Hatchments

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A hatchment is a distinctive rendering of a dead person's arms, represented on a lozenge (not lozenge shaped arms, but arms painted within a lozenge shaped frame). This feature is enough to indicate that the rendering is a funeral hatchment, but there are often other clues. The crest or helm may be replaced by a skull and the motto may be replaced by a reference the death and resurrection. The background is black or in some cases black and white (the significance of which is explained below). Sometimes symbols of time, such as a sand-timer or arrows, may be shown on the background. A cherub is sometimes shown at the top or bottom corner.

The word hatchment is a corrupted version of the word achievement - the correct term for what is commonly called a coat of arms (and incorrectly as a crest)

One might have expected the traditional practice of painting hatchments to have become totally obsolete by now, but there a surprising number of modern examples (see below for some examples)

In Holland a hatchment is called a rouwbord, and in Germany, the approximate equivalent is a totenschild

Although a family motto often appeared on a man's hatchment, it was often replaced by a Latin phrase relating to death and resurrection such as Resurgam ("I shall rise again"), In coelo quis ("There is rest in heaven"), or Mors janua vitae ( "Death is the doorway to life").

Many English parish churches contain one or two hatchments to a lord of the manor, or previous vicar. Some have great collections for a whole family: such as that of the Hulse family of Breamore, Hampshire or the Saltmarsh family whose hatchments reside in the Saltmarsh chapel at Howden in Yorkshire.

 

Hatchment at
St Nicholas, Stanford On Avon, Northamptonshire

 

Hatchment at
Hoveton St John, Norfolk

 
 

England

 

Hatchments have now largely fallen into disuse, but many hatchments from former times remain in parish churches throughout England. Hatchments were usually placed over the entrance of the armiger's residence, at the level of the second floor, and remained for from between 40 days and twelve months, after which they were removed to the local parish church. The practice developed in the early seventeenth century from the custom of carrying an heraldic shield before the coffin of the deceased, then leaving it for display in the church. In medieval times, helmets and shields were sometimes deposited in churches and a few examples may still be seen in English parish churches.

English h atchments can often be dated from their artistic style. For example seventeenth century hatchments often feature particularly ugly helms which were characteristic of the period.

Hatchments became rare early in the twentieth century. In 1949 the Sunday Times (then still a respectable newspaper) ran an extended correspondence to the editor concerning the use of hatchments. Here are extracts:

"I well remember seeing a hatchment fixed over the front door of the Earl of Powis' house on the west side of Berkeley Square, in 1891."

"In 1925 a very old lady died in Eaton Square, London. The hatchment was hung over the front door. I was so impressed that I took a snapshot of it, feeling that I would be unlikely to see such a thing again."

"On the death of the Rector of Exeter College, Oxford, in 1944, a hatchment was hung over the main gate of the College."

At the universities of Oxford and Cambridge it was usual to hang the hatchment of a deceased head of a house over the entrance to his lodge or residence. There is a fine collection of such hatchments at All Souls College in Oxford - the Wardens' arms each being impaled with the arms of the college.

In the event of the death representing the 'end of a line' a death's head is displayed. A death's head is a human skull. In practice death's heads are used more freely.

When the deceased is a military or naval officer, colours and military or naval emblems are sometimes placed behind the arms.

 

 

Hatchments at St Deny's Church, Kirtling, Northamptonshire, England

 

Hatchments at St Mary & St Nicholas Church, Chetwode, Buckinghamshire

annotated photograph

 

 

Hatchment of John Manners, 3rd Duke of Rutland, whose wife predeceased him

 

Hatchment of Charles Manners, 4rd Duke of Rutland, whose wife survived him.

 

Hatchment of Elizabeth, Duchess of Rutland,

whose husband outlived her

 

Hatchment of a second son of the Duke of Rutland,

who died a bachelor

(note the crescent and lack of the ducal coronet & robes)

note also the death's dead to indicate no heirs)

 

A Bachelor's Hatchment.

 

For a bachelor the hatchment bears his arms (shield, crest, and other appendages) on a black lozenge.

On the left are the fictitious arms of Mr Redfess who died a bachelor.

On the right is a real example

 

 

 

A Married Man's Hatchment.

 

If the hatchment is for a married man, with a surviving wife, his arms upon a shield impale those of his wife; The dexter half of the background is black (the husband being dead), the sinister half of the background is white (his wife still being alive).

