Portfolio of Brasses
Each month we feature an article about a brass of particular interest.
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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 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
April 2019read more
The church of St Peter at Offord Darcy lies outside the main village but close to the manor house. It is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. While the brass depicting the kneeling rector William Taylard lies in its original Lincolnshire marble slab, that of Sir Laurence Pabenham and his two wives has been relaid in a piece of Purbeck marble large enough to contain the remnants of the three figures and the inscription but considerably smaller than the original, now lost, last recorded as being in the tower.
Sir Laurence was...
John Corbet, born by 1514, was the son of John Corbet of nearby Spixworth, gentleman, who died in the early 1540s after a career as a brazier in Norwich, where he rose to be sheriff. The Corbet family came from Morton Corbet, Shropshire, as evidenced by their arms, Or, a raven proper, although the Norfolk branch used a different crest, a squirrel sejant, cracking a nut, proper. The Jermy family granted the manor of Mounteney in Sprowston to John Corbet, esquire, around the time of his father's death. The family retained it for nearly a hundred years, Sir Thomas...read more
Although his month's brass was mentioned in many guidebooks in the century before the First World War it has since received rather less attention but relates directly to one of the major problems faced by Elizabeth I during her reign.
On 2nd May 1568 Mary Queen of Scots escaped from imprisonment in Castle Leven, set on an island in Loch Leven. She had been forced to abdicate in favour of her ten month old son, James VI, on 24th July the previous year following the murder of her second husband and her marriage to the man many believed to be...read more
May's brass of the month very narrowly escaped the melting pot.
Entering Methwold church and looking across to the north aisle, the impression is that Sir Adam de Clifton's figure, remounted on a wooden board against the wall, is complete. Closer inspection shows that the missing pieces have been reproduced in paint on the board.
Sir Adam was born in 1306 at Denver in Norfolk, the son of Roger de Clifton, who had married Margery, daughter of Adam de Cailly and his wife Emma, daughter and co-heir of Robert de Tateshall, whose estates were very substantial. In 1327 he petitioned Edward...read more
August's brass of the month is, although damaged, of great interest.
Headless and lacking parts of its canopy and inscription, as well as all but one of its shields, the brass of John Byrkhede at St. Mary, Harrow-on-the-Hill, Middlesex, is not immediately attractive. However, an investigation of the life of the person commemorated adds considerable interest to the brass. In his will, made on 24 July 1467 and proved on 5 October 1468, Byrkhede requested to be buried in the chancel, and his brass still lies there, in its original stone, though usually covered by a carpet. He appointed as...read more
I didn’t know there were pirates in Oxfordshire
July's brass of the month has represented two different families.
I was once told by a former tutor that the best thing to do when visiting a parish church is to take up the carpet to see what’s underneath. Ever since these words of advice I have done just that and on more than one occasion I have been delighted to find some real gems hidden away. One such brass is to Walter Curson, gentleman, (d. 1527) and Isabel, his wife, hidden away in the parish church of St Mary the Virgin, Waterperry,...read more
April's brass of the month commemorates a leading citizen of Norwich.
Two recent events brought this brass to mind; the announcement that the Monumental Brass Society conference is taking place in Norfolk this year and the chance purchase of a book on Norfolk Silver. 1
Here is Peter Rede depicted as a knight in armour on his memorial brass in St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich. He is shown as a knight of c.1470, however he died in 1568. The engraver has taken the request for a design of an earlier style of armour too far and has used a model from 100...read more
June's brass of the month is part of a major sixteenth century monument.
Edward III founded the Most Noble Order of the Garter in 1349, with St George as its patron saint. On his brass at Hever, Kent, Sir Thomas Bullen (1538) wears the full insignia of the Order, including the collar of garters. From the fifteenth century onwards, Gartered knights encircled their shields with the Garter in their achievements of arms.
The example of a Gartered shield illustrated here is to be found on the tomb of George Talbot, Fourth Earl of Shrewsbury, who also died in 1538, and is...read more
March's brass of the month is is in its third church, all at Hindolveston in Norfolk.
