Blanche Parry

Garden with links to historic lives

In her latest column our local historian Ruth E. Richardson takes some inspiration from a special garden.

In Madley there is a gorgeous flower garden for everyone to enjoy. Started by Alf Williams, its beauty continues due to two dedicated sisters, Rose Bradley and Mary Guy. Daffodils have given way to the colours of summer as Rose and Mary quietly work to enhance the frontage of the Methodist Chapel, a building more than 400 years old. Originally cottages, in the 1700s it became a Baptist Chapel. Later it was obtained by the Methodist preacher William Booth, who founded the Salvation Army. After a period as a meeting house for Plymouth Brethren and a Christian Brethren Chapel, it reverted to its present use as a Chapel of the Shropshire and Marches Methodist Circuit.

There was a building here when Cresacre More lived at Chilston(e), near Madley. Cresacre (1572-1649) was the great–grandson of Sir Thomas More (1478–1535), scholar, Lord Chancellor of England, beheaded by King Henry VIII and now, in the Catholic Church, Patron Saint of Lawyers, Statesmen and Politicians. Cresacre is standing on the right in this version of the portrait of Sir Thomas More's family.

This picture is a compendium of separate portraits giving a visual family tree of the direct descendants of Sir Thomas More. The oldest person, wearing red, is his father, Sir John More, who had died 42 years before Cresacre, the youngest here, was born. The central three ladies are Sir Thomas' daughters Cecily, Elizabeth and 'Meg' (the Margaret Roper who preserved her father's head after his execution). Behind Sir Thomas are his daughter–in–law, Anna (Cresacre), and his only son John More II. (Looking through the curtain is Sir Thomas' 'Fool'.) Anna's and John's son, Thomas More II and his wife Maria are seated on the right. Behind this Thomas II are two of their sons, John III and Cresacre.

Only these four were painted from life: John More III, Thomas More II, Cresacre and Maria, so it is likely Thomas II commissioned the painting. The other portraits are from earlier paintings which is why Thomas II's parents, Anna (Cresacre) and John More II are shown as unbelievably young. Thomas More II, the grandson of Sir Thomas More, was proud of his ancestors and named both these sons, John and Cresacre, after his own parents.

Cresacre, his father's heir, moved to Chilston, Madley after his wife's death. His only son, and heir, joined him at Chilston as two of Cresacre's grandsons are recorded in the registers of the beautiful Church the Nativity of the Virgin in Madley. One, Thomas More VI, was baptised on 21st April 1635. The other William (born 1632 / 33), who inherited Chilston but died unmarried, was buried on 11th June 1664. Cresacre himself had also been buried in Madley Church on 26th March 1649. It is probable that they were buried in the large, 1330, Chilston Chapel on the south side of the Church. Coming from a Catholic family, and as his two daughters had become Benedictine nuns, Cresacre must have been pleased to note the Church's dedication. In this painting he stands in front of a garden...

©Ruth E. Richardson 2013

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