Portfolio of Brasses
Each month we feature an article about a brass of particular interest.
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County: Sachsen Anhalt
Friedrich III and his brother Johann the Steadfast, both Prince-Electors, were from the Ernestine Line of the House of Wettin, as opposed to the Albertines, whose mausoleum is in Freiberg cathedral in Saxony. The Wettin dynasty divided in two at the Treaty of Leipzig in 1485 with the Ernestines the more prominent, and who played a key role in the Reformation.
The brothers are buried in a sealed crypt below their two brasses in front of the altar at the largely rebuilt Schlosskirche which Friedrich founded, and which was built between 1496 & 1509.1 This replaced the...
The church at Hunstanton is well known for the large and elaborate brass of Sir Roger l'Estrange who died in 1506 but other members of the family are remebered by two other brasses and an indent. The brass commemorating Sir Hamon l'Estrange who died in 1654 memorialises a man closely connected with the one major incident that took place in the county of Norfolk during the English Civil Wars, the siege of King's Lynn.
Sir Hamon's namesake who died early in the fourteenth-century was commemorated by a slab with a marginal inscription of separately inlaid brass letters and shows that...read more
This month’s brass is an indent of a lost brass to a canon at Sint Maartensdijk, a small town in the Dutch coastal province of Zeeland. In a foundation charter of 23 June 1428 the local church of St Martin was made a collegiate church by the nobleman Frank van Borssele, fourth husband of Jacqueline, Countess of Holland (the repudiated wife of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester). The chapter was to consist of a dean and ten canons: it was abolished in 1577 at the Reformation.
An inscription along the edge of the surviving stone slab commemorates Canon Johannes (or...read more
The late Elizabethan brasses at Boughton under Blean in Kent form an interesting group. There are family links between them as Thomas Hawkins' son of the same name married Ann, one of the daughters of Cyriac Petyt, and John Driland married another of his daughters, Elizabeth. Her figure is lost but her inscription now appears beneath her parents' figures after a Victorian restoration placed it under them and left their inscription by its own. The inscription on Thomas Hawkins's brass emphasises his age, 101, and his service to Henry VIII while that of the Petit brass is concerned with...read more
Date: c.1405 and 1546
Elizabeth Buttry became the prioress of Campsey Ash in 1526. The priory was one of Austin nuns, founded around 1195 by Theobald de Valoignes, who gave his two sisters, Joan and Agnes, his land in the parish on which to build it. They were successively the first two prioresses. Over the next few hundred year the priory benefited from further gifts of land. In the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535 that preceded the reformation of the monasteries, Campsey was valued at a little over £182, short of the £200 that would have saved it from suppression in 1536 but only...read more
William Att Wode seems to have left little impression on the records of the time. Years later during the reign of Elizabeth William Atwood of Beach in Gloucestershire brought a legal action against Sir John Tracy and Henry Izard. Sir John's great-great-grandfather William, who held the manor of Doynton, had demised the park there to Atwood's grandfather William and his sons Edward and John for the term of their lives. Atwood thought this had taken place around 14 Henry VIII (1522-3). Sir John had granted a lease of the park to Henry Izard. Izard had sought to eject William Atwood,...read more
Before the Black Death in the middle of the fourteenth-century, cross brasses were quite numerous. They were the successors and contemporaries of cross slabs. The latter dated back to the twelfth-century but kept going as a relatively low-cost option for covering graves up to the time of the Reformation and even beyond. In contrast, the popularity of the cross brass fell away dramatically. Although there were London-made examples after the Black Death, most of the few early sixteenth-century examples were made in provincial workshops and very few approached the size of those of the early fourteenth century.
One exception is...read more
The brass of Richard de Hakebourne has often been illustrated as it is an important and early brass. The chapel of Merton College had a number of floriated cross brasses of the fourteenth-century but some of them have disappeared, so the survival of the figurative element of the Hakebourne memorial is very welcome, especially as it appears to be the earliest monument in the chapel.
Hakebourne was a fellow of the college by 1296 and later served several times as sub-warden. He was the owner of a book that is now in the college library and donated two others. The...read more
The sculptor Epiphanius Evesham came to the attention of the public in the early 1930s after his signature was noted by Ralph Griffin on a monument in Kent. Griffin communicated the discovery to Mrs Esdaile, the leading authority on post-reformation British sculpture. The article she subsequently published in The Times led to a...read more
Anne a Wode was the second wife of Thomas Asteley of Melton Constable. The church of St Peter at Melton Constable lies outside the village and in the grounds of the impressive hall built by a later Asteley and is rich in Asteley monuments. However none of them dates fromthe period in which both Anne and Alice Asteley, lived. Alice was the wife of John Calthorpe, who died in 1503
Brasses commemorating children were far more common than sculpted monuments until James I and VI commemorated two small daughters early in the seventeenth-century. Thereafter monumental sculpture memorialising children became much more frequent. A late sixteenth-century example of a brass to a child can be found in Brightling church in Sussex. It commemorates Thomas, only son of Thomas Pye, professor of sacred theology, whose surname was appropriatly latinised to Pius.
