Brass of the Month

Copyright © 2012 Monumental Brass Society (MBS)

Page last updated 04 March 2015

Copyright: Jon Bayliss

November 2012 - Alice Laurence, 1531, and husbands, Middleton, Lancashire

Alice Laurence was the second daughter of Sir Richard Assheton and Isabel Talbot, who are commemorated by the earliest brass at Middleton, a man in armour and a lady of c. 1510, made in London. She was originally depicted with three husbands but the effigy of one is lost. Her husbands were John Lawrence, Richard Radclyffe of Towre and Thomas Bothe of Hakensall [Haconsall]. All three were esquires, as indicated in Mill Stephenson's List, contrary to James Thornely's reading of the word after Hakensall as armiger (esquire). It is in the plural, the mark over the final 'r' indicating the abbreviation. Thornely's misreading helped him conclude that Alice, the daughter of a knight, was probably of 'better family and standing than any of her husbands', whereas John Laurence was both the son of a knight and brother of another.

    For some reason the order of Alice's marriages differs from that given on the brass. As Jonathan Ali discovered, marriage settlements for her first two marriages survive in the Greater Manchester Record Office, the first with Richard Radcliffe of Radcliffe Tower dated 9 November 1501, the second with Sir Thomas Laurence dated 28 November 1503. While her brother Sir Richard Assheton distinguished himself at Flodden Field on 9 September 1513 by taking a number of Scottish prisoners, Alice's husband John Laurence was killed in the battle. He was the son of Sir James Laurence of Ashton and a younger brother of Sir Thomas Laurence, KB. An inquisition of 1514 transcribed by Dodsworth found that Lancelot Laurence of Yelland Hall was the eldest legitimate male descendant of John's grandfather, Sir Robert Laurence, although others, more closely related, were named as John's heirs. The manor of Ashton in Lonsdale and Carnepond (?Carnforth) had been assigned to the use of John and Alice by Richard Assheton during their lives. Alice was described as formerly John's wife but now the wife of Thomas Bothe. Bothe died in or before 1529, when his inquisition post mortem revealed he held  Haconsall and Presoll manors.

    Mill Stephenson's List describes the brasses to Edmund Assheton, died 1522, and Alice and her husbands as 'local', indicating that they were not engraved in London. There were no brass-engraving workshops operating in the north at this time apart from York, which was at a low ebb. Edmund, who was rector of Middleton, is commemorated by a brass made at Coventry, set in the distinctive stone used by the workshops there for around sixty years until they found a source of better stone. Alice's brass is set in Unio Purbeck marble. This would normally indicate a London-made brass but the design of the three remaining figures strongly suggests otherwise. There is no sign that the slab has been reused.  However, the four line inscription does appear to be London work.

It is likely that a London made inscription brass has been augmented by figures engraved elsewhere. The style of the figures does not agree with those used by any of the major provincial workshops but Alice's figure is similar to that of an unknown lady at Messing in Essex. Although Malcolm Norris suggested that four brasses near Colchester, including that at Messing, may have been made there, this is a very low number upon which to posit the existence of a workshop. More recently it has been suggested that the Essex group are outliers of a more extensive group probably emanating from a Canterbury workshop. All are close to the coast and easily accessible from Kent. It would be relatively easy to send four effigies to be added to a slab in Lancashire. This was a common practice when distances were long. In the case of the brass at Atherington, Devon, of Sir John Bassett, died 1539, it is known that the plates for the brass were sent from London by packhorse and laid by a local mason. Unfortunately, the Canterbury group does not include any men in armour, so we do not have a direct comparison with the remaining male figures at Middleton but the head of Antony Maycot, died 1535, at Hoath in Kent does look like that of the dexter figure at Middleton. Further study of the Canterbury and Essex groups  is needed to establish whether the figures at Middleton really do belong with them.


Ducatus Lancastriae: Calendarium inquisitionum post mortem (1823), pp 16, 28

J G Nichols (ed), The Herald and Genealogist, vol 8 (1874), pp 210-219

Malcolm Norris, Monumental Brasses: The Memorials (1977), pp 190-192

Mill Stephenson, A List of Monumental Brasses in the British Isles (1926), p 271

James Thornely, The Monumental Brasses of Lancashire and Cheshire (Hull, 1893), pp 201-208

Comparisons with other brasses: