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Collections for a Parochial History of Wraxall
George Streynsham Master
Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society


This family, deriving its surname doubtless from original residence in the meadows, was possessed, before 1461, of an ancient capital messuage with 100 acres of land at Overton, in the parish of Arlingham, known as 'Medes land' to this day. But before that date we find 'Nicholas atte Mede' assessed to the Exchequer lay subsidies in 1327-8, in the co. of Somerset. From him descended Thomas Mede, "of the ancient family of Mede, of Medes place, in Feyland, in the parish of Wraxall, nr. Portbury, in the co. of Somerset, where anciently they had continued." They were wealthy merchants and citizens of Bristol, in the parish of S. Mary Redcliffe. Thomas Mede, son of Thomas aforesaid, was Bailiff of Bristol in 1438, and Sheriff in 1452. His son, or brother, Philip Mede, was Bailiff in 1444, Mayor in 1458, succeeding Canynges, and again in 1461 and 1468, M.P. in 1460, and lord of Barrow, in Tickenham. He obtained valuable charters for the city from King Edward lV., 1461, raised in a single night a contingent of fightng men on the side of William Lord Berkeley, afterwards Marquis, at the battle of Nibley Green, of which more hereafter, 1470. His wife's name was Isable, mentioned in his will, by whom he had a son and heir, Richard Mede, and a daughter Isabel, the wife of Maurice, brother of William Marquis Berkeley, and his successor as Baron of Berkeley.

Philip Mede's Will is dated 1471, and he died in 1475. "Excerpta e testamento Philippi Mede, burgensis Bristol, Datum 11mo Januarii 1471. Lego corpus sepeliendum in ecclesia Beatae Mariae de Redcliff, juxta altare Sancti Stephani Martyris. Vicario ecclesiae de Redcliffe 20 solidos; fabricae ecclesiae unam pipam glasti (woad). Omnia maneria terras, &c., in comitata Somerset et Bristol Isabellae uxori meae, remaneant Ricardo Mede filio meo, remaneant Maricio Berkeley et Isabellae filiae meae uxori ejus. Ordino et constituo executores testamenti mei Isabellam uxorem meam, Mauricium Berkeley, Isabellam uxorem ejus filiam meam, et Ricardum filium." It is clear, therefore, that the fine monument now to be described is that of the testator, and not of his father, as has been surmised.

The eastern end of the North aisle of the choir of S. Mary Redcliffe Church was the Mede Chantry, dedicated in honour of S. Stephen, and founded perhaps by Philip Mede. Its ornaments, valued at LIIs. viijd. were, in 1547-8, confiscated to the King's use. The beautiful heavily-canopied double altar-tomb standing out from its north wall may possibly have been erected by him, and furnished with its effigies either then or at a later date, the adjoining compartment being left for future use. They underlie a handsome continuous canopy of rich 15th century stone carving, supported by demi-angels bearing open books, and wearing upright caps with hexagonal flowers upon their heads. Above them rise crocketed and finialled niches, surmounted by cornice and cresting. Within the western recess are full-length recumbent effigies of a man and his wife, their heads resting upon cushions supported by angels. The man is bare-headed, his hair combed back, and is clad in a sleeveless mantle, from which emerge the arms and cuff of an undergown, a scarf hangs from his left shoulders, and a leathern gypciere from his girdle, his feet resting upon a couchant dog. His wife wears a broad fillet across her forehead, her head-dress falling back, a tight-fitting gown with cuffs at the wrists, and a short girdle, her pointed shoes enveloped in the folds of her dress, resting upon two little dogs. On the wall behind the effigies is a shield with the Arms of Mede: 'Gu., a chevron ermine between 3 trefoils slipped arg.' (or or), and upon a fillet of brass along its front an incomplete inscription: "predicti Thoma Mede, ac ter maioris istius villae Bristolliae, qui obt. 20 die mensis Decembris Anno Dni 1475 quoram animabus propicietur Deus, Amen." It is reasonable to suppose that the missing word before "predicti" may have been "filius" or "frater."

