The cleaning and restoration of the historically important inscription tablet immured in the Church Street wall at the east end of St Nicholas church is now all but completed. This project is funded jointly by the Friends of St Nicholas Church and the Old Chiswick Protection Society, helped by a generous grant of £2,000 from the Duke of Bedford. The work was carried out by a team from the well-known stone conservation firm of Taylor Pearce Ltd, led by Angus Lawrence who, some 15 years ago, worked on the restoration of the Chaloner Monument in the church. Judging by the style of the original letter-forms (such as ‘YE’, with the letter ‘E’ set within the bowl of the letter ‘Y’), the masons are sure that the inscription was indeed carved in 1623 – as it is dated – and not later, as has been suggested, when the line below the inscription was carved in 1884.
Much weathered, the inscription had become illegible in places. Where possible, the worn lettering has been re-cut, and painted in for increased legibility, using a grey paint to make clear which are the letters that have had to be renewed. In a few places evidence of the original lettering has completely disappeared. This is evident especially in the case of the ampersand that appeared in three places, but ironically has completely weathered away in all three. Here reconstructions, in part based on ampersands on early seventeenth-century inscriptions within the church, have been painted onto the damaged stone.
A number of holes had been drilled into the tablet: at one point the second ‘E’ of the word ‘THEREIN’ has been entirely lost. Elsewhere, at upper right of the inscription, a series of drill holes suggest that some sort of metal fence or barrier may once have been fixed to the tablet; but what the function of this may have been is not clear. It was decided that attempts to plug these holes and paint lettering over the in-fills would not be successful in the longer term, but the meaning of the inscription’s wording is clear from the context.
The inscription records ‘Ye right honorable and trulie pious’ Earl of Bedford’s ‘true zeale and care’ in funding the wall’s construction in 1623, ‘for ye keeping of this churchyard and ye wardrobe of Godd’s Saintes whose bodies lay therein buryed from violateing of swine and other profanation’.