XXVII. THE BURIAL OF A DECEASED BROTHER.
1. The earlier custom of the Fraternity was that the deceased
Brother should be buried from the Hall, or that a deputation
of members should attend his funeral at the church, and the
18th Ordinance of Henry VII. provided for the attendance of
the Fraternity in these terms:—
"Also it is ordained that what person of this Fraternity
which at any time hereafter shall be duly summoned by the
Beadle to be present with the Master and Wardens in his whole
livery at a place and hour assigned to or for the burying of any
Brother or Sister deceased which aforetime hath not been
Master nor Warden and denieth at the commandment of one or
two of the Wardens then being to bear the said Brother or
Sister to burying if he be not sick or diseased nor that the said
Brother or Sister died on the great sickness called the Pestilence
shall forfeit and pay to those of the said Fraternity for every
time making denial 6s. 8d. provided always that such persons as
have been Wardens aforetime, and summoned by the Beadle
after the manner and form aforesaid for the burying of a
Master when it shall happen at the desire of the Wardens then
being 4, 6 or 8 of those who have been Wardens shall be ready
to bear the said Master to burying, the causes aforesaid reserved
upon the pain of forfeiture of 10s., the piece as often and when
as such case shall happen."
2. In either case the pall (fn. 1) of the Fraternity covered the
coffin, and a dinner at the Hall usually succeeded the funeral,
for which (fn. 2) 20l. or 40l. were not unfrequently given by the
deceased Brother, the balance of expense (if any) being paid
out of the "Common Box" by special vote of the Fraternity.
3. Two of these palls or herse-cloths are still in the possession of the Company, and are drawn on the annexed sheets.
They were exhibited (fn. 3) at the Society of Antiquaries in June
1874, and in the Journal of their proceedings are thus
described (fn. 6) :—
"It is well known that it was the practice for such of the
City Companies as were originally gilds to possess herse-cloths
which were used in the burial of members of the Company.
The general construction of these palls consists of a breadth of
baldakin cloth in the centre, about 6 feet by 2 in dimensions, to
the sides and ends of which are attached embroidered velvet
flaps, rectangular in shape, and about ten inches in breadth.
The palls exhibited this evening may be thus described:—
I. In the centre is a piece of baldakin cloth, or cloth of gold,
6 feet 4½ inches by 1 foot 10 inches. The pattern is a huge
red stalk running from end to end with fruits and blossoms,
chiefly of the pomegranate. In general arrangement and
colour it closely resembles the pall of the Ironmongers' Company as figured in Shaw's Decorative Arts of the Middle Ages,
plate xxxiv., and that of the Vintners' Company as figured in
the Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archæological
Society, vol. iii., p. 491. The flaps at the sides and ends are of
purple velvet. The sides, 10 inches broad, may be thus
described:—In the centre is the Baptism of Our Lord; to the
Saviour's left is John the Baptist kneeling and pouring a vessel
of water on Our Lord's head; to His right is an Angel holding
"The baptism is flanked by two pairs of Agnus Deis, rayed
and spangled, and between each pair is a figure of John the
Baptist, with the label, Ecce Agnus Dei. At each end is an
Angel holding the head of John the Baptist in a charger, with
"CAPAT [sic] IOHĨS BAPTEST [sic] . Ĩ . DISCO.
"At each end is a pair of shears placed saltierwise.
"The other side is a repetition of what has been described,
with the exception that one of the shears has a tent between
"The ends are of the same breadth as the sides. On one is a
representation of the Decollation, with an Angus Dei on each
side. Salome is holding a dish, on which a figure, in the costume of a lanzknecht of late fifteenth century, is about to place
the head of John the Baptist, whose bent body is seen falling
forward on the ground; the blood streaming from the neck.
"At the other end is the entombment of John the Baptist,
with an Agnus Dei on each side. Two figures hold the body, a
third standing in the middle in an attitude of prayer. This pall
may be dated about 1490–1500.
"II. Centre piece, cloth of gold, 6 feet 3½ inches by 1 foot
11 inches. The pattern consists of garlands of flowers with
pomegranates and other fruits intermixed. The amount of gold
in this cloth is much larger, more massive, than in the other.
The side flap, which is 9 inches broad, is divided architecturally
by arcades into seven divisions. Beginning at the spectator's
left—the first, third, fifth, and seventh of these are filled with
the words ECCE AGNVS DEI—the syllables of the word AGNUS
being divided between the third and fifth arcade. The second
and sixth divisions contain the arms of the Company, viz.,
Argent, a tent-royal between two robes of state, gules, lined
ermine. The central and largest division represents the
Baptism of our Lord, John the Baptist kneeling to the spectator's right with a hand stretched over the head of Christ—
an Angel standing to the left. Above is a scroll with the
"HIC EST FILIVS MEVS.