If Mr Redfess had been married to the daughter of Mr Bluechevron, and if she were still alive at his death, his hatchment would look like this the fictitious arms on the left

On the right is a real example.

 

A Saltmarsh hatchment.

The white background to the sinister side of the lozenge tells us that the armiger's wife survived him.

A Widow's Hatchment

For a widow the husband's arms are given with her own, but upon a lozenge, with ribbons, without crest or appendages, and the whole ground is black.

 

When the imaginary widowed Mrs Redfess died her hatchment would look like the one on the left

On the right is a real example.

 

Another Saltmarsh Hatchment.

This hatchment is a little different - there is no crest, torse or lambrequin - just some decoration and a cherub. The arms represented on a lozenge, so we can assume that these the arms of a wife who died after her husband.

The Hatchment of a Wife

 

For a wife whose husband is alive the same arrangement is used, but the sinister background is black (for the wife) and the Dexter background is white (for the surviving husband).

If Mrs Redfess, nee Bluechevron, had died first, but after her marriage, her hatchment would look like the one on the left.

On the right is a real example.

 

Hatchment of a dead wife

All Saints, Salhouse, Norfolk

 

The Hatchment of a Widower

 

For a widower the same is used as for a married man, but the whole ground is black (both spouses being dead).

So the hatchment for Mr Redfess, his wife having predeceased him, would look like the one on the left (assuming he had not remarried)

On the right is a real example.

Hatchment of a widower,

Holy Trinity Church, Blatherwycke, Northamptonshire

The Hatchment of a Remarried Widower

 

When there have been two wives or two husbands the ground may be divided in a number of different ways.

  • Option 1: The shield is shown like that of a bachelor, each of the wives having their own mini square hatchments inset to the sides (first wife to the Dexter)
  • Option 2: The husband's arms remain in the Dexter half and the two wives have their arms in the sinister half, divided per pale, each wife having half of the sinister half.
  • Option 3: The shield is divided into three parts per pale, with the husband's arms in the middle section and the arms of each of his wives to each side of him
  • Option 4: The husband's arms remain in the Dexter half and the two wives have their arms in the sinister half, divided per fess, each wife having one quarter of the whole shield, one half of the sinister half.

If on his second marriage Mr Redfess had married the daughter of Mr Greencross, and she died before him, then his hatchment would look like one of the following

 

Option 1. The shield is shown like that of a bachelor, each of the wives having their own mini square hatchments inset to the sides (first wife to the Dexter)

Option 2. The husband's arms remain in the Dexter half and the two wives have their arms in the sinister half, divided per pale, each wife having half of the sinister half.

 

Option 3: The shield is divided into three parts per pale, with the husband's arms in the middle section and the arms of each of his wives to each side of him

Option 4: The husband's arms remain in the Dexter half and the two wives have their arms in the sinister half, divided per fess, each wife having one quarter of the whole shield, one half of the sinister half.

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 
 

An example of Option 3

Hatchment at St Mary's, Ecclesfield, Yorkshire ???

 

 

 

 

 

The Hatchment of a Widower whose second wife survives him.

 

The options are much the same as the previous case, except that a patch if the background is white to indicate that the second wife is still alive. The white patch matches the background behind her arms.

If Mr Redfess had died after his first wife, but before the second, his hatchment would look like one of the following:

 

Option 1. The shield is shown like that of a bachelor, each of the wives having their own mini square hatchments inset to the sides (first wife to the Dexter)

Option 2. The husband's arms remain in the Dexter half and the two wives have their arms in the sinister half, divided per pale, each wife having half of the sinister half.

 

Option 3: The shield is divided into three parts per pale, with the husband's arms in the middle section and the arms of each of his wives to each side of him

Option 4: The husband's arms remain in the Dexter half and the two wives have their arms in the sinister half, divided per fess, each wife having one quarter of the whole shield, one half of the sinister half.

 

 

An Example of Option 2.

A man has died leaving his second wife a widow

(the hatchment for his first wife is shown above)

All Saints, Salhouse, Norfolk

 

An Example of Option 2.

The hatchment of Michael Henry Blount [1789-1874],
St Margaret’s Church - Mapledurham, Oxfordshire

 

An example of Option 4
St Mary's Church, Northiam, East Sussex, England.

 
 
 

 

The Hatchment of an unmarried daughter

 

For a single woman, her arms are represented upon a lozenge with a black background.

On the left is the hatchment of Miss Redfess

On the right is a real example.

