Salisbury Cathedral – The Last Resting Place of Sir Richard Mompesson & Dame Katherine His Wife (One of Many!)

June 1, 2019 - Comment

Salisbury Cathedral – The Last Resting Place of Sir Richard Mompesson & Dame Katherine His Wife (One of Many!) Image by antonychammond When, in 1594, Richard Mompesson and Robert Alexander were granted a licence to bring in aniseed and sumach, they were described as having been esquires of the stables for 20 years; and the

Salisbury Cathedral – The Last Resting Place of Sir Richard Mompesson & Dame Katherine His Wife (One of Many!)

Image by antonychammond
When, in 1594, Richard Mompesson and Robert Alexander were granted a licence to bring in aniseed and sumach, they were described as having been esquires of the stables for 20 years; and the lack of any information about Mompesson before 1574 suggests that he had embraced this career from an early age. He came of a family of minor gentry in Wiltshire whose main seat was at Bathampton; but his own branch was settled at Maiden Bradley, where in 1576 his father was assessed for subsidy on goods worth £10 and was called upon to pay 16s.8d.

Mompesson figures in the records of the period chiefly as a recipient of crown grants. In 1581 a Spaniard captured at Smerwick and committed by Mompesson, ‘unto whom the said prisoner was given’, escaped from the Counter; the episode was still under investigation four years later. In 1586 he was granted the proceeds of a prosecution in Wiltshire for coining, and early in the following year he charged an alehouse keeper at Salisbury with perjury in defence of the convicted men. The licence to import aniseed and sumach granted to Mompesson and Alexander in 1594 was a reward of greater value and one which reflects Mompesson’s advance at court. It appears, too, that after Burghley’s death in 1598 the Queen promised Mompesson a park which Burghley’s heir wanted for himself, and that to pacify the offended peer she ‘recalled her promise, preserved my Lord’s honour, and graciously satisfied her servant another way’. By October 1601 he was a favoured candidate for a place in the privy chamber, which appears, however, to have eluded him.

Mompesson’s career doubtless owed a good deal to the first of his three marriages: Lady Dudley was the daughter of one lord high admiral and the sister of another, whose wife was the Queen’s cousin and intimate friend. A seat in Parliament was thus a natural and legitimate aspiration, and in 1593 he was returned at Devizes as a man with local affiliations and powerful backing. He seems, however, to have been one of the numerous company who were content with a single return to the Commons. Though not mentioned by name in the parliamentary journals, he may have attended a cloth committee to which the burgesses for Devizes were appointed (15 Mar.). On his wife’s death in 1600 he married another widow, Elizabeth Alford, thus acquiring both the domicile in Buckinghamshire which he was to cite at his knighthood and a stepson, Henry Alford, who was to prove a disappointment. It was about this time that Sir John Davies, who had become a Catholic, asked ‘Mr. Mompesson’, whom he took to be of that faith, to procure him a priest; if it was Richard Mompesson who was thus approached he must have been confused with his recusant namesake.

In April 1603 Mompesson rendered his first professional service to James I by taking six geldings and a coach and four to help equip the King on his way south. He encountered the new monarch at Newark, and was rewarded with a knighthood. The new reign was, however, to bring him no further advance in honour or office, and it is likely that he soon retired, first to West Harnham and then to the house in Salisbury Close which, when rebuilt by a successor towards the close of the century, was to link his name with its dignified beauty. His last marriage, to yet another widow, again combined Wiltshire with Buckinghamshire in its connexions; she died in 1622, having left a strange will made much to her husband’s prejudice.

Mompesson prefaced his own will, which he made 4 Sept. 1627 with a mind ‘settled to die in peace’, by an expression of his hope of salvation through Christ’s passion. He asked to be buried in Salisbury cathedral, stipulated that blacks were to be provided only for his family and for the poor, and gave £50 to the corporation for loan to needy tradesmen and £5 to the poor. Among the relatives who received legacies were his sister Dorothy Thorpe (£500 and his own bed), his nephew Henry Poole, and his cousin Thomas Mompesson of Little Bathampton, whom he appointed executor and who received £750, as well as hangings and plate. Mompesson’s bequest of household goods and remission of debt to his stepson Henry Alford was made conditional on him proving ‘a quiet man’ towards the executor; he would himself have been named such if the testator had not found him ‘failing my expectation’ in his behaviour.

Salisbury Cathedral, formally known as the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is an Anglican cathedral in Salisbury, England, and is considered one of the leading examples of Early English architecture. The main body was completed in only 38 years, from 1220 to 1258.

The cathedral has the tallest church spire in the United Kingdom (123m/404 ft). Visitors can take the "Tower Tour" where the interior of the hollow spire, with its ancient wood scaffolding, can be viewed. The cathedral also has the largest cloister and the largest cathedral close in Britain (80 acres (320,000 m2)). The cathedral contains the world’s oldest working clock (from AD 1386) and has the best surviving of the four original copies of the Magna Carta (all four original copies are in England). Although commonly known as Salisbury Cathedral, the official name is the Cathedral of Saint Mary. In 2008, the cathedral celebrated the 750th anniversary of its consecration in 1258.

The cathedral is the Mother Church of the Diocese of Salisbury and seat of the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nick Holtam.

As a response to deteriorating relations between the clergy and the military at Old Sarum, the decision was taken to resite the cathedral and the bishopric was moved to its present place in Salisbury. The move occurred during the tenure of Bishop Richard Poore, who was a wealthy man and donated the new land for construction. The new cathedral was also paid for by donations, principally by all the canons and vicars of South East England, who were asked to contribute a fixed annual sum until its completion. Legend has it that the Bishop of Old Sarum shot an arrow in the direction he would build the cathedral; the arrow hit a deer and the deer finally died in the place where Salisbury Cathedral is now.

The foundation stone was laid on 28 April 1220. Much of the freestone for the cathedral came from Teffont Evias quarries. Due to the high water table in the new location, the cathedral was built on only four feet of foundations, and by 1258 the nave, transepts and choir were complete. The west front was ready by 1265. The cloisters and chapter house were completed around 1280. Because the cathedral was built in only 38 years, it has a single consistent architectural style, Early English Gothic.

The only major sections of the cathedral built later were the cloisters, chapter house, tower and spire, which at 404 feet (123 m) dominated the skyline from 1320. Although the spire is the cathedral’s most impressive feature, it has also proved to be troublesome. Together with the tower, it added 6,397 tons (6,500 tonnes) to the weight of the building. Without the addition of buttresses, bracing arches and anchor irons over the succeeding centuries, it would have suffered the fate of spires on later great ecclesiastical buildings (such as Malmesbury Abbey) and fallen down; instead, Salisbury remains the tallest church spire in the UK. To this day the large supporting pillars at the corners of the spire are seen to bend inwards under the stress. The addition of reinforcing tie beams above the crossing, designed by Christopher Wren in 1668, arrested further deformation. The beams were hidden by a false ceiling, installed below the lantern stage of the tower.

Significant changes to the cathedral were made by the architect James Wyatt in 1790, including replacement of the original rood screen and demolition of the bell tower which stood about 320 feet (100 m) north west of the main building. Salisbury is one of only three English cathedrals to lack a ring of bells, the others being Norwich Cathedral and Ely Cathedral. However it does strike the time every 15 minutes with bells.

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