Monumental Brass Society

John Samwell and wife

Date of Brass:


December 2006

December's brass of the month is a mural panel from Cottisford in Oxfordshire.

This happy little family group has never been illustrated in print, and in many ways is typical of the smaller brasses of the early sixteenth century. With eight sons and five daughters, the household must have been a noisy one. Unfortunately the inscription has long been lost, and there is no record of its wording, but the likely attribution is to John Samwell, who was lessee of the Manor from 1469 to 1505, though it could conceivably be his son Robert, who died in 1515. The dexter shield shows the arms of Samwell, silver, two squirrels addorsed gules, within a border, the sinister one must represent the wife’s family, but is unidentified; enough colour remains to show that it is gules, a lion rampant between three buckles argent, also within a border.

The prayer scrolls read:

His: Benedicam(us) p(at)rem et filiu(m) cu(m) s(an)c(t)o sp(iri)tu.

Hers: Laudem(us) et sup(er) exaltem(us) eu(m) in s(e)c(u)la.

Let us bless the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, let us praise him and exalt him for ever — the concluding doxology to the Benedicite or Song of the Three Children (Daniel .3:42-90 in the Vulgate) which was used at Lauds for the Office of the Dead (and on other occasions). The emblem missing from the top of the composition was thus undoubtedly a representation of the Holy Trinity.

The figures are 320 and 290 mm high, the slab 840 x 760 mm, probably Purbeck marble but it has been painted over.

© Jerome Bertram

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