Sarah Curzon and Charles Curzon, the oldest daughter and youngest son of Sarah Penn and Nathaniel Curzon, are both buried at Penn and there are two small wall monuments in the chancel of Penn Church in their memory. Both spent their childhood in Penn and Charles went to Berkhamsted School and was a doctor of civil law in London.
A comparison of the Penn Parish Register entries with the wording on the two wall monuments throws up surprising mistakes. Sarah’s baptism is recorded on Feb 11 1678, and her burial as ‘Madam Sarah Curzon, eldest daughter of Sir Nathaniel Curzon, Baronet of Kedleston in the County of Derby’, is noted on Jan 26 1707. She was therefore 28, nearly 29 years old. The memorial however records her death on Jan: 19th, 1701. Aged 29 Years.
Charles’ baptism was on 1 Feb 1684 and his burial is recorded in the Register as ‘Dr Charles Curzon a civilian, youngest son of Sir Nathaniel Curzon was buried on Feb 11 1713’. He was therefore just 29 years old. His monument however records his death as on Feb. the 4th, 1713. Aged 32 Years.
Thus Sarah’s monument is six years out and Charles’s mistakes his age by three years, which suggests that both were put up a considerable time after their death. This was probably because there seems to have been a serious fire in the chancel in the early 1730s which would have damaged earlier monuments.
Sir George Grove wrote many years later about his grandfather’s memory of such a fire in the chancel at that time. We know for sure that in 1736 Sarah and Charles’s elder brother, Sir Nathaniel Curzon, rebuilt the upper part of the chancel and he presumably erected the new monuments. However it is surprising that no one thought to check the Register.
There is an earlier note in the Parish Register, in 1678, ‘Memorandm In ye first day of August the Act of Parliament came into force for burying in woollen’. This refers to the Burial in Woollen Acts which attempted to protect the English Wool Trade requiring that all bodies should be buried in wool with the exception of those who died from the Plague. A five pound fine was imposed for burials which did not comply with the Acts. This legislation was in force until 1814, but it was an expensive alternative and only a few Curzons, Penns and Bakers are so noted in the Penn Register up to 1713 and none thereafter.
The Register entries for Sarah and Charles Curzon both record payment of the requisite fine. Charles’s entry records that ‘His corps were brought from London & buried at Penn… and Affidavit made of his being buried in linen (for which forfeiture was paid) before John Smith Esqr. Justice of the Peace for the County of Middlesex.’ Sarah ‘was buried in Linnen… and the Penalty for Burying in Linen paid the same day’.
© Miles Green, March 2011
Photographs courtesy Eddie Morton, ARPS