Monumental Brass Society

Roger and Mary Gyfford

Date of Brass:
Middle Claydon
London G


June 2021

Middle Claydon is the site of Claydon House, well-known as the home of the Verney family and built in the eighteenth-century. Earlier Verneys are commemorated by monuments in the church but two brasses and an alabaster tomb commemorate members of the Gyfford family. While the figure brass of Isabel Gyfford, who died in childbirth in 1523, is of a decent but unremarkable size for the period (470mm high), those commemorating her parents Roger. died 1542, and Mary are both remarkably large, Roger's being 1535mm and Mary's marginally smaller (1492mm). Part of the explanation is of course the availability of cheaper brass following the Reformation as old plates sold off from monastic houses were turned over and re-used: most of the inscription plate had previously been used for Walter Bellingham, King of Arms in Ireland, died 1487, and his wife Elizabeth, taken from the Priory of St John, Clerkenwell; the plate for the Gyfford sons has a fragmentary inscription for Sir John Doon, who was buried on the north side of St George's Chapel, Windsor, following his death in 1502/3; the plate with the Gyfford sons has a small part of a large figure in clerical dress on the back; and Mary Gyfford's head has part of an ecclesiastic figure on the reverse. However, the rest of Mary's figure and the whole of Roger's were engraved on unused plates.

Roger and Mary rebuilt the chancel of the church is 1519 and were buried under their brass near the chancel step. The brass has since been mounted on the wall and the original slab has disappeared although a rubbing in the collection of the Society of Antiquaries preserves the original layout. Like many at this time the slab may have been a re-used Purbeck marble slab and the size of their figures may have completely covered signs of any earlier use. Roger leased manor of Middle Claydon from the Verney family. His will, made in 1538, refers to a lease of 95 years made in 1535 with Ralph Verney of Penley. He wanted Mary to enjoy the lease if she outlived him and then to pass to his sons, of whom he named the five then living. He is thought to have married Mary Nanseglos around 1490. He stood as godfather to three of his grandsons by three of his sons and named them in a codicil to the will dated 2 December 1542. He died on 24 January 1542/3 and the will was proved on 8 February. He left the lease to his second son Sir George after Mary's death. Mary's date of death was left blank on the inscription of the brass. Sir George outlived his brothers and had a daughter Lettice who married Brian Verney. However Claydon seems to have become back to the Verneys via Brian's brother Sir Edmund who left it to his son of the same name by his third wife.

The exceptional size of the brass may be connected with re-inforcing the Gyfford family's commitment to Middle Claydon that went with rebuilding of the chancel. The use of new plate for the bulk of the main figures may merely be the result of a merchant finally off-loading latten plate bought just before the Reformation after realising that the price was unlikely to go back up in the short term following the appearance on the market of monastic spoil in large quantities at a consiserably lower price. It seems unlikely that a marbler had it in stock for several years before using it. The monument was made in London.


Copyright: Jon Bayliss

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