"The same subject is repeated on the other side.
"At each end is the Decollation flanked by the Company's
arms. The costume, however, is about half a century later
than the pall just described."
Burial cloth, c.1490-1512
4. Mr. Augustus W. Franks, M.A., F.R.S., under whose
charge the British and Mediæval Antiquities at the British
Museum are placed, has furnished the following memorandum
upon these cloths:—
"The two herse-cloths belonging to the Merchant Tailors'
Company are not very far apart in date, but, judging from some
of the details of costume, and other reasons, I consider the less
ornamented one to be the earlier. This is also more likely to
be the case, as the Company would scarcely have a new cloth
made less rich than one already in their possession.
5. "The older cloth has in the centre an oblong piece of
cloth of gold velvet, exhibiting a rich running pattern in
crimson on a gold ground, in some places small loops of gold
thread are visible, which seem to be characteristic of the stuff.
A piece of the same kind of stuff, with a similar pattern, forms
the centre of the herse-cloth belonging to the Ironmongers'
Company, dated 1515; and is engraved in 'Shaw's Decorative
Arts of the Middle Ages,' pl. 34. The Ironmongers' Cloth is
noticed in the 'Catalogue of Works of Art,' exhibited at Ironmongers' Hall in 1861, vol ii., p. 456, as well as the cloth now
under consideration, where the tissue is stated to be Flemish
on the authority of Dr. Rock. Although, however, such stuffs
are frequently represented in Flemish pictures, there is no
evidence that they were made in Flanders. When any indications of origin are furnished by inventories or accounts, they
are always Italian. At this period, Lucca seems to have had a
specialité of such fabrics, and on showing the cloth to Signor
A. Castellani (who had brought several pieces of a similar kind
from Italy), he told me that he considered it to be Pisan. It
will be remembered that Lucca and Pisa are no great distance
apart. The style of the design is also against a Flemish origin
for the stuff, as the pattern has too little traces of Gothic design
to have been made so early as 1515 in Flanders.
"The central panel of rich stuff is surrounded by four flaps
or borders, with embroidery in silk or gold thread, sewed on to
purple velvet, and edged with fringe. The design of the long
sides is the same; in the centre the Baptism of our Lord, who
is standing in the centre; St. John the Baptist is kneeling on
one knee, and pouring water over Him out of a vase; on the
other side an angel holding the Saviour's robe; on each side
of this an Agnus Dei surrounded by rays and spangles, no
doubt what is called in the Inventory (fn. 7) of 1512 'the Holy Lamb
in a sun'; then follows on each side a figure of the Baptist
holding the Lamb, and a scroll, inscribed ECCE AGNVS DEI.
Then follows the Agnus Dei as before, then an angel bearing
the head of the Baptist in a dish with a scroll, CAPAT IOHIS
BAPTESTE Ī DISCO; then again an Agnus Dei, and at the extreme
ends a pair of shears, open.
"In one instance, a tent is placed between the points of the
shears, and from the blank spaces left in the same spot in the
other shears, it is probable that this ornament has once existed
in all of them.
"One of the shorter flaps exhibits the entombment of the
Baptist, whose headless body is being placed in a saracophagus,
by three men in rich dresses; this is flanked on each side by an
Agnus Dei as before.
"The other short flap exhibits the Decollation of the Baptist,
flanked also by the Agnus Dei. In the centre is the headless
body of the Saint, whose head is held up by the executioner,
while Salome is holding out a dish to receive it. The execu
tioner is in the dress of a landsknecht of the period, and has a
long executioner's sword. He wears a cap with feathers, a
vest slashed in front, and tight fitting hose, in one piece from
the feet to the waist; his shoes are broad toed; Salome has a
veil flying behind from her head dress, a long gown, over which
is a jacket with long wide sleeves, trimmed with ermine.
"This is the most important part of the decoration, as the
figures are in the costume of the period. I have not paid very
special attention to the costume of the 16th century, but I
should conjecture that the date of the embroidery might be
placed between 1490 and 1510, that is, before the end of the
reign of Henry VII. Should this date be correct, it is possible
that this herse-cloth may be the 'burying clothe' kept in a
deal chest, of the Inventory of 1512. One of the three hersecloths mentioned in 1562, is called 'the burial cloth of black
velvet broidered with gold,' in contra-distinction to the 'State
Burial cloth, c.1520-30
6. "The other herse-cloth has in the centre, a piece of cloth
of gold velvet, of still finer design than that of the first hersecloth, and still better suited to its purpose, as the design is
more symmetrical, and fills up the panel much better; its
Italian origin is very conspicuous. The pattern is in purple and
gold, the latter has in patches the same small loops that have
been noticed in the other specimen.
