Monumental Brass Society

Edmund Clere and his wife Elizabeth

Date of Brass:
Norwich 3


September 2008

September's brass commemorates a neighbour of the Paston family.

Stokesby is in the area known today as the Norfolk Broads. Nearby is Mautby, where Margaret Paston was buried in 1484 alongside her ancestors, and beyond Mautby are Caister and Ormesby. Ormesby was the seat of William Clere, Edmund’s grandfather. Edmund’s father Robert was a younger son, as was Edmund himself, but Edmund outlived his brothers, who died without heirs, and so inherited Stokesby from his father, who had been left it in his mother’s will. Edmund had a first cousin of the same name, a younger son of John, William Clere’s son and heir. This Edmund inherited the manor of Horning Hall in Caister from his mother. The two Edmunds can be found witnessing legal documents together in the 1450s, as Edmund Clere of Caister and Edmund Clere of Stokesby, esquires. Edmund of Caister died in 1463. Most of the dealings that the Pastons had with the Cleres were with the main Ormesby branch rather than the offshoots at Caister and Stokesby . In their letters, the Pastons and Cleres address each other as cousin.

The Edmund of this brass is referred to by Margaret Paston in 1460 as taking a letter from her to her husband John Paston in London. In 1465 John, writing from Fleet prison in London, urged Margaret to find out what bribes Edmund Clere had taken from outlawed men in his role as escheator for Norfolk and Suffolk. Edmund occupied this post for a year from November 1464. This was during the period that the Pastons were experiencing the difficulties that resulted from John Paston inheriting Caister Castle and other property from Sir John Fastolf. Edmund may have sided with Judge Yelverton, his elder half brother, who disputed Fastolf’s will. As escheator, Edmund’s duty was to hold an inquisition to establish whether the crown had any rights to land held by a recently deceased tenant and to seize the land for the crown unless it was clear there were no such rights.

Edmund married Elizabeth, the daughter of Thomas Charles of Loddon, Norfolk. They had a son, Robert, who married Elizabeth Brampton. Robert died before his father, leaving two sons, Edmund, who, as heir to his grandfather, was found to be six years old in 1489, and Thomas, to whom the elder Edmund’s lands eventually descended. Edmund sat on various commissions in Norfolk during the 1470s and 1480s. Late in life, Edmund and Elizabeth attempted to recover lands her father had granted to the Duke of Norfolk.

The brass is an early example of the Norwich 3 style, for which the glazier William Heyward is thought to have been responsible. Edmund’s figure, while similar in some respects to later effigies of armoured figures produced by the workshop has some distinctive features. Unlike the later brasses, he is shown wearing a sallet on his head. His chin and neck are protected by a bevor and his elbow defences are larger than those shown on later brasses.

While Elizabeth’s effigy is similar to others from this workshop in respect of her dress, she differs in her style of head wear, abandoning the butterfly headdress in favour of a newer style, although it is shown with a much higher crown than those that followed. The letterpress that accompanied the later edition of Cotman’s Engravings of Sepulchral Brasses in Norfolk and Suffolk, draws attention to the letter Margaret Paston wrote to her husband John in 1453 following the Queen Margaret’s visit to Norwich. She reveals that she had felt obliged to borrow a necklace from her cousin Elizabeth Clere as she would have otherwise felt ashamed in the presence of the other gentlewomen there. The Elizabeth Clere to whom Margaret Paston refers would have been Elizabeth of Ormesby and the style of necklace worn in 1453 would have no doubt been more suited to the higher necklines of that period.


Copyright: Jon Bayliss

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