Monument of Thomas Chafe in the Church of St. Giles-in-the-Heath [sic], Great Torrington

Devon Notes & Queries, vol. 1, (January 1900 to October 1901), pp. 129-131.

Prepared by Michael Steer

A monument with lively recumbent effigy of Thomas Chafe (1585-1648) of Dodscott is in the south aisle of the church at St Giles in the Wood, although a  printer's error (acknowledged on p.163  of Vol.1) places it in the Parish Church of St Giles in the Heath. Above Chafe’s effigy is the heraldic achievement of Chafe, to the dexter are the arms of Thomas Chafe impaling the arms of Burgoyne, his wife's family: Azure, a talbot passant argent; on the sinister side are the arms of his brother-in-law Tristram Risdon: Argent, three birdbolts sable, impaling the arms of his wife Pascoe Chafe, the "Aunt Risedon" whom Chafe instructed his nephew in his will should be included within the monument. Chafe's sister Pascoe Chafe was the wife of his neighbour Tristram Risdon of Winscott. He married Margaret Burgoyne), which family Lysons (1822) states to have been from South Tawton: "A younger branch of the Bedfordshire family of that name, continued (in Devon) for several generations, having married the heiresses of Sheldon, Stoning, and Courtenay. The heiress of the Burgoynes married Jackson, of Exeter. William Courtenay Burgoyne, Esq., died in 1750. Arms: Azure, a talbot passant argent on a mullet or a crescent sable for difference". The extract, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from Google Books with a search by either author or title, and also from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.



The interest which Thomas Chafe inspires arises from his connection with Tristram Risdon. He seems to have been a clever and somewhat eccentric man, who did not get along well with everyone. His mother, as appears from her will, did not approve of his proceedings, and she blames her son-in- law, Risdon, for leading him into extravagant habits. He was, however, evidently, an affectionate warm-hearted man. Some account of Chafe is given by the late Charles Worthy (Transactions Devon. Assoc., Vol 61. xix., 1887, p. 530). He took his degree at Exeter College, Oxford, and was called to the bar, but apparently soon took up his residence at Doddescott, in the parish of St. Giles, where he died in 1648. His monument was erected in pursuance of the following direction in his will. 

" Further I require my executor to inter my body as near as he can by my sister Risedon," this was Pascha Chafe, the wife of Tristram Risdon, " and I do ordain appoint and require  £30, rather more than less, to be bestowed in a monument of my effigies by my Executor, of whose love herein I am not diffident, who have reaped so many gratuities formerly from me, and now in present burthening his conscience for effecting it, as he shall answer Coram Deo. 

I desire him to inscript in my monument some memory of his good aunt Rysedon and of the family deceased there interred, also of my wife and her two children, no great onus to an 
ingenious generous and gratefull mind." 

In compliance with these directions, Thomas Chafe, the nephew, caused to be erected in St. Giles' Church a monument, with effigies and armorial bearings. " Rather more than less" 
must have been bestowed upon this. It was placed in the chancel, but during a restoration of the church in 1863, it was shamefully treated. It was taken down altogether, and those portions, which the architect thought fit to preserve, were placed against the south wall of the tower of the church. In its original state the monument was a high tomb, probably 
like the Fulford tomb in Dunsford Church (par. 3, p. 5), on which was the effigy. Over the effigy was a canopy supported in front by two Ionic columns, on either side were two small 
female figures, and in front of the tomb was an incised medallion portrait of a man in a black gown, with a book in his hands. It was of stone and marble. There were six shields of arms and the whole was ornamented with foliage and scrolls, and painted and gilded. It was very handsome, and the most interesting thing in the church, and yet it was cast out and mutilated as I have mentioned. At the back was a tablet with the following inscription : 



Thomae Chafe 
Generosi memoriam 

ex per antiqua Chaforum de chafecombe familia in comitatu 


oriunde eq' Collegio Exon in academia Oxofi artium magister. probitate virtute ac ingenio insignis qui in apostolica fide viri constanter versatus in beati justorum resurrectionis spe 
animum spiravit 25 die Novemb' Anno Salutae 1648 
aetatis suo climacterico magno. 

e XUVI as sVas eXvit Me DICV's. 
Uxorem reliquit Margerium. 

filiam Philippi Burgoyne clarissima Burgoynorum 
prosapia orti matronem religiosissimam bororumq' operam plenissimam qua et obdormivit in Domino Anno 
A Chro nato 16 setatis suae 

Abstulit a nobis miseri [qy. miseraf] qvem tern' [qy. terra] ademptum 

Abstulit e vivis mortis iniqua manis 
Nee cecidit svlis namq' et prudentia virtus 
Candor amo r pietas interiere simul 
Teste vel invidia vita est lethoq' beatus 
Vivus erat Domini mortuus in Domino. 

What did the restorers please to leave us ? The effigy, three of the shields, and the tablet with the inscription. These were ruthlessly torn from their surroundings, and stuck up against the wall, far from their original position. 

The figure of Thomas Chafe is in the costume of the period. He wears a coif, doublet, and short cloak, with, perhaps, a cuirass under, plain hose, the stockings gartered below the knees with large rosettes, which the shoes also have : " with two Provencal roses on my razed shoes." (Hamlet. Act w, scene 2). 

The six shields contained the following : 

1. Az. 5 fusils conjoined in fess argent, a canton of the last, with mantling ; and crest, a demi lion rampant or. holding between its legs a fusil az. Chafe. This remains. 

2. As the last. It is gone. 

3. Az. a talbot passant ar. armed and langued gules. Burgoyne. Gone. 

4. As i, Chafe, impaling 3, Burgoyne. This remains. 

5. As i, Chafe, impaling Az. 3 escallops or. a crescent for difference. Malet. Gone. 

6. Ar. 3 bird bolts erect sable. Risdon, impaling i, Chafe. This remains. 

We may return to Thomas Chafe and his family on some 
other occasion. J.B.R.