Brass of the Month

Copyright © 2014 Monumental Brass Society (MBS)

Page last updated 04 March 2015

April 2014 - Sir Robert de Tpe, 1415, Barsham, Suffolk      


Print this page:

Copyright: Jon Bayliss

The identity of the man in armour at Barsham in Suffolk has long been the subject of discussion, as has the meaning of the initials on the locket of the scabbard of his sword. These issues were dealt with by John Blatchly in an article in the 1986 Transactions of the MBS but are well worth disseminating to a wider audience. Herbert Andrews, writing about the brasses at Great Thurlow and Little Bradley in 1928, opined that Weever,'errs in attributing some memorials to a church when they obviously belong to a neighbouring one which he omits to notice.' This is certainly the case here, for Weever listed at the end of the list of inscriptions at Sotterley he derived from Hervey, not only the inscription of Sir Robert de Tye but that of Monsieur Quier de Welyngton et dame Hawes sa femme, both belonging to families that had no manorial connection with Sotterley but did with Barsham. After completing the entries for Sotterley Hervey had started an entry for a new church without noting its name. It is clear that the brass at Barsham is that of Sir Robert de Tye, who died 6th October 1415, the date agreeing with the style of the brass, produced by the London D workshop.

     Florence Suckling printed the will of Sir Robert's father, also Sir Robert, who died shortly before his son was born and requested his feoffees to erect a monument for him at Barsham. His will was proved in September 1383, his widow Elizabeth’ s will the following month, indicating she died either in childbirth or very shortly thereafter, so nothing may have been done; there are a couple of slabs of Purbeck marble at Barsham other than that in which the brass is set although no rivets are obvious in either. In whose family the younger Robert was brought up is unknown, although his father's will made arrangements for   provision for food and clothing for his widow and his issue. When we first meet him in 1406 as an adult, Sir Robert is complaining that 400 of his sheep at Barsham have been carried off and his servant assaulted while he was in the king's service in Wales. In 1408, he and others were granted the lands rents and services during the minority of Hugh, son of Walter Cookesey. Sir John Phelip, another Suffolk man, married Cookesey's widow (see September 2013). Phelip also served in Wales at the same time as Sir Robert, and the two men were to die only four days apart. On 16th April 1414, Sir Robert obtained a papal indult to have a portable altar. Less than three weeks later, Sir John Phelip obtained a similar indult, followed a couple of days later by Sir William Phelip, his elder brother.

    Sir Robert had made his will on 12th September 1414 in preparation for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Sir William Phelip was named as an executor by Sir Robert, as were Sir Robert's wife Margaret, Andrew Botoler, probably the brother-in-law of the Phelip brothers,  Johan Wilbeyk,  master of the college of Mettingham, John Norwich of Yoxford and Henry Barnebye, parson of the church of Barsham. The latter three were granted administration of the will when it was proved at Norwich on 23rd October 1415. Sir William Phelip was in France and fought at Agincourt two days later. Sir John Phelip had died at Harfleur on 2nd October, and it is possible that Harfleur was where Sir Robert also met his death on 6th October although there seems no trace of his presence on the campaign. As overseer of his will, Sir Robert had named Sir Thomas Erpingham, calling him 'mon treshonure et tresreverent uncle mounsire Thomas Erpyngham'. It is not clear whether Erpingham was literally Sir Robert's uncle although he was certainly uncle of the Phelip brothers. Amongst the witnesses of Sir Robert's will was his brother-in-law, John Knyvet the younger, and Sir William Argentin, both also present at Agincourt, as of course was Erpingham.

    The initials on his locket were explained by John Blatchly as being a variation of the sacred monogram IhS. Previously they had usually been said to be RS but the R is less certain than the S, its lower right portion being entirely detached from the rest of the letter. Blatchly drew attention to the instances of two other style D brasses of the period with other variations of the monogram, those to Sir Robert's father-in-law Sir John Knyvet the elder, died 1418, at Mendlesham, Suffolk, where the monogram appears on the chape of the scabbard, and Sir John Drayton, died 1417, at Dorchester, Oxfordshire.  A parallel is the initials or longer texts on the front of basinets of alabaster effigies in armour of the period but the alabastermen also used the monogram on lockets. The alabaster effigy of Sir William Phelip, erected c.1440 at Dennington Suffolk has both.   

    Following Sir Robert's death, his widow Margaret married Sir Thomas Marney. After the latter died in 1420 or 1421 she married Sir Thomas Echyngham, who was represented on brass alongside his parents at Etchingham in Sussex when he died in 1444. Margaret was still alive in 1467. The manor of Barsham descended through her second Echyngham son, Richard, to Sir Edward Echyngham, died 1527, whose terracotta tomb stands alongside the brass of Sir Robert de Tye in the chancel at Barsham. The brass must have lost whatever remained of its marginal inscription and heraldry in the corner quatrefoils between about 1780, when Craven Ord noted that the brass commemorated Sir Robert de Tye who died in 1400 (presumably the latter part of the date was missing) and that the arms of de Tye were in the four corners, and the arrival of Alfred Suckling as rector in 1839, who attributed it to the earlier Sir Robert in the first volume of his Suffolk history.   


J Blatchley, ‘The Much-Attributed Military Brass at Barsham, Suffolk’, TMBS XIV(1986), 39-43

E F Jacob, H C Johnson, The Register of Henry Chichele, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1414-1443 pt 3 (1945), 406-7