Monumental Brass Society

Thomazine Playters

Date of Brass:


The cult of the Holy Name of Jesus became increasingly widespread in England in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century. The cult had begun in southern Europe rather earlier and spread to the north. In Tudor England it was promoted by Henry VII’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, who received papal sanction in 1494 for a feast on 7 August she had established to be celebrated throughout the country some years before. A look at any book illustrating brasses belonging to this period will reveal inscriptions terminating in prayer clauses that substitute the name of Jesus for that of God.

We might expect that this practice ceased when Elizabeth I came to the throne in late 1558, but Robert Turbervyle at Bere Regis in Dorset, who died less than six months later in April 1559, has a inscription concluding Cuius anime propicietur clementissimus Christus Jesus Amen.

However, the concluding phrase of the inscription commemorating Thomazine Playters at Sotterley in Suffolk, laid down after her death on 8 May 1578, is more surprising She was the third wife of William Playters and had a daughter Susan by him. A small effigy of Susan accompanies her mother on the slab. A rather larger shield of arms is placed above Thomazine’s head and a five-line inscription below her feet. After giving her date of death, the inscription concludes On whose soule Jesus have m[er]cy Beyng of the age of xxxiiii yeares. This puts her birth in 1543-4, several years after Henry VIII broke with Rome to establish the Church of England. She would have been in her mid teens when the country reverted to Protestantism after the brief Roman Catholic revival under Mary I. During Mary’s reign Thomazine’s father Edmund Tyrrell, Member of Parliament for Maldon in Essex, had been an enthusiastic supporter of her regime and a scourge of heretics in his county. He died eighteen months before Thomazine and she was one of his co-heirs.

Thomazine’s brass belong to what was termed by John Page-Phillips, the Daston/Johnson style denoting a transition between two styles. It a forerunner of the brasses made in the Southwark workshop of Garret Johnson. Thomazine’s parents’ brass at Rawreth in Essex, made after her father’s death in 1576 was classified as Daston by Page-Phillips but looks to me like a predecessor of the Cure style that ran in parallel to the Johnson brasses.

The full inscription on Thomazine’s brass reads:

Here lyeth buryed Thomaz[in]e late wyfe unto wyll[ia]m Playters / of Sotterlay Esquyer one of the dawghters & Coheyers unto / Edmu[n]d Tyrrell of Betches in the county of Essex Esquier who / had yssiu by the syde Wyll[ia]m Susan Playters and dyd the viii / daye of Maye Ano dni 1578 On whose soule Jesus have m[er]cy / Beyng of the age of xxxiiij yeares

The arms on the shield above her head show her husband William’s arms impaling those of Tyrrell. William Playters outlived her by six years and is commemorated by a brass consisting and an inscription and a shield. Thomazine was the only wife he commemorated at Sotterley.


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