This drawing by William Sedgwick shows the tomb of Richard Fleming, Bishop of Lincoln (d.1431), in Lincoln Cathedral. The monument is significant as one of the first cadaver tombs in England – the lower part of the monument contains an effigy of the bishop’s decaying corpse. Juxtaposed with the recumbent effigy above, this was supposed to act as a sort of memento mori, or a reminder of the transience of life.
The importance of Sedgwick’s drawing is that it shows the tomb before it was damaged by Parliamentarian troops during the British Civil Wars. In 1641 Sir William Dugdale (1605-1686), an antiquarian and herald, had set about recording monuments, inscriptions and coats of arms in what has been called a ‘heroic antiquarian mission’. Dugdale’s mission was to preserve this information in anticipation of the religious fervour and iconoclasm that was to become a defining feature of the 1640s. The resulting ‘Book of Monuments’, with illustrations by Sedgwick, became a valuable record of many lost memorials.