Monumental Brass Society

Sir Hamon l'Estrange

Date of Brass:


October 2020


The church at Hunstanton is well known for the large and elaborate brass of Sir Roger l'Estrange who died in 1506 but other members of the family are remebered by two other brasses and an indent. The brass commemorating Sir Hamon l'Estrange who died in 1654 memorialises a man closely connected with the one major incident that took place in the county of Norfolk during the English Civil Wars, the siege of King's Lynn.

Sir Hamon's namesake who died early in the fourteenth-century was commemorated by a slab with a marginal inscription of separately inlaid brass letters and shows that his forename was one of long-standing in the family. He gave it to his second son but called his first son Nicholas, which had been his father's and great grandfather's name. He was born in 1583, the third but eldest surviving son of Sir Nicholas l'Estrange and Mary Bell and succeeded his father in 1591/2. As a minor. his wardship was bought by Sir John Peyton, husband of his maternal grandmother but in practical terms he was in the charge of another relation, Sir Henry Spelman, the antiquary. He received the latter part of his education at Queen's College, Cambridge at the beginning of the following century. In 1602 while still a minor he married Alice, the daughter of Richard Stubbe of nearby Sedgeford, a lawyer who acted for the Peyton and l'Estrange families, Alice receiving an allowance of 100 marks a year from Peyton after her father paid the latter £1,000. Sir Hamon was knighted the following year. The marriage produced four sons and four daughters.

Sir Hamon sat as a justice of the peace from 1608 and undertook numerous other local duties over the succeeding years, serving as sheriff in 1608/9 and as a commissioner on various bodies. He was deputy lieutenant of the county from 1625 until the Civil War began in 1642 and a captain of the local militia in 1626-7. On the national front, he sat as MP for Norfolk in 1614 and 1621, and for Castle Rising in 1625. In 1616 he had been instrumental in the detection and capture of an escaped prisoner, the catholic priest, Thomas Tunstal, who was then tried at Norwich on a charge of attempting conversions to Rome and found guilty. At his execution Sir Hamon and Tunstal spoke together courteously, Tunstal thanking Sir Hamon for giving him the opportunity to die for his faith and forgiving him. In the 1630s, after L'Estrange strengthened the sea banks and drained marshland at Heacham he spent a great deal of money defending himself in various courts up to and including the Star Chamber against Robert Cremer, a tenant of the drained land who objected to having his rent increased. L'Estrange won although Cremer eventually got the judgement thrown out in Chancery in the period following the siege of King's Lynn.

Early in the Civil War in October 1642, the constables of Smithdon hundred were ordered to disarm Hunstanton Hall, where Sir Hamon and two of his sons were known to be ardent royalists. The following May, the mayor of King's Lynn was ordered to seek and apprehend thirteen royalists, including Sir Hamon and his sons Sir Nicholas and Roger. None were arrested but they had to make stringent efforts to avoid capture. At this time the duke of Newcastle's royalist army had completely overrunning Lincolnshire and was threatening to advance further. On 13 August, Lynn declared for the crown and Sir Hamon was made governor. The defences of the town were increased so that any attack could be resisted until Newcastle could march to its relief as he had undertaken to do. The initial response from the parliamentary forces under the earl of Manchester was to blockade the town and the parliamentary ships in The Wash intercepted supplies that the defenders of Lynn were relying on although one ship got through. West Lynn on the opposite bank of the Great Ouse had been occupied by Manchester's forces and a battery set up which was did damage to the town, one shot on Sunday 3 September crashing through the window of St Margaret's church during a service but without causing any injury. The blockading troops had got within a musket shot of the town by 7 September but reinforcements for them were slow to arrive. Newcastle, aware that the parliamentary town of Hull menaced his rear, decided not to continue his advance and Cromwell's forces, moving north to attack him, included some troops that had been besieging Lynn. Manchester continued the seige, placing another battery to the south of Lynn and cutting and diverting the town's water supplies. He issued an ultimatum stating that he would storm the town on 16 September unless it surrendered. The two sides arranged a meeting on 15 September at which the defenders agreed to surrender to avoid bloodshed. Sir Hamon and others were held as hostages until the town met the conditions agreed. In December Parliament ordered that restitutions be made for damages done and it was subsequently maintained that these had all been done on the orders of l'Estrange as governor. They amounted to over £1,000 and he also lost 1,660 sheep, all his corn and a number of horses. Under the terms on which the town surrendered he kept Hunstanton but it was sequestered in 1649 and he was still getting monetary demands for restitution into the 1650s.

He died on 31 May 1654 and his memorial is a mixture of an engraved black Begian marble ledgerstone with two brass components enclosed in incised cartouches, a mixture seen elsewhere at this period, notably at Compton Verney, Warwickshire, and, somewhat earlier, at Stoke by Nayland, Suffolk, where the brass figure of Dorothy Mannock is set under a canopy engraved on the stone. While the examples at Compton Verney and Stoke were clearly made in the London workshop of Edward Marshall, the monument at Hunstanton is a less obvious work by Marshall, its provenance revealed by the characteristic shape of the letter w, occurring three times on the last line of.the brass inscription, which reads:

In terris peregrinus era nunc Incola Cœli

Who while I was on earth was Strange

The English verse poetically expresses the meaning of the Latin line. The inscription incised on the slab records his date of death and age:

Hamo Extraneus Miles

Obijt. 31o Maij.1654




R W Ketton-Cremer, Norfolk in the Civil War (Norwich 1985)


Copyright: Jon Bayliss

  • © Monumental Brass Society (MBS) 2024
  • Registered Charity No. 214336