The figure of young Thomas kneels on a cushion in prayer. He wears a gown that indicates he was very young, as both male and female children wore the...read more
Date: 1507 1518
This month's contribution highlights the contrast between the present condition of two brasses at Isleham and many others in the same county, Cambridgeshire.
On 28 August 1643 Parliament passed an ordinance stating that 'all Monuments of Superstition and Idolatry should be removed and abolished'. These were to include 'images and pictures of saints or superstitious inscriptions'. It was intended that churchwardens would carry out such work or the justices of the peace if they failed to do so and that it should be done before 1 November 1643. On 19 December 1643 the earl of Manchester issued a warrant to...read more
On the south side of the chancel of the church of St Nicholas in Dereham is a brass shield set on an older Purbeck slab. In Blomefield's History of Norfolk, this is associated with an inscription, thus:
On a brass this imperfect epitaph, in memory of ____ Aquila.
Alta petens Aquila istac jam conditur aula :
Qui manet precibus justorum gaudia lucis,
Hic rexit ter
The iconoclast William Dowsing visited four Cambridgeshire villages on Wednesday 3 January 1643/4. He had spent his time in late December and the very beginning of January visiting Cambridge college chapels and churches, resulting in a great deal of destruction of images and words in these building although a surprising amount of the material that would have caused him offence remains to this day, some of it perhaps removed in advance and thus unavailable for inspection. Brasses in King's College Chapel were deliberately damaged but their more inoffensive components were allowed to remain. Dowsing's diary can be frustratingly sparse...read more
This month’s brass commemorates Abbot Heribert von Lülsdorf (1481) from
Kornelimünster, in Nordrhein-Westfalen Germany
Transactions (vol.X (1965), pt.3, pp.173-4) contains an article entitled “Brasses in
Germany & the Low Countries” by Messrs. Belonje & Greenhill, which features the above brass from the parish church of St Kornelius Kornelimünster, formerly a Benedictine Abbey founded in the 9th century.
An illustration opposite page 173 from a work by L. von Fisenne (1880) showsread more
the brass after its first restoration in the 19th century. It comprises a central plate with a demi figure of the abbot under a canopy, and...
August 2019read more
It is not often that brasses make the news around the world but the simple inscription commemorating Ann or Anna, daughter of Sir John Paston, did so in the second week of June 2019. An archaeologist, Matt Champion, working on the Paston Footprints 600 project on the church at Oxnead had happened to notice her inscription and that it recorded a member of the family previously unknown to historians. The story was then taken up by the media.
The Paston family of Norfolk has attracted a great deal of attention over the past 250 years. The...
The 'Recovery of an Ancient Brass at Salisbury' was reported in a short article of the same name by C[lifford] W[yndham] Holgate in the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine published in 1894.1 It was the brass of Henry Dove and the church was that of St Edmund. He described it as copper rather than brass and thought it had probably been taken from the vault under the church where Dove had been buried and appeared once to have been inserted in stone. It was in the possession of someone living near Andover who had informed a museum director...read more
The 1480s were a time of rapid change in the ruling circle of Stamford. The town was governed by twenty-five men, with an alderman at their head and two groups of twelve burgesses, the first and second twelve. Christopher Browne, a nephew of William Browne, founder of Browne's Hospital, and grandson of John Browne, merchant of the staple, was a member of the family that dominated fifteenth-century Stamford. He was made free in 1482, made a member of the first twelve without having served in the second twelve and became alderman at the end of the year, a very...read more
The subject of this month's brass has recently attracted attention because he has been identified as the owner of a surviving illustrated missal in Cambridge University Library. Research into his life is currently being undertaken by Professor Carole Rawcliffe and Dr John Alban.
With homes in Norwich and Honing, close to Bromholm Priory, where the elder Sir John Paston was buried in 1466, Nicholas Parker might be expected to feature in the contemporary letters of the Paston family, yet the man of the same name who does was the notary public of the diocese of Norwich and was buried in...read more
The Stafford family of Blatherwyck had their origins with the Staffords of Grafton. Their is a profusion of heads of the family named Humfrey that makes identifying any particular Humfrey a task that needs care. Like his father, who died little more than a dozen years before his son did, the particular Humfrey represented on the brass was a knight. He is referred to on occasion as as Sir Humfrey Stafford junior, as when he was on service on the Continent in Henry VIII's army in the early 1540s. At other times, as when he wrote to Thomas Cromwell...read more