On Sunday 31 July 1892, the nave of the church of St George at Hindolveston, Norfolk, was demolished when the eastern half of the tower fell on it. Until a temporary church was set up, the parish used the chancel for worship. It wasn't until 1932 that a new church was opened. The new church, while obviously a twentieth century building from the outside, reused a significant amount of the fabric of the old one inside. Among the items rescued was the memorial to...read more
February's brass of the month is from St Nicholas at Wade in Kent.
This brass lies in the north chapel of the church of St Nicholas at St Nicholas at Wade, on the Isle of Thanet in Kent. What immediately strikes one is the very odd placing of the main figures above the inscription. The first clue as to the reason for this is to be found in the inscription which reads:
Here lyeth buried ye Bodyes of Valontyne Edvarod Gentylman who had tooread more
wifes Agnes and Joane by Agnes he had iiii sonnes & too daughters and also
January's brass of the month is part of a larger monument at Blénod-lès-Toul in France.
The village of Blénod-lès-Toul (Meurthe-et-Moselle) is one that often falls outside the tourist route along the A4 autoroute, which heads from the glories of Champagne eastwards to the sophistications of Alsace. Yet this village is notable today not only as a centre of good wine production but also for its remarkable early-Renaissance style church, which is a legacy from Hugues des Hazards, bishop of Toul 1506-17.
Hugues himself consecrated the church in 1512. It was an example of a new conception of church building as a...read more
December's brass of the month is a mural panel from Cottisford in Oxfordshire.
This happy little family group has never been illustrated in print, and in many ways is typical of the smaller brasses of the early sixteenth century. With eight sons and five daughters, the household must have been a noisy one. Unfortunately the inscription has long been lost, and there is no record of its wording, but the likely attribution is to John Samwell, who was lessee of the Manor from 1469 to 1505, though it could conceivably be his son Robert, who died in 1515. The dexter...read more
The brass for November features another example attributed to Edward Marshall (July 2006: John Eldred, Great Saxham, Suffolk, 1632), but laid down to a very different character.
Samuel Harsnett (1561-1631) was born at Colchester, the son of William and Agnes Haselnoth; he had changed his name to Harsnett by the time he went up to Cambridge in 1579; he was ordained five years later. In 1587 he became master of the grammar school at Colchester, where he had probably been educated, but left teaching in 1589 to return to the university. He was appointed master of Pembroke College in 1605,...read more
October brings us a brass where the figure is very much subservient to the heraldry - the number of shields on the plate totals twenty-seven.
There is still much to surprise the student of monumental brasses in the less visited parts of the English countryside. The brass of Margaret, wife of John Lambart (or Lambert), at Pinchbeck in Lincolnshire, with its extensive gilding and painting, is a case in point. Although listed by Mill Stephenson, it escaped notice in the Lincolnshire church notes compiled in the seventeenth century by Holles and in the nineteenth century by Monson (Lincolnshire Record Society,...read more
September's brass of the month is the first to show a brass to a king and queen. Surprisingly only four monumental brasses survive which commemorate royalty. Two can be found in England with one each in Germany and Denmark.
The English examples comprise a curious half-effigy at Wimborne Minster, Dorset, which depicts St Ethelred, King of the West Saxons (died in 871 although the brass was not engraved until c.1440), wearing a crown and holding a sceptre. The other English example, in Peterborough Cathedral, is a rather battered inscription engraved at the end of the 18th century, to Queen Catherine...read more
This attractive brass lies on the Sanctuary floor in Denham parish church on the north side of the altar. It shows Dame Agnes in conventual dress, consisting of a long gown tied with a girdle, a veil, wimple and cloak. She was Abbess of the Bridgettine Convent of Syon at Isleworth, which had been founded by Henry V in 1415. The house was dissolved by order of Henry VIII in 1539, and Agnes was given a generous pension of two hundred pounds a year.
The inscription reads:-
Of your charity pray for the soule/read more
of Dame Agnes Jordan sometyme/