Portfolio of Brasses
Each month we feature an article about a brass of particular interest.
If you would like to submit an article for this feature please contact:
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...
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
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
Most of Charles de Gaulle airport north-east of Paris is in the commune of Roissy-en-France, and both airport and commune are usually called just Roissy. The qualifying 'en-France' indicates Roissy's location in the Ile-de-France rather than the country as a whole. The church has a splendid Renaissance chancel and retains a number of incised slabs. The four remaining effigial slabs now line the walls of the chancel. Among them is that commemorating Gabriel Pluyette, a member of a family whose monuments can be found elsewhere in the area, at Le Mesnil-Aubry and Fontenay-sous-Louvres. Ferdinard de Guilhermy chose to illustrate...read more
The prominence given to the two great periods of destruction that monumental brasses suffered in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries often masks the further losses that came about through neglect in the eighteenth century and church restorations in the nineteenth. As illustrations of the latter two periods of loss, Suffolk has examples of the loss of life size early fourteenth century figures from Letheringham and Oulton. The effigy of the rector Sir Adam de Bacon at Oulton, stolen in 1857, survived long enough to be rubbed, so that a modern replica has taken its place, but that of...read more
May 2009read more
Dorothy Brewster was the daughter of Sir Thomas Jocelyn of Willingale Doe. She was in her mid-twenties when she died on 27 June 1613 and was buried some three weeks later at Willingale Doe amongst her Jocelyn relations. Her husband was Thomas Brewster of the Middle Temple. When Thomas was admitted to the Middle Temple in 1603, he was described as Mr. Thomas Brewster, late of New Inn, gent., son and heir-apparent of John Brewster of the Middle Temple, esquire. He was bound to his father and Humfrey Brewster, the latter being the second son of Humfrey Brewster,...
On Palm Sunday 1942 the historic centre of Lübeck was devastated by RAF bombers. The three most prominent churches – the Cathedral, the Marienkirche and the Petrikirche – were extensively damaged and numerous art works were lost. At the Petrikirche the important Flemish brass of Johann Clingenberg (d. 1356) was reduced to a few scraps. Among the many treasures lost at the Marienkirche were the Dance of Death paintings by Bernt Notke, virtually all the choir screen, both of the historic organs used by Buxtehude, and a multitude of funerary monuments. The Flemish brass of Tydeman Berck was...read more
In 1965 I was between jobs, and was re-training in Bangor to become a teacher. Wales is not rich in brasses, but when my closest friend from university days, Malcolm Norris, heard where I was going, he asked if I could try to get him rubbings of some of the half-dozen brasses at Llanrwst in what then was still Denbighshire. So we made that village our destination for a family outing. The sexton was friendly, but said I might find it difficult to rub the brasses as several were now mounted in wooden frames on the wall. Sure enough,...read more
February’s brass shows a figure in academic dress.
Surlingham is on the south bank of the River Yare, a few miles east of Norwich. It formerly had two churches. That dedicated to St Saviour was treated as a chapel even though it should have enjoyed full parish status. It was abandoned in the early eighteenth in favour of St Mary’s.
John Alnwik was nominated as vicar of St Mary’s by his kinsman, William Alnwik, bishop of Norwich from 1426 to 1436. John was a fellow of New College, Oxford, by 1426 and bursar of the college in 1427-8. He was presumably...read more
January’s brass is one of many now anonymous memorials.
Not all brasses are large and magnificent memorials representing the rich and powerful. Many are relatively small and apparently insignificant but represent a cross section of middle-class England; the small trader, yeoman, craftsmen and so on. Sometimes even their identity does not remain in either the brass or in other records.
One such is this unknown civilian, now mounted on a block of Iroko wood and bolted to the North Wall of St Mary¹s Church, Godmanchester, Huntingdonshire. It is one of relatively few brasses remaining in the county of Cromwell.
December’s brass is one members saw during the excursion to the Nene Valley earlier this year.
The Bacon family is usually associated with East Anglia but a branch was established in Northamptonshire by Edward Bacon, who was descended from the Bacons of Hessett in Suffolk, in the early seventeenth century. Edward's eldest son, Thomas, was recorded in the heralds' visitation of Northamptonshire in 1618 as seventeen years old. Eight years later, he had a monument with a brass erected to his wife, who died on 29 January 1626 (or 1627 by modern reckoning). The brass is evidently of London manufacture,...read more
November’s brass combines a shrouded effigy with a long verse epitaph.
The practice of engraving the deceased in a burial shroud draws attention to the frailty of man. This sombre message is reinforced in the closing words of the inscription on this poignant brass commemorating Ann Tyrell (1638) at Stowmarket, Suffolk:
“And (by her early gravity, appearing
full ripe for God, by serving and by fearing)
to teach the old, to fixe on him their trust,
before their bodies shall returne to dust.”
We only catch a glimpse of the face of Ann who died at the tender age...read more
The Much Married Spycer of Cirencester: the brass of Reginald Spycer (d. 1442)
The parish church of St John the Baptist, Cirencester, contains a number of remarkable monumental brasses from the fifteenth century.1 Together with St Peter and St Paul, Northleach, and St James, Chipping Camden, Cirencester forms part of the ‘triumvirate’ of wool churches in the Cotswolds. The wealth of these churches is not only reflected in the magnificent architectural features but also in the extent of the funerary commemoration of the parishioners, in the form of brasses, within them.2
1. I am grateful to Martin Stuchfield, Rupert...read more