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July 13, 2020

The Wax Effigy of Sarah Hare

Sarah Hare died in 1744 at the age of 55 of a commonplace accident. It was said that she “used to sew on a Sunday and as a punishment died from pricking her finger.” Sarah did indeed die after injuring herself while sewing, likely, from septicemia. She made no extraordinary contributions to this world except one – a wax effigy of herself, the only such mortuary statue of its kind in England outside of Westminster Abbey.

Today we know very little about Hare’s life except that she never married and was not very pretty. In a will dated August 1743, Sarah made a series of curious requests:
“I desire Six of the poor men in the parish of Stow or Wimbotsham may put me in to the ground they having five shillings a piece for the same. I desire all the poor in the Alms Row may have two shillings and sixpence each person at the Grave before I am put in. This I hope my Executor will see firstly performed before Sunset... I desire to have my face and hands made in wax with a piece of crimson satin thrown like a garment in a picture hair upon my head and put in a case of Mahogany with a glass before and fix’d up so near the place were my corps lyes as it can be with my name and time of Death put upon the case in any manner most desirable if I do not execute this in my life I desire it may be done after my Death.”
Her wishes were met … molded impressions were made of her face and hands, which were poured in wax. She was buried in the Hare mausoleum in Holy Trinity church. Surrounding her closed mahogany cabinet, which is situated in a corner of the vault, are memorials to the Hare family, dating from the 17th-20th centuries.

Her cabinet is plain. A bronze plate engraved with the words – “Here lyeth the body of Sarah Hare…” – its only adornment. Her lifesize effigy has waited for over 250 years behind a pair of mahogany doors for the occasional visitor to find it.

(via The Oddment Emporium)


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