- Date of Brass:
On the south side of the chancel of the church of St Nicholas in Dereham is a brass shield set on an older Purbeck slab. In Blomefield's History of Norfolk, this is associated with an inscription, thus:
On a brass this imperfect epitaph, in memory of ____ Aquila.
Alta petens Aquila istac jam conditur aula :
Qui manet precibus justorum gaudia lucis,
Hic rexit ternis viginti da - - - - - - - annis,
Iuce sepultus ea fuerat dran ------- te Maria,
Anno Milleno D'ni quingentenoque trino.
Under it on a shield a chevron, and in base an eagle with a label inscribed,
Benedictus Deus in donis ejus,
Orate p. aia Joh'nis Paynter qui ob. 1526.
The last line seems to refer to another later and unrelated inscription on the same slab, since lost.
A member of the Archaeological Institute writing a piece entitled A Pilgrimage to Walsingham 31 July 1847 for The Gentleman's Magazine rubbed the shield and thought the eagle (aquilla in the lost inscription) was a duck. It clearly has webbed feet. Herbert Haines thought it might commemorate Henry Edyal, rector, who presented Roger Balkewell as vicar in 1503, but the rectory of Dereham was a sinecure, the rector, often an important cleric, taking the tithes and appointing a vicar. Henry Edyall was archdeacon of Rochester, Master of the College of Arundel and a prebendary of more than one diocese. He died in August 1520 and his executors took John Snellynge to the Star Chamber for taking the tithe corn at East Dereham that should have belonged to Edyall's estate. From the date of burial, 1503, on the missing inscription, later writers have associated it with John Goose, vicar, who succeeded John Kelyng in 1479 and was himself succeeded by Roger Balkewell in 1503, presented by Edyall. Kelyng has his own brass on the next slab west, a small half-effigy and inscription in the Norwich 1 style. Goose had been presented by Richard Sherbourn, then rector. Goose's brass was identified by Roger Greenwood as in the Norwich 2 style, which came to an end in 1497. Given the difficulty of interpreting style from such a small number of letters on the scroll, which actually has a couple more letters than the above transcript gives, although the whole is heavily abbreviated, the clear bifurcation of the tops of the letter t may indicate an early Norwich 6 brass. The full phrase is With this Benedictus deus in donis suis, the Latin translating 'Blessed is God in his gifts'. The missing inscription referred to a high-flying eagle who reigned for twenty three years (ternis viginti), the latter compatible with the period of Goose's incumbency, 1479-1503, assuming dates late in the former year and early in the latter year. What is not apparent is why the inscription was imperfect. Was it in worn raised lettering? And why would Goose be referred to as an eagle?
There is little sign in the middle of the slab on which the brass now lies that it had been used for other plates of brass but there is on each side one clear indent of a Lombardic letter. That on the north side is an R but the lack of other clear indents of letters suggests that the slab has been worn down by heavy foot traffic in a place where it would have been trodden on much more frequently than in its present position against the south wall of the chancel and that the clear indents were always deeper than those of the lost letters.
John Goose was also the rector of nearby Yaxham to which he was presented in 1496 by the Abbot of Wendling. It seems likely that he had previously been rector of Gimmimgham, also in Norfolk. n 1490 he and a Dereham draper were sued for debt in the Court of Common Pleas while in 1495 he and two other executors of John Kylvyngton of East Dereham, bailiff of the bishop of Ely, sued three men from Wisbech and West Walton for debt in the same court. He gave a house in Baxter Row and three inclosures to the town of Dereham.
Copyright@ Jon Bayliss
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