Monumental Brass Society

Richard de la Pole

Date of Brass:
London B


April 2024

The collegiate church at Wingfield in Suffolk has indents of a good number of fine former brasses, representing the clerical staff of the college and the family of the founders, but only one still contains any brass. This is a Purbeck marble stone on the floor of the tower, with an the inscription commemorating Richard de la Pole, son of Michael, first earl of Suffolk, and his countess, Katherine Wingfield. Richard’s figure and the shields at the corners of the slab have long since disappeared but their shapes are clear on the slab. 

Wingfield College was founded in 1362 under the terms of the will of Sir John de Wingfield, who had died the previous year. He had been a successful soldier in the campaigns in Scotland in the 1330s, and in France in the 1340s and 1350s, and a very able administrator of the lands of the Black Prince, namely the Duchies of Cornwall and Cheshire. He had acquired lands in Suffolk and elsewhere by marriage, purchase and grants to add to his modest inheritance. In the late 1350s his daughter Katherine married Sir Michael, son of the wealthy Hull wool merchant William de la Pole.

After the death of Sir John de Wingfield’s widow Eleanor in 1375, patronage of the college came to Sir Michael. In 1383 he was appointed lord chancellor of England, but four years later he fled abroad to avoid being tried for treason, dying in Paris in 1389. His remains were buried in the Charterhouse monastery in Hull. His title and estates were forfeited.

His eldest son Michael had remained in England and later regained many of his father’s estates. In 1398 he also regained his father's title, becoming second earl of Suffolk. He managed to retain his position after Henry IV seized the throne.

The Richard de la Pole of the surviving brass inscription was one of this Michael’s younger brothers. His inscription reads:


Hic iacet Ricardus de la Pole filius d(omi)ni Mich(ael)is

de la Pole nup(er) Comitis Suff(olchiae) qui obijt xviijo

die Decembr(is) A(nn)o d(omi)ni MCCCCo iijo cui(us) a(n)i(m)e p(ro)piciet(ur) d(eu)s


It translates as:

Here lies Richard de la Pole son of Michael

de le Pole late earl of Suffolk who died the 18th

day of December in the year of our Lord 1403 on whose soul God have mercy


Little is known of his life. He was possibly born around 1367. At his death he held the manors of Marsh, Buckinghamshire and Grafton, Northamptonshire, plus the advowsons of the churches of Bugbrook and Grafton. He had no male heirs, and his younger brother Thomas inherited both manors. The lettering of his brass inscription, as Sally Badham has written, belongs to the London B style. The shape of the indent of his armed figure also fits within this style.

His eldest brother Michael, earl of Suffolk, died of dysentery at the siege of Harfleur in 1415. His will specified that if he died in northern England and was buried in the Hull Charterhouse, he was to have only a flat stone over him, presumably a brass. Did he pay for Richard’s brass?

There is one unexplained issue with Richard’s brass. Richard Gough visited Wingfield in 1764 and found a number of brasses in the church chest. He later wrote, Richard Delapole, son of Michael Delapole, earl of Suffolk, who died 1403, had a figure of a monk with roses in quatrefoils on his habit, and B or K in a rondeau, with a rose in a square on his breast. This, with many other brasses of the younger branches of that noble family buried at Wingfield, I saw in the church chest, 1764; and am since told they have gone the way of many more sepulchral brasses.’ He seems to be describing a clerical brass. Presumably the inscription was then in the chest. Did he place a brass figure and Richard’s inscription in indents in the church to come to this conclusion? Or did he wrongly assume that the inscription belonged with the clerical figure? The latter is more likely.


Copyright, Jon Bayliss




Sally Badham, ‘Medieval Monuments to the de la Pole and Wingfield Families’, in Peter Bloore and ‎Edward A. Martin (eds), Wingfield College and its Patrons (2015), pp.135-76.


Richard Gough, Sepulchral Monuments, vol 2, part 2 (1796), 14

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