St Nicholas Church, West Tanfield and the Marmion

For those of you familiar with the area just beyond Ripon you’re probably thinking Marmion! A medieval gatehouse near the church is all that remains of a medieval manor house. It’s possible that there was a Norman castle first but nothing remains. Licence to crenelate (fortify) was granted in 1314. The family associated with the area were the Marmions.

So starting with Robert. Our first Robert died in 1216 was married twice and had families with both his wives – and thought that it would be useful to call both of his first sons Robert. Thankfully he was part of the Staffordshire elite so lets just leave him as 3rd Baron Marmion of Tamworth.

In 1215 Robert the Younger (the son from the second marriage) Marmion of Tamworth paid the avaricious King John £350 and five palfreys to marry Amicia/Avice the daughter of Jernigan or Gernegan FitzHugh of West Tanfield – a minor heiress with lands in Yorkshire. Needless to say starting the conversation with King John results in revolting barons, confiscations and general unhappiness especially when King John gave the order to demolish Tamworth Castle. Fortunately for the Marmions the contractors didn’t move in.

Eventually the Marmions got themselves back on track with the younger Robert coughing up more cash both for his own lands and his elder half-brother’s estates as he was continuing to rebel. By 1220 Robert the Elder was in control of Tamworth. There followed a series of male Marmions until yet another Robert Marmion died leaving his sister Avis as his heir. She held the manor jointly with her husband John de Grey of Rotherfield but their son rather than being called de Grey was known as Marmion which brings us back to the rather marvellous alabaster effigy in St Nicholas’s Church.

He died in 1387 in the service of John of Gaunt in Spain so the manor passed back into the hands of the FitzHugh family via John’s nice Elizabeth. Eventually the manor passed back up the family tree and across to the Parrs by right of Elizabeth FitzHugh before returning to the Crown and for a while into the hands of William Cecil Lord Burghley. The lady by Sir John’s side is his wife Elizabeth.

The gallery images also show a wall painting of St George slaying the dragon – St George is left handed I think. And some lions for recumbent effigies to rest their feet upon. I can’t resist the animal footrests or the rarer animal cushions. I think lions are supposed to show valour and nobility. And it turns out that in medieval bestiaries lion cubs who were born dead came back to life after three days because of their mother’s breathing on them – so not a huge step to the resurrection and life after death.

5 thoughts on “St Nicholas Church, West Tanfield and the Marmion

  1. In Tasmania, Australia, there is a bridge – the Ross Bridge – built by convicts between 1833 – 1836. It is the only bridge in the world on which all arch stones are carved – 180 voussoirs and 6 keystones. To understand the minds of the sculptors – convict stonemasons – I have had to find out as much as I can about the type of carvings they would have worked on as apprentices and journeymen. Hence my interest in the misericord websites and your post. The two convicts most likely to have done the reliefs came from Yorkshire and Lancashire: James Colbeck from Dewsbury and Daniel Herbert from Manchester. Colbeck was apprenticed in Dewsbury; Herbert I do not know, but suspect Manchester. I imagine them tramping with their masters to churches like Marmion to do the repairs; put up the gravestones. I hope the masters told them the symbols and stories behind the architecture and decorations. I fancy as twelve year olds they were allowed to crawl around to see the misericords. Unfortunately, I was not writing this book when I came to UK so I rely on memory, books and the www and people like you! my website:

    Thank you for your interesting articles.

    Jennie Jackson

  2. Very interesting, thank you. I only knew the name from Scott’s poem. I like the bit about lion cubs being ressurected – I had never heard about that.

    • Hi Meg, Its Sir John Marmion who is descended from the 4th Baron Marmion. His mother was Avice Marmion, the second wife of John de Grey 1st Baron Grey of Rotherfield. because our John in St Nicholas was a son of a second marriage he didn’t inherit his father’s title and Avice was a co-heiress so her elder sister’s family would have acquired the barony. Though I don’t know about the older sister or what happened to the barony of Marmion. Hope that helps.

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