Monumental Brass Society

Thomas & Elizabeth Burgoyn

Date of Brass:


June 2020

Before the Black Death of 1349 cross brasses were quite numerous. They were the successors and contemporaries of cross slabs. The latter dated back to the twelfth century but continued as relatively low-cost grave covers up to 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 most were quite small.

An 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, and its head and arms in the form described as fleury. The Victoria County History raised the possibility that only the base is original. The inscription reads, with contractions expanded:

    Of your charyte pray for the sowles of Thomas Burgoyn

    and Elisabeth hys wyfe whiche Thomas decessyd ye

    ix day of August the yere of our lord god A thowsand

    fyve hundreth and sexten on whose soules and all

    Crysten soules Jesu have mercy Amen

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

The first record of the Burgoyn or Burgoyne family in 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 had taken possession of 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. In 1442-3 a Thomas Burgoyne was one of two men accused in Chancery of encroachments on the manor of Sutton (TNA C 1/9/314). It was presumably he who was 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 Common Pleas in 1485. It is likely that he was the Thomas later buried under the brass at Sutton.

After 1516 the Burgoynes came into possession of Sutton manor, the main manor in the parish, and in 1529 John Burgoyne acquired Enderbies manor 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. Both manors then continued in the family until it 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 lands 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 presumably Robert who erected the large monument to his cousin John in the church at Sutton. John Burgoyne's will had left £100 to repair the tomb beneath which he wished to be buried, which would have sufficed for the monument.

Thomas Burgoyne's brass was made in Cambridge and is the only surviving cross brass from the workshop. Other provincial workshops at that time produced brasses with crosses, but the crosses were generally much smaller than here. 


Reference: 'Parishes: Sutton' in VCH Bedfordshire: Volume 2, ed. William Page (London, 1908), pp. 246-51, online at British History Online [accessed 1 June 2020].


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