Thursday 4th October 2012
News Exclusive By Brian Gomm
ROYALIST Commander and Civil War victim Sir Thomas Tyldesley's final resting place is deep in the bowels of Leigh Parish Church.Now university lecturer Peter Tyldesley, a descendant of the man who has been referred to as 'the finest Knight in England', believes Sir Thomas lies alongside his wife, Lady Frances Tyldesley beneath the boiler under the St Mary the Virgin vestry!
Mr Tyldesley told the Journal: "For many years, no-one has been sure whether Sir Thomas is still buried in the Parish Church and, if he is, precisely where his grave is located. Recent research has answered both questions."Sir Thomas Tyldesley died fighting for the Royalist cause at the Battle of Wigan Lane on August 25, 1651. Aged just 38 at his death, he was buried in the Tyldesley Chapel — the Chantry Chapel of St Nicholas — in the north aisle of the Leigh church. Lady Frances Tyldesley outlived her husband by 40 years and was buried alongside him on September 11, 1691.Mr Tyldesley's research reveals that by 1869, the north aisle was filled with pews. No memorial remained to indicate where the Tyldesleys had been interred. James Worsley — a young law student who was preparing a history of the church — raised the issue with the sexton, whom he described as “a curious old man”. The sexton revealed that the Tyldesleys were buried in the centre of their chapel, four yards from the east wall. Worsley noted this location in his book, published in 1870.Mr Tyldesley said: "The church at that time was in a poor state of repair. Architects Paley and Austin identified various faults, some potentially dangerous. It was determined that only the tower could be saved and that the remainder of the church should be demolished and rebuilt. The ancient roof timbers of the Tyldesley Chapel were, however, to be reused. Clearance of the site began in October 1870 and was completed by May 1871."During this work, particular care was taken in the area identified by Worsley as the last resting place of the Tyldesleys. A dramatic discovery resulted. On December 28, 1870, Ralph Passe, Master of Leigh Grammar School wrote to Worsley to inform him that 'a large oak coffin, six feet two and a half inches long, and a foot and a half wide, containing the skeleton of some tall and well-formed person' had been uncovered."A similar coffin 'five feet eleven inches long, and some fifteen inches wide' was found nearby. Despite the lack of any plates on the coffins, there was little doubt that they contained the remains of Sir Thomas and Lady Frances. Worsley subsequently organised a subscription to fund a brass plaque commemorating Sir Thomas. The plaque was set into the north wall of the new church, which was consecrated in February 1873."Where do Sir Thomas and Lady Frances rest today? The two coffins were reburied and a newspaper report of 1889 gives their position — under the heating chamber of the church. Is it perhaps time for this historically important grave to be marked by something more fitting than a central heating boiler?"Priest in Charge at St Mary's, the Rev Father Kevin Crinks, said he would welcome any discussion about the possibility of providing a more suitable memorial to the Tyldesleys.Verger David Lawton said it might be possible to discover the exact location of the Tyldesleys' remains. There is a possibility of carrying out an x-ray search."Even if there was no metalwork on the coffins it is possible they would have been lined with lead," he said.