Monumental Brass Society

Richard & Anne Garneys

Date of Brass:
Norwich Peardrop I


November 2021

All too often, the focus of the aficionado of monumental brasses is purely on the brass itself rather than the monument as a whole. When the monument is little more than the brass alone, this does not matter, but when the brass is very much a subsidiary part of the whole monument, it certainly does. More generally, medieval wills make clear that, in the case of floor brasses, the monument was the stone in which the brass was set. So separating a brass from its original floor slab to preserve it may lead to the destruction of the floor slab that was the original monument above the burial place of those commemorated.

A monument that is certainly much more than its brass is at Ringsfield in Suffolk. The brass component is a plate that copies the brass to John Garneys, died 1524, at Kenton in Suffolk. John Garneys' London-made rectangular brass at Kenton shows him alongside his wife Elizabeth. Both are in heraldic dress, John with a tabard over his armour, Elizabeth with a mantle over her dress. They kneel before a representation of the Crucifixion that has been damaged by reformers. The inscription underneath their figures gives John's date of death and concludes. as so many brasses did at this time, 'on whose soul Jesus have mercy'.

The brass at Ringsfield is for Nicholas Garneys, John's great-grandson. It omits any religious imagery and excludes such sentiment from its inscription. It notes instead that Nicholas built Redsham Hall. The mouth scrolls repeat the Latin wording of those at Kenton.

This memorial is on the external wall of Ringsfield church, rather than inside it, and consists of an imposing brick frame with a pediment under which is a semi-circular arch with a cut brick mermaid beneath, all above a further pediment, below which are two stone inscription panels and, in a stone frame, the brass. The Crucifixion is replaced by an achievement of arms showing Garneys impaling Clere, with the Garneys crest of a mermaid over the tiny helmet above the shield. The achievement is flanked by two shields, that over Nicholas with the Garneys arms (Argent, a chevron impaled Azure between three escalops Sable) and that over Anne with those of Clere (Argent on fess Azure three eagles displayed Or). Anne was the daughter of Charles Clere of Stokesby, Norfolk. On two scrolls either side of the achievement is the motto Flectar non Frangar (I shall bend, not break).

The brass was made in Norwich and is part of a large group of brasses in what our late member Stewart Naunton called the 'Peardrop I' style, after the shape of the dots above the letter I on many inscriptions belonging to the group. Most of the group consists of inscriptions, often with heraldry, but another brass with effigies is at Snettisham, Norfolk. Some inscriptions have decorative borders and the Ringsfield brass has one between the figures and the inscription to further differentiate it from its inspiration at Kenton.

There is no attempt to update the costume of the figures other than a moustache on Nicholas's lip. The inscription is in Roman capitals with distinctive serifs on each C and G, and the dots over the Is that gave this group of brasses its name. There are a couple of different ligatures, one of which, unusually, is in a name: the double N in Anne shares a central upright. The word THE has all of its letters joined in both occurrences. The date of death is left blank, which is consistent with Nicholas dying around 1623 (rather than 1599 as given in some sources) and having the brass made in his own lifetime. This style of brass was made from the early 1610s into the 1640s. Nicholas had succeeded his elder brother Thomas as lord of Kenton and was High Sheriff of Suffolk in 1592.

The faithful copying of the brass at Kenton is particularly notable. The two brasses are almost identical in width but that at Ringsfield is taller, because of the semi-circular addition in the middle of the upper edge to accommodate the mermaid crest. The shields are of different sizes to Kenton but, from the mouth scrolls downwards, the figures kneeling at the desks with their children behind them, barring a reduction in the number of daughters, are very close to those at Kenton as are the desks themselves. Was the engraver able to borrow the Kenton brass or did he employ some method of rubbing or dabbing to get a copy?

Copyright: Jon Bayliss


T M Felgate, Knights on Suffolk Brasses (1976), 79 & fig 25: Kenton; 125 & fig 48: Ringsfield


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