Last of the Cranes


 I would never have found this monument had I not bumped in the key holder to Chilton church in another totally different churchyard in the middle of a July Friday afternoon. Fortuitous meetings indeed.

I can justify photographing this monument because it has graffiti on it! All the way up there behind Sir Robert Cranes' head. It isn't medieval graffiti but I can stretch a boundary or two.

Sir Robert was the last of the Crane family to hold the manor of Chilton. It had been in his families possession for some 250 years. His great uncle caused the chantry chapel to be built and the family lived in a moated mansion only a few fields away.

Sir Robert married twice. Firstly to Dorothy (on the left here with the fantastic hanging sleeves) and later to Susan. Dorothy died in 1624 which is when the monument was commissioned from Gerard Christmas for the princely sum of £50. Christmas was a Jacobean sculptor and devisor of masques and entertainments at court. So he was quite a celebrity sculptor.

Dorothy came form Blickling Hall and was the daughter of Lord Chief Justice Henry Hobart. This didn't hurt Sir Robert's legal career In the slightest. Sadly she died childless after 17 years of marriage and although her grieving husband found time to immortalise her many pleasing qualities, he needed an heir and so married Susan with 5 months of Dorothy's death.
Susan Alington was from Horseheath near Cambridge. In the monument you can see her impressive ruff which would have needed a wire suportasse to hold it up.  She was the great grandaughter of Lord Burghley, Chief minister and Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I. She gave Sir Robert 10 children but unfortunately only 4 daughters survived to maturity and so the line and the title expired.

Sir Robert died in 1643, in life he had been a successful lawyer, a long time member of parliament for Sudbury and a very rich man. Chilton Hall and his estates were entailed to the daughters, so the widowed Susan very quickly married her neighbour from Holbrook Hall in Little Waldingfield. So quickly in fact that she never got around to adding an epitaph for her first husband. Still what goes around comes around and by the time she died in 1681 her daughters had moved on too and got themselves grand husbands, so they never came back to inscribe one for her either. Incidentally, one of the daughters was grandmother to Sir Robert Walpole, our first prime minister....

... and there is the graffiti - just behind Sir Robert's  head!