Memorial to William Kendall – Smisby Church

St James’ Smisby


Laid into the wall of St James’ Church, Smisby is an alabaster stone memorial to William Kendall and his wife Anne. The memorial is quite damaged and worn, mostly from foot traffic before it was moved from the chancel floor near the choir to its current location.  Although there are large cracks in the slab there is also evidence of modern “restoration” which has replaced some of the original alabaster with modern pieces.  The church was renovated during 1894 and 1895 and reopened in 1896, at which time the floor was raised to allow for heating channels to be put in and it is at this time the memorial slab was moved and the restoration damage occurred.

The stone is extremely worn and the engraving on the left side has almost disappeared. The memorial is of a man in plate armour lying to the left and a lady in Tudor dress.  At the top is arch work and at the base within further arch work are the effigies of three children; two girls and a boy.  Around the outside is a border which holds an inscription. There are three replacement alabaster patches to the border; one on the left hand side which is an insert with the inscription “Willelmus Kendall” and one on the right side inserting the word “anno”. The top border of the memorial has the inscription “hic jacent corpora” this appears to be modern and is in a different script from the main memorial, the stone and incisions are too regular and it is likely to have been replaced at the time of its move to the wall.  Although 16th century letter c’s are used in the top inscription the use of a J is inconstant and the letter I would have been used in the early 16th century.

The inscription currently reads, along the top, “hic jacent corpora” (not original):

Top Inscription

To the left “Willelmus Kendall” (not original) “armigeri”, apologies for the pew in the way of the photograph.

Left Inscription

Along the bottom “et anne uxor eius”.  With eius meaning ejus.

Bottom Inscription

The right hand side “qui quin wills obiit tt viio die mens iunii”, “anno” (not original) and “ dni mo ccccco“.  The letter n in “mens” and “dni” have a tilde over them indicating abbreviations.  Also, the latinised Willelmus is abbreviated to “wills”.

Right Inscription

HJB Kendall was present at the reopening of the church and as well as providing a sketch of the memorial in his book also puts forward Cox’s account of the church at Smisby. Cox stated that the antiquary Wyrley in 1596 provided an imperfect transcription of “Hic jacent corpora Willielmi Kendall armigeri, et Annae uxoris ejus qui quidem Willielmus obiit vii die mensis Junii Anno Domini M CCCCC”. However, it is apparent that Cox sourced his information from Nichols.  Looking at the current inscription it is clear that the original inscription was quite different to that put forward by Cox and Nichols.  In addition, Cox makes reference to a dog at the feet of a man in armour. Unfortunately, this is not correct and it would appear that Cox has mixed the memorial of William and Ann Kendall with that of Dame Joan de Bakepuz (Joan Shepey nee Comyn) in the same church which does have dogs at the feet.

1895 Sketch, pre-restoration (HJB Kendall)

Regardless of the version taken, the inscription translates to “Here lie the bodies of William Kendall Esquire, and his wife, Ann, the said William, died seventh day of June in the year of 1500”. It should be noted that there are two clear characters following obiit which appear to be old script letter t’s which would explain Bassano’s understanding in his 1710 account of the day of the month being 27th rather than 7th, although why he thought iunii (June) was maius (May) remains a mystery.

Most genealogists take the date of death of William Kendall as 7 June 1500, however, this is unlikely to be the case for a number of reasons:

1.  Bartholomew Kendall was the first Kendall to possess Smisby. It came to him through his wife Margaret, the daughter of John Shepey of Shepey. She was the heir of her brother Edmund who died on 10 June 1509.  In 1500 there was no Kendall in possession of Smisby.

2.  The pedigree provided HJB Kendall has an extra William added to account for the date anomaly,  although there is no evidence for this.

3. Cox states that the monument is to William Kendall and Ann the daughter of an unknown Reddish of Reddish, Lancashire.  However, their son and heir George Kendall was not born until 1527 so this William and Ann could not have been deceased by 1500. It is probable that Cox got his description from the footnote of Nichols, as the transcription in Nichols is the same as that of Cox.

4. The first four generations of Kendall know to be in possession of Smisby are: Bartholomew  who was married to Margaret Shepey and both alive in 1509. William who married to Elizabeth Alstre one of the coheirs of Henry Alstre. William who married Anne Reddish in about 1525, both passing in late 1540’s, and George who was born in 1527 and was married firstly to Joan Jennings.  The only real candidates are the third of these couples, William was alive in 1547.

5. The use of “armigeri” would mean that William was a land owner and would have inherited lands by the time of his death. This would preclude death prior to the passing of Bartholomew.

The answer may be relatively simple, the date shown is not completed, as with roman numerals the absence of tens and units letters would not be readily obvious.  There is some damage where tens and units would have been and there appears to be more than enough space to accommodate additional roman numerals.  The date may be absent due to damage or, as in some other memorials,  left incomplete by the stone mason if they were not sure of the date of death when the memorial was completed.  By contrast, if the memorial had used Arabic numerals a “15” in the inscription would have made an incomplete year obvious.

The Memorial c.2017


The information given in this article is believed to be accurate at the time of writing. No liability is accepted or warranty given in relation to the information contained therein. If you feel that there is an inaccuracy you are encouraged to comment or contribute. Thank you for your interest.

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