A 16th Century Dutch Incised Slab from Faringdon, Oxfordshire
(reprinted from the Church Monuments Society Newsletter 33.1, Autumn 2017)
This incised slab (2.16m x 1.05m) on the floor of the Pye (north) Chapel at Faringdon, was for many years largely concealed by the organ, which explains why Greenhill did not notice it1. Prior to that it had lain in the centre of the floor2. The stone is badly discoloured on one side as a result of this covering, but it is obvious on first glance that the smooth dark grey limestone is not local. On second glance it is clear that the design and execution are Flemish.
Similar incised slabs in West Flanders, particularly in Brugge, are illustrated in Ronald van Belle’s comprehensive catalogue3. Characteristic are the costumes, the posture, and the technique of recessing the background around the figures.
We see a man in civil dress with his wife, under an achievement of arms, with an inscription in Roman capitals below. Note the Flemish spelling of the name Tobijas. The dexter side of the slab is badly cracked, and parts of the male figure and inscription are lost, but otherwise the surface is in good condition.
HIC IACENT TOBIIAS PLAYDELL ARMIGER / ET ELEONORA VXOR EIVS QVI QVIDE(M) / TOBIIAS OBIIT DECIMO [OC]TAVO DIE / OCTOBRIS ANNO DOM[INI] MILLESIMO / QVINGENTESIMO OC[TVA]GESIMO TERTIO / BEATI QVI MORIVNTVR IN DOMINO.
Here lie Toby Playdell, Esquire, and his wife Eleanor, the which Toby died 18th October 1583. Blessed are those who die in the Lord.
Argent, a bend gules gutty argent between two choughs proper, a chief chequey or and sable, PLAYDELL. Crest, a chough’s head erased.
The Playdell family are more associated with the nearby manor of Coleshill, where there is an immensely long genealogical brass inscription, placed there in 1738 by Sir Mark Stuart Playdell Bart. This gives no details of Toby’s branch of the family, except to say that it is extinct, and the Coleshill line continues through his younger brother Thomas. Toby was the second son of William Pleydell of Coleshill and his wife Agnes Reason of Corfe Castle (Dorset). He married Eleanor, daughter of James Yate of Buckland, and bought the manor of Faringdon from John Yate in 1555. In 1590 Toby’s eldest son John alienated the manor to Sir Henry Unton4. There seems to be no explanation of why this north Berkshire family should have purchased a large and heavy incised slab from Flanders, which had to be brought so far inland.
- The author published this slab in William Lack, H Martin Stuchfield & Philip Whittemore, A Series of Monumental Brasses, Indents and Incised Slabs from the 13th to the 20th Century; Vol. 3, Part 3 (December 2014), plate xxviii
- An illustration dated 1798 (J Stone del.), possibly intended to accompany a note describing the chapel in the Gentleman’s Magazine (1800 (i) p.505), shows what is surely this slab in the centre of the floor. It was probably moved and broken when the Victorian heating system was installed
- Ronald van Belle, 2006, Vlakke grafmonumenten en memorietaferelen met persoonsafbeeldingen in West-Vlaanderen ((Brugge: Uitgiverij van de Wiele)
- VCH Berkshire, IV, p. 493; Harleian Society, 1911, Visitation of Berkshire I (vol. 56), p. 47
Editor’s note: This article was sent by Andrew Sargent who commented that it is timely (February 2018) because All Saints’ has recently been granted a faculty to enlarge the Pye Chapel dais.