The Mystery of John Trehearne

A stroll around Southwark Cathedral is a perfect way to escape the bustle of Borough Market.

Grand monuments in churches are fascinating, they instantly require our attention but most times we pass on by, content to limit our knowledge to the inscription. But there is a little mystery attached to the monument to John Treherne, in Southwark Cathedral.

Many of the tombs of Southwark Cathedral (formerly St Saviour’s) are eye catching and we’ve already explored the tomb of the writer and poet John Gower, a friend of Chaucers and about whom we know quite a bit but what of the monument to John Trehearne? (Surname spellings include Treherne and Trehern).

Firstly the image of him is quite striking. He is described thus;

John Trehearne, Gentleman Portar to King James I

He and his wife are holding a tablet on which is written a very fulsome epitaph.

John Trehearne

John Trehearne

Had Kings a power to lend their Svbject’s breath,
Trehearne thov shovld’st not be cast down by Death,
Thy Royal Master still wovld keep thee then.
Bvt length of days are beyond the reach of men,
Nor wealth, nor strength, or great men’s love can ease
The wound Death’s arrows make, for thov hast these.
In thy King’s Covrt good place to thee is given,
Whence thov shalt go Ye King’s Covrt in Heaven.

John Treherne

John Treherne Monument

So Trehearne was obviously a much respected servant of King James I, whose loss was keenly felt. The role of Gentleman Porter to the King was one of great responsibility and honour. It meant that John Trehearne kept the ‘keys of the castle’ and was responsible for opening and closing the gates and for the safe passage of all those that passed through. There were Gentlemen Porters at the Tower of London but where John Trehearne served the King, we do not know. The pair are splendidly supported by their children below. Included in the arms of Mary  are those of the Parry family, so was she Margaret Parry?

In the ‘Annals of St Mary Overy’ written in 1833 by William Taylor, it tells us that under this monument was formerly a gravestone inscribed thus;

Under this marble doth the body rest of John Trehearne that served Queen Elizabeth and died Chief Gentleman Porter to King James, the 22nd Oct Anno D’ni 1618. Here also resteth Mary the wife of the said John Trehearne who lived together man and wife fifty years and died 22nd Jan Anno D’ni 1645. Here also lieth John Trehearne eldest son of the said John Trehearne who died Chief Clerke to the Kitchen to King James 22nd August Anno D’ni 1645.

There are a few things to note here, firstly, just one of those ‘intriguing things’, they all died on the 22nd of the month. Worthy of a mention. The next is a mystery probably solved by assuming a bit of lost in translation. The London Metropolitan Archive has a transcription of the will of John Trehearne and here we learn a little more about him. He wanted to be buried in St Saviour church near where his wife and his son John Treherne are buried. But they died in 1645 and he in 1618? Was he gifted to see into the future or does the original will read differently? The will can be downloaded from the National Archive but if you click here, you will see a transcription in full. In it, John states;

I will to be buried in the parish church of the parish of St. Saviour aforesaid as near as conveniently may be to the place where my wife and my son John Trehern do lie buried.

Could they have died 1615 not 1645? A common mistake made when the grave marker is worn.

John Treherne

Children on Treherne Monument

What’s in the will?

It tells us he was;

  • A gentleman, porter of the king’s gates.
  • He did not sign he will but left his mark.
  • He was weak in body but sound of mind.
  • He wanted to be buried with his wife and son so assume he loved them well.
  • He was charitable, leaving money to the poor of the clink, the Upper Ground (Upper Ground is the oldest thoroughfare in the parish dating from from the Norman period or earlier, which ran along the inside of the embanking river wall) and Boroughside.
  • He was devout, leaving money to the church.
  • He was a freeman of the Company of Clothworkers (we’ve been unable to find him in their archives though).
  • He lived in a ‘great messuage’, a property with outbuildings and land in the vicinity of St Saviour and another in Three Naked Boys Alley in St Olave Parish, as well as a house called the Horseshoe on Bankside, possibly left to him by a man called Gilbert Rocket.
  • He had the lease on a property in Pincock Lane in St Nicholas Shambles and jointly held a property in Challock in Kent with a man called Thomas Lake. This property was granted to John by Queen Elizabeth I.
  • His wife was called Mary.
  • He had a son John who was deceased and grandchildren born of this son, John, Leonard, Mary and Anne.
  • He had a daughter Anne, she married Edward Griffin. His grandchildren of this marriage were Christopher, Treherne, Margaret, Agnes and Joyce.
  • He had another daughter Sarah who married William Harris and had a grandson William. She then married Henry Draper and produced grandchildren John, Henry, Rebecca, Edward and Thomas. She then married William Iremonger and produced a grandchild for John, William.
  • He was good to his servants and friends, leaving bequests to his late servant Eleanor Cooke and loving friend and countryman John Greene, as well as his neighbour, George Payne

Date written:  1618 July 24, with a codicil dated September 6.
Date proved:  1618 October 28.

John Trehearne

National Portrait Gallery after Unknown artist, mezzotint, 1797. Creative Commons Licence.

The will suggests a man of generous character who thought about those around him. This will and the epitaph taken together, paints a picture of a man who probably undertook his royal duties with good grace and charm. His son John was also taken into the Royal household. There is a hint of dependability about him. That he served two monarchs and managed to bridge the gap between the Tudors passing and the arrival of the Stuarts is interesting in itself. Other documents in the National Archives tells us he would have known William Shakespeare and in Southwark Cathedral, the Shakespeare memorial is across the nave from John Treherne.

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