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Copyright © 2011 Monumental Brass Society (MBS)

Page last updated 04 March 2015

October 2011 – Susanna Gartside, 1668, Rochdale, Lancashire


In the first volume of the Victorian novel Scarsdale, the author, Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth, has Barnabas Collier go into the parish church during the Rochdale Rushbearing for a few moments of quiet meditation and read the lines at the end of the inscription of the Gartside brass:

      “Lilia cum spinis florent, post funera  virtus,

        Nam bene viventi vita beata manet.”

    This, in Barnabas's mood, was an inscription to detain     him in long reverie.


The inscription on the brass translates thus:

Here lies buried Susanna Gartside, wife of Gabriel Gartside of Rochdale and daughter of James Gartside of Oakenrod, who died on the seventh day of August in the year 1668.

         Samuel Gartside placed this in memory of his dearest          mother.

         As lilies flourish among the thorns, so virtue after death,

         For a blessed life awaits the person who has lived well.

I owe the translation of the last two lines to Tim Sutton. The four character word in Hebrew above the word Lilia is apparently  ‘shoshan’ (Susanna), meaning ‘lily’.


The Gartsides were a family of substance in Rochdale by the mid-fifteenth century. Susanna Gartside was the sole daughter and heiress of James Gartside of Oakenrod in Rochdale, who died in 1625/6. She married her father's cousin, Gabriel Gartside.

Gabriel was a royalist who had had to compound for his estates under the Commonwealth. Susanna was his second wife. She died in 1668 when her husband was aged around fifty. He survived her by a little over ten years. Their eldest son, Samuel, was in his early twenties at the time his mother died. He secured the right from Lord Byron to erect in the chancel at Rochdale a pew or seat. Samuel lived only five years after his father's death. He left his estates to his daughter Katherine but bequeathed other goods to his brothers Charles and John and his sister Elizabeth. His bequests to Charles are particularly interesting: a gold ring with the Gartside arms engraved on the stone, all his books and framed pictures, the latter being of his great-grandmother, great-uncle Charles and himself, plus his “ingens, tools and instruments” that were kept in a room at Oakenrod.


The brass is extremely well executed and the skeletons much more realistic than medieval examples. Nevertheless, the scrolls coming from the mouths of the skeletons repeat the well-known medieval sentiment: As you are so were wee, As wee are so must you bee. On the excursion during the recent MBS Conference the brass could not be examined closely as the north chapel was closed for the rebuilding of the organ but attendees were grateful to be given copies of Fishwick's illustration, made from a rubbing, from which the image above derives. The plate itself could be photographed from the chancel and looks much more copper than brass.  

Gabriel was a royalist who had had to compound for his estates under the Commonwealth. Susanna was his second wife. She died in 1668 when her husband was aged around fifty. He survived her by a little over ten years. Their eldest son, Samuel, was in his early twenties at the time his mother died. He secured the right from Lord Byron to erect in the chancel at Rochdale a pew or seat. Samuel lived only five years after his father's death. He left his estates to his daughter Katherine but bequeathed other goods to his brothers Charles and John and his sister Elizabeth. His bequests to Charles are particularly interesting: a gold ring with the Gartside arms engraved on the stone, all his books and framed pictures, the latter being of his great-grandmother, great-uncle Charles and himself, plus his “ingens, tools and instruments” that were kept in a room at Oakenrod.

Copyright: Jon Bayliss