HATCHMENT, properly, in heraldry, an escutcheon or armorial shield granted for some act of distinction or " achievement," of which word it is a corruption through such forms as atcheament, achement, hachemenl, etc. " Achievement " is an adaptation of the Fr. achevement, from achever, a chef venir, Lat. ad caput venire, to come to a head, or conclusion, hence accomplish, achieve. The term " hatchment " is now usually applied to funeral escutcheons or armorial shields enclosed in a black lozenge-shaped frame suspended against the wall of a deceased person's house. It is usually placed over the entrance at the level of the second floor, and remains for from six to twelve months, when it is removed to the parish church. This custom is falling into disuse, though still not uncommon. It is usual to hang the hatchment of a deceased head of a house at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge over the entrance to his lodge or residence.
If for a bachelor the hatchment bears upon a shield his arms, crest, and other appendages, the whole on a black ground. If for a single woman, her arms are represented upon a lozenge, bordered with knotted ribbons, also on a black ground. If the hatchment be for a married man ( as in the illustration), his arms upon a shield impale those of his surviving wife; or if she be an heiress they are placed upon a scutcheon of pretence, and crest and other appendages are added. The dexter half of the ground is black, the sinister white. For a wife whose husband is alive the same arrangement is used, but the sinister ground only is black. For a widower the same is used as for a married man, but the whole ground is black; for a widow the husband's arms are given with her own, but upon a lozenge, with ribbons, without crest or appendages, and the whole ground is black. When there have been two wives or two husbands the ground is divided into three parts per pale, and the division behind the arms of the survivor is white. Colours and military or naval emblems are sometimes placed behind the arms of military or naval officers. It is thus easy to discern from the hatchment the sex, condition and quality, and possibly the name of the deceased.
In Scottish hatchments it is not unusual to place the arms of the father and mother of the deceased in the two lateral angles of the lozenge, and sometimes the 4, 8 or 16 genealogical escutcheons are ranged along the margin.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)