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The former St Mary’s Church, Lambeth – Resting place of Elizabeth Boleyn

Posted By on April 7, 2018

On this day in history, 7th April 1538, Elizabeth Boleyn, Countess of Wiltshire and Ormond, was laid to rest at St Mary’s Church in Lambeth.

Elizabeth was the mother of the late Queen Anne Boleyn and George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, as well as the surviving Mary Stafford (née Boleyn). She had lost two children in infancy: Thomas and Henry. Elizabeth was the wife of Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire and Ormond, the former Lord Privy Seal, who outlived her by just under a year.

Elizabeth was laid to rest in the Howard Chapel of St Mary’s Church, Lambeth, which is next to Lambeth Palace.

John Husee recorded her funeral procession in a letter to Lady Lisle, who was in Calais:

“My lady Wiltshire was buried at Lamehithe on the 7th… She was conveyed from a house beside Baynard’s Castle by barge to Lambeth with torches burning and four baneys (banners?) set out of all quarters of the barge, which was covered with black and a white cross.”1

Sir John Russell, Lord Comptroller, acted as the chief male mourner and Elizabeth’s half-sister, Katherine Howard, Lady Daubenay, was the chief female mourner. J. Nichols, in History of the Parish of Lambeth (1786), stated that there used to be a brass plate at St Mary’s Church, Lambeth, which was inscribed “Here lyeth the Lady Elizabeth Howard, some time Countess of Wiltshire”, but it no longer exists.

In the 1970s, St Mary’s was saved from demolition and became the Museum of Garden History, known now as the Garden Museum. The Howard Chapel is now the café and Elizabeth’s resting place is somewhere beneath the wooden floor. It is wonderful that the church was saved.

Here is a slideshow of photos I took at Lambeth. It includes photos of the exterior of Lambeth Palace (the red brick building) and the exterior and interior of the Garden Museum (formerly St Mary’s Church), including the café/Howard Chapel.

You can read more about the Howard Chapel in Marilyn Roberts’ article – click here.

Notes and Sources

  • Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, XIII, Part 1, 696 717.
  • Nichols, J (1786) History of the Parish of Lambeth.

16 thoughts on “The former St Mary’s Church, Lambeth – Resting place of Elizabeth Boleyn”

  1. Michael Wright says:

    Thank you for sharing those wonderful images. I don’t know if it’s my computer but even when I enlarge the images as far as I can they are still very small.

    1. Michael Wright says:

      Works great now. Thank you. Is there any documentation recording all of those interred there? It would be so sad if there is no extant record and the people have been forgotten.

  2. Christine says:

    According to British history online, the Victorian architect Hardwicke may have used some of the original stonework and masonry in his rebuilding of the church, I hope so as I like to think that when an old building has survived centuries most of it is still there and therefore the very character of the building itself, as the visitor roams through the renovated building through to what was once a chapel, he cannot see the pews which have long gone and which must have been quite ornate as the Howard family would have gathered there for prayer on numerous occasions, he cannot see the chapel full of that long dead family as they prayed at Christmas and Lent the September harvests and Easter to, also dressed in their finery as they celebrated the christening of a new born, weddings and finally as they laid to rest their dead, it seems sacrilege that a holy place should now be a bustling cafe where visitors stop to enjoy their refreshments and comment on their day, life goes on as it always has but somewhere under the flagstones lie the skeletons of that long dead family who enjoyed such prominence centuries ago, a family who lived and breathed and felt the sun on their face and shivered in the cold in the winter, a family who produced two tragic queens of England and sadly now are not even commemorated with a simple brass plaque to show they existed at all, in the mid 17th century one such plaque had Lady Elizabeth Boleyn, countess of Wiltshire on it yet that has been lost with so many, an important lady mother of a queen and her tomb is lost but maybe one day, her tomb will be found if more renovation work will be allowed, though it is a possibility that it was destroyed in the Victorian age, also across the road once the home of Catherine Howard’s grandmother was Norfolk house, which must have been a very charming building according to its description, there were beautiful gardens and orchards, and where the young Catherine must have walked on sunny days maybe gathering roses in a trug for the stately polished hall, her gaily coloured companions with her, chattering and on some occasions were she was joined maybe by her music teacher Manox, little dogs scampering at their feet, old London had plenty of timber framed buildings with lattice window’s, more green than we can ever imagine in our modern world of ugly steel buildings and busy dusty roads, there was smoke curling from the chimneys and the noisy sound of cattle and oxen, horses and pigs, wooden wagons cluttering over the cobbles and the long winding thames winking in the sunshine, the rich lived in large gracious buildings and the poor in little dimly lit dwellings, she was dirty and noisy but I bet she looked charming also with the many parks and forests where deer roamed in plenty, sadly that part of London has gone for ever and with it Norfolk house and the old Church of St.Mary’s only their ghosts remain, in centuries to come much that we know will have gone to, St. Mary’s may survive for a few more hundred years and then she may be demolished, it was Goda the sister of Edward the Confessor who first built a little wooden church in honour of St.Mary at Lambeth, the name has survived for over a thousand years a nice thought.

