Objects: Plate 3.6 depicts (top to bottom): the Magdalen College School established by William Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester (c. 1400-1486), in the town of Wainfleet, Lincolnshire, the construction of which was begun in 1484; the inscription on the school’s bell dedicating the school to the honor of Mary; and the details of the monument on the c. 1447 tomb of Richard Patten, the father of Bishop Waynflete, which stood in Wainfleet All Saints Church prior to the demolition of that structure in 1820, and was subsequently moved to the chapel at Magdalen College, Oxford. The school structure still stands in the village of Wainfleet, and serves as a local museum, library, and community center; the fifteenth-century bell remains in the bell tower. Although primary sources refer to the construction of the school in 1484 (Wales and White 1981, 5), scholars date the foundation to the mid-1460s (Orme 1998, 3) or even earlier (Gough 1790, 5). The school may have been functioning on a different site before the new building was built in 1484.
Top Image caption: “N.W. View of WAINFLETE’s SCHOOL, at WAINFLETE, Lincolnshire.”
Middle Image caption: “INSCRIPTION on the BELL at WAINFLETE’s School.”
Middle Image inscription: “AVE MARIA GRA-TIA PLENA” [“Hail Mary, Full of Grace”]
Bottom Image caption: “Monut. of RICHARD PATTEN, Father of Bp. WAINFLETE.”
Bottom Image cartouche inscription:
Wainflete Ch.l [Chapel] Lincolnshire.
A&B. Backs of Figures,
supporting his cushion
C. His Arms at the head
of the Tomb, repeated
and held by the Angels.
D. Part of the side Tomb.”
Original Explanatory Account: Click here to read the original explanatory account for Plate 3.6.
Commentary by Emily Patton Smith: The composition and content of Plate 3.6 are historically intriguing as they provide evidence not only of the purpose of Vetusta Monumenta as a publication in which to preserve a visual record of threatened antiquities, but also of its potential to draw attention to the importance of preserving monuments imperiled by progress or decay. Just as a museum preserves, displays, and interprets artifacts, Vetusta Monumenta preserves, displays, and interprets the images of historic sites for future knowledge and appreciation, and the artist Jacob Schnebbelie and engraver James Basire capitalize on this parallel in the composition here. Schnebbelie has composed his drawings of these monuments, especially of the tomb and its ornaments, as a small “museum” exhibit of three related “artifacts,” which together tell the story of Bishop Waynflete’s ties to fifteenth-century Wainfleet and his lasting impact on education in Lincolnshire and beyond. James Basire’s arrangement of the core drawings on this plate further accentuates the effect of an exhibit.
The plate is divided into three separate images, each presented within a separate banded border. The largest of the three images—that of the monument of Richard Patten—is approximately the same height as the other two depictions (the architectural view of the school and the inscription on the school bell) combined. Schnebbelie must have favored this style of composition, as he reused the same organizational structure in plates for other works; one example is the design of the plate featuring fourteenth-century Hornsey Church in The Antiqvary’s Mvsevm (Plate VII), in which Hornsey Church is shown from its southwest corner, above an inscription on a window memorial (center) and details of two carved angels from the west tower (bottom).
History of the Plate
To a great degree, this plate owes its existence to another project: Richard Gough’s Sepulchral Monuments of Great Britain (1786-96). Gough was unnerved by the accelerated destruction of historic sites (especially religious ones) throughout Britain in that secular age of modernization and mechanization (Heringman 2013, 234). Schnebbelie, the artist who collaborated with Gough on this project and who produced numerous other illustrations for Vetusta Monumenta, was a self-taught draughtsman with a keen interest in historic sites. Between 1787 and 1792, Schnebbelie documented “at least three dozen churches in sixteen counties in the course of his work for Sepulchral Monuments alone” (238-9), depicting “elevations and bird’s-eye views of chapels, tombs, and tomb effigies” (242). The tomb effigy in Wainfleet All Saints, and the associated Wainfleet School, were very likely drawn by Schnebbelie during one of these tours.
