The Verdun Chapel at Brixworth Church

All Saints Church, Brixworth. Showing the Medieval Annex.

All Saints Church, Brixworth. Showing the Medieval Annex.

All Saints, Brixworth is a building of truly international importance. It has been described as the ‘finest seventh century building north of the alps’ – and its construction remains an enigma.

All Saints features a medieval annex to the 7th Century main fabric, known as the Lady Chapel – it is still used for early morning Sunday services.  Sir John de Verdun (d1274) is thought to have been responsible for the building of the Verdun Chapel, and his tomb survives.

Sir john de Verdun 1274

The Tomb of Sir John de Verdun (d 1274)

When in the fifteenth century the Harrington’s came into possession of the Manor of Brixworth, the church came under their control – and features in the lives of the Harringtons born in the village.

Sir Richard Harrington (born c.1399  – died 17 Aug 1462) marries the Verdun heiress to the Wolfage Manor estates, and adopts the White Lion Rampant from the Verdun line onto his livery, though he is buried up north in the Friary Church in Lancaster.

His son, Sir William (Born c. 1425 at Wolfage Manor –  died 14 Aug 1488 aged ~63) is not recorded as buried in the Friary at Lancaster, and is suspected as being buried in All Saints, Brixworth. His son and heir Sir James Harrington was definitely entombed at All Saints, his will states this, and his tomb was recorded by Thomas of Guilsborough in the following century – though it does not seem to have survived the reformation.

Whilst the tomb of Sir James has not survived, the stained glass window does carry a connection to the Harringtons – the White Lion Rampant of the Verdun line is displayed on the east window above the Chapel Altar.

verdun lion

Note the Medieval IHC Monogram. In the Latin-speaking Christianity of medieval Western Europe (and so among Catholics and many Protestants today), the most common Christogram became “IHS” or “IHC”, denoting the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus, IHΣΟΥΣ, iota-eta-sigma, or ΙΗΣ. The Greek letter iota is represented by I, and the eta by H, while the Greek letter sigma is either in its lunate form, represented by C, or its final form, represented by S

Some recent research supplied by Philip Beddows suggests a different theory for the adoption of the Chess Rook Gules on the Harrington Livery. Philip theorises that the silver lion rampant with the chess rook is from the arms of his wife’s ancestor, Sir Thomas de Verdon, who appeared with his brother Sir John de Verdon at the great Tournament gatherings at Stepney in 1308 and Dunstable in 1313. See from a transcription from the Battle Abbey Roll that appears on this webpage:

Sir John, with his brother Sir Thomas, figured as tilters at the great tournament held in 1308 at Stepney, and again five years later at Dunstable. Instead of the Verdon fret, they wore Sable ove un Lyon Rampant Argent, the younger brother adding a chess-rook for a difference. Each of Sir John’s two sons had a son who left no issue : and the inheritance fell between two granddaughters
The arms of the de Verdun/Verdon family were ‘Or a Fret Gules’, or “Or fretty gules”. Philip surmises that the Norfolk de Verduns on arriving at Stepney, found their de Verdun cousins from Staffordshire etc already there, so had to adopt a changed design for their arms in order to ensure there was no confusion.
Sir John  & Sir Thomas were from Brisingham in Norfolk, and Blomefield lists the Brisingham connections with Brixworth (spelt Briclesworth) here:
Extract follows: 1306, Thomas de Verdon held, in Brisingham, Moulton, Saxlingham, Astacton, Tibenham, Hapeton, Shadnefield, and Forncet, eight fees of the Earl-Marshal. He died in 1315, and left them to Sir John de Verdon, his son, who in 1328, jointly with Maud his wife, levied a fine, to settle Moulton and other manors on themselves, for life, and John, their son, and his heirs. I have several ancient accounts of this manor in his time, in which it appears, that the Prior of Blitheburgh had 12d. a year paid him out of it, and that it paid 4d. per annum to the hundred of Diss, for the leet fee, the lord of the hundred having granted this manor liberty of a leet for that payment, and for suit of the hundred court; which being troublesome, the lord paid 3s. per annum in lieu thereof. The manor-house stood near Brisingham wood, in the hall grounds; the swan-hill, and the large moat still [1736] remaining, plainly shew the site of it. In this seat the Verdons had lived many ages, but now Sir John removed hence to Mardesham in Suffolk. I have seen an inventory of the goods left in the house here, dated 1328, among which, several things for the use of the chapel are named, and a poor’s box standing at the great hall-door; the custom of that time being, to put in what every one pleased, instead of giving servants, as is usual now.

