Monumental Brass Society

William Bradschawe and wife Alice

Date of Brass:
London G


April 2004

April's brass of the month is an unusual composition to William Bradschawe, gent., d. 1537, and his wife Alice, which was stolen brass the church of St. Mary, Wendover, Buckinghamshire in 1980. The two main figures, showing kneeling at their prayer desks, and the inscription constitute a standard type of brass produced by the London G workshops in scores, but the design has been modified to show the descendents of the couple.

Under the two main figures are their 2 sons and 7 daughters, all with their names underneath. Bridget, Margery and William are shown wearing shrouds and with the word 'dede' underneath their figures. They might have died as adults, but it is more likely that they died in infancy. Offspring, including those who died young, are normally shown on brasses as diminutive figures in adult dress. The youngest daughter, Sibill, outlived her parents, but was almost certainly still unmarried by 1537 when the brass were made. Unlike her sisters, she wears her hair uncovered, usually a symbol of maidenhood. The other 5 children had between them produced a total of 23 children. Of these only Henry's youngest daughter, Alice, is recorded as being dead, but there may have been other of the grandchildren who died in infancy. Alice is recorded on the brass as having had two daughters named Bridget; the elder probably died young, with the youngest also being given this popular family name, as well as 3 other cousins.

It is interesting to see from this brass how the same names are used over again in this family group. William Bradschawe the elder had a son and 3 grandsons named for him, while his wife, Alice, had a daughter and 3 granddaughters named in her honour. Their 3 children who died young also had nieces and nephews named after them, John Bradschawe using all these names, as well as others of his brothers and sisters, in his extensive family. How confusing it must have been when the family gathered together! The whole demonstrates and a degree of fecundity and pride of family that William and Alice clearly felt worth celebrating and recording on their brass.

Brasses such as these are a godsend for the genealogist, particularly in a period before births were systematically recorded in parish registers. Few give quite this degree of genealogical information, though others are shown elsewhere in the MBS website

Stolen brasses, such as this one, usually end up in the private collections of collectors of antiquaries, who may not be aware that the brass was originally stolen. Subsequently, they may surface in salerooms or antique shops very many years, or even decades, after they go missing. If anyone sees  this or other brasses offered for sale, either in the UK or abroad  (stolen brasses may pass quickly through a succession of dealers before being offered for open sale), please alert the MBS:

      Hon. Conservation Officer
      Martin Stuchfield
      Pentlow Hall
      Suffolk CO10 7SP

Rubbing: © The Monumental Brasses of Buckinghamshire by William Lack, H. Martin Stuchfield and Philip Whittemore (1994)

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