Monumental Brass Society

Sir Andrew Herley and wife Juliana

Date of Brass:
Incised slab


September 2004

September's feature is not a brass, but an unusual inlaid and incised slab from Allensmore, Herefordshire. It commemorates Sir Andrew Herley, who died in 1392, and his wife, Juliana. This is one of a small group of such slabs probably produced in Hereford in the late 14th and early 15th centuries, the others being at Canon Pyon, Dilwyn and Hereford Cathedral.

The Allensmore slab shows a knight in plate armour with a tight fitting jupon, with a lion at his feet. Beside him, the figure of Juliana wears a low necked gown with an edging of fur. In the folds of her gown at her feet is a delightful terrier with a bell suspended from a collar round his neck. The couple are shown under a canopy flanked by shields and, at their feet, an inscription, in textura quadrata lettering, which reads ‘Sir andrew herl gist ycy et Julian sa femme dieu de lour almes eyt mercy’(Sir Andrew Herl[ey] lies here and Juliana his wife, God have mercy on their souls).

The Allensmore example is easily the best preserved of the group, probably because it has been better protected than the others. It currently lies on the floor to the north of the altar, but the antiquary, Richard Gough, recorded that it was previously on an altar tomb in the north chapel, perhaps originally a Herley family chapel, but in the 18th century used as a charnel house, which was later converted into a vestry.

These slabs were made in a manner broadly akin to that of monumental brasses, but instead of sheets of brass being inlaid into the indents in the sandstone slab, the workshop inlaid 'tiles' of a composition, mixed from various compounds of calcium with some sort of binder to enable it to form a rigid substance, held together with a white cement. Then, as the picture on the left shows, the design was incised and the lines filled in with coloured material. In addition there may once have been painted detail on the surface of the inlays.

The most colourful features of this slab are the shields of arms, several of which retain red colouring. The 'tile' shape was cut back and cross-hatched, then these areas were filled with what appears to be the original tile-mix with additions of red particles added. The 1st and 3rd shields below also appear to have originally had inlays of other colours (for the head of the drakes and the star in the 1st shield and for the bend in the 3rd shield) but sadly none of this inlay remains.

In its current state the slab is impressive, but when first laid down over 600 years ago it must have been truly breathtaking!

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