 

Hatchment of an unmarried daughter of the Earl of Guildford, Lord North, All Saints Church, Kirtling, Cambridgeshire

The Hatchment of an unmarried son

 

The principle is the same for any unmarried man.

In the case of Mr Redfess's second son the arms shown in the hatchment on the left will be differenced by a mark of cadency in the form of a crescent

The hatchment on the right is for the second son and also bears a small crescent as a mark of cadency.

 

 

Hatchment of a second son of the Duke of Rutland,

who died a bachelor

(note the crescent and lack of the ducal coronet & robes)

note also the death's dead to indicate no heirs)

The Hatchment of a Bishop

 

Bishops and certain other office holders impale their own arms with those of their office.

If Mr Redfess become a bishop and dies in office his hatchment will look like the one on the left. The arms of the bishopric are on the Dexter with a white background (the bishopric lives). Mr Redfess's personal arms are shown on the sinister with a black background (since Mr Redfess is dead).

Real examples are shown on the right.

 

 

 

 

Hatchment to Edward Maltby, Prince Bishop of Durham.
Arms of See of Durham impaling the arms of Maltby)
Note the crown encircling the bishop’s mitre

(placed in the Church of St John the Baptist, Egglescliffe, County Durham by his son Henry Joseph Maltby, rector there in 1859)

 

The Hatchment of a past Warden of All Souls, Oxford
The college - white background (Dexter) - lives
but the warden - black background (sinister) - is dead

 
 

 

The Hatchment of a Man who has married an Heraldic Heiress

 

If the hatchment is for a married man with a surviving wife, his arms upon a shield impale those of his wife, and if she is an heraldic heiress her arms are placed upon an escutcheon of pretence (sometimes with crest and other appendages). The Dexter half of the background is black (the husband being dead), the sinister half of the background is white (his wife still being alive).

So if Miss Bluechevron had been her father's heiress, when she married Mr Redfess, his hatchment would look like the one above left.

A read example is shown on the right.

 

 

 

This is an unusual but perfectly correct hatchment.Henry Eve's arms were: Sable a fess or between three cinquefoils argent (Eve). His daughter Dorothy would have used the same arms displayed on a lozenge. When she married she brought her arms to be impaled with her husband's (on the sinister side of the hatchment). As an heraldic heiress her father's arms also appear in escutcheon on her husband's arms on the dexter side. In this case she married into a cadet branch of the same family, so her husband's arms are identical, except for a crescent brissure used as a mark of cadency.

 

Frame inscribed: "Mrs. Dorothy Eve, the wife of Charles Eve, of Canterbury, Gent, died on June ye 16th 1755. Interred here the 26th instant aged 31 years" .Motto: In vitae medio morimur

Church of Saints Peter and Paul, Lynsted, Kent, England.

 

 

All Saints, Riply, Yorkshire
 

The Hatchment of a Peer

 

The principles are exactly the same as for anyone else - though the appearance can be much busier because of the supporters, coronet, robes and honours.

If Mr Redfess becomes Lord Redfess before his death, his hatchment would look like the one on the left.

A read example is shown on the right.

 

Hatchment of Charles Manners, 4th Duke of Rutland, whose wife survived him.

Hatchment of a woman who has had two husbands

 

This is tricky, and authorities differ where they mention the possibility at all. One option, shown on the right adapts one of the options for a man who has had two wives (and tells us that both husbands predeceased her).

Another option is shown below.

Hatchment from St Mary's Church, Dullingham, Cambridgeshire

(A woman who married first a Viscount and then a commoner?)

 
 

 

 

St Leonards Deal
Azure a chevron argent between three standing bowls or, issuing therefrom three boars' heads palewise argent tusked or langued gules (Bowles) To Dexter of main shield, Sable three pheons argent (Nicholls), impaling, Bowles Dexter background black To sinister of main shield, Argent a lion rampant within a bordure azure (Renton), impaling, Bowles Dexter background black No crest Mantling: Gules and argent

On motto scroll: In Memory of Mrs. Thomasin Renton Frame decorated with skulls and crossbones For Thomasin Bowles, who married 1st, George Nichols of Deal, and 2nd, 1710, Alexander Renton (died 1720), and died 1730 Thomasine Rentone bur 1 May 1730

 

 

 

Odd and Interesting Hatchments

 

Hatchments provide a great deal of information, but they are sometimes confusing and occasionally seem to be impossible.

