TQ2650 : Maseres Monument

taken 6 years ago, near to Reigate, Surrey, Great Britain

This is 1 of 2 images, with title Maseres Monument in this square
Maseres Monument
Maseres Monument
Behind these railings, and totally overgrown with ivy, is an obelisk of Portland Stone to Francis Maseres, a colourful character who lived in The Barons (see TQ2550 : The Barons, Church Street, Reigate) from 1774 to 1824.

Francis Maseres was Cursitor Baron of the Exchequer and was commonly known as Baron Maseres. He was an eccentric character who was born in 1731 and apparently throughout his life continued to wear the costume of that period, complete with three-cornered hat, tie, wig, and ruffles. The role of Cursitor Baron to the Exchequer appears to be that of taking the oaths of Sheriffs - it was largely a ceremonial role, as opposed to the other four Barons of the Court of Exchequer (established by William I to regulate and enforce payment of the king's debts and duties) who held judicial duties. Prior to taking on that post in 1773 (he held it until his death in 1824), he had been a lawyer (qualifying in 1758) and was Attorney General for Quebec from 1766 until 1769. He was also deputy recorder of London from 1779 until he resigned in 1783. He was elected senior judge in the Sheriff's Court of the City of London in 1780, a position he held until 1822 when he was 91 years old.

He was also a mathematician (he graduated with a first in Classics and Mathematics from Clare College, Cambridge, in 1752, where he was ranked as fourth Wrangler, i.e. the fourth best graduate in maths that year). Over the years he wrote various mathematics papers, including "A dissertation on the use of the negative sign in algebra" (1758), in which he rejected the use of the - sign, even though by then it was becoming generally accepted as a concept. Others were "The elements of plane trigonometry" (1760) and "The principles of the doctrine of life annuities; explained in a familiar manner, and accompanied with a variety of new tables of the values of such annuities at several different rates of interest, both for single lives, accurately computed from observations" (1783). He also republished various mathematical works by others on subjects such as logarithms and statistical permutations and combinations, and was therefore credited with bringing maths to a wider audience.

On his death he left most of his wealth to the Rev Dr Robert Fellowes (over 200,000 in 1820s values). Perhaps in gratitude to this, Fellowes erected this monument. On the front is a coat of arms (see TQ2650 : Maseres crest), presumably that of Maseres (although I have not found any further evidence of this). On the right hand side is a long inscription by Fellowes, now barely legible (even without being largely hidden by ivy), but it was transcribed by E W Brayley in his 1878 "A topographical history of Surrey" (now out of copyright):

"H.S.E. FRANCISCUS MASERES armig. Aul. Clar. apud Cantab. olim socius. Quinti Baronis, in curia Scaccarii, munus, annos 50, executus est. Viri huius egregii et amabilissimi fides, integritas, aequalitas, liberalitasque omnibus quibiscum erat versatus innotuere. Eximiis his virtutibus accedebant, tanta sermonis, morumque sauvitas, tanta comitas, facilitasque, ut nihil supra. Humanitatis studiis et literis reconditioribus colendis omni praeconio dignissimus. Exemplaria Graeca et Latina, quorum juvenis fuerat perstudiosus, sensex in deliciis habebat. Sui seculi Mathematicorum clarissimis parem indubitanter dixeris. Multa quae accurate, copiose, cogitateque scripserat, prelo dedit, et in communem fructum attulit. Articulos fidei qui dicuntur, in minimum reduxit. DEUM UNUM, ENS entium, omnium patrem, CHRISTO duce, sanctissime adoravit. Quam immortalitatem, toto pectore cupierat, placida lenique senectute, et integra mente consecutus est anno Domini 1824. Aetat. suae 93.

Vale, vir optime! Amice, vale, carissime et siqua rerum humanarum tibi sit adhuc conscientia, monimentum quod in tui memoriam, tui etiam in mortuis observantissimus Robertus Fellowes ponendum curavit, solita benevolentia tuearis."

With thanks to John Robson of Ludlow for the following translation:

"Here lies buried Francis Maseres Esq, formerly Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge. For fifty years he carried out the duties of Fifth Baron of the Exchequer. The good faith, integrity, fairness and generosity of this remarkable and most lovable man were well known to all with whom he had to do. To these exceptional virtues were added so much gentleness of conversation and character, so much friendliness and affability as to exceed anything. He was worthy of every praise for his study of the humanities and lesser known literature. As an old man he delighted in the Greek and Latin classics of which he had been a devoted student in this youth. You would unhesitatingly call him the equal of the best mathematicians of his generation. He published and contributed to the common good much that he had written carefully, fully and reflectively. He reduced to a minimum what are called the articles of faith. With Christ as his leader he most piously adored the one God, the being of beings, the father of all. In the year of our Lord 1824, at the age of 93, in untroubled old age and in full possession of his faculties he attained the immortality which he had desired with all his heart.

Farewell, best of men! Farewell, dearest of friends, and, if you are still aware of human affairs, look with your customary kindness upon this monument which Robert Fellowes, who reveres you even among the dead, has had set up."

This gushing tribute to the man was no doubt influenced by the size of the bequest!

For wider view of this section of the graveyard, see TQ2550 : St Mary's Churchyard.
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TQ2650, 131 images   (more nearby )
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Date Taken
Saturday, 12 May, 2012   (more nearby)
Sunday, 20 May, 2012
Geographical Context
Suburb, Urban fringe  Burial ground, Crematorium 
Place (from Tags)
Person (from Tags)
Francis Maseres  Robert Fellowes 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! TQ 260 501 [100m precision]
WGS84: 51:14.2239N 0:11.7734W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! TQ 260 501
View Direction
EAST (about 90 degrees)
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Other Tags
St Marys Church  Latin Inscription 

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