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The Lumley Warriors - Part 1
The Lumley family lived in the locality for centuries. In earliest times the Saxon cathedral and early church must have been known to the Lumley family. The Lumley warriors are an assemblage of 14 family effigies, an intriguing collection of medieval knights found lying head to toe within the northern aisle of the present church. A number are placed out of sequence while others have been shortened in order to position them in relation to others. Indeed a few form part of a second row, not their original position within the sequence. They are often referred to as tombs or graves, this is not the case since there are no bodies lying beneath them.
They are supposed to represent the Lumley lineage but most are fakes and cannot possibly represent the true Lumley ancestor they are meant to represent. They are not tombs or grave headings but are purely commemorative in nature. They are the work of one of the Lumley family, notably Sir John Lumley, who embarked on this project during the Elizabethan period and a large number of them were made at this time by craftsmen of the period. They were placed in the church in 1594 and many are not authentic medieval work nor are they genuine Lumley family members.
|Photo: Sir William Lumley (Miles)
Two of the effigies are made of Frosterley marble, a curious black marble absolutely covered with the remains of fossils and located in rocks in the west of County Durham in the Wear valley. One of these represents Sir Ralph Lumley who died in 1400 and the other his son Sir John Lumley who passed away in 1421. The armour which they are wearing dates from the late 1200's and therefore cannot be the two local knights. The two effigies were removed from Durham Cathedral, with, it may be said the permission of the then Bishop of Durham and placed in Chester-le-Street church. They were in fact a father and son called Fitzmarmaduke who hailed from Harden in the east of the county. The older Fitzmarmaduke was killed serving Edward II at Perth and was given permission for his body to be buried at Durham Cathedral.
|However there is a family connection since the Fitz-Marmadukes were descended from Marmaduke Lumley at a much earlier date. John Lumley was proud of his ancestors and as well as bringing together the collection of effigies he also commissioned 17 portraits of his ancestors to be painted at the time. These portraits were hung on the walls of Lumley castle.
When James the King of Scotland stayed at Lumley castle he was entertained by the Bishop of Durham who also explained to him as a loud and clear statement the strengths of the Lumley family. James replied to the Bishop in a strong Scottish accent in a sarcastic manner," Aw man gan nee further, I must digest the knowledge I have gained today, for I did not know that Adam's other name were Lumley".
Photo: The Effigy of Liulph, the 1st Lumley.
On the whole the condition of the effigies is really quite poor . It is not known whether some of them have been exposed outside of the church on occasions, as many show the ravages of both air and water pollution. What is most likely is that they have deteriorated as a result of systematic washing since Tudor times, particularly prior to the 20th century. Other pieces appear to have been destroyed when knocked, either deliberately or accidentally.
The re-arrangement of the effigies which took place as a result of the construction of the Lambton Pew during the early part of the 19th century, most certainly added to the problems and may be responsible for some of the damage. On the wall of the north aisle and associated with the effigies are a series of stone tablets. Again many are badly damaged and inscriptions are unreadable. Some have been removed altogether and thus completely lost. Each inscription on the tablet relates to the effigy beneath it and even where today, they are unreadable many have been preserved earlier, thankfully for posterity.
Photo: One of the two Frosterley Marble effigies – Ralph Lumley.
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