  3. Banditqueen says:

    Saint Mary’s must have been a really lovely Church in its heyday and it really is a pity that it has been decommissioned but at least as a cafe and visitors room it is being used and heritage saved. There is a Church in York, very old called Saint Crux which is the same, is now a cafe and craft centre with all sorts of memorials around and a grand tomb there. It is a very odd sensation having tea and sandwiches while historic people resting close by. In this there is of course Blessed Thomas Percy, Seventh Earl of Northumberland martyred on trumped up treason charges under Elizabeth I in 1572 and his head was on the city gates. A memorial marks his resting place but his vault is now lost. According to Wikepedia the Church has been demolished but no, it is still there and is a protected building. Some work has recently been done on trying to identify coffins under Saint Mary’s as they have found a cache of former Archbishops and leading clergy and other coffins have been seen on a probe camera. I don’t know if they will look further, but that may depend on how old the floor is or if they can get a licence to exhume the deceased. I hope Elizabeth is one of those found coffins and is identified.

    I am curious about the funeral, though as I have read of several noble women being buried at night. Was there anything significant in this or was it normal?

    1. Christine says:

      Sounds odd unless of course the Tudors were insomniac’s.

  4. Banditqueen says:

    It appears to have been for important people and not a rule, but certainly there were a number of such funerals in Medieval, Tudor and Early Modern Europe. I know in other countries it was often reserved for Royal people, but nobles also had night funerals. Sometimes unusual circumstances meant that the funeral was only to be at night. A Countess in 18th century Bavaria accused of being a Vampire was ordered to have her funeral at night and the poor attended as a sign of repentance. The poor woman was actually anaemic but drank milk from wolves as a cure, which was considered dark magic. She was placed in a vault outside of the family, but later smuggled to rest under a stone near the alter, which was found by archaeologists. (I am not talking about Elizabeth Bathony). Lent may also be a time for night funerals, but I don’t believe this was a strict rule. It is just a curious thing. Maybe the importance of Elizabeth Howard as a noble and royal woman meant she had the drama of a torchlight funeral, which must have looked very dramatic and beautiful.

    1. Christine says:

      I believe it must have I can just imagine the scene, I wonder if her husband attended if he was allowed to have a days grace from his court duties of course, surely Henry would have let him attend his wife’s funeral, by the way how is your auntie Bq?

      1. Banditqueen says:

        To be honest, I don’t know. She has gone to stay with her friends Jeanette for a time and then they are going away for a few weeks, so we have no news at the moment.

        I have been more concerned about Steve, to be honest as we have started his radiotherapy or at least had the scan and it’s every day from next Friday for 33 treatments. Although it has not been confirmed that any cancer is present when he had prostate cancer in 2008/9 it was removed. His reading went up again last year and he has had hormone treatment, but a tiny nubin was found and they don’t want to take any chances. It means driving 10 miles every day, but he can have transport if he is not up to it. The Clatterbridge Hospitals in Aintree and Wirral are the most advanced cancer centres in the country. It has an international reputation and at the moment also offers protein beam at low levels as well. His general health is alright now so he is fine to have the treatment and he is expected to be fine afterwards. I think my Auntie will stay in the Lake District for a bit. I am not sure how she will be, but Arthur’s nephew is also caring for her.

        Thanks for asking. It is much appreciated.

        1. Banditqueen says:

          We don’t know if Thomas Boleyn attended his wife’s funeral, unfortunately, but it was not the custom. Female mourners normally accompanied female deceased but the King had masses said and it is very possible that Thomas attended a mass on the day of her funeral at Court or Hever Church. I would guess that there must be a record somewhere, but it hasn’t come to light. When Henry’s sister was buried, Henry sent representatives but neither the Duke of Suffolk or the King attended as it wasn’t the custom. A separate service was held at Court, attended by both men. It would almost be unthinkable today, unless divorced, for spouses not to attend a funeral, when they get on with their husbands or wives ( they may go even if they don’t to make certain they are gone) but it was a time of very different roles for men and women and it was also a time of symbolic divisions of labour and the sexes. Men attended the funeral of men as mourners, although female relatives did attend, and female mourners led the way for women. A spouse didn’t attend out of custom but went into mourning. I don’t know how long formal mourning was but I would guess probably six weeks to three months. The Victorians really went to town with full mourning, one year, half mourning in year two, quarter morning after six months of year two and then coming out by degrees in the last three months. Victoria wore mourning for the rest of her life after Albert died and spent long periods in seclusion. Her daughter, Bertrice in particular feared her mother was going mad. She refused to see her children while in Balmoral and we know the story of her being Mrs Brown because of the fact she was guarded like a German shepherd dog by him. What is less well known is that she didn’t actually spend all of those years at Balmoral as she spent much of her time in Germany and interfered in German/Prussian political relations. We know this from the letters and diaries which were not destroyed by Princess Louise and Princess Beatrice. However, she was soon back in Scotland hiding and this second period caused a constitutional crisis. She came back for her 50th Jubilee to find Parliament had voted many of her already limited powers away. She was in mourning a bit too long. Henry Viii went into mourning and seclusion for at least three or four months after the death of Queen Jane and the place almost fell apart. His personal authority and personality must have been holding the factions at bay as violence followed with the death of an MP broke out around the precincts of the Courts and fighting resulted in serious injuries. Henry was in seclusion with only his Fool for company. He quickly put his authority into being again once he came out of seclusion but the weight of his presence must really have been substantial in order for things to go wrong when he wasn’t there.

