Weird Norfolk: The wax lady of Stow Bardolph

An 18th century wax effigy of Sarah Hare is kept inside the Hare chapel of the Holy Trinity church a

An 18th century wax effigy of Sarah Hare is kept inside the Hare chapel of the Holy Trinity church at Stow Bardolph. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger and slept for 100 years until she was woken by a handsome prince - but for Norfolk's Sarah Hare, no kiss can wake her from an eternal slumber.

Sarah, the youngest daughter of Sir Thomas Hare of Stow Hall in Stow Bardolph, died in 1744 at the age of 55 after developing fatal blood poisoning: she had pricked her finger while sewing, a punishment, some said, for sewing on a Sunday.

A year before her death, she had written her will, describing the funeral she wanted and asking for the poor on the estate to be given money on her behalf – a fairly standard document until she spelled out her final earthly request: '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 fixed up so near the place where my corpse lies as it can be with my name and time of death put upon the case.'

She added: 'If I do not execute this in my life, I desire it may be done after my death.'

And so it came to be. Impressions were taken of Sarah's hands and face and she was recreated in wax, a permanent memorial to a woman who never married, quite literally warts and all, a remarkable effigy for a woman whose life was anything but remarkable, but whose legacy has endured for more than 250 years.

Today she waits patiently for visitors behind simple cabinet doors and glass, a silent witness to more than two centuries and the only funeral wax effigy outside Westminster Abbey.

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