. 218–19