Birthing - Berthon

       This rare birthing corbel is firmly believed to have been sculpted by A F Ellery, whose name is engraved as graffitti on the corbel's left-hand side along with the date 1.6.85.(or perhaps 1865).

       This corbel known as the birthing corbel is thought to be a play on the name of the Rev Edward Lyon Berthon (1813—1899) who designed and had the adjacent window installed. He was vicar of Romsey Abbey from 1860 until 1892.

       In addition to ministering to his parish, the Reverend Edward Lyon Berthon of Romsey, Hampshire, ran a boatbuilding and engineering enterprise. In 1877, he started a company in Romsey, building folding lifeboats and "other floating machines", which (originally designed as lifeboats) were the mainstay of his business.


Romsey Masons

     Andrew Frooks Ellery (1832-1892) was the son of Thomas Ellery (1797-1875 ) both were stonemasons who worked upon Romsey Abbey. They moved into Bath House, 91 & 93 Middlebridge Street Romsey in 1874, then set about sculpting various decorative faces, animals, capitals,and foliage to the facade and friezes around the doorways and windows, which not only advertised their trade, but also transformed the footprint and appearance of the two houses.  

      They moved the business from Middlebridge to 1, Station Road; records show that it operated there in 1875, but by 1895, according to a Romsey Directory, it had been sold to John Grace Stonemason.


Work on the Abbey

       In the late 1960s Vokes and Becks, a stonemason company based in Winchester which had proudly undertaken the Abbey's work for ten years, discovered whilst repairing the parapet stones on the South West level, that the corbels were structurally unsound and had to renew them, As the original Binstead limestone from the Isle of Wight quarry was no longer available, it was decided to use a Portland stone; it was sound, available. and economially viable. (£40 per corbel)


       Any badly damaged corbels were matched to the originals, but where the corbels had eroded too much, it was left to the stonemasons to create designs of their choosing - as was the tradition. a number ball flower carvings were used as well as portraits. 


A clandestine carving

       During the course of the work, stonemason Harry Burt surreptitiously sculpted a portrait of his boss Mr F.L.'Peter' Wheble into a corbel, then incorporated it into Table No 2 on the lower South face of the Abbey. (LS2b)  


       Mr Brooks was the initial architect, but was later replaced following a change in Abbey management. The new achitects used a different company of stonemasons.


Additional information

Peter Wheble was the grandson of Thomas Becks whose daught Terresa married a Wheble.

The firm of stonemasons 'Vokes and Becks' was originated by Thomas Becks - stonemason, and Jimmy Vokes - letter carver. circa 1900, they had previously worked for Stonemason John Marsh. The firm passed down to grandson 'Peter' Wheble when he was invalided out of the Army in the 1940s and in turn went to his sons Jeremy and Trevor Wheble

(These accounts were given by 'Peter' Wheble in January and March 2015 aged 95.) (Peter celebrated his 100th birthday in March 2019 - B 1919 - D 20..)

The Price of Love

The squire and the blacksmith's wife

  'An historical and descriptive companion to the Abbey Church, Romsey'  - Fourth Edition.

Printed and published by William Chignell, Market Place. Romsey. circa 1830s.


This book refers to a corbel like a grindstone near the north-west corner, which legend has it  'that a man of opulance, having too successfully tampered with the fidelity of a certain blacksmith's wife, was enjoined by the Pope, as a penance, to rebuild so much of the western end of the church as extends beyond this mark, which is interpreted as an emblem of the blacksmith's trade.'


It is also referred to in Perkins Guide Book of 1907 p31

 A Short Account of Romsey Abbey by Rev T Perkin


A legend is connected with a corbel stone near the west end of the north aisle. It is fashioned into the likeness of a grindstone and it is handed down by tradition that once upon a time towards the end of the twelfth century or the beginning of the thirteenth a nobleman ran away with a blacksmith’s wife, but afterwards repented of his sin and had imposed on him as penance the completion of the west end of the Abbey church. The grindstone, emblem of the blacksmith’s calling, was, it is said, placed on the newly erected western bay to commemorate the incident.

A further version can also to be found here - page 30/31

Useful References

Links for futher information

Romsey Abbey corbels and grotesques

 Corbels and Grotsques

     Little is known about the army of the stonemasons who diligently chipped away sculpting the huge blocks of stone for Romsey Abbey, Hampshire UK.


  We know even less why they carved such heads, animals, plants and mythical creatures to decorate the Abbey.


    However, this is a little of what we do know... 

Tales of Stonemasons - Past and Present

Corbels at Romsey Abbey

 painting by Rex Trayhorne

Romsey Abbey corbels and grotesques history architecture

Site last updated 6th December 2019

This Website is best viewed on a  laptop or tablet.

This website was designed and built by Roy Romsey -


  • s-facebook
  • Twitter Metallic
  • s-linkedin
Share your thoughts!


If you have information about specific corbels at Romsey Abbey, and which would be of interest to others, please email it to:-

This site was designed with the
website builder. Create your website today.
Start Now