Portfolio of Brasses
Each month we feature an article about a brass of particular interest.
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The crypt below the Lady Chapel in Hereford cathedral church contains a late fifteenth-century alabaster incised slab commemorating Andrew Jonis, a Hereford merchant, and his wife Elizabeth. It was in place, as its inscription tells us, by the feast of All Saints (November 1st) 1497. It forms the top slab of a low tomb chest, today rather plainer than it seems to have been when Thomas Dingley drew the whole monument during Charles II’s reign to illustrate his manuscript, published a couple of hundred years later in two volumes as History from Marble. Back in 2004 our member Sally...read more
Thomas Fisher was born in 1772 in Rochester, Kent. While his work as an artist and antiquary encompassed far more than monumental brasses, his contribution in this field was particularly valuble, especially in regard to th brasses of Bedfordhire and Kent. He worked from dabbings and rubbings that he had made and recorded many brasses in the first third of the nineteenth-century that have since been lost, both completely and in part. In recording the brass at Aylesford in Kent, he sketched, as was his custom, the whole slab with its brass inlays and, separately, carefully drew the brasses.read more
This month’s brass demonstrates the difficulties involved with identifying exact family relationships in the days before parish registers, especially at the level of esquires and below.
The church of St Mary, Chartham, Kent, is known for the excellent early brass representing Sir Robert de Septvans, one of the cross-legged knights of the first half of the fourteenth century. However it has other brasses too. Sir Robert’s figure lies in the north transept, his head to the north and feet to the south, an obvious repositioning at odds with the east-west axis along which it would originally have been laid. Immediately...read more
Eleanora Dayrell wrote in The History of the Dayrells of Lillingstone Dayrell, published in 1885, that William the Conqueror was accompanied by a member of the family when he landed in 1066. and that the manor at what became Lillingstone Dayrell in Buckinghamshire was assigned by William to him. She noted that the name was originally d’Ayrell as in the castle north of St Lô in Normandy. Apart from a period of ten years immediately after 1300, the manor continued in the family, Eleanora’s husband, Captain E Marmaduke Dayrell was the...read more
In 1711, François Roger de Gaignières sold his entire collection to the King of France. Pierre de Clairambault, the royal genealogist, soon began breaking up the collection, which included manuscripts, portraits and printed material. Much of the collections is today in the Bibliothèque nationale de France and includes drawings of churches, funeral monuments, glass, etc. Included in one volume are drawings of many of the monuments within the church and cloister of the abbey of Saint-Denis (now Saint Denis Basilica Cathedral,...read more
Just over eleven years ago this feature focused on the remains of the brass of John Browne, 1581, and his wife and sixteen children at Halesworth: https://www.mbs-brasses.co.uk/index-of-brasses/john-browne At that time it was mentioned that Browne’s son John, d.1591, was commemorated by a brass at nearby Spexhall. This month the Browne brasses at Spexhall are the subject.
Like the brass at Halesworth, those at Spexhall have been remounted, but whereas the recovered parts of the Halesworth brass are displayed in a stone set above the original indent, those at Spexhall were set on a new mural stone with no sign of...read more
Thomas Cranmar, esquire, was the father of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was his second son, born at Aslocton, Nottinghamshire, on 2 July 1489, and thus in his twelth year when his father died on 27 May 1501. Thomas was married to Agnes Hatfield. She survived him and presumably paid for his incised alabaster slab in the church of St John of Beverley at Whatton. She was able to send her younger sons Thomas and Edmund (born 1491) to Cambridge, Thomas getting his BA in 1511, Edmund in 1513-14. Both had careers in the church, Thomas suffering martyrdom...read more
The brass effigy of a priest in mass vestments holding a chalice lies in the chancel of St John the Baptist, Somersham, Huntingdonshire (now Cambridgeshire). It dates from around 1525 and a possible attribution to the long-serving Thomas Alcock, vicar between 1488 and his death in 1525 was made in the Victoria County History. That seems to be ruled out by the existence of another slab, once the chancel but now in the south porch, bearing indents for a similarly robed priest and for cocks at each corner. Alcock had willed to be buried in the chancel. Given that...read more
County: Sachsen - Anhalt
Prince – Elector Friedrich der Weise (Friedrich 111) von Sachsen from the Ernestine line of the House of Wettin was responsible for the reconstruction of Wittenberg Castle and its Church. The latter was consecrated as All Saints in 1503. By that time Friedrich had already founded the University of Wittenberg in 1502 which was to establish a formidable academic reputation. From 1507 All Saints church was put at the disposal of the University, for lectures and services. In 1508 Martin Luther, a monk from the Augustinian Friary in Erfurt, arrived for the first time to teach...read more
The floor of St Botolph’s church in Boston, Lincolnshire, preserves to an exceptional extent, the incised slabs and the monumental brasses (or in most cases their indents). All were written up and illustrated in an excellent publication by Sally Badham and Paul Cockerham in 2012 but recent research has uncovered more details of Thomas Flete, who died in 1450.
