Sir Ralph Pudsay, his third wife Edwina & his son William
- Date of Brass:
The brass this month is affixed in a most unusual position.
The church of Bolton-by-Bowland (Yorkshire) boasts a large and imposing octagonal font of Egglestone marble. There are a number of such fonts in Yorkshire and Durham in particular, but this one is distinctive due to the inscription engraved on pairs of brass strips on four of the concave panels of the bowl.
The inscriptions run from the southernmost panel to the northernmost in sequential order. They read ‘Orate p[ro] a[n]i[m]ab[u]s / d[omin]i Radul / phi Pudsay / milit[is] & de / Edinie uxor[is] / eius ac d[omi]ni / W[i]li Pudsay / filij ea[rum] (for eorum) co[n]d[am] (for quondam) rec/tor[is] hui[us] eccl[es]ie (Pray for the souls of Ralph Pudsay knight and of Edwina his wife and Sir William their son once rector of this church). William was the second son of the much married Sir Ralph Pudsay (d. 1468) by his second wife Margaret, daughter of Sir Thomas Tubstall of Thurland Castle and of Soargill near Leeds. Edwina, referred to in the inscription, was Sir Ralph’s third wife, by whom he had 17 children. Sir Ralph and his family are commemorated by a low-relief incised slab in the church, also carved from Egglestone marble. William is shown in academic dress in the top line of children, 3rd from the right
William Pudsay was appointed to the living of Bolton-by-Bowland by his father in 1448, and remained there until his death in 1507. He also held the living of Croft-on-Tees in the North Riding; he is recorded there between 1465 and 1482. In 1472, when he received the King’s pardon for an unnamed offence, he was named as ‘William Puddyssay, parson of the parish of Crofte, Co. York, alias Willliam Pudsey, parson of the parish church of Bolton in Craven, Co. York’. Most of the references to him in the public records concern a long-running dispute over a debt of 8½ marks owed by him to George, Archbishop of York and Master of the Hospital of St Leonard. William was proceeded against from court to court, but failed to appear; in consequence he was outlawed in June 1466, only surrendering himself to the court in 1482 when he was committed to the Fleet prison. The King ordered an enquiry into his case, the result of which has not been found.
The font has carved arms on each of the eight sides. These were undoubtedly originally coloured, and would have been very eye-catching. The arms of Pudsay, Vert, a chevron between three mullets pierced or, face east towards the altar. Following anti-clockwise are:
1. Bank, Argent a cross or between 4 fleur-de-lis or, for the marriage of Emily Pudsay, youngest daughter of Sir Ralph’s heir, Sir John Pudsay, to John or Thomas Bank of Bank Newton. The date of the marriage is unknown.
2. Pudsay impaled with Tunstall, Sable 3 combs argent. This is for Sir Ralph’s marriage to his second wife, Margaret, the mother of William Pudsay the rector mentioned in the inscription.
3. Percy, Or a lion rampant azure, for the original feudal overlords of Craven.
4. Clifford, Checky azure and or a fess gules, for the second marriage of Florence Pudsay, daughter of Henry Pudsay, the son and heir of Sir John Pudsay, to Henry, 10th Lord Clifford (d. 1523). This marriage took place after c. 1506 when Lord Clifford’s first wife, Anne de St. John, died, but before 11 July 1511.
5. Tempest, Argent a bend between 6 martlets sable, for the marriage of Henry Pudsay, the second son of Henry Pudsay, the son and heir of Sir John Pudsay, to Margaret, daughter of Roger Tempest of Broughton. This marriage took place before 1514.
6. Hammerton, Argent 3 hammers sable, for the marriage of Sir Ralph’s heir, Sir John Pudsay (d. 1492), to Grace, daughter of Laurence Hammerton.
7. Pudsay quartered with Layton, Argent a fess between 6 cross crosslets fitchée sable, for the marriage c. 1353 of Sir Ralph’s grandfather, Henry Pudsay, to Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of John de Layton.
The heraldry provides a good guide as to when the font was made and by whom it was commissioned. The inscriptions on the font do not give dates of death for any of the three named members of the Pudsay family. It might therefore have been commissioned by William Pudsay the rector in his own lifetime. However, the inclusion of the arms of Clifford shows that it could not have been made before c. 1506.
William’s brother, Sir John Pudsay, died in 1492 and we must therefore look to the next generation for the patron who commissioned the font. Although two of the shields relate to William, far more reflect the descent of Henry Pudsay, heir to Sir John Pudsay, and the marriages of his siblings and children. Curiously Henry’s own marriage to Margaret, daughter of Christopher Conyers of Hornby, is not featured, nor are the arms of Edwina, Ralph Pudsay’s widow, even though she is one of the three family members named in the inscription. Nor are there any arms to denote the marriage of Henry’s heir, Thomas Pudsay, to Margaret, daughter and coheir of Sir Roger Pilkington; the likely explanation is that the font was made before this marriage took place in 1517.
These arms and the events they record thus indicate that the font and its brass inscriptions were made between 1507 and 1517, most likely soon after William’s death in 1507.
Copyright: Sally Badham
S. Badham and J.G. Blacker, Northern Rock: the Use of Egglestone marble for Monuments in Medieval England, British Archaeological Reports 480 (Archaeopress, Oxford, 2009)
R. Pudsay Littledale (ed.), The Pudsay Deeds. The Pudsays of Bolton and Barforth and their Predecessors in those Manors, Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series 56 (Leeds, 1916)
T.D. Whitaker, The History and Antiquities of the Deanery of Craven: in the County of York, (London, 1805)
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