Brass of the month

January 2006:Skipton, Yorkshire, 1845

The first brass of the month for 2006 features an excellent Victorian example at Skipton, Yorkshire commemorating Elizabeth Tempest, who died in 1845. 


The brass to Elizabeth Tempest was designed by A.W.N. Pugin and engraved in 1847 by the firm of John Hardman of Birmingham at a cost of £67. It shows a lady in widow’s robes holding a model of a church. She stands under a single canopy, with the families’ arms in the occulus, surmounted by a cross. Two scrolls with the prayer ‘Jesu mercy’ and a foot inscription seeking prayers for Elizabeth and her husband Stephen’s souls complete the composition. The composition was an interpretation of medieval exemplars likely to appeal to a devout Catholic such as Elizabeth..


As the inscription records, Elizabeth was born on 21st December 1766, the second daughter and co-heiress of Henry Blundell of Ince Blundell, Lancashire. On 1st May 1787 she married Stephen Tempest of Broughton Hall, Skipton, the son of the author of the Religio Laici; thus uniting two old recusant families. The Tempests had adhered to the Catholic Church throughout many periods of religious persecution; at the time of the Pilgrimage of Grace (1536), Nicholas Tempest of Ackworth was executed for his belief. By the 19th century however, in an era of greater tolerance, the family was of some standing and able to maintain a domestic chaplain and a school for associates of the household.


Stephen died, aged 68, on 28th November 1824. Elizabeth survived her husband by over twenty years, dying aged 78 on 25th April 1845. The pair had a large family of 13 children, although only 7 out-lived their mother. Their son Thomas son took holy orders and a daughter, Frances, became a nun. Their third son, Charles Robert Tempest (1794-1865), at one time High Sheriff of Yorkshire, inherited, but died unmarried and the estate devolved to his next brother’s family.


The Tempest family has been established in the Skipton area for 900 years. Their origins can be traced back to Roger Tempest in 1098, the lineage runs through thirty generations to the present day. In 1597 Stephen Tempest who had eighteen children needed a larger house and built the present Broughton Hall. This was originally of Elizabethan architecture later extended in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. The new hall was requisitioned by Cromwell during the Civil War and this was the only period during which the building was not occupied by the Tempest family. Robert Tempest was killed in a skirmish with Cromwell's troops on the front lawn. The Hall remains the home of the Tempest family, although the estate is now a business park.








The subsequent history of the brass has not been without incident. At the time of her death, Elizabeth was living at Ackworth Grange, another family house in Yorkshire. She was buried in the private chapel there, known as the Jesus Chapel, which was also designed by Pugin (a model of which she holds); it was completed in 1842 and received its certificate for religious worship at the Pontefract Sessions in April 1844, just a year before Elizabeth died.

Sadly, the Jesus chapel was demolished in 1966 and the brass with its slab somehow found their way to Ampleforth College; from whence it was eventually taken to Broughton Hall. The slab had become badly broken and was disposed of, and the brass resided in pieces in an outbuilding for some years. The present owner, Mr Henry Tempest, was finally persuaded to have the brass conserved and mounted on a board. In 1994 the brass was lent to the Victoria and Albert Museum for display in their exhibition devoted to Pugin. Finally, the brass came to rest mounted on a board on the wall of the Tempest chapel in St. Stephen’s Roman Catholic church in Skipton, where there are also other later effigial brasses to members of the Tempest family.


Copyright: Patrick Farman

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