I have another picture for you.
This wooden effigy of a knight is in St. Luke’s Church, Ousby, in eastern Cumbria. He’s lifesize, or at least life-length; he is of a very petite build by modern ideas and he’s lost a chunk of his left side. He is dressed in a medieval knight’s full get-up, ‘entirely clad in mail, except genouillieres or knee caps of plate or leather; his coif de mail covers his head and shoulders; he has hauberk and chausses of mail; under the hauberk he has a haqueton or gambeson; over all, a long sleeveless surcoat, slit up the front to above the knee; his spurs are gone, but the staps remain; a narrow guige is over his shoulder, but the shield it supported has gone; a narrow cingulum is around his waist, and a broader sword belt hangs below, but the sword is gone except the hilt’ (1).
People would like the knight to be a Templar – Ousby is only a few miles from a known Templar property, Temple Sowerby – but it seems that his outfit and beard rule this out. Tullie House Museum in Carlisle (2) has confirmed that the date is around 1200-1250CE.
Nobody knows who he was. The story goes (3) that he was found in a nearby peat bog by a farmer. Doubtless the effigy was originally in the church, quite possibly marking the man’s grave, but was moved outside by zealous Cromwellian types in the 1640s who had no truck with earthly decoration in places of religion. We know that his missing parts are not, as originally thought, the result of the farmer’s plough hitting the effigy, as there are visible saw marks.
Of course, that’s not stopped people theorising about him. Bishop Nicholson (4) said in the 18th century that he was an outlaw from Crewgarth (now a farm, which has ancient ruins, on the western edge of the village), who was killed whilst hunting on the fell above. Some places casually refer to him as ‘Rolf Ulversby’ (Ulversby being one of the many old spellings of Ousby), but I suspect locals just called him ‘Rolf’ out of politeness!
In the last decade or so, three serious contenders have been put forward. One is Sir Patrick de Ulvesby, a mid-13th century High Sheriff of Lancashire, and village landowner (5). Another, much supported, is Adam Armstrong – or his father, William Armstrong. The Armstrong Clan believe that the earliest Armstrongs came from hereabouts, and it’s a matter of record that they were related to, and were given land here by, Robert the Bruce. The remaining contender is Julian Falcard, who was certainly a principal landowner in the area at the right time.
In the late ’90s, the knight was re-assessed and securely encased in a protective glass case in the church. Hopefully this means that he’ll be kept in good condition so future generations can finally give him his name.
1. Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaological Society, 1886.
2. Tullie House Museum, Carlisle www.tulliehouse.co.uk
3. History of Westmorland and Cumberland, Nicholson & Burn, 1777.
5. High Sheriffs of Lancashire, 1216-1261 by Colin Penny.