Monumental Brass Society

Richard de Hakebourne

Date of Brass:
Merton College Chapel, Oxford


May 2020

The brass of Richard de Hakebourne has often been illustrated. It is an important and early brass. The chapel of Merton College had a number of floriated cross brasses of the fourteenth century but some of them have disappeared, so the survival of the figurative element of the Hakebourne memorial is very welcome. It is now the earliest monument in the chapel.

Hakebourne was a fellow of the college by 1296 and later served several times as sub-warden. He was the owner of a book now in the college library and donated two others. The inscription around the verge of the brass recorded that he was rector of Wolford in Warwickshire, a college living. All that is left of the brass now is Hakebourne's figure superimposed on the central part of a cross of which little is visible. The floriated ends of the arms of the cross have gone, as have the individual brass letters that made up the marginal inscription.

The brass is now in the north transept, probably constructed in 1419-25, but before 1671 the brass was recorded in the choir. A plan of the chapel was made by Anthony a Wood. This brass was then the northernmost of a row of slabs immediately west of the four steps leading to the high altar.

Also in the choir then were cross brasses of Richard de Campsale, who died between 1350 and 1360, and of Robert de Tring, d.1351. Both the latter brasses had small figures of the commemorated inside octofoil cross heads (Tring's figure survives), in contrast with Hakebourne's brass on which the most of the cross head is covered by his half effigy. The Hakebourne brass appears to be unique in this respect as other cross brasses of the period show the effigial elements representing the commemorated inside the cross head, either as small full-length figures or, as at Chinnor, Oxfordshire, as a head. The cross head at Chinnor is a single plate that incorporates the head of the priest, so other examples where the cross head is solid and sufficiently large may also have had heads in them.

The four missing ends of the cross arms would have made it clear that the half effigy was set on the cross head, as would the shaft of the cross. Where other cross brasses had half effigies, the figure was set above and separate from a shortened cross, as on the indents for the brasses of John de Lewes at Buxted in Sussex and that at Cranbook, Kent, thought to commemorate William de Meopham (d.1332).

It is impossible to say if the design of the cross head of the Hakebourne brass was ever repeated. However the half effigy is strongly related to an incised slab from Barking Abbey (now the parish church) that commemorates Martin, vicar, and the life-size full-length effigy of Adam de Bacon, stolen from Oulton in Suffolk in 1857. Details like the large protruding ears, the bushy hair and the distinctive treatment of the folds of the fabric under the armpits proclaim that all three were designed by the same marbler.

Adam de Bacon died in 1310, but it is likely that his figure was executed in the 1320s, as Martin was vicar of Barking until 1328. All three were products of the Camoys workshop.

Text copyright: Jon Bayliss


Alan Bott, The Monuments in Merton College Chapel (1964)

John Coales (ed), The Earliest English Brasses (1987)

Sally Badham & Malcolm Norris, Early Incised Slabs and Brasses from the London Marblers (1999)


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