Monumental Brass Society

Nicholas Byldysdon and wife Kateryn

Date of Brass:
Stamford, St John the Baptist
Fens 2


July 2019

The 1480s were a time of rapid change in the ruling circle of Stamford. The town was governed by twenty-five men, with an alderman at their head and two groups of twelve burgesses, the first and second twelve. Christopher Browne, a nephew of William Browne, founder of Browne's Hospital, and grandson of John Browne, merchant of the staple, was a member of the family that dominated fifteenth-century Stamford. He was made free in 1482, made a member of the first twelve without having served in the second twelve and became alderman at the end of the year, a very speedy rise of a type not seen before the 1480s. Nicholas Byldysdon or Byllesdon, a dyer, was made free on 23rd September 1483 under Browne and was a member of the second twelve a year later, where he served for two years, and was elected a constable in 1486. He was raised to the first twelve in 1487 and served until 1494 and again between 1499 and 1507. He had been alderman by the time he put a brass down for himself and his wife Katherine, who died on 8th September 1489. He served as alderman twice, in 1492 and 1501 and was the senior member of the first twelve under Christopher Browne's third aldermanship in 1502.

The Byldysdon brass lies in the middle of the nave of the church of St John the Baptist in Stamford. It consists of a man in a long gown with a purse hanging from his belt and a woman with her skirt hitched up over her arm with groups of four male and five female children respectively below their figures and symbols of the evangelists in each corner, that in the top left (St Luke) currently not in the stone. It and the top right symbol (St Mark), are later replacements. The brass is divided into two halves as the top slab is clearly a different piece of stone from the lower half. Both are marble from the quarry at Vaudey Abbey, only ten miles away, the lower being redder in colour and with a greater number of white fossil sea urchin spines. I suspect that the lower half is the part of the original slab. Both adult effigies are broken and held in the slab by round-headed copper rivets. The group of sons is also broken but the repair in less obvious because the colour match is better. The inscription of the brass is now positioned with a gap between it and the feet of the effigies but Francis Peck's illustration of the eighteenth-century shows no such gap. Henry Sargeaunt's brass from the same workshop in the church had its inscription immediately at his feet. Like the Byldyson brass, it had quatrefoils at the corners, presumably for evangelical symbols and these seem to have been widespread in the workshop's products. The Byldysdon inscription reads:

Pray for ye soulls of Nicholas Byldysdon sumtyme alderma' of thys 
town & Kateryn hys wyff ye whych Kateryn decessyd ye viii. day of septe'b' 
i' ye yere of our Lord mcccclxxxix on whos soulls Ihu' nave mercy 

The brass belongs to the Fens 2 style, a group described by our member Sally Badham some years ago. Although the remaining brasses in this style are few, indents suggest a rather larger number were laid down with a distribution in Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Huntingdonshire and Leicestershire. The presence of a marbler, John Smyth, at Stamford, made free in November 1498, is suggestive but there were other marblers in the area in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, namely William Hornby at Crowland and John Hippis, variously of Lincoln and Newark, both of whom can be associated with the marble quarry at Vaudey Abbey.     

© Jon Bayliss   

The ongoing work of Professor Alan Rogers provided much of the information. See William Browne’s Town: The Stamford Borough Hall Book, 1465 to 1492

See also Sally Badham, Brasses from the North-East (London, 1979)



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