In the basement, there are a number of boxes containing objects found during the restoration of the house. Records of their exact date and where they were found are not always available. Some of them are heraldic and I had the opportunity to examine them on Thursday 19th April 2018.

Architectural carvings:

They seem to be parts of a decorative frieze about 180mm tall and each piece about 180mm wide, maybe 14th to 15th century. At first sight they look like stone but, on closer inspection, prove to be plaster. The fragments surviving are each a lozenge the full height of the frieze carved into four pointed windows with a ‘tudor[1]’ shield in the centre, each bearing the arms of a bend on a blue (?) background.   One of the examples appeared to show the bend as ‘chequy’ but this appears to be where a smooth (white ?) plaster has come off and shows the roughened layer beneath – a key for the covering plaster. So we are left with a shield “azure, a bend argent (?)”, which does not appear to refer to any of the known Chawton House families, except perhaps St Philibert[2]. I do not know of any records to show whether it came from the church, before the Victorian restoration or from a possible private chapel within the earlier big house. The only other likely places of origin – though unlikely – are the Manor of Neatham before it was sold in the late 19th century or Selborne church or Priory. There is no closely matching identification with the arms shown but the St Philibert, family, who held Chawton from 1361 to 1467, bore “bendy of six argent and azure”, as shown; it could be that the arms on the frieze are the craftsman’s approximation (at a small scale) of the St Philibert arms.

Painted wooden shields:

There are also a few painted wooden shields similar to those in the Great Hall. Indeed they would fill some of the gaps in the heraldic/historical family narrative portrayed by this collection of shields, some of which have migrated around the Hall and even fallen off. Useful ones for the Great Hall series include Brodnax, Woodward – pealing a little at the top – and a very badly damaged Knight impaling Hardy (for Montagu Knight and his wife Florence Hardy). There is also another partially damaged copy of the quarterly coat for Knight, Martin and Lewknor; but there are already several copies of this in the Great Hall.

[1]     A square-ish shield with a small point at its base.

[2]      Possible bearers of these arms given in Papworth are: Benton, Bisset (Scotland), Busts, Bussets, or Bustes, Cochet, Lanwall, Sir John Lavall, Lawall, Levall, Swathinge, Swathong or Swathyng (Norfolk).   However, St Philibert, of Norfolk, the family succeeding the St Johns, bore six alternate blue and white diagonal bends, c 1361 – 1467, before construction of the house, but possibly in the old church before its Victorian restoration.

Brodnax                         Woodward                   Knight & Hardy

Edward Hepper, June 2018