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March 2016, Mathew Rudd, 1615, Chelmsford, Essex

Copyright: Jon Bayliss

Chelmsford Cathedral is the former parish church of St Mary the Virgin, raised to its current status in 1914 when the diocese of Chelmsford was created. It was bult in the fifteenth and sixteenth-centuries with some rebuilding during the nineteenth. The monuments were therefore mainly intended to commemorate parishioners rather than diocesan clergy and officials.

    Of the parish church's brasses, most are Victorian but a medieval indent remains as do two brasses of the 1610s. Also of the same period as the latter brasses is the monument commemorating Mathew Rudd, who died in 1615 aged 60. He, his wife, two sons and three daughters are pictured kneeling on a tiled floor either side of a prayer desk. On the desk stands a skeleton, representing death, holding large darts in either hand, directed at Mathew and his wife. Above Death's head is a scroll bearing the words 'Veni, Vide, Vice' (I came, I saw, I conquered). All this is incised on a black panel that has an alabaster border around which are projections on either side decorated with a flower head. At the top is a trefoil similarly decorated above a broken pediment. The deep straight sided base of the frame at the bottom suggests that the monument is now incomplete.

    Rudd is the only person named in the inscription but the heralds' visitation of Essex in 1634 lists his wife as Mary, daughter of John Taylor of Chelmsford, his sons as Mathew and William, and his daughters as Mary, Anne and Elizabeth. Rudd's father John descended from a Yorkshire family but lived in Rickling, Essex. In 1634 the heralds awarded the younger Mathew arms and a crest, explaining why there is no heraldic component to his father's monument. Mathew senior is described in the visitation as of Chelmsford and Furnivall's Inn, Mathew junior, husband of Priscilla, daughter of John Solme of Woodham Walter, as of Woodham Walter and the Middle Temple. The younger Mary is listed as the wife of Charles Andyn of Parkhall in the parish of Btterley, Shropshire and her sister Anne as the wife of John Salmon of Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire.

   Death's dart evidently missed Mrs Rudd in 1615, as she married John Mody or Moody of London thereafter. John and Mary Mody were two of the defendants in a Star Chamber case in January 1624. One of the two charges was of attempting to break the contract for the marriage between her daughter Mary and Charles Adyn, John Mody's nephew, and a libel against the court that had maintained the contract, the Court of Arches. John Mody was fined £200 and Mary Mody £100 for the libel. Charles and Mary Adyn brought a case  in Chancery against John and Mary Mody claiming a number of messuages in eight Essex parishes under the will of Mathew Rudd.

    The inscription of the Rudd monument is of particular interest.

           In obitum Mathei Rudd, Generosi qui

               mortem obbijt Anno Domini 1615

                        et aetatis suae 60

        Thus death triumphs and tells us all must die.

        Thus we triumph, to Christ by death to flie

        To live. To die is not to die, but live;

        To die to bliss; is blessed life to give.

        Oh bless me then  oh strike me at the harte

        Breath out my life, and let my soul departe

        Aske how he liv'd, and thou shallt know his end,

        He died a saint to God, to poore, a freind.

This inscription is repeated in its entirety with changes to the name (Erasmus Smith), date (1616) and age (82) on a similar monument at Husbands Bosworth, Leicestershire that has an incised panel of the Smith family kneeling on a tiled floor either side of a desk on which a skeletal figure of Death stands with a dart is each hand aimed at Erasmus Smith and his first wife (there are two wives kneeling) and the same wording on a scroll over his head as at Chelmsford. What is different is that there are scrolls issuing from the mouths of Erasmus and his first wife. Erasmus is in armour and five sons and five daughters are depicted. The alabaster frame is much more substantial wide wide pilaster either side, an achievement of arms above and a second inscription panel set below in the apron and flanked by a pair of sculpted heads. Given that the panels at Chelmsford and Husbands Bosworth are so similar, there can be no doubt that the same artist was responsible for both. The date of 1616 as Erasmus Smith's date of death is wrong as his will was proved in October 1615. Three brasses have edited versions of the same verses, missing out the third couplet. They are at Birlingham, Worcestershire, with a man and two women kneeling on a tiled floor either side of the desk, at Messingham, Lincolnshire, and at Elmsted, Kent, the latter two being inscriptions only. The Birlingham brass, to members of the Harewell family with dates of death running up to late 1617, has stylistic similarities with the Rudd memorial and with a number of other brasses belonging to the period between 1610 and 1620. However the verses reappear on a monument with an incised panel at Water Stratford, Buckinghamshire, that has figures of John Frankyshe kneeling at the foot of the deathbed of his wife Mary and their children kneeling either side of a prayer desk. Mary Frankyshe died in January 1629/30 and the style of both the incised effigies and the inscription point towards the workshop of Edward Marshall whereas the earlier work described above may possibly be work by Francis Grigs from before the period of his mature signed work.


Online descriptions of TNA C 2/JasI/A7/1 and TNA STAC 8/34/10 at

F A Greenhill, ‘Additions to “the Incised Slabs of Leicestershire and Rutland”’, Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological Society, vol 50, 49-53 & 77-78