Monumental Brass Society

Thomas Cranmar

Date of Brass:


May 2023


Thomas Cranmar, esquire, was the father of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was his second son, born at Aslocton, Nottinghamshire, on 2 July 1489, and thus in his twelth year when his father died on 27 May 1501. Thomas was married to Agnes Hatfield. She survived him and presumably paid for his incised alabaster slab in the church of St John of Beverley at Whatton. She was able to send her younger sons Thomas and Edmund (born 1491) to Cambridge, Thomas getting his BA in 1511, Edmund in 1513-14. Both had careers in the church, Thomas suffering martyrdom under Mary I in Oxford on 21 March 1555-6, Edmund fleeing to Germany after being deprived of his preferments in 1554.

The incised alabaster slab that commemorates the elder Thomas is contemporary with his date of death. It is comparable with that of Thomas Farnham, died 1502, at Quorndon, Leicestershire. Farnham’s hair is very similar, as is the way Farnham’s wife Margaret Kyngston holds her hands and the way in which the lengths of fingers are differentiated. The couple’s facial features are also depicted as very similar to Thomas Cranmar’s. The cushion on which Margaret lays her head lacks tassels despite having at each corner the round head from which the tassel would normally depend. The same is true of the cushion on which Thomas Cranmar’s head rests. Shields of arms flank Cranmar’s head in the same way as shields do Farnham’s. Those at Whatton are for Aslocton (Argent five fusils Gules each charged with an escallop Or), that to the right for Cramner (Argent on a chevron Azure between three cranes Sable). His son the archbishop substituted pelicans for the cranes on his own arms.

Thomas Cranmer’s slab is well-preserved as is that of the Farnhams at Quordon but alabaster slabs were very prone to wear even when they survive, which many do not. F A Greenhill’s study of the incised slabs of Leicestershire and Rutland makes clear that many of the slabs that survived until Nichols undertook his history of Leicestershire had disappeared in the following hundred and fifty years and others were too worn to be positively identified. Leaving aside the long list of slabs he identified as emanating from the Royley workshop at Burton-upon-Trent, Greenhill listed fifteen groups of slabs that he considered were each the work of a single workshop. As six of these lists consist of only two examples each, the slabs of Thomas Cranmar and Thomas Farnham could be considered as making up a further workshop group. Like some of the other groups, the Cranmar/Farnham group seems likely to have been produced in a workshop in Leicestershire itself, where alabaster was available at two documented sites, Beaumanor and Burton-on-the-Wolds, and also, as activity in the area makes clear, at a quarry east of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, probably where gypsum outcrops near Whitwick. That these groups represent successive masters in a workshop is suggested by the way the that Cranmar/Farnham group fills the gap between 1498 and 1513. The sparseness of examples is no doubt because of wear to and losses of slabs.


Copyright: Jon Bayliss



F A Greenhill, The Incised Slabs of Leicestershire and Rutland (1958), pp. 12-14

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