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St. Thomas Becket : Hauxton, Cambridgeshire (Ely) C.13

[At Hauxton] ‘March 13 1643. We destroyed a crucifix, three popish pictures, an inscription on brass, and ordered the steps to be levelled...’. (The Journal of William Dowsing)¹
St. Thomas Becket, Hauxton [33KB]
By the time the Suffolk iconoclast and Parliamentary Visitor Dowsing arrived, the niche on the south side of the chancel arch in which this image is painted had been walled up, hence its survival. It was uncovered in 1860, in remarkably good condition apart from the damage to the lower part where a ‘squint’ to enable people in the nave to see the high altar had been cut through the wall sometime in the intervening years. Such few paintings of Becket as remain usually show his martyrdom, and this is a very rare example of the saint as a standing, archiepiscopal figure. It is also one of the earliest paintings of him in existence - an altar, built in 1229, little more than 50 years after Becket’s canonization, was originally here and presumably it was dedicated to him.

Identification of the painting is certain because of its inscription, still visible. This, painted in Lombardic capitals, begins at the left on the green-painted soffit of the arch, at the level of Becket’s right Thomas Becket, Hauxton, drawing by JC Wall, showing inscription [5KB]hand. It reads: ‘S. TO’ (on the red background, beside the saint’s fingers) ‘MA’ (on the red background at the right of his head [obscured]) and finally ‘S’ (on the green soffit at the right). Sometime before 1925, JC Wall drew the painting, and his drawing² (right) shows the inscription when it was less faded and obscure.
I suspect that there may once have been more to this inscription. Some small, white cursive shapes are faintly detectable on the red background to the right of Becket’s crozier, on the level of his right elbow. There is something like a faint ‘O’ and below that perhaps a ‘P’. If so, the inscription might originally have continued...‘ORA (TE) PRO NOBIS’. Quite possible, especially if this is in effect an altarpiece, and an indication of the enormously high regard in which Becket and his intercessory powers were held.

¹Quoted here from the leaflet in the church. Dowsing’s Journal is now online, and his activities in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire are documented at Digiatlas : The Journal of William Dowsing. NB. This is an amended link to a new location.
²JC Wall, Medieval Wall Paintings, (nd, before 1925), Talbot & Co., London, Fig. 76, p.181. It is possible that a relative of JC Wall, or a representative of the interests of Talbot & Co. still holds copyright in this drawing, if so, I hope that they will contact me. But I reproduce the drawing in the certainty that Wall himself would have been delighted to see it here.

St. Andrew Martyred, Stoke Dry, Rutland St. Anne teaching the Virgin to read-Corby Glen, Lincolnshire St. Antony and the Pig, Barton, Cambridgeshire St. Barbara : Hessett, Suffolk St. Bartholomew : Selling, Kent St.Catherine of Alexandria, life of : Castor, Cambs St Catherine of Alexandria, Cold Overton, Leicestershire NEW St.Catherine of Alexandria : Hardley Street, Norfolk
St.Catherine of Alexandria : Old Weston, Northants St.Catherine of Alexandria : Pickering, N. Yorks St.Catherine of Alexandria, life of : Sporle, Norfolk St. Catherine of Alexandria, Martyrdom of: Burton Latimer, Northants NEW St. Catherine of Alexandria or another female saint : Ashley, Hampshire NEW St. Clement : South Leigh, Oxon. Scenes from the life of St. Cuthbert : Pittington, Co. Durham NEW St. Dunstan holding the Devil by the nose : Barton, Cambs
St.Edmund : Boxford, Suffolk St. Edmund : Lakenheath, Suffolk St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Bishopsbourne, Kent St.Edmund, Martyrdom of : Fritton, Norfolk St. Edmund (or St. Walstan) : Gisleham, Norfolk St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Pickering, N.Yorks St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Stoke Dry, Rutland St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Troston, Suffolk
St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Weare Giffard, Devon St.Eloi, Broughton, Bucks St. Eloi and the possessed horse, Slapton, Northants St. Eloi, as bishop & blacksmith, Wensley, N.Yorks St.Erasmus, Martyrdom of : Chippenham, Cambs St. Etheldreda : Willingham, Cambs St. Francis Preaching to the Birds : Little Kimble, Bucks St.Francis Preaching to the Birds : Wissington, Suffolk
St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata, Slapton, Northants St. George & Dragon : Banningham, Norfolk St. George & Dragon : Broughton, Bucks St. George & Dragon : Earl Stonham, Suffolk St. George & Dragon : Fritton, Norfolk St. George & Dragon : Hornton, Oxon St. George dedicating himself to the Virgin : Astbury, Cheshire St. George, with the princess : Little Kimble, Bucks
St. George & the Dragon : Kirtlington, Oxon NEW St.Helena, Broughton, Bucks St.James the Great : Hales, Norfolk Life of St. James, Stoke Orchard, Gloucestershire St. James the Great, meeting pilgrims : Wisborough Green, Sussex St. James the Great, Yelden (or Yielden), Beds NEW St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Heydon, Norfolk
St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Idsworth, Hampshire St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Old Weston, Northants St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Pickering, N. Yorks Life of St. John the Baptist : Cerne Abbas, Dorset St. John the Evangelist, Selling, Kent St. John the Evangelist, Weston Longville, Norfolk St. Margaret of Antioch : Old Weston, Northants St. Margaret and the dragon : South Newington, Oxfordshire
St. Margaret of Antioch Martyred, Stoke Dry, Rutland St. Margaret of Antioch, Life of : Charlwood, Surrey Life of St. Margaret, Wendens Ambo, Essex Martyrdom of St. Margaret, Duxford, Cambridgeshire Martyrdom of St. Margaret, Ashby St Ledgers, Northamptonshire NEW St. Martin dividing his cloak, Chalgrave, Beds St. Martin dividing his cloak, Wareham, Dorset St Michael, with kneeling donor, South Newington, Oxfordshire
St.Nicholas of Myra, life of : Little Horwood, Bucks
St. Nicholas of Myra, two miracles of : Wissington, Suffolk St. Nicholas of Myra & the Boys in the Barrel, Padworth, Berkshire St. Nicholas of Myra & the Boys in the barrel, Bishopsbourne, Kent NEW St.Paul : Black Bourton, Oxon St. Paul : Beckley, Oxon St. Paul : Selling, Kent St. Peter : Beckley, Oxon
St.Peter : Black Bourton, Oxon St. Peter, Martyrdom of : Chacombe, Northants St. Peter : Selling, Kent SS. Peter & Paul, Old Idsworth, Hampshire NEW St. Roch : Pinvin, Worcs St. Sexburga? : Willingham, Cambs S. Stephen, Martyrdom of, North Stoke, Oxon St. Stephen, Stoning of: Black Bourton, Oxon
St. Stephen, Stoning of: Catfield, Norfolk St.Swithun (?) enthroned : Old Weston, Northants Scenes from the life of St. Swithun : Corhampton, Hampshire St. Thomas Becket, blessing, Hauxton, Cambs. Archbishop, possibly Thomas Becket, blessing, Shorthampton, Oxfordshire NEW St. Thomas Becket, Murder of, Marston Magna, Somerset St. Thomas Becket, Murder of, North Stoke, Oxfordshire St.Thomas Becket, Murder of : South Burlingham, Norfolk
St. Thomas Becket, Murder of : South Newington, Oxfordshire St. Walstan of Bawburgh? or St. Edmund : Gisleham, Norfolk St. Zita : Horley, Oxon St. Zita : Shorthampton, Oxon Unidentified female saint : Heydon

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Anne Marshall 2001