          A number of the Howard relatives and female members are laid in Saint Mary’s, including Agnus Tinsley and another Katherine Howard, who died in 1535. Their husbands are not always with them so it may well have been standard practice for Howard women to be buried in Lambeth as one of the main burial churches, just as many others were moved to Framlington after Tetford Abbey was dissolved and closed. The Howard men of course are buried in both places and their wives with them. The son of King Henry, Henry Fitzroy was moved to a fine tomb in Framlington, where the tombs have been scanned and mapped and wonderful 3 D pictures have been put in articles on line and in a book. Scanner could be one answer to looking for vaulted tombs under Saint Mary’s. The floor has wood to protect it, but the original looks as if it is still there. If we can find Richard iii after Greyfriars was made a carpark, surely we can find a way to identify whose who under the ex Church in Lambeth?

        2. Christine says:

          Your very welcome at least you know your auntie has the support of friends and family and that Steve is in very good hands xx.

  5. Christine says:

    Must admit, iv never really warmed to Queen Victoria, she looks like a right old battleaxe in her later portraits.

    1. Banditqueen says:

      Ha! Ha! I love the series with the girl who played Clara, in Doctor Who, Jemma something as the young Victoria and although she appeared to be concerned about people, but also very difficult to live with. I actually feel sorry for Prince Albert. She does look like a terror from her older portraits.

      1. Christine says:

        Jenna Coleman, I liked her in Dr. Who, but I doubt il be watching the new series, I don’t like the idea of seeing the role played by a woman, I vaguely remember William Hartnell the first dr, and Jon Pertwee was my favourite, I liked his asst to, Elisabeth Sladen who sadly died a few years ago, I loved David Tennent cos he’s dishy and I liked Tom Baker to but then I didn’t watch it for years when I was in my 20’s and 30’s, I love it now as its so much more sophisticated, if you recall the cyberman looked so daft yet I was terrified of them when I was a kid, but now their truly frightening and of course not forgetting the daleks, it won’t be the same anymore watching a woman step into his shoes, the Doctor’s like a national hero and there’s some things you just cannot or shouldn’t change.

  6. Michael Wright says:

    A good biography of Queen Victoria is ‘Queen Victoria: Born to succeed’ by Elizabeth Longford. It’s from 1964 but is excellent. This is a quote from the author’s note at the beginning of the book: “By gracious permission of Her Majesty the Queen I have been given unhindered access to all relevant papers”. I read this a couple of years ago. She could be difficult but was nothing like she appeared in her later photos.

  7. Banditqueen says:

    I loved David Tennant, in fact I am watching a marathon from the weekend of his Dr Who and I loved Pertwee, Tom Baker and Paul McGann, even though he was only in the movie. I am old fashioned as well and the Dr is male so making him turn into a woman is political correctness gone mad. The ratings have been falling but it’s the naff stories of the last two seasons not the Dr which need changing. Peter Capaldi was brilliant, but this last season was rubbish. How is having the Dr regenerate as a woman going to improve if they don’t improve the story?

    Oh well, yes, Michael, Longford’s biography is excellent, partly because she is a Royal insider and her husband has been a correspondent for the present Queen for years and I believe Lady Longford was a lady in waiting. Her writing is beautiful and her use of private papers gives a really intimate portrait of Queen Victoria. I have got a book of photos made by one of Queen Victoria and later Queen Alexandria of Denmark, wife of Edward Vii, Lady in waiting and it is superb to see family and Court from the inside. Victoria is in one famous photo with her family of daughters and grandchildren and she has a grandchild on her knee and looks absolutely bored. Which grandmother is bored of their grandchildren? Then again it took several minutes to take a photograph in the nineteenth century, so perhaps she is just fed up sitting still.

    1. Christine says:

      That’s the BBC for you, I bought Dr. Who DVD with Tennent and Billie Piper when the daleks and cyberman went to war it’s one of my favourite episodes, I do think the writers produced better stories then, nothing to do with dishy David, but as you say the last series was bad, which was a shame as Capaldi is a great actor.

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