With these diamond-shaped canvas memorials most often found in churches we are dealing with a debased form of the medieval 'achievement' i.e. the shield, helmet and other accoutrements carried at the funeral of a noble or knight.
The black, or black and white, background to the painted coat of arms is of unique significance, making it possible to tell at a glance whether it is for a bachelor or spinster, husband or wife, widower or widow.
The main work on the subject is the series Hatchments in Britain; ed. Peter Summers; Phillimore.
Thurrock has eighteen hatchments. Fourteen of them are in Orsett church, one of the largest collections in the country. Two are in Stanford-le-Hope and two are in All Saints, Langdon Hills, which is in private hands.
The Thurrock hatchments are reproduced from photographs by Robin Clayton (Langdon Hills) and Andrew Gray (Orsett and Stanford) under the auspices of the Council for the Care of Churches and the Heraldry Society.
For a glossary of heraldic terms click here