Sometimes this is because of unusual family histories, and sometimes because of errors. Sometimes the impossibility results from a failure to use marks of cadency - so that men who married a cousin appear to have married their own daughter.

Sometimes the interest lies in some artistic eccentricity.

 

Hatchment at Christchurch Priory, Hampshire

note the death's head in place of a crest

 

 

 

Hatchment from Hoveton St John, Norfolk, England

The arms suggest that a man has married his own daughter who was an heraldic heiress. More likely he married a cousin who was the daughter of the head of the family.

 

This is a mock hatchment from St Michael's Church, Framlingham, Suffolk, England using bogus arms

It commemorates the US 390 Bombardment Group
The motto "sur le nez" means "on the nose"

Hatchment from St Andrew's Church, Curry Rivel, Somerset, England

What is happening here? The lozenges suggest women married to each other. Perhaps this is a Baroness in her own right who married an Earl, and the Earl is given a lozenge just for a pleasing symmetry.

 

This is a hatchment of Charles Sackville-Germain, Duke of Dorset KG, who died unmarried. His titles died with him. The hatchment rests in St Peter's Church, Lowick, Northamptonshire, England. The interest lies in the odd shape - was it truncated to fit a narrow space?

A Hatchment from Holy Cross Church, Seend, Wiltshire, England

What is happening here? The arms suggest a woman of the Awdry family who married her own father - but in reality probably married a cousin.

 

A modern looking hatchment in St Michael & All Angels Church, Sidestrand, Norfolk, England. This is the hatchment of Samuel Hoare, 1st Viscount Templewood, died 1959, survived by his wife (born Lady Maud Lygon)

The interest here is the effect of party colouring not only the background but also the frame.

New Arms

 

According to many sources the practice of raising hatchments as funeral monuments is long dead. A little research reveals that this is far from true. Here are a few examples.

In late 2011 the Bishop of Newcastle, the Right Reverend Martin Wharton dedicated a new hatchment mounted in St Aidan's Church, Bamburgh,

The hatchment commemorates Captain Joe Baker-Cresswell, who died in 1997. The hatchment features the Cresswell arms and motto, with the addition of Captain Baker-Cresswell's Distinguished Service Order medal.

 

 

Holy Trinity - Stratford-upon-Avon

 
 

Hatchment for George Granville Lancaster, 2001:
Argent 2 bars invected gules as many flaunches of the second each charged with a lion passant guardant of the first
Crest: A lion's head erased argent collared vair langued gules standing on 2 molets of the third

Kelmarsh, Northamptonshire, 2001?

 

This hatchment was commissioned by Abba Seraphim, Metropolitan of Glastonbury of the British Orthodox Church within the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria. As Abba Seraphim is still alive his currently hatchment hangs in his home in preparation for his funeral.

(The red things are not starfish but seraphim)

 

 

 

 

The hatchment of George Hugh Cholmondeley,

6th Marquess of Cholmondeley, GCVO, MC (d 1990)

who predeceased his wife

 

 
 
 

Assorted Examples

 

Hatchment of a member of the Tyne family, St Peter & St Paul, Longbridge Deverill, Wiltshire

 

Memorial in Hambledon Church

Note the second son is carrying a skull to denote that he predeceased his father

 
Memorial at St Marharet's Church, Gedney
 

A Hatchment of a member of the Frewen family in St Mary's Church, Northiam, East Sussex, England

 

A Death's Head - a winged skull

 

The Filijambe Memorial at Bakewell

 

Hatchment of a member of the Staunton family (?), St Mary's Church, Warwick, England

 

Memorial to Thomas-Snelling (d1623)
Church-of-St-Nicholas,King's Lynn

Note the children below, including an infant.

 
 
 

Scotland

 

Only about fifty hatchments still exist in Scotland. This sparseness is due to in the mid 17th century Church of Scotland. In 1643 The General Assembly the Church of Scotland passed an Act which prohibited 'Honours of Arms or any such like monuments'.

A surviving document of Strathbogie in Aberdeenshire records that

"Att Grange, 19th December, 1649... the presbytry finding some pinselis in memorie of the dead hinging in the kirk, presentlie caused them to be pulled doun in face of presbytry, and the minister rebuiked for suffering to hing ther so long."

Scots hatchments do not follow in the sparse pattern that modern writers lay out for hatchments and funeral heraldry. They are often highly decorated with the coats of antecedents and with tears, skulls (mort heads), and mantles.

