Monumental Brass Society

Edward Naylor

Date of Brass:


November 2007
November's brass of the month is illustrated from a century-old rubbing.
This brass is illustrated from a rubbing in a large portfolio that will be on its way to the Society's archive in Birmingham shortly. The portfolio was put together by Julia Warde-Aldam of Hooton Pagnell Hall in Yorkshire and mostly comprises rubbings made some years before World War I by Julia and other members of her family.
The only person named on the brass is Edward Naylor, rector of Bigby. His education and clerical career is summarized by Venn: he matriculated as a sizar at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in 1604, and was awarded his degrees as BA in 1607-8 and MA in 1611. He was master of Gainsborough School, Lincoln, and was ordained a priest in March 1616-7. He was rector of Somerby, Lincolnshire from 1622 to 1632 but the grant of administration of his estate in 1632 places him at Bigby. The only other information Venn had was that Naylor was 'of Lincolnshire'.
Fortunately, entries from the parish registers at Bigby have been extracted to form part of the International Genealogical Index (IGI) and give the dates of baptism of two sons and five daughters, exactly as depicted on the brass. In baptismal order, they are Elizabeth, 28 May 1619, Alice, 27 August 1621, James, 22 April 1623, Anne, January 1624(/5?), Lucie, 20 March 1626(/7?), Frances, 12 March 1628(/9?) and John, 27 December 1630. Their ages appear to be reflected in the different sizes they have on the brass. Their mother is not named in these entries but she was probably Ann Sutcliffe, who married an Edward Naylor at Toft-next-Newton, a few miles south of Bigby, on 7 July 1618, little more than ten months before Elizabeth was baptised.
Calling Edward Naylor a painful minister, as the inscription does, is a description he shared with other contemporary members of the clergy. Another instance on brass is at North Luffenham in Rutland, where Robert Johnson, a painful preacher, is commemorated. Johnson, the founder of Oakham and Uppingham schools, died in 1625, although the brass gives no date. 'Painstaking' has replaced this meaning of 'painful' in the English language. While the fact that he was rector of both Somerby and Bigby might suggest a pluralist whose lifestyle could have been at odds with the conscientiousness suggested by the inscription, the churches are only a few minutes walk apart and Somerby is often referred to as Somerby by Bigby.
Naylor's brass is of particular interest as it can be identified as the work of one of the most interesting sculptors of the early Stuart and Commonwealth period, William Wright of Charing Cross.
The 3 of 1632, the 5 of 25 and the capital R of Rector in the main inscription are indicative of Wright's work, as is much of the lettering of the Latin lines above the figures.
Wright was a member of the Haberdashers' Company of London and not a mason by training. He may have relied on a journeyman in his workshop whose own training had included engraving brasses to execute his designs in that medium, as he does not appear to have made any brasses in the earlier part of his career. He may have been chosen to make Naylor's brass because he had recently been working in the same area of Lincolnshire, making the monument of Sir William Pelham at Brocklesby, which he contracted to complete in 1630.
Other brasses that share the characteristics of Wright's lettering styles include those to Elizabeth Bligh, died 1635, at Finchampstead, Berkshire, Sir George Ivy, at Bath Abbey, probably from around 1640, Richard Duke, died 1641, and Sarah Duke, died 1641/2, both at Otterton, Devon, and Arthur, the infant son of Philip, Lord Wharton, died 1642, at Wooburn, Buckinghamshire. Also from this period is the incised slab of Elizabeth Havers, died 1634, at Stockerton, Leicestershire, which may well be Wright's masterpiece in the field of engraved memorials.

Copyright: Jon Bayliss

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