Monumental Brass Society

Elizabeth Furlong

Date of Brass:


September 2022

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

Dittisham gen et fame de

Francois Fvrlong le filz

de Francois Fvrlong de

Loddeswell gen qvi a

este ensevely le j5 me

jovre de novembre



Here also is placed the body

of Elizabeth Furlong, the

daughter of Thomas Tawley of

Dittisham, gent, and wife of

Francis Furlong, the son

of Francis Furlong, gent, who

was buried the 15th

day of November



To take the last question first, there were two gentlemen of Dittisham named Thomas Tawley. One made his will in July 1613, leaving a wife Eleanor and a number of children, of whom another Thomas was the eldest son and executor, proving the will in February 1613/4. The elder Thomas had no daughter named Elizabeth but there was an as yet unborn child to whom he left two hundred pounds. The heralds’ visitation of Devon in 1620 shows Elizabeth aged eight, ten years younger than her sister Mary, the only daughter mentioned in the will, alongside Thomas, aged 24, Ambrose, aged 21 and Arthur, aged 12. While Ambrose and Arthur also appeared in the will, their brother Anthony had evidently died between 1614 and 1620. Thomas, the eldest son was married to Margaret Ellacott/Elliott of Exeter. It was presumably this Thomas Tawley who made his will on 18th February 1654/5, naming his brother-in-law Sampson Wise and Sampson’s son Thomas as executors. It was proved by Sampson almost a year later on 15th February 1655/6. This Thomas Tawley named no relations other than the children of Sampson Wise. The will of Francis Furlonge of Stoke-in-Teignhead was made in May 1653 and proved two years later. In it he named a number of children, making Edward, John and Roger his executors. His wife Joan was left all his plate and then to Edward after her. She was also left all the goods she brought with her to pass on as she wished and the six pounds that his son owed him. It was presumably this Francis who was the husband of Elizabeth and the older children were presumably hers. The sums of money mentioned in all three wills indicates that both the Tawleys and Furlong were well off.

Why is the brass in French? There seems to be no indication that Elizabeth or any of the Tawleys or Furlongs were of immediate French extraction. It is possible that the brass was made in France. The plate is domed, something that it has in common with some French inscription brasses. There are examples at Aix-en-Othe (Champagne-Ardenne), commemorating Marguerite Courtois, who died in 1684, and at Couterange (Champagne) to Claude Contant and Nicolle Large, who both died in the early 1690s. Both are oval and domed but later then the brass of Elizabeth Furlong, as are other examples from 1700 onwards. The Musée Crozatier in Le Puy-en-Velay (Haute-Loire) has a number of eighteenth-century heart-shaped copper plates commemorating royal heart burials in the abbey of Val-de-Grâce. The Musée d’Antiquités in Rouen (Seine-Inférieur) has a heart shaped inscription of 1789.

The heart shape of the plate perhaps indicates the love that Elizabeth’s husband had for her, for the inscription makes clear that her whole body was buried. The word ‘aussi’ suggests that there may have been related memorials, perhaps to infant children of the couple or to one or more of Francis Furlong’s parents. The latter is likely as Elizabeth’s inscription refers to Francis’s father.

The plate has symbols of mortality at the top, namely an hourglass resting on a spade and a scythe on one side and a skull and cross bones with another scythe on the other. A running leaf decoration embellishes the edges of the heart. At the lowest point of the heart is a winged heart pierced by an arrow. The plate is currently fixed to a tiled floor and has lost any former context that it originally possessed and leaves a number of questions unanswered.

Text: © Jon Bayliss

Photograph: © Dr Helen Wilson

Rubbing: Lack, Stuchfield and Whittemore, The Monumental Brasses of Devonshire

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