Object of the Month - November 2018

Object of the Month - November 2018

Hatchments are decorative displays of a persons’ coat of arms, and achievements, after their death. They would have traditionally been hung over the entrance to a persons’ estate after they had passed away. They were often referred to as funeral hatchments. The hatchment would usually remain in place for one year after death and then it would be transferred to the local parish church.

Hatchments were usually made with a wooden frame and a painted canvas. The most common shape for a hatchment to be is the diamond shape, just like the ones housed in Minworth Greaves. The colours used on the hatchments could also be significant, for example if the background was all black, this indicated the person was a bachelor. If the background was half black and half white, this signified that the person was a married man.

There are three hatchments housed at Selly Manor Museum, on the back wall of the medieval hall, Minworth Greaves. It is very fortunate that each hatchments’ owner is known and there is a portion of information about each. This article will mainly focus on the hatchment pertaining to Charles Scarisbrick (1801-1860).

His hatchment gives a lot of detail about him when he died. The background is all black which denotes that he was a bachelor when he died, he never married. There is also a skull at the bottom. This is significant as this signifies that this was the end of his line, meaning he died with no heirs (no children). The motto written on this hatchment was a very common one, as shown by the fact it also appears on the hatchment of Peter Du Cane (also housed in Minworth Greaves), but also as it appears on numerous other examples from the same period. The motto itself, “Resurgam”, means “I will arise”.

There is limited data about Charles’ life (possibly pertaining to the fact he was a bachelor with no children, meaning he had no one to record the events of his life for him or to pass on stories to). However, it is known that at some point in his life he lived in Scarisbrick Hall in Lancashire which he inherited despite a dispute over it with his sister. It is estimated that this estate, along with the money he made in coal mines, earned him around £60,000 a year and this would have definitely made him the richest commoner in Lancashire.  There is some suggestion he did engage in an affair with a woman named Mary Anne Braithwaite and that she may have borne his illegitimate child/children, but no proof could be found to support this.

Charles’ hatchment, along with the other two housed in the collection, came to the museum when Laurence Cadbury acquired them from Oliver Baker in 1933. The three may have originally belonged to Graham Baron Ash of Packwood House in Warwickshire, which is now a National Trust property.

Below are all three hatchments in the collection at Selly Manor Museum. From left to right: Hatchment of Thomas Gorst (died 1853); Hatchment of Charles Scarisbrick (1801-1860); Hatchment of Peter Du Cane (1741-1823)