It is not unusual to place the arms of the father and mother of the deceased in the two lateral angles of the lozenge, and sometimes there are 4, 8 or 16 genealogical escutcheons ranged along the margin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hatchment of the arms of George Douglas-Hamilton, 1st Earl Of Orkney, K.T

 
 

Campbell - a painted canvas hatchment with the arms of John Campbell, 2nd Earl of Breadalbane and his second wife Henrietta

 

 

Netherlands & Belgium

 

In the Netherlands hatchments (in Dutch, rouwbord, literally meaning "mourning shield") with the word "OBIIT" (Latin: "deceased") and the date of death were hung over the door of the deceased's house and later on the wall of the church where he was buried.

In the 17th century the hatchments were black lozenge-shaped frames with the coat of arms. In the 18th century both the frames and the heraldry became more elaborate. Symbols of death like batwings, skulls, hour-glasses and crying angels with torches were added. The names and arms of the 8, 16 or 32 armigerous forbears also featured - sometimes an invention by the nouveaux riches.

The British tradition of differentiating between the background of hatchments of bachelors, married men, widowers and others is unknown in the Low Countries. The arms of a widow are sometimes surrounded by a cordelière (knotted cord) and the arms of women are often, but not always, shaped like a lozenge. There were no Kings of Arms to rule and regulate these traditions.

In 1795 the Dutch republic, recently conquered by revolutionary France, issued a decree that prohibited the use of heraldic shields. Thousands of hatchments were chopped up and burned. In the 19th. Century hatchments were almost forgotten and only a few noble families kept the tradition alive, though in Flanders, both noble families and the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church have kept up the tradition of erecting hatchments.

Unlike the British hatchments Dutch and Belgian examples are often inscribed with dates of birth and death, often the Latin words "obit", "nascent" and "svea" are used to give the dates of death and birth and the age of the deceased. Name and titles are sometimes added along with the arms of ancestors.

Sometimes the coats of arms of a man and a woman are shown on the same hatchment.

 
 

 

Hatchment of Baroness Mathilde de Pitteurs-Hiegaerts, Begijnhofkerk Sint-Truiden, Belgium

 

Pieterskerk, Leiden, Zuid-Holland

 

 

Germany

 

In Germany a totenschild (death-shield) is an approximate equivalent of a hatchment. A totenschild is a memorial plaque for a deceased noble or bourgeois hung in a church or chapel. It recalls in heraldic form of arms and an inscription the life of the dead man.

The custom had its heyday in the 16th Century and gradually declined over the next two hundred years, an epitaph on a monument of wood or stone, gradually taking over its function.

The origins of the practice lie in the 12th century when the shield and helmet of a deceased knight was hung in his honour over his grave in his local church or chapel.. At first the knight's real shield was used rather than a painted replica. The few existing shields surviving from the Middle Ages owe their preservation mainly to the fact that they were hung well out of the way above the grave.

In the Renaissance wooden replicas started to be used - sometimes circular, sometimes octagonal and occasionally rectangular. A single line inscription ran around the edge, giving the name of the deceased, the date of his death, and mention of his social position.

In the Baroque period the totenschild became more magnificent. The coat of arms was no longer in the foreground, Instead the main features became the rich and varied design of the frame and various decorations - ribbons, scrolls and allegorical figures. The inscription was moved to a rectangular or oval field within the composition.

The right to hang a totenschild was a privilege, originally reserved for the nobility. Later, the the privilege was extended to members of knightly orders and to patrician citizens of the city, but not clergymen. The arms of a woman occasionally appear on the shield of her husband. Not everyone entitled could not afford a funeral shield, because the cost of painting it and making the requisite donation to the church could be prohibitive.

The National Museum in Nuremberg has a large collection of totenschilds as does the University Museum of Cultural History in Landgrafenschloss in Marburg.

Bartold von Mandelsloh, Marktkirche, Hannover

 

MariaWörth, Pfarkirche

Hans Jacob Notthafft, 1525

Fürstin von Gallizin, Landesmuseum in Münster

Other

 

 

Hatchment of Arent Tingnagel, 1665

Holmenskirke, Copenhagen, Sjælland, Denmark

 

Hatchment from Christchurch, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

The banner at the bottom reads

FREDERICK SMYTH

DIED 5th MAY, 1806 AGED 69

BE VIRTUOUS & BE HAPPY

Smyth was born in England. It is not obvious why half the background is white - perhaps no-one in Philadelphia understood the colour coding convention

 

 

 

 

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