At a meeting of the Society of Antiquaries of London (SAL) on 11 February 1790, Gough presented a description of the monument of Richard Patten in Wainfleet All Saints, which provided the basis for the printed account accompanying this plate. On 12 December, the Society read a letter to Gough from John Pickburn [Pickburne], the schoolmaster at Wainfleet Grammar School, which supplied several further details regarding Wainfleet All Saints “which seemed to have escaped the attention of [Richard] Gough” in his account of the church earlier that year (464). In it, Pickburn describes the imperiled state of the church as well as the current condition of the Grammar School. The reading of this letter at the Society’s meeting on that date provided the initial impetus behind Plate 3.6. The letter was also printed in revised form in Archaeologia (Pickburne 1792). “Mr. Pickburn’s account of Wainfleet Church & School was ordered to be printed, among the Miscellaneous Articles” on 4 February 1791 (SAL Council Minutes III.134). Gough also responds to Pickburn in the explanatory account published with this plate. Gough took this opportunity to use the drawings made in Wainfleet All Saints by Schnebbelie as the basis for this plate for Vetusta Monumenta, which Basire was charged with engraving in 1791. This plate also has a direct connection to Vetusta Monumenta Plates 2.45-50 , a series that includes several images of Bishop Waynflete’s own memorial tomb in Winchester Cathedral. Plate 3.6 depicts the tomb of his father, Richard Patten, in Wainfleet Church, Lincolnshire, and associated monuments.
The Wainfleet Grammar School
As noted in the explanatory account, “The FREE-SCHOOL which bishop Wainflete founded 1459 is now the principal ornament of the town” (5). Orme (1998, 3) notes that the foundation charter does not survive, but finds evidence that the school was operating by 1466-67; as noted earlier, primary sources document the construction of the present building in 1484 (Wales and White 1981, 5). The institution significantly expanded educational opportunities for local people.
After graduating from Oxford, William Waynflete took a post as headmaster of Winchester school and was “afterwards preferred to be provost of Eton College by Henry VI. who advanced him to the bishoprick of Winchester in 1447, and in 1449 was constituted Lord High Chancellor of England” (Adolphus 1818, 27). Bishop Waynflete dedicated his career to the improvement of educational institutions in England, leveraging his considerable influence “to save Eton College from Edward IV” (Wales and White 1981, 2). He was involved in the development or establishment of numerous educational facilities throughout his career, including the school depicted in this plate, which he established in his hometown of Wainfleet in 1484. The school, situated on 19 acres of land and possessed of a garden and orchards, was endowed with the income produced by the farming of the property. The headmaster was appointed by the President of Magdalen College at Oxford (another educational project of Bishop Waynflete), to which graduates of the Wainfleet School were intended to matriculate (Wales and White 1981, 8; SAL Minutes XXIII.466). According to Pickburn, this arrangement was still in place by the end of the eighteenth century, despite the decline in demand for classical grammar there (1792, 475).
