Suffolk: Simon of Sudbury’s face to be revealed after 600 years

AFTER a wait of six centuries the face of Suffolk’s most iconic and ultimately tragic figures will soon be revealed.

The head of Simon Theobald of Sudbury was hacked off by Watt Tyler’s rampaging mob during the peasant uprising in 1381 for his role in introducing the poll tax.

While his body is entombed at Canterbury Cathedral, his head sits in a cubby hole tucked away in St Gregory’s Church in Sudbury.

Next month a specialist forensic team from Dundee University will carefully remove the skull and take it to West Suffolk Hospital for a series of scans by a radiologist in the first phase of a process to reconstruct his face and reveal what he would have looked like.

Jenny Seggar, curate at St Gregory’s Church, said: “This will be an incredible journey, stretching back over centuries of English history. Simon is the son of Sudbury and one of the nation’s most important historical figures. To think that in the next few months we might finally see what he looks like is absolutely thrilling.”


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Leading the Dundee University team is Dr Caroline Wilkinson – one of the world’s leading figures in facial reconstruction and a regular expert on TV shows including Meet the Ancestors.

She will take the results back to the university to work on a reconstruction and model of Simon’s head.

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The idea was first discussed a year ago as St Gregory’s Church made plans for the Lifepath church event last June.

Mrs Seggar said: “We were discussing what Simon might have looked like and mentioned the possibility of reconstruction with Ian Copeman of Future Vision [a Christian charity]. It was Ian who really got the ball moving. He made some calls and suddenly we were looking at the real possibility of this happening.”

Simon of Sudbury, whose parents are buried underneath the organ at St Gregory’s Church, was a high-profile figure in medieval England.

The son of a rich merchant family who exported goods to Europe from Ipswich docks, he decided to take a religious path and by 1362 was Bishop of London. In 1375 he was Archbishop of Canterbury and then Lord Chancellor of England in 1380.

Mrs Seggar said: “The revolting peasants regarded him as the main instigator of their problems as Lord Chancellor and during the Watt Tyler inspired riots they discovered he was in the Tower of London. The mob stormed in, grabbed Simon and dragged him to Tower Hill for his brutal execution.”

Mrs Seggar said his head was placed on a spike on Tower Bridge where it was spotted by a man from Sudbury who grabbed it in the middle of the night and brought it back to his home town.

jonathan.schofield@eadt.co.uk

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