Wonderful survivor of image-smashing
9th March, 2015
Those interested in antiquaries and old churches should be amazed at the wonderful altar tomb of Sir Ralph Grey and his wife – interred there in the mid-fifteenth century.
What makes this tomb so different is that it is the finest of its type in north-east England. You don’t need to look carefully to see that most of the figures of angels and saints remain undamaged. This remarkable survival from the iconoclasts of the Puritan era is put down to the facts that the church is relatively isolated and that the chapel may have been inaccessible for some time.
The alabaster effigies lie in a formal praying posture – typical of the era. Sir Ralph wears a Lancastrian collar of ‘S’ and his wife wears a kirtle with buttoned sleeves, her hair in the fashionable horned style covered with a jewelled net. Her feet rests on two little dogs.
Another significant feature is that the tomb still retains some of its original paint – something that we are not used to seeing in old churches.
Does the tomb contain anything? Records show it was accessed in 1813 and a 'quantity of bones and coffin lids were found'. Anything metal had been removed – so some form of tomb robbing is suggested.
Chillingham church has other interesting features and it is usually kept open for visitors.