Brass of the Month

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Page last updated 04 March 2015

Copyright: Jon Bayliss

With thanks to our member Sally Badham for her views on the inscription

January 2014 -  Anthony Hansart & wife Katherine, 1507, March, Cambridgeshire


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Anthony Hansart has proved fairly difficult to track down. He was probably a member of the Hansard family of Lincolnshire, represented on brass by the effigy of Richard Hansard at South Kelsey.  There were two esquires named Anthony Hansart active in the early part of Henry VIII's reign and it is not always clear which was which. Anthony Hansart of Whittingham, Fressingfield, Suffolk, a member of the Hansard family of Ludborough, Lincolnshire, died on 5th August 1517 but his namesake lived until 1533, making his will on 31st August that year, it being proved almost a year later. Unfortunately it is a very short will. He left 6s 7d  to the high altar of March for tithes forgotten, naming his wife Alice as one of his executors; she proved the will. He also named a brother, Robert 'doctoure and parson of Trusthrope'. Also named are Thomas Castell and his daughter Joan, and Master Lewson, the other executor. Amongst the witnesses was Thomas Cokyll, parson of Doddington, presumably the Doddington a few miles south of March. Until the nineteenth-century March was a chapelry of Doddington.  

    Anthony Hansart buried his wife Joan in the parish church of St Wandreda in March in the Cambridgeshire Fens. The town is no great distance from Lincolnshire, to the north, and Norfolk, to the east, so it is no surprise to find Hansart closely associated with both counties as well as Cambridgeshire. In 1509, very early in the reign of Henry VIII, Antony Hansart, yeoman usher of the Chamber, was appointed receiver general of the lands formerly belonging to Lord Welles and Lady Cecilia, deceased; bailiff of the lordships of Cumberworth and Thursthorp; receiver of all lands in the hands of the late King (Henry VII) of wards still in their minorities in the county of Lincolnshire, and keeper of the park and place of Hellowe. The places named are all in Lincolnshire, in the neighbourhood of Alford, Hellowe being now known as Belleau and Thursthorp as Trusthorp. Five years later, in his role as receiver general of the possessions of Lady Cecilia, he was granted a pardon and release. He was then described as Anthony Hansart of Intwode (Intwood), Norfolk, alias of London, alias of Owrysby (Owersby), Lincolnshire, esquire. In the 1520s he was in the service of Cardinal Wolsey, accompanying him to France, but also served on Commissions of Peace in Cambridgeshire and was Sheriff of  Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire in 1523 and 1529.  With Henry VIII's agreement Wolsey lent Hansart's service to John, Earl of Oxford, in 1523 and 4 for which the earl and countess were grateful and again in 1528, when the earl called Hansart a very wise man (the earl was anything but wise himself).

Late in his life, Anthony Hansart  inherited, after legal proceedings, two manors, including March, and other lands of William Lexham of Doddington. His widow later had to defend this inheritance against Lexham's daughters.


Much earlier, Hansart had leased the manor of Buckenham Ferry in Norfolk and other property, including the advowsons of the churches of Buckenham Ferry and Hassingham, which was the subject of an action in the Court of Requests brought by Hansart and his wife Katherine against Margaret Idle, widow, unfortunately of unknown date between 1492 and 1547. The date can be narrowed down because Margaret Idle's husband Thomas was alive in 1500 but she was  a widow by 1508 and dead by 1518-19 although it is not clear whether Hansart's lease was from Margaret or either of her late husbands, Sir John Jermy, who made his will in 1487, and Thomas Idle. It seems that Hansart used the advowsons to install his brother Robert as rector of both churches in 1514. While the installation of Robert at Hassingham is clear enough, that at Buckenham is listed in Blomefield's History of Norfolk under both Little Buckenham, near West Tofts, in the west of the county and Buckenham Ferry in the east. Robert was in 1513 rector of Cumberworth, of which Anthony was bailiff, as he was of Trusthorp, where Robert was rector in 1533.

Turning to the brass itself, the survival of a plate showing the Annunciation is enough to make it exceptional, but the whole brass is unusual. The angel Gabriel and the Virgin kneel facing each other, a lily between them, the latter a common feature of medieval representations of this scene. Below the plate are scrolls stretching up from the kneeling figures of Anthony and Katherine Hansart, asking the Virgin to pray for them. Both effigies are dressed in heraldic costume, he in tabard, she in a cloak. Behind her is the figure of a small son, now headless. Beneath the two-plate inscription is a large plate displaying the arms of Anthony Hansart impaling those of Southwell, Katherine's family, either side supported by their respective crests, an eagle displayed for Hansart with a cresent for difference, a demi Indian goat, eared hoofed and ducally gorged, on body three annulets for Southwell.  The arms of Anthony Hansart are three sinister hands vested per pale and each holding a mullet and resting on a crest wreath and the crest charged with a crescent. While the Southwell crest and arms, three cinquefoils each charged with six annulets, are straightforward, those for Hansart differ from those found for other members of the family. The crescent on the crest indicates that Anthony was a second son.

 Apart from the inscription, the components of the brass are well-engraved products of the London F workshop. The inscription appears to be a later addition. It is in an unusual script, probably dating from around 1530. It includes rather rustic Humanistic Majuscules and the Gothic miniscules that are normally found at this period, some of the former, particularly A and H being used in the middle of words where on would expect lower-case letters. Why two plates were needed is unclear – does the larger one fit into the indent of the original inscription? The content of the inscription  of course emphasises that this is a memorial to Katherine Hansart and gives prominence to her brother's role as councillor to Henry VII and Henry VIII but Anthony Hansard is mentioned only as her husband. The lower plate gives her date of death and the form the year takes is confusing: is it 1517 as most commentators have assumed, or is it 1507? The case for it being 1507 is that the character between the MVc and the vij is a plus sign different from the x for the day of the month of her death immediately above. If the date of death of Thomas Idle, alive in 1500 and dead by 1508, could be established it might settle this question.