- Date of Brass:
- Birmingham (Handsworth)
For the new year we have a new departure for the brass of the month feature – a Victorian revival brass, though sadly it is one that no longer survives. It was formerly in St. Mary's Convent, Handsworth, Birmingham.
The craft of memorial brass design and manufacture was revived during the nineteenth century largely through the efforts of the architect Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-52). But the revival was only possible because in 1837 he met John Hardman who ran a button-making business in Birmingham and who shared Pugin's passion for everything medieval. Together they designed and made every conceivable item of church metal work, including memorial brasses. Hardman was also a staunch Roman Catholic and formed a choir at St. Chad's Cathedral to sing Gregorian Chant. The splendid scroll above his head on the brass is a reference to this, with the words 'Domine, dilexi decorum Domus tuae et locum habitationis gloriae tuae' (Psalm 26:8).
Hardman also founded the convent of the Sisters of Mercy at Handsworth, opposite the house where he lived. When he died in 1867, although buried in St. Chad's Cathedral Crypt, he was commemorated by this brass in St. Mary's Convent, which sadly was destroyed in war-time bombing.
Fortunately a rubbing of the brass exists in the Hardman archive in Birmingham, and the Index of Memorial Brasses records details of the commission as follows:
Date Name Place Description Stone Size
1868 John Hardman St. Mary's Convent Kneeling figure and Black marble 2ft 5ins by
Handsworth, inscription 1ft 6 ins
Hardman is shown kneeling wearing his cantor's cape, with a line of plainchant on the scroll above. There is a similar depiction of him in the bottom left-hand corner of the Immaculate Conception Window in St. Chad's Cathedral. He died aged 55, worn out by his prodigious efforts to effect the revival of the 'true Gothic religion' in England, along with A.W.N. Pugin.
If you want to know more about the Hardman family, the Archdiocese of Birmingham has produced a booklet The Pugins and the Hardmans by Brian Doolan (2004). For a detailed account of Pugin's revival of brasses see AWN Pugin and the Revival of Memorial Brasses by David Meara (1991).
© David Meara
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