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North Devon in 100 Objects: 4. The Tawstock Lady

A plain wooden effigy of a lady in medieval dress with her hands together in prayer

Originally lying in a niche in the chancel of the Church of St Peter at Tawstock, this plain wooden effigy of a lady in medieval dress with her hands together in prayer is the so-called Tawstock Lady. She is probably Lady Margaret Audley who, in 1339, inherited the manor of Tawstock and half of the barony of Barnstaple. Daughter of Sir James Audley who had fought with the Black Prince at Poitiers, Lady Margaret married Fulk Baron Fitzwarren, who through the marriage became Lord of Tawstock.


The descendants of Fulk and Margaret were Barons Fitzwarren, Lords of Tawstock. In 1448 Thomasine, Baroness Fitzwarren married Sir William Bourchier, and in 1509, their descendant John Bourchier was created first Earl of Bath. In 1653 Ann, daughter of the 5th Earl married Sir Chichester Wrey, creating the Bourchier Wrey line who remained Lords of Tawstock into the 20th century.


Except for her plainness and the fact that she is made of wood, the Tawstock Lady is very like other figures of medieval nobility who lie piously in prayer atop their tombs in churches and cathedrals.   She would have once been much more lifelike, with her clothing brightly painted in colourful patterns.  There are still faint traces of paint remaining on her headdress.


The Tawstock Lady was brought to the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon for safekeeping in the 1990s.  Tawstock Church is particularly beautiful and still has a fine collection of memorials to her descendants.

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