Monumental Brass Society

Richard & Anne Garneys

Date of Brass:
Norwich Peardrop I


November 2021

All too often, the focus of the afficianado 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. Medieval wills make clear that that, in the case of floor brasses, the monument is the stone in which the brass is set, so the practice of separating a brass from its original floor slab to preserve it during the alteration of a church building may lead to the destruction of the floor slab that was the original monument that covered the burial place of those commemorated.

A monument that is certainly much more than its brass can be found at Ringsfield in Suffolk. The brass component is a plate that copies the brass of Nicholas Garneys' great-grandfather, who died in 1524. John Garneys was commemorated at Kenton in Suffolk alongside his wife Elizabeth, on a London-made rectangular brass. 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 of the laity did at this time 'on whose soul Jesus have mercy'. While the brass at Ringsfield 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 the 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 shield, 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 evidently 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 of the inscriptions belonging to the group. Most of the group consists of inscriptions, often with heraldry but there is another one with effigies at Snettisham, Norfolk. Some of the inscriptions have decorative borders and the engraver of the Ringsfield brass has put 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 mustache on Nicholas's lip. The inscription is in Roman capitals with a little added ornamentation on a couple and 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 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.

What is particularly notable about the this brass is the faithfulness with which the engraver copied the brass at Kenton. The two brasses are almost identical in width but that at Ringsfield is taller, accounted for by the semi-circular addition in the middle of the upper edge to encompass the height of the mermaid crest. The shields are of different sizes to the one at 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 that he could use in his workshop?

Copyright: Jon Bayliss


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


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