At the back of the adjoining and vacant tomb against the north wall beneath its canopy, is an oblong mural brass plate, upon which are incised kneeling figures of a man and his wife, a second female standing behind him. He is of youthful appearance with smooth face and long flowing hair, and is clad in complete plate armour, over which is his surcoat of arms (gu.) 'a chevron ermine between 3 trefoils slipped (arg) ' and is without spurs, his helmet lying on the ground. His wife wears a pedimental headdress with veil hanging down behind, necklace and girdle, and plain gown, over which is her mantle emblazoned with her arms: '(gu), 2 (or 3) lions rampant (arg).' The standing figure is similarly clad, but without mantle. From the kneeling figures arise the legends: "Sancta Trinitas, unus Deus, miserere nobis;" and "Pater de celis Deus, misecere nobis," addressed to the Holy Father, whose radiated demi-figure supported by a cloud, His hands raised in blessing, is engraved above. This is no doubt the monument of Richard Mede, son and heir of Philip aforesaid, and his two wives Julian (or Elizabeth), daughter of John Arthur of Clapton in Gordano, Esq., and Anne, daughter of Thomas Pauncefote of Hasfield, co. Gloucester, Esq. (she remarried Arthur Kemys), and is identified by her Arms. Richard was of Barrow Court in Tickenham, and had issue, who died young, and dying himself in or about 1488, his sister Margaret (or Isabel) became his heir.

She was a widow, and the mother of three children who had all died young, when in 1465 she married Maurice Berkeley, of Thornbury, brother and heir-apparent of William, afterwards Marquis, Berkeley, bringing to her husband lands in Somerset, and the lease of Medes Place for 21 years. As heir to her brother she inherited lands and tenements in the co. of Gloucester, in Bedminster, Felonde, Ashton, Wraxale, and Middle Tykenham, and had for her jointure others in Thornbury and elsewhere.

Maurice Berkeley was thirty years old at the time of his marriage, which was a very happy one, and when in 1469 the long-continued feud between his own and the Shrewsbury families culminated in the battle of Nibley-Green, for which his brother had gathered an army of a thousand men, he "stole from his young wife and tender son, the hope at that time of both their posterities, and joined him with a fair band of men suddenly raised from Thombury, where he then dwelt." The story of the battle and the death of Lord Lisle are too well known to need repetition here. But it was a poor return for the fraternal support afforded to Lord Berkeley, that Maurice should be disinherited from the Lordship and Castle of Berkeley, which his brother, in return for a Marquisate, alienated to King Henry VI., disingenuously alleging displeasure at the mesalliance he had formed. The historian, however, does justice to the lady.

"How little cause the Marquis Berkeley had to complain of the obscure parentage of the lady Isabel, which he vainly called base, and of the unworthiness of his brother's match with so mean blood as he reproached it, making that a motive to his own vast expenses, and of the disinheritance of this Lord his brother, lest any of her base blood should inherit after him, may to his further reproof be returned upon his memory, to be but a feigned and unbrotherly quarrel picked on purpose to give colour to his own exorbitances. Like vain were his exceptions to his said brother and heir, for defending the virtue of his wife and worthiness of her parentage. She was a virtuous lady, and evermore content with better or harder fortunes."

Surviving her husband nine years, and dying at Coventry 1516-17, aet 70, she was carried with great funeral pomp to London and buried by his side in the Church of the Augustinian Friars (burnt down in 1666), leaving issue three sons, of whom the eldest, Maurice, succeeded to the Barony, and one daughter.

In addition to the monumental inscriptions in S. Mary Redcliffe Church already noted, the following remains to be accounted for. It is described as having been upon the floor at the foot of the Mede Monument : "Hic jacet Johannes Mede, burgensis villae Bristoliae, qui obiit 17 die mensis Aprilis A.D. 1496, et juxta eum requiescit Alicia uxor ejus, quorum animabus propicietur Deus. Amen." He may possibly have been a brother of Philip Mede, and perhaps the Master John Mede, Rector of Wraxall, who was one of the witnesses of his Will, and who was presented to the Rectory by Sir Theobald Gorges in 1467; but if so, he must have retired from his benefice before 1493. We find one of his Christian name witnessing, in 1441, the Will of Robert Hall of Bristol.

No other members of the family are to be traced hereabouts, but in the Visitation of Cambridgeshire, 1619. is a pedigree deduced from Thomas Meade of co. Somerset, and continued for several generations, with the same armorial shield, and additional quarterings of Fuller, Brakin, and Chichele. Thomas Mott of Bocking, Essex, married Alice Meade, with the same arms. Medes Place must have passed, soon after the death of Lady Isable in 1516, to the family of Morgan, lords of the manor of Easton in Gordano, for by his will, 1567, Thomas Morgan of Feilond, gent., leaves to Edmund of Morgan, his eldest son, "the house of Feilonde called Medes Court. It is thought to have been situated upon the high land known as "the bowling green" and in that case had a magnificent situation.