Tribute to Martial Rose

03 March 2021
Martial Rose, whose work offered new interpretations of Norwich Cathedral's medieval roof bosses, has died aged 98 after a short illness. His legacy includes numerous books about the Cathedral including Stories in stone: the medieval roof carvings of Norwich Cathedral.
Martial Rose

Martial Rose’s contribution to Norwich Cathedral was most tangible in his publications on the roof bosses and misericords.

Born in 1922 in London, educated at Christ’s Hospital and King’s College, Cambridge, he had been Principal of King Alfred’s College, Winchester from 1967 to 1984. He retired to Norfolk, where he and his wife settled on the outskirts of East Dereham.

Martial became a cathedral guide, and brought his academic interest in medieval drama to bear on the Cathedral’s roof bosses. He offered new interpretations of Norwich Cathedral’s bosses, focusing on the visual evidence provided by the bosses for dramatic performances of mystery plays in his publication Dramatic images: the roof bosses of Norwich Cathedral in relation to the drama of the middle ages.

The photographs in the book were taken by Julia Hedgecoe, with whom he also collaborated on Stories in stone: the medieval roof carvings of Norwich Cathedral.


Further work on the cloister bosses appeared as The Norwich Apocalypse: the cycle of vault carvings in the cloister of Norwich Cathedral, illustrated by the photography of Ken Harvey, who also illustrated Martial’s book on The misericords of Norwich Cathedral. Martial also contributed the chapter on ‘The vault bosses’ in the 900th anniversary volume Norwich Cathedral: church, city, diocese 1096-1996.

Martial was intelligent, enthusiastic, with a keen sense of humour; unassuming yet in no way underrating himself. He was generous in his support of others, but if he agreed to help you, you did not escape his – constructive – criticism.

He died on 31 January 2021, aged 98, after a short illness. He is survived by his wife, Heather, son Christopher and daughter Jenny, and by the considerable legacy of his work, preserved in his books and other writings.

With thanks to David Berwick for contributions to this memoir.

Picture: supplied by Jenny Rose