When it come to memorials, whether in stained glass, marble or oil painting, no family does it better than the St John family.
The historic church of St Mary’s next door to the manor house in Lydiard Park, Wiltshire is stuffed to the rafters with them. Simon Jenkins writes in England’s Thousand Best Churches – “Were the South chapel to be removed lock, stock and barrel to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, it would cause a sensation.”
Nicholas St John, who died in 1589 and his wife Elizabeth Blount have a particularly impressive coloured memorial commissioned by their son John.
Nicholas not only owned the estate at Lydiard Tregoze but also the manors of Shrevenham, Salop, Compton Beauchamp and Stanford in the Vale as well as the ancient manor house at Purley Magna, which he rebuilt. His third daughter Eleanor was born in c1560 probably at Purley where she grew up with her seven siblings.
Eleanor married in 1586 to Sir Thomas Cave who was the nephew of Elizabeth I’s powerful Lord Treasurer William Cecil, Lord Burghley. The couple moved to the Cave ancestral home at Stanford on Avon where they raised five sons and three daughters.
When their eldest son Richard 19, died in Padua in 1606 while on his grand tour the couple made sure he had a fitting memorial in the 14th century parish church.
Thomas died in 1613, the date of Eleanor’s death is imprecise. She was still alive in 1612 when she was engaged in a bitter dispute with her daughter Margaret’s father in law, Sir John Wynn 1st Baronet of Gwydir, Llanrwst. But by 1614 Margaret was a widow and her mother was dead as well.
Eleanor and her husband were buried together in the Stanford parish church of St Nicholas. And like her parents at Lydiard Tregoze the couple left an impressive monument of their own, next to the one they erected for their son, as can been seen from these photographs.