Monumental Brass Society

Paul and Margaret Dayrell

Date of Brass:
Lillingstone Dayrell
London F


August 2023


In The History of the Dayrells of Lillingstone Dayrell, published in 1885, Eleanora Dayrell wrote that a member of the family accompanied William the Conqueror when he landed in 1066, and that the manor at what became Lillingstone Dayrell was assigned by William to him. She noted that the name was originally d’Ayrell, as in the castle north of St Lô in Normandy. Apart from ten years immediately after 1300 the manor continued in the family, and Eleanora’s husband Captain E Marmaduke Dayrell was the 35th Lord of the Manor. However he sold the manor around 1887.

In the church of St Nicholas the monuments of the Dayrell family are much in evidence, that of Paul Dayrell (d.1571) occupying the centre of the chancel. The memorial of an earlier Paul Dayrell, d.1491, is a tomb chest, and effigies of brass on the top of the chest commemorate him and his wife Margaret. The brasses belong to the London F style, as identified by Dr J P C Kent in his 1949 article ‘Monumental Brasses - A new classification of military effigies’. Kent’s article terminated at 1485, but he included Paul Dayrell’s brass in his analysis. It differs little from the other examples in Kent’s 'sub-group 3' except in being more detailed: he has a lance rest on the upper part of his two-part breastplate, and his gauntlets hang behind his sword grip. Despite these additional features, his effigy is smaller than some others in the sub-group.

Robin Emmerson in his expansion of Kent’s work to non-military effigies in ‘Monumental Brasses: London design c.1420-85’, published in 1978, drew attention to the seeming discrepancy between Dayrell’s date of death and the style of the brass, which he dated as c.1483. However Dayrell’s elbow defences are less prominent than those on the other brasses in the same sub-group. Elbow defences (couteurs) on armour began to grow much larger in the mid fifteenth century and shrank again as the century went on. The reduced size of Dayrell’s may indicate that his brass is indeed a little later than 1483, but some obviously later brasses have larger couteurs than his.

The effigy of William Burgh, died 1492, at Catterick, Yorkshire, is definitely later than Dayrell’s as it adopts the new round-toed style of sabbaton associated with the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian, in contrast to Dayrell’s more pointed ones. Burgh’s knee defences are also later, and later brasses at Hutton, Somerset and Nether Heyford, Northamptonshire change the style further. Emmerson also spotted that the engraving of the date of death on this Dayrell brass slopes slightly compared to the rest of the inscription, indicating that it was added after Dayrell’s death. 

Margaret Dayrell wears a large butterfly headdress very similar to those worn by other wives in the sub-group but her figure, like that of her husband, has features that differ from the rest. The other wives have dresses that fall straight from the waist to the floor all round, but her hem is raised at the front with the folded material tucked under her arm. This appears on a number of contemporary brasses from the first Coventry workshop, but is very rarely seen on those engraved in London at this period.

The conclusion surely is that Paul Dayrell ordered the brass in his lifetime, perhaps in 1485 or thereabouts, and that someone paid for the date to be added after his death. The order included the tomb chest as well as the brass, making it more expensive than a floor brass, and the added expense extended to additional engraving.


Copyrights: Jon Bayliss, photo and text

William Lack, Martin Stuchfield and Philip Whittemore, rubbing (The Monumental Brasses of Buckinghamshire)

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