Monumental Brass Society

.John Bartelot and wife Joan de Stopham

Date of Brass:


August 2008 

August's contribution is a brass that was engraved engraved c. 1467, c. 1630 and c. 1850.

The remarkable collection of brasses at Stopham, near Pulborough in Sussex, deserves a full and detailed account, but this one is offered as a sample of the difficulties in store when it comes to disentangling just when, why and by whom the Stopham brasses were made. The series of brasses to the ruling family runs from 1428 to 1977 (so far), although there was a period between the late seventeenth and mid nineteenth centuries when they were commemorated by inscribed marble tablets instead of brasses. The name has mutated, from Bertlot to Bartelot, Bartellot and Barttelot de Stopham, to (briefly) Smyth before becoming Barttelot Smyth, then Smyth Barttelot, before progressing to Barttelot Barttelot, and eventually de Stopham Barttelot Barttelot, Bart. It is always pronounced “Bartlet”. Over the centuries, the brasses and other monuments were not often made immediately on the death of the principals but in batches, catching up on two or three generations together, and they were continually being improved and repaired.

This brass represents the first alliance of the Bartelot and Stopham families, and in its original form consisted of the figures of a man in civilian dress, with his good wife, over an inscription in Gothic minuscule. This in itself was rather unusually worded, in flowery language but not in verse. It reads:
Illustrissimi quo(n)dam Thome Comitis Arundellie hospicii Thesaurarius Joh(ann)es Bartelot hic requiescit / humatus cu(m) uxore sua Johanna quo(n)dam Will(elm)i de Stopham filia qui quidem Joh(ann)es Anno domini / Mo CCCCo xxviijo sexto die Februarii diem suu(m) clausit extremu(m) quor(um) animab(us) propiciet(ur) deus Amen.
(Once the Treasurer of the Hospice to the most illustrious Thomas, Earl of Arundel, John Bartellot lies here buried, with his wife Joan, daughter of William de Stopham; the said John concluded his final day on the sixth of February, 1428/9; on whoser souls God have mercy.)

Although dated 1428, it is clear that there is something seriously wrong with the costume and lettering. Mill Stephenson thought it was engraved c 1460, but Robin Emmerson was more precise placing it in the “sub-B” series around 1467-9.1 It was clearly commissioned at the same time as the brass to the next generation of Barttelots, dated 1453, rather later than that to the next generation again, dated and made in 1462. The London “sub-B” series represents a disruption in the “B” workshop following the death of the master, before a new master took charge and developed the “F” style. Using elements from more than one series, the engravers tended to engraved lightly but delicately. The details, for instance of the lady’s dog, are fine, but difficult to see.

   1. R. Emmerson, “Monumental Brasses: London Design c. 1420-85” in Journal of the British Archaeological Association, CXXXI (1978), pp. 50-78.

But there is more: even the most casual observer cannot help noticing that the two children on the plate below are in costumes of the reign of Charles I. They, and the two shields, were added by the workshop of Edward Marshall, based off Fleet Street, in about 1630. At the same time, probably, the brass was relaid in a slab of Petworth marble, a knobbly shell-packed limestone which was not used for laying brasses until the late 16th century when the Purbeck beds were worked out. Nearly all the earlier Stopham brasses were improved and relaid at this date, doubtless on the orders of the current squire, Walter Barttelot (1585-1640). Complicated heraldry, and groups of children were provided to give artitistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bold and unconvincing pedigree, drawn up by one of the imaginative heralds of the period, which traces the family to the Norman Conquest and gives them posthumous armigeral status from the beginning. Stained glass was also provided to complete the illusion.

A third phase of engraving produced the absurd little head on the man’s figure. Stephenson thought it was late 17th-century, but it is shown missing on the drawing by Sir William Burrell made in the 1770s (as is the similarly idiosyncratic head on the brass to the younger John of 1453).2 No rubbings earlier than the mid-nineteenth century have been found to corroborate this, but it seems clear that the head was missing by the eighteenth century. The Stopham brasses were protected by the family, and at no period suffered deliberate damage, but by the mid nineteenth century various small parts had become lost, and an unknown engraver perpetrated the necessary restorations, probably at the orders of the first Baronet, Sir Walter (1820-93). It is not clear why Stephenson thought the figures were “partly recut” at the same time: it does n ot look like it on the plates as they are now.

  2. British Museum Library Add MS. 5699, fo. 120v.

This brass is therefore a monument to family loyalty, for three different heads of the family took care over the commemoration of an ancestor none of them had ever met. No other family in England have been so consistently careful of their ancestral monuments.

Jerome Bertram

Copyright: Jerome Bertram

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