Sir Henry de Bathe's Tomb?

Is this the Tomb of Sir Henry de Bathe?

The monument claimed to be that of Sir George Nowers in the Lady Chapel of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.


   From the "Handbook to the Cathedrals of England" by Richard John King, published by John Murray, Albemarle Street, Oxford, 1862:

       Adjoining the choir-aisle, and entered from the central eastern bay of the transept, is the Lady-chapel, of Early English architecture, and added towards the middle of the thirteenth century. As the city wall closely adjoined the east end of the cathedral, it was impossible to add the Lady-chapel in that, the most usual, direction. The north wall of the choir-aisle was therefore broken through, and Early English piers and arches constructed in each bay, the Norman vaulting-shafts of the aisle remaining undisturbed. The western arch is circular, and was that of the eastern transept-aisle. The Early English arches themselves should be carefully examined. There is some trace of recent depression, especially in the easternmost arch; but hardly sufficient, it would seem, to account for the decidedly four-centred appearance which the arches now present. This form, which is at least of extreme rarity during the Early English period, is further indicated in the east window of the Lady-chapel, the inner and unaltered arch of which nearly resembles those of the piers.

     The monuments which remain in the Lady-chapel are, however, more interesting than the architecture of the chapel itself. They are arranged under the arches on the north side. The first, westward, commonly called that of Sir Henry de Bathe, is more probably the tomb of Sir George Nowers (de Nodariis), (died 1425). [Above] His effigy affords a good example of armour, which is, however, earlier in character than 1425. (It may be compared with that of the Black Prince at Canterbury.) If the effigy be really that of Sir George Nowers, it may have been prepared during his lifetime. The panels below are filled in with shields of arms.


        The question is whether or not this is in fact the monument of Sir Henry de Bathe / Bathonia. Sir Henry de Bathe was, according to the available sources, High Sheriff of Yorkshire from 1242 to 1248 and a senior justice of the King's Bench. Though he fell from favour in 1251 he was restored in 1253 and continued his service to the crown until his death in early 1261.


The Effigy

      According to those concerned with the Cathedral monuments, the tomb and and figure on top of it have always been regarded as being separate; i.e. they don't belong together; the effigy belonging to the de Nowers family, while the greyhounds on the coats of arms probably to the Gaynsfords of Hampton Poyle. A further explanation follows:

     Having spoken to my colleagues in the cathedral, I gather it is almost universally accepted that the tomb base and the effigy do not go together. When you see them together the proportions are completely wrong; there really ought to be much more of the tomb around the effigy than there actually is.
     This said, the jury is still out on who the knight is, or for whom the tomb base was made. The cathedral was rearranged in the C17 by 
Dean Brian Duppa who, by all accounts, took out most of the Saxon and medieval monuments, and moved around much of what was left. An empty table tomb probably seemed an ideal place to put a homeless effigy!
     Unfortunately, we have no account of what the cathedral looked like before Duppa's reorganization (hence much of the debate over the position of St Frideswide's shrine). Lady Montacute was probably beneath the painted ceiling as the colouring seems to match the decoration on her tomb which is now next to Nowers. The survival of monuments under Duppa seems to be connected with benefactions to the priory which is one of the reasons why the knight is thought to be Nowers.
     We shall continue our quest to discover more, but I think we have to admit defeat.

      Yours sincerely
      Judith Curthoys

     An assessment of the possible dating of the effigy comes from Rear-Admiral M.G.T. Harris of the Monumental Brass Society:

       I have looked at the illustrations of the tomb, and I would agree with the text which describes the armour as being comparable to that of the Black Prince, who died in 1376.
       If you look at the "Armour" section of the Picture Gallery on our website you will see typical examples of armour through the ages. Before about 1330 it was mainly in the form of chain mail, so I'm afraid that a date of 1261 wouldn't fit very well with the figure on the tomb.
     I hope this is useful if, perhaps, disappointing.
    With best wishes,

    Michael Harris.

        It is therefore apparent that the effigy does not belong to Sir Henry de Bathe, but neither does the effigy belong to the base on which it rests. 

     The Base


     2)  The shield to the right of center contains the central shield "impaled" with that of Sir Ralph Basset; Or, three piles gules a canton ermine. (D'or, à trois piles de gueules, au franc-quartier d'hermine. D'or od trois peus de gules a un quartier d'ermine.) This blazon is from the Glover Roll of circa 1255 - 58 as transcribed in "Rolls of Arms of Henry III : Aspilogia II" by T.D. Tremlett, Society of Antiquaries of London. 

         Ralph Basset was one of Henry III's barons. A Ralph Basset of Drayton was killed at the side of Simon de Montfort at the battle of Evesham (1265). Impalement normally implies marriage. Several sources indicate that Sir Henry de Bathe was married to Aline (Aliva), a descendant of the Sandfords and Bassets. 



     3) The impaled shield on the right, though indistinct, bears a  resemblance to that of Geoffrey de Lucy; Gules three pike hauriant in pale argent. This blazon also appears in the Glover Roll as above. De Lucy was also a baron and fought on the side of de Montfort at the battle of Lewes.


        (1)         (2)

     4) The impaled shield to the left of center is similar to two shields that appear in the Glover Roll. 

          The first is that of Phillip Basset ; Barry nebuly of or and gules. (Fascé nébulé d'or et de gueules.Ounde d'or et de gules.)  Phillip Basset was a justice, uncle to Aline, the wife of Henry de Bathe and brother to Fulk Basset, Bishop of London. He was taken by de Montfort's men at the battle of Lewes after suffering multiple wounds.  

          The second is that of William Sandford and Nicolas, his brother; Barry nebuly of argent and gules. (Fascé nébulé d'argent et de gueules. Ounde d'argent et gules.)



     5) Does the central shield depict greyhounds or wolves? The Bath family of Alltyferin claimed; Or, a chevron engrailed sable between three wolves' heads of the last as their ancestral coat of arms. Thomas Gerard of Trent in his 1633 "Particular Description of Somerset" ascribes; Or, a chevron engrailed between three lions' heads erased sable as the arms of the 13th century de Bathonia family of Radewell Manor, Somerset. Is it possible that Gerard saw a representation of the shield and mistook wolves for lions?


    6) The remaining shield has yet to be identified. 


       Until new evidence comes to light, whether the base of the monument belongs to the tomb of Sir Henry de Bathe and whether Sir Henry's remains lie somewhere in Christ Church Cathedral will have to remain an individual decision by the reader.     


  Historical note: In Feb. 1251, Sir Henry de Bathe was tried before Parliament for treason in that he did attempt to raise the barons against the king. Numbered amongst his supporters were the Bassets and Sandfords. Both families had representatives sign the Magna Charta and were in opposition to Henry III. In 1265 the barons, led by Simon de Montfort, rose in rebellion. John de Bathonia, the probable son and heir of Sir Henry de Bathe, fought on the side of the rebels.

Is it possible that in an earlier attempt to placate his enemies Henry III had the original monument built?