Monumental Brass Society

Katherine Franckleyn

Date of Brass:


June 2005

All the brasses and incised slabs so far featured in Brass of the Month have been of figures and it is these “pictures” that tend to make brasses popular. However, they are not even half the story. Over 50% of surviving brasses dating from the 13th to the beginning of the 18th century have no effigy. They are either an heraldic shield with an inscription, or simply an inscription. When the large number of indents of lost inscriptions is taken into consideration, the percentage probably exceeds 60%. Furthermore, with the study of brasses now extending through the Victorian age, which saw the revival of the use of brasses as memorials, and on into the 20th century, inscriptions far out-number effigies in the total population of brasses.

So perhaps it is time to look at an inscription brass, though admittedly one that is far from run of the mill.

This brass from Sturry, Kent, commemorates Katherine Franckleyn who died in 1552 and is a double acrostic, i.e., the first and last letters of each line, when read downwards, spell out the first and last name of the deceased. It reads, with key letters stressed:

Know this, O thow this worlde, that holdst so lyeF
As flowers that vade, thy tyme, doth passe, and weaR
And, though thow get, the treasures, of IndiA
To the earth, yet shalt thow, leave them ageiN
Have in mynde, now then, thy baylywike alaC
Er tyme untimeliche+, tourne the on the bacK
Remember I say, the powre*, and the miserabL
In this transitorye lif, as thow art ablE
Nought hither brought yu nought, hens mayst yu carY
Ensured to the, loe thus, is thy gayN
+untimelike: *powre = poor

The necessity for both first and last letters of the line to conform does not make for easy poetry, and Katherine has perforce gained an extra A to match the number of letters in Franckleyn. The errant use of the comma also obscures the meaning. The general sense of the verses is a common theme. The reader must heed the message that he comes into the world with nothing and, no matter what treasures he acquires in life, he will depart this world with nothing. Therefore he must look after the poor and less fortunate if he is to gain grace.

So that the subtlety of the name is not missed the marginal inscription gives the clue:

The Bodye that here lyeth buried in tombe / Dyed in ye yere of Christ M.Vclii

Whose name to knowe thow shalt full sone / Theis win yf thow reade deliberately

The brass was recorded by Mill Stephenson in the List of Monumental Brasses in the British Isles (1926) as being in the private possession of P.J. Thornhill of Staines but in 1954 it was returned to the church by his widow and is now mounted on a board in the nave. It was recorded in 1757 by Godfrey Faussett as being on the floor of the nave next to her husband Nicholas who died in 1577 and is also commemorated by a brass inscription. Their two slabs with indents for inscriptions are now on the floor of the tower. Katherine was named after her mother, Katherine Kingsford who married John Church and Katherine Church, who died in 1549, has an incised inscription on a slab now mural in the nave.

© Leslie Smith

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