The architectural view of Wainflete’s School at the top of the plate is of the northwest elevation of the building (north side plus west entrance), which offers an angled view of the school structure surrounded by open lawn and approached by two paths, and is consistent with picturesque views of country manors, churches, and landmarks. There is no suggestion of the surrounding town of Wainfleet; the site today is bordered by trees and planted shrubs, very much as depicted in the plate. The entrance door is a Gothic arch, surmounted by a similarly arched window in the upper story gable, and flanked by two octagonal turrets. The turret on the right (southwest corner) features larger windows than the left (northwest) turret, and in its top houses the fifteenth-century school bell, the inscription of which is included in the middle image of this plate. An attached wing, barely visible at the far right of the plate, appears to have been lime-washed and covered with a thatched roof. This attached office may have been the cloister; a similar structure was described at Magdalen College Chapel in Oxford (also the project of William Waynflete) in 1818: “On the right from the Chapel is the Cloister, which remains in its primitive state” (Adolphus 1818, 27). Orme details the shape and dimensions of fifteenth-century schools more generally, including that at Wainfleet:
Such schoolrooms were lit by several small windows, sometimes placed fairly high, perhaps to avoid external distractions. There was usually at least one door to the outside, and sometimes a second to the master's accommodation. The orientation of the schoolroom, when deliberately designed, might follow an east-west axis, like a church, as happened at Winchester, Eton, and Wainfleet--the latter having a chapel above. (Orme 2006, 138, cf. 145)
The school was constructed in English brick bond rather than stone—a “modern” and efficient building material advocated by Ralph, Lord Cromwell (d. 1456), for whom Bishop Waynflete served as estate executor (Wales and White 1981, 2; Davis 1993, 128). Although the clay for firing bricks was readily available, the vast quantity of brushwood required for firing was not always easily procured (Wales and White 1981, 3). Nonetheless, numerous public benefactors in the circle of Cromwell and Waynflete specified brick construction for significant structures of this period. John Cowper, a master mason from Winchester who worked for Bishop Waynflete on the construction of Esher Palace, may also have designed the Wainfleet School (Wales and White 1981, 4; Davis 1993, 100), although Davis questions the certainty of this assumption (115). As Wales and White describe, the large east and west windows and entry door were framed in stone, while the smaller doors, windows, octagonal towers, and spiral staircase were all constructed of specially cut and molded bricks in order to achieve their shapely elegance as well as structural integrity (1981, 4-5).
Overall, Schnebbelie and Basire have taken great pains to create a faithful representation of the Wainfleet School; even the configuration of the chimneys and drains on the north wall is reasonably accurate. Nonetheless, there are noticeable differences between the extant structure and the eighteenth-century rendition, only some of which are attributable to later changes or improvements (such as the addition of a second and third flue to the foremost chimney as well as four elaborate, Victorian terracotta chimney pots). The most striking elements of the school’s architecture would have been difficult to depict using copperplate engraving without adding separate figures focusing on those details, and Schnebbelie (who seems especially interested in the high-style Gothic sculptural elements) has chosen not to include such figures in his preparatory drawing, the basis for Basire’s plate.
One example of omitted elements involves the windows in the school building. While the placement of the fenestration is generally accurate, the scale of some of the lights is misleading, and there is no representation of a very striking window (not visible in the view shown) on the southwest corner bell turret, which is notable for its complex and elegant combination of surface jack-arch, straight header, and inset arch. According to the explanatory account, “The North and South windows were filled with lilies in single panes” (5). A design honoring Wainfleet in the school’s east window, also not depicted here, was already lost by the time Schnebbelie made his drawings, but a secondhand account of it appears in the explanatory account (5) as well as later antiquarian scholarship, including Pickburn (1792, 473-5) and Sharp (1817, 306-8). This window depicted a full-figure portrait of Bishop Waynflete as well as his coat of arms, which incorporated three silver lilies with the Five Wounds of Christ. Thomas Sharp, describing objects bearing the inscription “Vulnera quinque Dei sint medicina mei” [“The five wounds of Christ have saved me / are my salvation[?]” NB: the Latin in the explanatory account has not been translated], states that “the portrait of Bp Waynflete, in stained glass, formerly existed in the East window of the School founded by him at Waynflete” was inscribed with that verse underneath (1817, 307). According to Wales and White, much of the stained glass originally adorning the school windows was gone by 1755, including the Bishop’s portrait, so these details necessarily derive from another, unknown source in both cases. (1981, 3)
Another striking feature of the school that is barely evident in the engraving is the subtle, ornamental diaper pattern on each of the octagonal turrets, which was created by the calculated use of green-glazed brick as described by Jonathan Foyle (2002) and by Wales and White (1981, 4). Some suggestion of this may be seen on the foremost corner turret, but the helix-like design in the engraving has been much simplified from the interlaced diamond (“diaper”) pattern seen on the existing structure.These colored bricks were created by firing them with green fused sand or possibly a lead glaze tinted with copper.
