RESTORERS working on a 14th-century church memorial to the
daughter of a significant figure in English medieval history were
stunned when they discovered her coffin inside.
Michael Eastham, a conservator of sculpture, had been working
for two years on the memorial to Blanche Mortimer in St
Bartholomew's, Much Marcle, in Herefordshire, when a coffin was
discovered jammed inside the structure. "We could not work out what
it was when we first took the stone panels from the front," he
said. "We thought it might be a layer of slate, but as we explored
further we realised it was a lead coffin."
Until this discovery, it was believed that memorials were built
above, or close to, where the body was buried.
At first, Mr Eastham thought that the coffin might have been
hidden during the memorial's construction, or inserted at a later
date. Now, however, he is convinced that it is that of Blanche
Mortimer. Born in 1316, she was the youngest of 11 children of Sir
Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March. In 1322, Mortimer was imprisoned
in the Tower of London after leading a revolt against Edward
He escaped to France, where he plotted the King's overthrow with
Edward's queen consort, Isabella. After a successful invasion in
1327, Mortimer allegedly had Edward killed at Berkeley Castle in
Gloucestershire, and, for the next three years, ruled England in
all but name. He was eventually deposed by Edward's eldest son,
Edward III, and hanged in 1330.
His daughter Blanche married Sir Peter Grandison, a
Herefordshire nobleman, who, on her death in 1347, created a
memorial topped with her effigy, which today is regarded as one of
the finest in the country.
The coffin has been returned to the memorial on stainless-steel
supports, and further work is being filmed, the Archdeacon of
Hereford, the Ven. Paddy Benson, said.