The exact social status of Thomas Flete was not clear in 2012, the best estimate then being that he was possibly an attorney. Evidence from the Court of Common Pleas suggests that he was a merchant: in 1430...read more
The Black Death that ravaged Europe towards the end of the 1340s stopped production of monumental brasses in England for a number of years. By 1360 the two main streams of London monumental brass design that ran in parallel for the rest of the century had been established. Designated Series A and Series B in J P C Kent’s pioneering work of stylistic analysis of military brasses published in 1949, the persons who were most probably behind the initial designs of these memorials were John de Ramsey and Richard Lakenham respectively. Each was described as a marberer, as the memorials...read more
The cult of the Holy Name of Jesus became increasingly widespread in England in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century. The cult had begun in southern Europe rather earlier and spread to the north. In Tudor England it was promoted by Henry VII’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, who received papal sanction in 1494 for a feast on 7 August she had established to be celebrated throughout the country some years before. A look at any book illustrating brasses belonging to this period will reveal inscriptions terminating in prayer clauses that substitute the name of Jesus for that of God.
We might...read more
This brass at Milton Abbey, Dorset introduces us to a man who played a significant role in the Reformation in England. As a lawyer, John Tregonwell had been heavily involved with the divorce by Henry VIII of Katherine of Aragon. He was appointed one of the visitors of the religious houses worth under £200 in 1535-6, helping to implement a process that led directly to the Dissolution of the Monasteries. However, he was not only knighted on the occasion of the coronation of Mary I but under Elizabeth he made a will that clearly signals that he remained a...read more
The attractive Victorian brass commemorating Charles Sutton and one of his three sons is to be found in the church of St Mary in what had been, until it was evacuated in 1944, the village of West Tofts in the Norfolk Brecklands. The land was needed for training the troops who were to invade Normandy later that year, and remains a battle area to this day, the Stanford Training Area (STANTA). West Tofts and the other villages that lay within in it are wholly deserted. The church has been brought back into occasional use.
West Tofts Hall and its estate was...read more
The brass of Elizbeth Furlong at Stoke-in-Teignhead, Devon, provokes more than a couple of questions. Why is the inscription in French? Was it part of a larger group of related memorials? Why did the designer or engraver place a comma after every word? Why is the plate heart-shaped but apparently does represent a heart burial? Who are the people mentioned in the inscription?
Icy avssi et mettre le corps
de Elizabeth Fvrlong la
fille de Thomas Tawley de...read more
Indents of two chalice brasses lie side by side on the north side of the St Basiliuskerk (St Basil's church) in Bruges. The building is two-storied, with the later Heilig Bloedbasiliek (Holy Blood basilica) occupying the upper floor. The two indents take the same form, so common in that area of Belgium, in having marginal inscriptions with quadrilobes at each corner, but differ in that one has these incised whereas the other formerly had these in brass, of which the indents remain. Both slabs are of Belgian black marble.
Nicholas Rogers thought that the one with the incised inscription beginning...read more
Many brasses survive at Ewelme, Oxfordshire, from the mid fifteenth century up to the early seventeenth. That of Catherine, wife of Thomas Palmer, shows her kneeling with her husband. Behind him are six sons, behind her just one daughter. Catherine died on 26 June 1599 in childbed at the age of 34. We learn of her from the four lines of English at the base of the inscription, but they reveal of him only his name. The rest of the inscription plate is taken up by ten lines of Latin verse.
County: East Lothian
Scotland retains very few monumental brasses from the medieval and early=modern periods. Before the Reformation of 1560, brasses were imported from the Low Countries, some of them rectangular plates in Tournai marble indents but some separately inlaid figures. The reverse of a post-Reformation brass was made from a plate from the middle of a rectangular brass of around 1495. It has the figures of a man called Thomas in civilian clothes with his wife and the two sections of the Scots inscription. It may be that imported to commemorate the merchant Thomas Yar and his wife. Shipped in November...read more
This month's brass illustrates the losses of brasses that occurred in the eighteenth-century. It is the only survivor of five drawn by the Norwich historian, John Kirkpatrick, who died in 1728.
Francis Blomefield recorded the inscriptions of the five brasses in the 1740s but by the time that Rev. T S Talbot made drawings in the 1790s all but two had gone and when Cotman drew Margaret Pettwode's brass in 1815, all the others were lost.
The church of St Clement stands at the eastern end of Colegate. It is in the care of the Norwich Historic Churches Trust. After it...read more
This month’s Brass is another from the mausoleum in Freiberg Cathedral Saxony, set aside for members of the Albertine Line of the House of Wettin. It commemorates Electress Sophia of Saxony, born Duchess of Brandenburg, who died on 7th December 1622. (HKC 7)read more
It is located on the north side of the choir, towards its western end, with the brass of her husband Elector Christian 1 opposite on the south side. It comprises two plates with overall dimensions of 2632 x 1483mm.
Centrally positioned is a portrait of Sophia as an older person with a fuller figure and somewhat...