Monumental Brass Society

Sir Laurence Pabenham and wives Elizabeth and Joan

Date of Brass:
Offord D'arcy
London B


April 2019

The church of St Peter at Offord Darcy lies outside the main village but close to the manor house. It is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. While the brass depicting the kneeling rector William Taylard lies in its original Lincolnshire marble slab, that of Sir Laurence Pabenham and his two wives has been relaid in a piece of Purbeck marble large enough to contain the remnants of the three figures and the inscription, but considerably smaller than the original, now lost, last recorded as being in the tower.

Sir Laurence was aged eleven at the time of the inquisition post mortem on 10 March 1345 following the death of his father Thomas in late February. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John d’ Engaine, second Lord Engaine and Joan Peverel. They had a daughter Katherine, aged twenty-seven when her father died. After Elizabeth's death on 23 September 1378 he married Joan, daughter of Sir Giles Daubney. They had one son, John, aged nine at the time of his father's inquisition post mortem, and Eleanor, later the wife of John Tyringham.

Sir Laurence died on 10 June 1400 according to the inscription on his brass, but in 1399 according to the various inquisitions held after his death, all held a few months before the end of Richard II's reign. Several inquisitions were necessary because he had held land in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Huntingdonshire, Kent and Northamptonshire. Because his lands in Pytcheley, Northamptonshire, and Upminster, Essex, were held in right of his first wife, they went to Katherine, but John inherited the rest, including the manor of Offord Darcy, acquired in Sir Laurence's lifetime. Katherine married (1) Sir William Cheyne and (2) Sir Thomas Aylesbury.

The remaining parts of the brass are the upper halves of the three effigies, the different lengths reflecting the points at which the upper and lower halves of armoured effigies and ladies' effigies are usually joined, and the inscription. The brass was engraved about 1440 in London and belongs to style B. The effigies of Elizabeth and Joan are differentiated, one wearing a cloak, the cords of which form an inverted triangle with her hands covering the apex. This is not unusual, but some other ladies in cloaks have long cords dangling below their hands. The other effigy is dressed in a high-waisted gown with sleeves that hang down in complex folds on either side. Sir Laurence's armour is that used on style B effigies from around 1415 into the 1440s. His gauntlets and elbow defences (couters) appear on figures of the 1440s and 50s, but the round plates that protect his armpits (besagews) were replaced by a different shape in the 1440s. The brass was perhaps commissioned after the death of Katherine in July 1436, long after she had inherited Offord Darcy from her half-brother John, who died in 1407.

What is particularly unusual about this brass is that on the reverse of each of the wives' figures are engraved canopies, presumably intended to form parts of the super-canopy of a magnificent brass. Perhaps the final version would have had the individual niches cut out and filled by separate-inlay figures of saints had they ever been finished and not recycled for the Pabenham brass. There is no surviving brass from the period which shows a brass similar to these reverses.

Photo: © Martin Stuchfield

Rubbings: © The Monumental Brasses of Huntingdonshire by William Lack, H. Martin Stuchfield and Philip Whittemore (2012)


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