« PreviousContinue »
church of St. Thomas, Salisbury, is an interesting specimen of the merchants mark on a shield. I must here observe, that it is accompanied with the banner, and not with the cross, (as is more usual.) The sides, and ends, of this tomb are richly ornamented with niches, and quatrefoils, so characteristic of the fifteenth century. Its slab has been profusely ornamented with brasses, but the name of the deceased, whom it entombed, is now utterly unknown. Gentle Reader, peradventure, and likely so, he was the friend of John Halle. A singular, and to be regretted, circumstance is connected with this fine tomb. A modern family has “ marked it for its own,” and inserted on its darksome slab a white commemorative marble! Impropriety and incongruity are here seen in unison.
Sir Henry Englefield, in his “ Walk through Southampton,” notices a monogram of this kind in the Church of St. Michael, one in the almshouses in St. Mary's Church-yard, and another in a very rich Gothic stone chimney-piece at Romsey. Piers Plowman, in his “ Crede,” describing a magnificent church of the Friars Preachers, saith thus :
“ Wyde wyndowes ywrought ywritten full thikke
Shynen with shapen sheldes to shewen aboute
On which, the author, just before quoted, makes these just remarks: “In this description of a window adorned with memorials of benefactors
the “ merkes of merchaunts” evidently mean monograms of this nature, used by those, who had no right to bear arms, to commemorate their munificence; and, as the houses of the mendicant orders were mostly built by general contribution, those marks were very characteristic of those convents. The Abbeys of the several orders of monks, founded in general by the devotion of a monarch, or some opulent baron, would for that reason have few armorial, or other bearings in their windows beside those of the founder, and his family."
In a later period, when the strong-holds of heraldry were loosed-when the Majores Illustrissimi, the baron, the knight, and the squire of martial renown could no longer retain those aristocratic distinctions within their own exclusive circles, the merchant also, raised in his own estimation by his accumulated wealth, first assumed, and was often subsequently confirmed in, his armorial honours by the heralds of those days, and thus-did John Halle himself (as I proved in my last Essay) first assume those arms, which were afterwards confirmed to his son. He, however, proudly held them, and in his splendid halle he placed them side by side with that mark, under the auspices of which he had raised himself to riches, and to distinction, and therefore-having fully discussed the general subject, we will now turn, an it please you, gentle reader, to the consideration of the
• Walk through Southampton, p. 65.
On reference to the plate of his arms, p. 41, it will be seen, that they are there impaled with his merchant's mark, but somewhat varying from the figure now presented before you (which is selected from another shield.) When considered as a monogram of the letters J. H., the latter half of the H is there so distorted in position, that you will, gentle reader, feel disposed to deny, that an H was intended ;-be that, as it may-I do maintain, that the similitude of a staple was decidedly meant, and I do contend, that this allegorically pointed out, that John Halle was a merchant of the staple—that he was a dealer in those commodities, which, on exportation, were subject to the duties of the Crown, and liable to detention at the staple town, until those duties were discharged. Halle, I doe believe (says Aubrey) was a Merchant of the Staple.” He became such, in the popular language of that day, immediately on being sworn to obey the code of its laws. I do not assert, that the mark, impaled with the arms,
(rude as it is,) was not there intended to represent the monogram of his initials, but in the figure, now before us, which appears in the second window, (impaled with a mutilated copy of his arms,) I boldly maintain, that the monogram of J. H. is evidently pourtrayed, whilst the latter half of the H. is also an uncouth, and allegorical, representation of the staple. As the initials of J. H. are the representations of the Man, so, when considered in connexion with the Cross, borne transversely, and, as it were, buckled to, or interwoven with, those initials, I cannot but consider the whole to say-that "John Halle is a merchant of the staple"-that he "has taken up the Cross in obedience to his Saviour's words, he that taketh not his Cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me,'"*-that, "humbly trusting in him, he engages in the commerce of the world," and that—" acting in obedience to his laws, all those, with whom he may transact its business, may rely on his good faith, and integrity, in the final hope of his acceptance in the last day." He thus publicly declares, that-" he is not ashamed of the Cross of Christ." His bales of wool, bearing this religious mark, were, we may doubt not, easily recognised, and-certes-as readily purchased, from amongst the numerous exports from the various parts of the realm, when exposed for sale at the staple, or mart, of Calais.
Matth. x. 38.