Church Monument of the Month - September 2021- St Peter's Church, Deene

The church is mainly by Thomas Henry Wyatt 1868-9, who created the Brudenell S. chancel chapel after the death of the seventh Earl of Cardigan, commissioned by his widow. The church itself, as well as the Brudenell chapel and his individual monument, is effectively a memorial to the seventh Earl, of Charge of the Light Brigade fame. Cardigan is supposed to have led the Charge with the words, "Here goes the last of the Brudenells", and had no direct descendants. So, this is a memorial chapel to a dynasty, and it was designed round the monuments: what we see is Wyatt's arrangement.

Bronze sea horses surround the base of the memorial to the 7th Earl of Cardigan, who led the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War.
© Andy Marshall Bronze sea horses surround the base of the memorial to the 7th Earl of Cardigan, who led the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War.

The 7th Earl, whose monument by Boehm is the glory of the chapel, was born in 1797, and married first in 1826, Elizabeth Tollemache, who died on 15 July 1858. On 20 September 1858, he married his mistress, Adeline de Horsey, who is portrayed with him on the monument. She was born in 1824 and was stunningly beautiful. They are shown at the age they were when the Earl died, he being 71 and she 34. She was a bit of a goer and Queen Victoria refused to receive her at court. After the death of the Earl, she married a Portuguese nobleman (whom she also outlived) but spent her later years mainly in England. She held steeplechases in the churchyard, cycled round the area in the late earl's regimental trousers, posed a danger to young male visitors and eventually went bankrupt. 


The Boehm monument is glorious and gloriously funny: a study in rigidity (the Earl) and softness (his doting wife). It is an artistic tour-de-force: employing a large variety of materials and techniques. The figures are white marble, the bulk of the tomb-chest-coloured marbles, with bronze plaques at the east and west ends showing the events of the Charge.  The north and south sides have painted stone coats of arms on mosaic bases. At the corners are gilded bonze seahorses These have been held to refer to the Earl & Countess's passion for sailing, but they are, of course, the Brudenell crest. There is a brass fillet with a coloured inlaid inscription, and the carved frames for all the elements are done in a neo-renaissance convention.  It is also tactful: it doesn't reject the earlier monuments to the family but instead reflects them, while being completely of its age (Boehm is one of our most underrated sculptors). It echoes the monument to Sir Robert Brudenell, founder of the line: this was designed to be the monument to the last of the line, and the clever arrangement of the chapel means that the dynastic monuments are placed between these two. Between them they encapsulate a dynasty.


Special thanks to the Church Monuments Society for writing this blog, find out more about them and their work here


Monument to the 7th Earl of Cardigan with his wife lying beside him staring lovingly at him
© Andy Marshall