Bolton by Bowland: Ralph Pudsay's Tomb

In-between our services this week, I preached at Harrop Fold at 2pm. Having the best part of hour to kill, I visited Bolton-by-Bowland church which is about halfway between our two chapels. Not only had I shared tea with the vicar the week before, but I was delighted to find it left unlocked. Within are a number of fine treasures, about which I shall have pleasure to write.

The most impressive feature is the huge Egglestone marble relief slab-tomb of Sir Ralph Pudsay, who died in 1468. A fertile fellow, it depicts his 25 sons and daughters and three wives. Here is a man who lived well, and ought to have died contented. From that middling class of person who had local influence and power but not so exalted that he had to run a shire or a region, he did quite well out of the medieval world whose air he breathed. Yet around his tomb are written the words

Orate p[ro] a[n]i[m]ab[u]s / d[omin]i Radul / phi Pudsay / milit[is] & de / Edinie uxor[is] / euis ac d[omi]ni / W[i]li Pudsay / filij ea[rum] (for eorum) co[n]d[am] (for quondam) rec/tor[is] hui[us] eccl[es]ie

-which Sally Badham translates:

‘Pray for the souls of Ralph Pudsay, knight, and of Edwina his wife and Sir William their son, once rector of this church’.

So for all his wealth, doting heirs, pretty wives and physical prowess, he though the fate of his soul depended on the good will of future well-wishers. Will you help pray him out of purgatory? -for this is what he begs. For all the improvements he made to the church’s rebuilding, the brave help he offered the fleeing King Henry VI, for all his piety and masses- he could never be sure if he had done enough good to impress God.

Biblical Christianity points us to Christ and what He did on our behalf. If His shed blood was sufficient to pay for my sin, then my place in heaven is assured- with or without your prayers.

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6