Over the chancel arch hang two hatchments. These devices were set up outside houses to inform the public of a death in the family before newspapers were in common use for that purpose. After a suitable period they were often hung in the local church.
Even to experts, identifying the people commemorated at St. Mary's has not proved easy. Both are men since there is a helmet at the top of each hatchment: a lady would have had a knot of ribbons. The right hand hatchment is not quartered (divided into parts) showing that the man was unmarried, whereas the left hand board is quartered. The Mottoes read "Resurgam" (That I May Arise) and "Universa Benevolentia" (Love Universal) respectively. A third hatchment once hung with the others until it disintegrated.
During 1974, Robbie Oakley had an interesting correspondence with the Bluemantle Pursuivant of Arms at the Royal College of Arms, a man named Gwynn-Jones.
The arms were granted in 1650 by Edward Bysshe, the Garter King of Arms, to Paul Nicoll of Hendon Place in Hendon, Middlesex. This was during the time of the Commonwealth after the expulsion of the Monarchy. In 1660, when the Monarchy was restored, all the grants of Arms which had been made during the Commonwealth were automatically made null and void. Those who had lost their arms could apply to have them re-registered but not all tried. Paul Nicoll seems to have been among those who failed to do so. This could explain why there is so little information to be had about the Nicoll family at the College of Arms. However, Mr Gwynn-Jones did find among the private papers of an 18th century Herald the following pedigree:
Paul Nicoll had two sons, John who married Sarah Baker, and William who married a Miss Barton. John had 3 sons, another John - of Highwood Hill - who married Mary Pym and had one daughter; James who married a Miss Haughton and died without issue; and William who married an unnamed wife and had two daughters. Thus it was that the name died out. The right hand hatchment therefore could be that of one of these sons whose wife had no arms of her own.
The left hand hatchment with its quartered arms of 3 red balls - or torteaux as they are properly called - shows the arms of the Nicoll family quartered with those of the Courtney family, the Earls of Devon who live at Powderham Castle near Exeter. This family has borne these Arms since the 12th or 13th century and there are junior branches scattered all over the country. Although Mr Gwynn-Jones could find no trace of a Nicoll/Courtney marriage he said that this is what our hatchment represents, and that the records are incomplete because of the fact that the Nicolls did not re-register their arms. The answer probably lies in our own registers.
(Note: the Nicoll family referred to above has nothing to do with the Victorian Nicol family who bought Willesden House from the Roberts in the 19th century.)Back to Tour