Monumental Brass Society

Thomas & Elizabeth Burgoyn

Date of Brass:


June 2020

Before the Black Death in the middle of the fourteenth-century, cross brasses were quite numerous. They were the successors and contemporaries of cross slabs. The latter dated back to the twelfth-century but kept going as a relatively low-cost option for covering graves up to the time of the Reformation and even beyond. In contrast, the popularity of the cross brass fell away dramatically. Although there were London-made examples after the Black Death, most of the few early sixteenth-century examples were made in provincial workshops and very few approached the size of those of the early fourteenth century.

One exception is the cross brass commemorating Thomas Burgoyn and his wife Elizabeth in All Saints' church at Sutton in Bedfordshire. The cross stretches most of the length of the slab, its base, in the form of a calvary of three steps, contiguous with the top edge of the inscription plate, its head and arms of the form described as fleury. The Victoria County History raised the possibility that only the base was original. The inscription reads

    Of yor charite py for the soules of Thos Burgoyn

    and Elisabeth hys wyfe whiche Thomas decessyd ye

    ix day of August the yer of our lord A thowsand

    fyve hundreth and sexten on whose soules and all

    Crysten soules Jesu have mercy Amen

Thomas Burgoyne is thought to have been born nearby in Sandy, Bedfordshire, the son of an earlier Thomas.

The first record of the Burgoyne family in the parish of Sutton is a document of 12 November 1423 in The National Archives (TNA CP 25/1/6/78/9) proclaiming that Thomas Burgoyne and his heirs have taken possession of rights in a messuage and 16 acres of land and 2 acres of meadow in return for twenty pieces of silver paid to Richard and Ellen Brampton by Thomas and two other men. In 1442-3 a Thomas Burgoyne was one of two men accused of encroachments on the manor of Sutton in the court of Chancery (TNA C 1/9/314). It was he who was presumably commemorated by a brass inscription at Sutton, now lost, when he died in 1447. Thomas Burgoyne, yeoman, of Sutton, was the defendant in a case of debt in the Court of Common Pleas in 1485. It is likely that he was the Thomas later buried under the brass at Sutton. It was not until after 1516 that the Burgoynes came into possession of the Sutton manor, the main manor in the parish, and Enderbies manor. The latter was acquired by John Burgoyne in 1529 in exchange for other lands. John died in 1540, leaving it to his son Thomas, who received a perpetual grant of Sutton manor in 1544. Thenceforward both manors continued in the family until they died out just before World War II. John Burgoyne's younger son Robert was one of the commissioners appointed by Henry VIII to take the surrenders of monastic land in Warwickshire and acquired the priory of Wroxall from its original grantees in late 1544, the year before his death. His son Robert built a mansion at Wroxall during Elizabeth's reign after pulling down much of the priory and lived there until his death in 1613, succeeding his cousin John as owner of the Sutton estates on the latter's death on 27 April 1604. It was Robert who presumably erected a large monument to his cousin in the church at Sutton, employing masons based much closer to his own home at Wroxall, John Burgoyne's will leaving £100 to repair the tomb beneath which he wished to be buried, a sum that would have sufficed for the monument.

Thomas Burgoyne's brass was one made in Cambridge and is the only surviving cross brass from the workshop. Other provincial workshops operating at the time produced brasses with crosses but they were generally much smaller crosses than that commemorating Thomas and Elizabeth Burgoyne. Elizabeth seems to have been Thomas's second wife and probably not the mother of all his children.


Reference: 'Parishes: Sutton', in A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 2, ed. William Page (London, 1908), pp. 246-251. British History Online [accessed 1 June 2020].


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