Eighteenth-century concerns regarding the future of the school may have been founded in part on the waning interest in its original use. The school was originally established in the fifteenth century for boys who would be instructed in grammar in preparation for their eventual matriculation to Magdalen College at Oxford. According to the master, Pickburn, who first drew the attention of the Society to the site, the local demands for this kind of education had changed; as noted in the explanatory account (5), only one boy was studying classical grammar there at the time of the plate’s preparation and printing. Rather, as Pickburn attests, “the learning most useful to [local students] is reading, English grammar, writing, arithmetic, mensuration, bookkeeping, &c.” which he taught to “on average about forty” students “from six or seven different parishes” who were enrolled there in 1790 (Pickburn 1792, 475). By the nineteenth century, the school ceased to serve as a college preparatory school completely, but continued to operate as an elementary school for 30-60 boys and girls. Despite renovations in the 1850s the enrollment declined to three students in 1877, at which time the curriculum was modernized, and the school continued in operation until 1933, when the Wainfleet operations were finally transferred to the modern Skegness Grammar School (Wales and White 1981, 8).
Consistent with these changing uses, the Wainfleet School has undergone numerous stabilizations and renovations, beginning in 1585 and recurring each century (1608, 1755, 1775, and 1856). Many of these consisted of functional improvements to the master’s accommodations and schoolroom as well as repairs to the chapel. The structure which supports the surviving bell, whose inscription is featured in the center of the plate, was replaced in 1796 (Wales and White 1981, 7). By the eighteeenth century, interest in the school as an educational institution was waning; the quality of teachers was frequently poor, perhaps because (as Pickburn confirmed) the annual salary for the headmaster was only 17 marks (L11.33) per annum as established in the fifteenth century (Wales and White 1981, 8; Pickburn 1792, 475; SAL Minutes XXIII.466). The school was renovated again in the mid-nineteenth century, though many of the updates were sensitive to the original form and function of the building. Some elements of the lost iconography were reintroduced: two stone mantels inscribed with the motto “Sicut Lilium” were added, alluding to the lilies which adorned the North and South windows (Wales and White 1981, 3). The stone corbels which support the rafters depict various saints or patrons and “have been claimed as original fifteenth-century carving” but may in fact be mid-nineteenth century recuts (Wales and White 1981, 6); the fact that Schnebbelie has not chosen to depict any of these unique images in the Vetusta Monumenta plate may support this hypothesis. Other renovations occurred out of functional necessity. Although not visible from the exterior, the upper story of the north (staircase) tower was significantly altered internally when it served as an observation post during World War II. The preservation of the school was only fully realized later in the twentieth century, when it was renovated to serve its present role as a community center and local museum. The approach to the entry recently was widened and paved with stone and cement to accommodate modern public access. The service wing on the south side of the building has also undergone significant alteration or reconstruction since the eighteenth century; Wales and White date the current outbuildings to the nineteenth century (7). The sloping thatched roof depicted by Schnebbelie, which covers a lime washed outbuilding (possibly the “cloister”), does not stand on the site today; rather, two brick offices with front-facing gables occupy this space, one of which features an archway which echoes that of the main entrance to the school. The brick which forms these structures appears to be similar in type and color to that of the school, and may have been reused from the previous outbuilding; the brickwork is not as careful as that of the main building, and some of the bricks appear to be spalling, which suggests that interior bricks from the earlier attached offices were later reused on the exterior of the new wing. Schnebbelie's illustration foregrounds the main school building as the "key" structure of historical note; this interpretation is apparent in that the school itself was preserved while the living quarters (though possibly also ancient) were later demolished and rebuilt in attempts to modernize the living spaces of later schoolmasters.
