Recognizing donors – 1

Most of the time we are in the dark concerning people who paid for building medieval churches. Just occasionally, we get a clue from inscriptions. The tower at West Tofts (1, Norfolk) has ‘Alle the begyners of the werk’ listed on the basecourse on its south side (2); Andrew Hewke (he left £3 to the church in 1484), John Rolff, John Olyver and Amys his wife (he left 3s 4d to the bells in 1482). If these sums of money seem trivial, try multiplying by a factor of at least 1000 for present-day values. At almost the same time and around 20 miles to the east, the parishioners of North Lopham (3, Norfolk) were adding a new tower to their church. Several initials appear on stone tablets, but the one long inscription (4) puzzled people for years, O|rate|p aia|bz io’b’|&alli. Some thought it referred to a John Kailli, but a few years ago it was recognized that it meant ‘Orate pro animabus Johannis B[arker] & Alice [his wife]’, John Barker having left 5 marks to the ‘reparation and edification of the new tower’ in his will of 1486.

There is no such inscription on the Welsh tower at Bettws Cedewain (5: Powys) but a brass of 1531 inside asks us to pray for the soul of Sir John ap Meredyth, a former vicar, ‘in whose time the tower was built’. ND