Monumental Brass Society

Mary Howard

Date of Brass:
1638
Place:
Firle
County:
Sussex
Country:
Number:
VII
Style:
London

Description

December 2021

In the mid sixteenth-century, the making of monumental brasses in London was still in the hands of native English craftsmen, members of the Marblers Company but in the latter third of that century control of the design, if not always the execution, of brasses had passed to immigrants from the Low Countries or their English-born sons. This was still the case during the first 15-20 years of the next century but in years following craftsmen with English backgrounds were designing and making brasses, as evidenced by the signatures of Edward Marshall, Francis Grigs and Epiphanius Evesham on a very few of their respective products. All three produced them as a sideline to their main products, sculptured monuments in alabaster, marble and freestone. It is only comparatively recently that other names have joined them as evidence has emerged to identify John Christmas and Thomas Stanton as including brasses among their wider monumental output. Nicholas Stone, the foremost monumental mason of the day, produced a single documented brass and one of his most important rivals, William Wright of Charing Cross, can still only be identified as a designer, if not maker of brasses, from a few examples that display the upper and lower case scripts that he employed on his sculptured monuments. Others are yet to be identified, as the following example indicates.

The shrouded figure of Mary Howard, died 1638/9, at Firle, Sussex, is laid in a slab of black Belgian marble, the stone of choice for brasses at this period. Like a number of other brasses of the time, Mary's figure is not cut out in the normal English manner of the medieval period and beyond but is centred on a shaped plate with an rectangular outline to the shoulders then curving in and adding a semi-circle around the head and the top-knot of the shroud. The designer of the brass also used the same shape of outline to enclose the rather broader figure of Robert Chambers, shown standing on a tiled floor dressed in a cloak, at Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire, He died in 1638, four year after the death of John King, whose similar brass at Southminster, Essex, has sides sloping out towards the base. These brasses can also be connected by the lettering, with particular characteristics shared between them. As with inscriptions on sculptural monuments, the design of the lettering and the layout were things that was not going to be left to the individual workman that engraved them but were integral parts of the whole, meaning that, as with lettering styles on medieval brasses, the lettering can be used to identify individual masters of workshops who were in control of every aspect of their products. The scope for such individuality was reduced but not eliminated by the general use of Roman capital letters and details such as serif shapes on particular letters play a part. Numbers in dates may also play a role here. Brasses that are inscription plates only, or inscriptions with heraldry can be linked, such as that of Jane, wife of Gregory Cole, at Aston Rowant, Oxfordshire. Jane died in 1643. A few other figure brasses, but cut out as per the English norm, also seem to be the work of the same designer and date from the 1630s and early 1640s, including Anne Bedingfield, died 1642, Darsham, Suffolk, and Jarrate Harvye, died 1638, and his wife at Cardington, Bedfordshire. The figure designs are rather variable in quality but the lettering of the inscriptions is consistent.

Mary Howard was a member of a more prominent family than most of the others who were commemorated by brasses from this workshop. Her inscription reads:

HERE LYETH THE BODY OF MARY HOWARD

DAVGHTER OF WILLIAM LORD EVRE SHE DIED

AT FIRLE THE 28TH. OF IANUARIER ANNO DNI: 1638

AGED 36 YEARES WHEN SHE HAD BENNE MARIED

18 YEARES WANTING A QVARTER TO SR WILLIAM

HOWARD ELDEST SONNE TO SR PHILIPP HOWARD

SONNE & HEIRE TO YE LORD WILLIAM HOWARD

YONGEST SONNE TO THE DVKE OF NORFOLKE

Despite the similarity of the treatment of her figure to that of Ann Tyrell at Stowmarket, Suffolk, the differences in the lettering styles suggests a different workshop, that of Thomas Stanton of Holborn being the likely maker of the Tyrell brass. The identification of the maker of the Howard brass remains a question to be settled by further research.

 

Copyright: Jon Bayliss

Type

December 2021

In the mid sixteenth-century, the making of monumental brasses in London was still in the hands of native English craftsmen, members of the Marblers Company but in the latter third of that century control of the design, if not always the execution, of brasses had passed to immigrants from the Low Countries or their English-born sons. This was still the case during the first 15-20 years of the next century but in years following craftsmen with English backgrounds were designing and making brasses, as evidenced by the signatures of Edward Marshall, Francis Grigs and Epiphanius Evesham on a very few of their respective products. All three produced them as a sideline to their main products, sculptured monuments in alabaster, marble and freestone. It is only comparatively recently that other names have joined them as evidence has emerged to identify John Christmas and Thomas Stanton as including brasses among their wider monumental output. Nicholas Stone, the foremost monumental mason of the day, produced a single documented brass and one of his most important rivals, William Wright of Charing Cross, can still only be identified as a designer, if not maker of brasses, from a few examples that display the upper and lower case scripts that he employed on his sculptured monuments. Others are yet to be identified, as the following example indicates.

The shrouded figure of Mary Howard, died 1638/9, at Firle, Sussex, is laid in a slab of black Belgian marble, the stone of choice for brasses at this period. Like a number of other brasses of the time, Mary's figure is not cut out in the normal English manner of the medieval period and beyond but is centred on a shaped plate with an rectangular outline to the shoulders then curving in and adding a semi-circle around the head and the top-knot of the shroud. The designer of the brass also used the same shape of outline to enclose the rather broader figure of Robert Chambers, shown standing on a tiled floor dressed in a cloak, at Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire, He died in 1638, four year after the death of John King, whose similar brass at Southminster, Essex, has sides sloping out towards the base. These brasses can also be connected by the lettering, with particular characteristics shared between them. As with inscriptions on sculptural monuments, the design of the lettering and the layout were things that was not going to be left to the individual workman that engraved them but were integral parts of the whole, meaning that, as with lettering styles on medieval brasses, the lettering can be used to identify individual masters of workshops who were in control of every aspect of their products. The scope for such individuality was reduced but not eliminated by the general use of Roman capital letters and details such as serif shapes on particular letters play a part. Numbers in dates may also play a role here. Brasses that are inscription plates only, or inscriptions with heraldry can be linked, such as that of Jane, wife of Gregory Cole, at Aston Rowant, Oxfordshire. Jane died in 1643. A few other figure brasses, but cut out as per the English norm, also seem to be the work of the same designer and date from the 1630s and early 1640s, including Anne Bedingfield, died 1642, Darsham, Suffolk, and Jarrate Harvye, died 1638, and his wife at Cardington, Bedfordshire. The figure designs are rather variable in quality but the lettering of the inscriptions is consistent.

Mary Howard was a member of a more prominent family than most of the others who were commemorated by brasses from this workshop. Her inscription reads:

HERE LYETH THE BODY OF MARY HOWARD

DAVGHTER OF WILLIAM LORD EVRE SHE DIED

AT FIRLE THE 28TH. OF IANUARIER ANNO DNI: 1638

AGED 36 YEARES WHEN SHE HAD BENNE MARIED

18 YEARES WANTING A QVARTER TO SR WILLIAM

HOWARD ELDEST SONNE TO SR PHILIPP HOWARD

SONNE & HEIRE TO YE LORD WILLIAM HOWARD

YONGEST SONNE TO THE DVKE OF NORFOLKE

Despite the similarity of the treatment of her figure to that of Ann Tyrell at Stowmarket, Suffolk, the differences in the lettering styles suggests a different workshop, that of Thomas Stanton of Holborn being the likely maker of the Tyrell brass. The identification of the maker of the Howard brass remains a question to be settled by further research.

 

Copyright: Jon Bayliss

  • © Monumental Brass Society (MBS) 2022
  • Registered Charity No. 214336