Brass of the Month

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Page last updated 04 March 2015

Copyright: Jon Bayliss

November 2013 - Elizabeth Whipple, 1617, Dickleburgh, Norfolk

After the mid-1650s, floor brasses were generally replaced in the south and east of England by flat memorials of another type, the black marble ledger slab. Black slabs, generally imported from Namur in present-day Belgium, were adopted early in the seventeenth-century by the monumental workshops of Southwark as a replacement for the Wealden marbles in which brasses had been set since the decline of the Purbeck marble industry in the second half of the sixteenth-century. It was a material with which the immigrant workmen of these workshop must have been very familiar, as it had been in widespread use in their native lands, the Low Countries, for hundreds of years for both sculpted memorials and gravestones. While they had been quick to import it for sculptural use, it is surprising that it took so long to come into general use for flat memorial slabs. There were very few sixteenth-century examples produced in Southwark, their numbers matched by imports of finished slabs commemorating Dutch immigrants. It was not until the 1620s that black ledger slabs began to appear in any number but this month's incised memorial precedes this date by a few years and is a most unusual example of an engraved effigial slab in black marble.

    It commemorates Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Whipple, gent. She died in 1617 aged 65. At each corner of her slab are the arms of Jernegan (Argent, three lozenge buckles gules) but there is no sign of the arms of her husband Thomas Whipple (Azure, a fesse ermine between two chevrons argent). Quite why this should be is not clear as the Whipple arms appear on the monument at nearby Billingford to her son-in-law, Charles le Gris, who died in 1601.  Her granddaughter, Frances le Gris, daughter of Charles and Margaret le Gris, married Sir William Playters of Sotterley, Suffolk. She is commemorated at Dickleburgh by a monument from the Marshall workshop. Elizabeth's husband, Thomas Whipple the elder, son Henry and daughter Margaret, all predeceased her, although Henry and Margaret were still living when their father died in 1612. Elizabeth's father was John Jernegan esquire of Belton in Suffolk, described as Belton in Somerlee on the slab, and his father was Sir John Jernegan. The Jernegans were a prominent East Anglian family. Elizabeth's sister Bridget and her husband are commemorated by a brass at Blundeston, near Belton.

Elizabeth's figure has been worn down by the passage of feet over the years but enough detail remains to show that she wears a farthingale, above which is the pleated front of a basque, attached below her bodice, of which latter no details can be made out. She has false sleeves covering the side of the basque and  extending just below her skirt. She has a ruff around her neck. Her head is covered by what is presumably a wired linen and lace cap. Her sleeves terminate in long cuffs. Her costume is one that was one that was being replaced by later fashions at the time of her death, making it likely that here monument was made soon after her death. It was perhaps provided by her granddaughter Frances, whose custody was left to her in his will by her husband 'during hir  minoritie, shee to have, under advise of my supervisor, freinds  and kindred, care in bringing up and marrying of said Francis  wherein she will be ruled by her grandmother'. Frances cannot have been far off achieving her majority when her grandmother died.      

Heere resteth in ye Lord Mrs. Elizabth

Whipple, Wife unto Tho[m]as Whipple, Gent:

& Daughr of Mr. John Jernegan of Belto[n]

in Somerlee, Esq : Sonne unto Sr  Joh[n] Jernegan

Kt wch said Elizabth departed this life ye 4

 day of Septembr 1617 aged 65.

What worth in Woman, or a Wife could be,

What Goodnes vaild in fraile Mortalitie,

A godly Mind, a goodly shape in Youth;

A bounteous Hand wise Heart, unspotted truth.

These Jewells ceasd to'th High Kings Use, by Death,

Lo heere laid up: their Owner, Elsabeth.

                   Veni cito Jesu.