A Boy’s Memorial

Bristol’s Mayor’s Chapel is a strange church, opposite the Cathedral, it was built in the 13th century by Maurice de Gaunt, as a hospital to care for the local poor. When Henry VIII closed the monasteries, it was converted for use by the Queen Elizabeth School for boys, and the associated Red Maids School for girls. For a time it was a Huguenot chapel before the Corporation deciding they wanted it for their own. It has survived the ravages of time better than most, and has some very impressive memorials including this, an alabaster monument to John Cookin, son and heir of Vincent Cookin of Hifield. He died 12 March 1627. The monument claims he was ‘about 11 years old’ which is very strange, as astrology still played an important role in peoples’ lives; there are accounts of fathers rushing outside to check their sundials when a son arrived.  Children are often recorded lined up raying on family monuments, so this is very rare to see a child alone, and so finely carved in alabaster. There is no mention of mourning relatives who would know his details so it seems he was an orphan being educated at the Grammar School. A fine memorial, so his family had some serious money, but suggests he had a lonely life. It’s also fascinating to see what an 11 year old wold have been wearing at the time.


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