Wainfleet All Saints and the Tomb Effigy of Richard Patten
The first four pages of the explanatory account meticulously describe the tomb effigy of Richard Patten and its context within Wainfleet All Saints. The careful treatment of this monument attests to the recognition by Gough that, unlike the school, the church and the tomb within were under imminent threat of destruction by intent or neglect, a realization which compelled him to describe the site in as much detail as possible. The lower frame of Plate 3.6, representing the memorial effigy to Wayneflete’s father, Richard Patten, depicts the monument in its entirety in the center, surrounded by reverse details of the two smaller figures (upper left and right; thought by Gough to represent Patten’s two sons, the Bishop himself at left and his brother John, a physician, at right) as well as an angel bearing the family arms (lower left) and the gothic tracery adorning the side of the tomb (lower right). The arrangement of the group within the frame reinforces the impression of artifacts in a display case; as in an exhibition, the capital letters are used to denote each element and the plate’s key (lower right) offers an explanation of each. Additionally, Basire has chosen to frame the key within a decorative cartouche, placed beneath the depiction of one side of the tomb so that it seems to become an element of the original architecture of the tomb. This is a design motif Basire has borrowed from earlier plates in the Vetusta Monumenta, especially those engraved by George Vertue—for example, Plate 1.8, in which the coins found at the Verulamium site are depicted on a similar scroll, and a description of the site appears to be engraved in a plinth block beneath two collapsed columns. Another plate by Vertue, 2.5, depicts the Savoy hospital and uses similar devices to provide the title and description of the engraving. In 3.6, the position & design of the cartouche - seamlessly integrated into this ensemble of artefacts cut from stone – foregrounds the advantage of the print over a cabinet display: specifically, the print’s capacity to render and combine very different (and differently sized) materials in a small format, and to integrate text into the image without cluttering the visual display.
William Patten was born c. 1400 in Wainfleet, which was then a significant port and market town in the county of Lincolnshire on the northeast coast of England (Wales and White 1981, 1). His father, Richard Patten (sometimes alias Barbour) was a local merchant. According to James Markland,
The father of Waynfleet was called indifferently Richard Patten or Barbour, notwithstanding the perfect dissimilarity of the two names. There are, however, proofs that the former was considered the proper surname of the bishop’s family. On the tomb of Richard are the arms of Patten, and which, with certain variations made by the bishop, are also to be found on the seal of Magdalen College Oxford, &c. Godwin (de Praesul. Angliae, p. 233) calls Waynflete, ‘filius Ricardi Patten,’ [the son of Richard Patten] and further observes, ‘Hinc patet cognomen illi genuinum fuisse Pattini, Waynfleti ascititium, ex more illius temporis clericorum’ [From this it is evident that his true surname was Patten, but he assumed the name of Waynflete, according to the custom of the clergy of that time’]. (Markland 1817, 109)
According to Pickburn, in 1790 the church was of “ancient Fabrick built of freestone in the form of a Cross, the walls are decayed and in some places repaired with brick. The Tower which stands in the middle…was probably made of wood originally…the foundation being on a stratum of sand and shells incapable of supporting a heavier structure” (1792, 473). Pickburn further noted that “about the year 1718” the church tower was given a facing of brick.
Wainfleet All Saints, in which the tomb and monument to Richard Patten stood, was demolished around 1820 and the tomb effigy “suffered much damage” in the process but was relocated to the chapel of Magdalen College, Oxford (Wales 2; Davis 124) where it can still be seen today [embed image from RM; credit: “Reproduction by permission of the President and Fellows of Magdalen College.”]. The effigy of Richard Patten is described in the original explanatory account published with this plate: “On the embattled slab lies the figure of a man in a gown hemmed at the bottom, with a standing cape and puffed sleeves; the coat, with the sleeves tied, appears under it: his hair is cropt; he has a purse, whittle, and beads at his belt, which is studded, a ring on the first finger of his right, and last of his left-hand; his feet stand on and are sided by flowers” (Gough 1790, 1). Macray and Gunther (1915, 8: 93) have detailed the process of moving the tomb to Magdalen. An illustration by Cottingham depicts the tomb in a niche on the south wall of the chapel sanctuary in Figure I (Macray and Gunther 1915, 8:71), but according to Rachel Mehtar of Magdalen College, it was ultimately relocated to the small side chapel instead (email communication, 7 Feb 2022). In addition to the plate in Vetusta Monumenta, the tomb was described in Richard Chandler's The Life of William Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester (1811, 241-47). In both accounts, the heads of the smaller figures (those representing the bishop and his brother John) are acknowledged to be intact and no account is given of their restoration, but as Mehtar observed, visual assessment of the extant sculpture suggests they may have been re-cut to smooth over surface damages when the tomb was moved. In any event, both faces are generic enough that it seems an exact likeness to the actual persons was not the aim of the tomb sculptor.
