- Date of Brass:
- Bristol, St Stephen
- Formerly I
On the wall of St Stepeh's church in Bristol is a monument commemorating Robert Kitchin, alderman, who died in 1594. At first glance it appears to be a brass in a stone frame but on closer examination, the figures of Kitchin and his wife, kneeling at prayer desks, and the thirteen line inscription below, are cut in stone and coloured to look like brass. The 1938 Appendix to Mill Stephenson's A List of Monumental Brasses in the British Isles and Nikolaus Pevsner's 1958 North Somerset and Bristol (The Buildings of England) both list it as a brass but Lack, Stuchfield and Whittemore,The Monumental Brasses of Gloucestershire (2005) makes clear it is an incised slab. It is nevertheless an interesting monument to a Bristol benefactor. The slab had previously been painted black, as Ida M Roper's account in the Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, vol 24 (1904), makes clear but it had been gilded by 1927.
Robert Kitchin was born in Kendal, Westmoreland. He was sheriff of Bristol in 1572 and mayor in 1588. He entertained Ambrose and Robert Dudley, respectively Earls of Warwick and Leicester at his house in Small Street at Easter 1587. The city retains a portrait of him, giving his age at death as sixty-three, and two pieces of civic plate presented in 1573 when he was an alderman. He was a successful merchant, importing for example 100 tons of sackon the Gift of God in 1583, 20 tons of oil and 6 tons of salt on the Mynkyn and 59 tons of sack on the Joseph in 1584, all from Andalusia, and 46 tons of green woad from St Michael on the Mynkyn, also in 1584. This trade was not without risk as a petition for compensation for goods worth £45,000 seized in Spain around 1577 has Kitchin's name first among seven Bristol merchants. Kitchin was issued with letters of reprisal against Spain by Lord Howard of Effingham in 1585 that enabled the Gift of God to take action against Spanish ships or goods after he declared he had lost more than £6,500 in Spain because of the seizure of goods and money.
Robert Kitchin was married twice and willed to be buried with his first wife Joan. The arms over the figure of Joan on the monument are those of Sachville and may indicate that Joan was related to the captain of the Gift of God, John Sachville or Searchfield. Robert's second wife was Justine. Despite the three sons depicted behind his figure and the three daughters behind that of Joan, there is no indication that any of them were still alive at the time of his death as none of his children are mentioned in his will although he left money to two brothers, a sister and nieces and nephews. Robert's daughter Mary, died 1583, had been married to Matthew Haviland and three of her sons were beneficiaries. What is not clear from the will is the relationship between Robert and one of his executors, Abell Kitchin, who was bequeathed a silver basin and ewer. A clause in his will directed his executors to sell his house in Small Street for the benefit of the poor of Bristol and Kendal once his widow had died. Those goods and leases not otherwise bequeathed in his will were to be used for the same purpose. His executors also used his money to provide one of the four bronze pillars on which business in the city was conducted. They are known as nail and are the origin of 'cash on the nail'.
The inscription on the monument reads:
DECEASED THE 5TH OF SEPTEMBER AN° DONI 1594.
ROBERT KITCHIN ALDERMAN & HIS WIEF
LIETH NEERE THIS PLACE CLOSED IN EARTH & CLAY
THEIR CHARITIES ALIKE IN DEATH AND LIFE
WHO TO THE POORE GAVE ALL THEIR GOODES AWAY
LEAVING IN TRUST SUCH MEN TO ACT THE SAME
AS MIGHT WITH TRUTH PERFORM THEIR GOOD ENTENT
SO THAT THE POORE IN DEED AND EKE IN NAME
TO LASTING AGES IN THIS CITIE MEANT
AND OTHER PLACES OF THIS KINGDOM FAIRE
AS KENDALL TOWNE & STRICKLANDFIELD BOTH HAVE
WITH BATHE THE NATIVE PLACE OF HER FIRST AYRE
THE BOVNTIE OF THEIR GUYFTES THEY TO THEM GAVE.
It cannot be said that the depiction of Robert and Joan is of great merit but the design is obviously based on contemporary brasses engraved in London, such as those of Robert Thorne, made c. 1570, in Bristol Grammar School, and of William Gyttyns, died 1586, in St Werburgh's church in the city.
Robert Kitchin, Mayor of Bristol; a native of Kendal. By H. S. COWPER, F.S.A.
- © Monumental Brass Society (MBS) 2023
- Registered Charity No. 214336