"It has similar flaps or borders, entirely covered with
embroidery in silk and gold, somewhat monotonous in design,
but very rich in effect. The long sides are in every respect
alike, being divided by pilasters into seven compartments of
unequal widths. In the centre is the Baptism of our Lord by
St. John, who is standing on the bank of the stream to the right
of the Saviour; to the left is an angel holding the Saviour's
robe; above is the Holy Dove with the scroll, inscribed HIG EST
FILIUS MEUS. The smaller compartments on each side, contain
the old arms of the Company, with the Agnus Dei in the chief.
The four other compartments contain the inscription ECCE
AGNVS DEI in large ornamental letters.
"The smaller borders are also alike, divided by pilasters into
three panels; in the centre is the Decollation of St. John, at
the sides the arms of the Company as before.
"The costume of the executioner and of Salome are of the
period; the former, a landsknecht, wears a hat with feathers
and has a slashed doublet, and his sleeves and hose are slashed,
puffed, and gathered in at intervals. He wears boots with
broad falling tops, and carries a long executioner's sword.
Salome has an elaborate head-dress with a long veil flowing
behind, a long dress with a jacket over it, and with slashed,
puffed, and gathered sleeves. The slashed, puffed, and gathered
garments of both these figures, point to a later date than the
costumes of the other cloth, and I should be disposed to place
them between 1520 and 1530. It is possible that a more
elaborate herse-cloth, such as this one, was made for the Company, or presented to it by some member, on account of the
arms not appearing on the other cloth. The embroidery in
both specimens must have the same origin. The costumes are
somewhat Flemish, but as the English embroiderers enjoyed at
this time a considerable reputation, there does not seem to be
any reason why they should not have executed the work."
7. After the Reformation, funeral solemnities were still
observed, as recorded in the following extract from the Court
"Memorandum that this day the funeralle of the Woorll
Mr. John Swynnerton, late Mr of this Company, were solempnized, and the Mr Wardens and Assistants, lyvery, Warden
Substitutes and Almsmen, dyned at the Hall at a bountifull
Dynner there provided of the guift of the said Mr. Swynnerton.
Before which Dynner there was openly pronounced a grace or
thanksgiving drawne by a learned Dyvine upon the Motion of
a grave and Worthy auncient Master of this Company, intituled
A Comemorable grace at a funerall dynner in the Hall for a
good brother deceased."—[3rd November 1608.]
8. This "commendable grace" which the worthy Robert
Dowe (fn. 8) gave an annuity of 5s. a-year to the Clerk for reading,
was in these words:—
"Almightie God and most mercifull Father, wee thy most
unthankfull Servaunts unworthy of the least of all thy mercies,
being at this present assembled together in thy feare and in
remembraunce of our worshipfull Brother deceased, doe humbly
entreate thy heavenly Majestie to accept at our hands this
poore Sacrifice of Praise and Thanksgiving which wee
offer up unto thee, as for all other thy blessings, so
namely for thy contynuall providing for and feeding of us
and oures from tyme to tyme. O Lord wee are not worthy
of the meanest repast that ever wee tooke at any tyme
at thy gracious hands, much lesse of this greate bounty
and kindness which thou hast nowe vouchsafed us by the
liberall guift of our loving Brother deceased. Graunt us we
humbly beseech thee the assistance of thy holy spiritt that this
and such other examples may contynually putt us in mynde of
our mortallitie, that we may learne to feare and serve thee by
true faith in Jesus Christ. And whensoever it shall please thee
to call us out of this transitory lief, guide us so by thy Grace
that wee may according to the measure of thy temporall blessings wherewith it shall please thee to blesse us, shewe our
kindnes with upright hearts not for desire of vain glory or for
fashion sake, but to make knowne thy bountie towards us in
the blessinge of this lief to the praise of thy name and to
witness our thankfulnes to this worshipfull Company wherein
wee have bene trayned upp and advaunced, that so having the
holy use of this, and all other thy mercies wee may in them see
thy tender love and care over us and have our harts stirred up
to true thankfullnes in all holy Obedience to the Glory of thy
name, the good Example of our Brethren, our owne present
and everlasting comfort through Jesus Christe our Lord