Monumental Brass Society

Geoffrey Boleyn

Date of Brass:


May 2011

This month we feature the brass to Geoffrey Boleyn (d. 1440) and his wife Alice. It originally also had tiny figures representing their 5 sons and 4 daughters, but the inlay is lost. The brass is at Salle, Norfolk. This exceptionally fine church boasts a large collection of surviving brasses, along with empty indents which have had the brass plates stolen from them. Amongst them is a brass to another member of the family, a priest, Simon Boleyn (d. 1482); others were commemorated at nearby Blickling, including Cecily Boleyn (d. 1458, age 10).

The Boleyn family settled in this area in the late thirteenth century, although there are only sporadic references to the first few men of that name. John Boleyn can be traced from 1333 to 1369, and from the manor court rolls it appears that his holdings were inherited by Thomas Boleyn, presumably his son. He married first Margaret, the widow of Richard Anabile of Salle, and secondly Agnes. In 1399 Thomas gave to his son Geoffrey one messuage in Salle, and the latter presumably inherited more property on his father’s death in 1411. By the time of his own death Geoffrey held 23 pieces of land in Stinton manor in Salle comprising 10 acres, as well as renting land in Nugoun’s manor. He was thus a tenant under a lord, making his living by farming.

Geoffrey Boleyn was relatively wealthy. He contributed to the church fabric, providing timber in 1408. In addition he and Alice gave to the church ‘1 hearse cloth of tapestry, with two cushions of the same set’. No further details of this gift are provided, but it would not be unusual for such a hearse cloth to display some indication of the donors, perhaps even an inscription naming them and asking for prayers for them. It would have been a carefully thought-out gift, designed to provide benefit to the donors as well as the church. It would have been used for all funerals.

Geoffrey and Alice were commemorated by a small but fine London-made brass. This too reinforced the status of the family. They also chose a burial site in the middle aisle of the nave, where many people would see the brass and hopefully pray for their souls as requested in the foot inscription. The monument would have formed part of a vista including the Rood in front of the chancel arch, where traces of a Doom painting were found in the early twentieth century. The message of the scroll, which reads in translation ‘God be merciful to us sinners’, links clearly to the imagery which would have been displayed above.


Copyright: Text: Sally Badham    Photos: C B Newham

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