William de Lanvalei
Walkern’s Magna Carta baron
A recess in St Mary’s church in Walkern houses this remarkably fine Purbeck marble effigy of a knight with crossed legs, in a suit of chain armour with shield, sword and closed flat-topped helm . It is one of only three known instances in England [see comment below] in which the visor is drawn down the face. The monument dates from the 13th century.
The effigy is thought to represent William de Lanvalei (c.1182-c.1217) lord of Walkern and one of the twenty-five Magna Carta sureties appointed by the rebal barons at Runnymede in 1215 to ensure that King John adhered to the Law of the Land set down in the charter. William had inherited the manor of Walkern, along with several other properties, through his father. His early death in 1217, and the role he played as a guarantor of the Magna Carta was a good reason to commemorate him in marble.
Has the effigy been moved?
There is no evidence, as has been suggested, that the effigy represents a crusader, nor that it represents a knight who was not buried in Walkern but was brought here from either Temple Dinsley or Baldock. The only shred of evidence that favours it having been moved from a different location is that the figure’s base does not fit the recess. In all probability it originally stood on the floor of the chancel, as do the effigies in the Temple Church, London. Subsequently, when that part of Walkern church was rebuilt, a recess was made in the wall of the south aisle and the figure placed therein.
Where was the effigy made?
The style, workmanship and choice of Purbeck marble for the figure support the idea that the effigy could have been made in the same workshop, near the present St Paul’s Cathedral, as the figures in Temple Church, London.
William de Lanvalei, Medieval Walkern and Magna Carta
The Lanvalei line acquired Walkern through William’s grandfather, also William, who was brought over from Lanvallay in Brittany by Henry II as one of the king’s administrators of the new laws. He married Gunnora, the daughter and heir of Hubert St Clare. The lands he inherited through this marriage included the administrative centre, or ‘caput’, of the barony – the manor of Walkern.
Click the image for information about the book Medieval Walkern and Magna Carta