Archbishop Sudbury

Simon Sudbury (1316-1381) served as Archbishop of Canterbury from 1375 until his violent death. He was a major benefactor to the city and cathedral, responsible for improvements to the West Gate, Holy Cross church, and city walls. He also initiated the re-building of the nave outer walls. As chancellor, he was held responsible for the 1381 poll tax, and was beheaded on Tower Hill in the Peasants’ Revolt. Sudbury’s decapitated head was buried in his parish church at Sudbury, Suffolk, and his remaining body buried at Canterbury with a lead canon ball in place of his missing head. A recent computer realisation of his head, based on the dimensions of his skull and a CT scan of his mummified head, has been prepared by Dundee University – a copy has been promised to Canterbury cathedral in due course (Image 3).

What to see:

  • a memorial (Image 1) with no image of Simon Sudbury – because the original copper gilt effigy was apparently destroyed in the mid-16th century; each Christmas day a wreath of roses is placed in thanks on this tomb
  • an elaborate long stone canopy in the perpendicular style which includes several images of small animals
  • two further Sudbury images elsewhere in the cathedral – a stone carving in the nave (known as the talbot hound) (Image 2), and two stained glass depictions in the Chapter House 
  • if you attend the cathedral on Christmas day, the annual civic service, headed by mayor and council, to commemorate Sudbury’s good works for the city

Sources:  see standard cathedral sources