He seems to have been a man of great hospitality, for he left eighty dishes, seventy-five plates, forty saucers, and twelve cups, to treat his tenants at his coming over. In 1329 he settled Briclesworth in Northamptonshire on himself, for life, remainder to his son Thomas, and his heirs, remainder to John, his second son, and his heirs; and the year following he settled Brisingham in the same manner.

Therefore, Sir Thomas de Verdun (who wore the Lion with the Chess rook at the tournee) would appear to be in possession of the manor by 1329.
However a different account has the Brixworth manor being passed to Thomas’ son (another John) in 1316:

Thomas de Verdun was succeeded by his son John, then aged 16 or 17, who was returned as lord of the manor in 1316, and defended his right to view of frankpledge, free warren, market, fair, and other liberties in Brixworth in 1329. He also claimed exemption from suit at the hundred and county courts.

Sir John de Verdun appears to have died some time after 1370, being succeeded by his son Edmund, whose daughter and heir Margaret married first Sir William Bradshaw, and secondly Sir John Pilkington. She survived her second husband and died in 1436 holding the manor of Brixworth of the duchy of Lancaster. She was succeeded by her grand-daughter Elizabeth, wife of Sir Richard Harrington, of Westerley, Lancs., and daughter of Sir William Bradshaw, her son by her first marriage.  By 1461 their son Sir William Harrington and Elizabeth his wife were in possession of the manor, and they in turn were succeeded some time before 1492 by their son Sir James Harrington.  Sir James died on 26 June 1497 leaving the manor to his wife Isabel during her lifetime, with remainder equally among their daughters: Anne wife of Sir William Stanley, Isabel wife of John Tresham, Joan wife of Edmund Ashton, Catherine wife of William Myrfield, Agnes wife of Thomas Ashton, Elizabeth wife of John Lumley, Clemence wife of Henry Norrys, Alice wife of Ralph Standish, Margaret wife of Thomas Pilkington, and Eleanor Leicester.

 Therefore it is entirely possible that the Verdun line from Thomas onwards uses the Lion and rook. It should be counter balanced that this is almost a hundred years before Sir Richard Harrington marries Elizabeth Bradshaw, the Verdun heiress, but is possible that he incorporated some of his wives Verdun heraldry given it matched the lions of his Grandfather, and the possible seniority of the Verdun line.
The Verdun inheritance also passes into the famous Pilkington family at this point, though Brixworth passes into the Harringtons – and the Harringtons and Pilkingtons intermarry.
The Verdun and Pilkington family trees showing the ownership of Brixworth through the ages down to the Harringtons.

The Verdun and Pilkington family trees showing the ownership of Brixworth through the ages down to the Harringtons.

Pilkington Coat of Arms

Pilkington Coat of Arms

You will find the descent of the Harringtons from Sir John de Verdon here:
There are some other heraldic pictures of Harrington coats of arms here, that also show the Verdon arms below:



  1. #1 by Irene Heller on July 5, 2015 - 10:22 am

    I saw your company at a recent Battle of Northampton Taster Day held in Delepre Abbey.
    I was visiting friends who live in Northampton and see from your website that you travel around the country. I am looking at doing something locally in Kent which could involve your company and wondered if you could give me an indication of costs and what a day would entail.
    I look forward to hearing from you. Regards Irene

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