The removal of overhanging yew and ivy growth in the summer has revealed one of the secrets of Christchurch Park: the Withypoll memorial stone. It has stood leaning against a retaining wall near the lawns to the east of Christchurch Mansion since, perhaps, the early 20th century.
Local architect and historian, J.S Corder, produced the book Christchurch or Withepole House: a brief memorial in 1893; he mentions the ‘Old Brass Stone’ slab 'without the north door of the present mansion doing duty for a step' and illustrated it on his plan. It is unlikely that the slab would have been used in this way for long, as the detail would have been worn away.
The drawing above was made by the late John Blatchly in 1976 to show the indentations in the stone left after removal of metal, mainly brass, detailing of figures and lettering. A slab was intentionally used by Edmund Withypoll (1510/13-1582) as his grave stone in the Church of St Margaret, which was built c.1300 as a Chapel-of-Ease to the original Priory Church of Holy Trinity (long demolished, but which must have stood on or near the present mansion, which was built after 1536). However the slab seen in the park today appears to have been removed from St Margaret and become the object of a law suit between William Dandy and Edmund Withypoll in 1563-5.
This impressive stone memorial (which presumably weighs several tons) is said to be of Tournai Marble. Our friends at GeoSuffolk have tested the stone and it is clearly of limestone, which means that Tournai Marble (which is a limestone) is not precluded. However, the slab is pale grey and so does not present as the classic Tournai Marble colour which, as seen in the famous font of St Peter on the docks, is black. It could well have been imported from Belgium.
Is it possible that this neglected stone memorial, shorn of its metal details, might yet shed some light on the elusive history (and location) of the lost Church of the Holy Trinity Priory?