Mysterious initials and a tragic death

A stone inside the staircase of Great St Mary’s tower had been puzzling me with its inscription.

Tower inscription

Tower inscription


W.D. Bushell’s history of St Mary’s came to the rescue. These are the initials of George Watts, minister, and John Warren and Marmaduke Frohock, Churchwardens. When this was carved, one of them had less than a year to live.

John Warren was the churchwarden who oversaw the final stages of building work on the tower in 1608, but tragically died just as it was completed. You can read his rhyming memorial plaque in the narthex:

A speaking stone

Reason may chaunce to blame;

But did it knowe

Those ashes here do lie

Which brought the Stones

That hid the steeple’s shame,

It would affirm

There were no reason why,

Stones should not speake

Before theyr Builder die.


Sleeps among the dead,

Who with the Church

His own life finished.

Anno Domini 1608. Dec 17.

His son, also named John, cast the saint’s bell for Great St Mary’s at a foundry in Benet Street the year before his father’s death. The saint’s bell would have been rung in the chantry when the Eucharistic host was consecrated. It can still be seen in the church, the oldest bell that still survives. It serves as another memorial to the Warren family, who gave so much for their parish church.

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