Significantly, Plate 3.6 embodies the key concerns of the SAL in undertaking the depiction of ancient monuments: first and foremost, to generate interest in preserving such edifices as the Magdalen College School; and second, to document monuments of significance such as the effigy of Richard Patten before they were lost to neglect or deliberately destroyed. Despite the fact that the school building was “the principal ornament of the Town” of Wainfleet (SAL Minutes XXIII.304), the school itself was no longer the college preparatory institution for which it had been constructed. Gough, Schnebbelie, and others undoubtedly recognized that the school and church, with their connections to Bishop Waynflete, represented an important piece of English academic heritage as well as architectural merit. Although Gough himself was skeptical of the potential for such projects to generate interest in preservation, he did perceive the value of documentation for perpetuating a collective understanding of historic sites: “It is perhaps too weak a hope that this design may induce more attention in future to preserve what remains from immediate ruin,” he wrote sadly in Sepulchral Monuments, but he expressed the belief that conscious efforts to document threatened places would allow lost monuments to remain in the national heritage (Heringman 237). Wainfleet All Saints was already damaged, possibly beyond repair (Gough 1790, 3); the need to document and promote the preservation of those historical elements which were still intact was both necessary and urgent. Although the town of Wainfleet already took great pride in the school as a local landmark, it seems noteworthy that the school, which was depicted in the plate, remains intact, while the building not depicted—the Wainfleet All Saints Chapel, which housed the tomb monument—was demolished by 1820. The monument within it (also depicted in the plate) was consciously removed to Oxford where it is preserved in the chapel at Magdalen College. This points to the importance of the Vetusta Monumenta as both a spur to preservation and a record of threatened sites, some of which have since been lost.
Interestingly, three years after the publication of the engraving in Vetusta Monumenta, the Magdalen College School at Wainfleet was again commemorated, this time on a halfpenny token (Wales 8). Copper coins such as halfpence and farthings were infrequently minted, so local merchants and manufacturers made up for the shortage of small coins by issuing private tokens which could be redeemed for silver if exchanged in quantity. The Wainfleet token was issued by D. Wright and S. Palmer, and depicts the school on the obverse with the inscription, “FOUNDED BY WILLIAM WAYNEFLETE 1459” [erroneous date]; the reverse depicts a personification of Hope bracing a ship’s anchor, with a ship at harbor in the background. This alludes to Wainfleet’s former role as a thriving port town in the Middle Ages, before the receding seas reduced “The Haven” to two miles of riparian marshland on the edge of the North Sea (Evans et al, 2019).
The efforts to generate interest in these monuments through their inclusion in Vetusta Monumenta were suitably rewarded, as every element depicted in this plate remains in existence today. In 1811—twenty-one years after the publication of this plate but only nine years before the demolition of the church—Chandler was inspired to write his Life of William Waynflete. Although Wainfleet All Saints was demolished in 1820, the significance of the tomb effigy of Richard Patten was now well known and great effort was made to ensure that it was preserved and relocated to the chapel of Magdalen College, the spiritual center of Patten’s influential son’s most renowned academic project (Macray and Gunther 1915, 8: 93). Fortunately, the fate of the Wainfleet Church was not that of Magdalen College School: now beautifully restored and operating as a local history museum and community center, the school remains a significant landmark and the pride of its community, as it has been since its founding in the fifteenth century. It is preserved as a Scheduled Ancient Monument, county no. 321, and is a Grade I listed building (Wales and White 1981, 8).
Many thanks to Sally Badham and Rachel Mehtar for helping me to trace the present location of the Patten Tomb Effigy, and for the contextual information and images they provided.
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