Monumental Brass Society

William Styrlay

Date of Brass:
Lincolshire local


August 2012

As the inscription of his brass tells us, William Styrlay was sometime vicar of Rauceby and a canon of Shelford. At the time of his death on the fourth of December 1536, Shelford Priory in Nottinghamshire no longer existed, having been suppressed earlier that year. It was a priory of Austin canons and owned a moiety of the Rectory of Rauceby and were thus able to appoint Styrlay as vicar. Stylay made considerable improvements to the church of Rauceby, which is in North Rauceby but serves both North and South Rauceby. He rebuilt the chancel and added the clerestory. We know from the notes made by Holles in the seventeenth century that Styrlay was commemorated in glass as well as brass, as there was an inscription in a north window: Orate pro a'i'a Willi' Styrlay, vicarii, qui hanc fenestram, fieri fecit. The glass also had his arms, which do not appear on the brass: Palee of 6, argent & azure, in chief a cinquefoil gules.


Styrlay made his will on 29 November 1536. He left bequests to two brothers, his horse and saddle and four quarters of barley to James and the residue of his sheep and a feather bed to Myles, and a quarter of barley to Alice Styrlay. Many of his other bequests were to Richard Carre and his family and servants. To the latter he left a sheep each. By an indenture of 16 February 1530 he and Carre had been demised of a moiety of the tithe corn and hay of the Rectory of Rauceby. He left Carre all his hives to find a light before the 'whyte Mary' and two cows and his wood and coal to find an obit in Rauceby during Carre's life. Isabell Carre was left all his pewter and silver spoons and Elizabeth Carre a quarter of malt. To Sir Henry Edwarde, who was curate of Rauceby, he left his best gown, best tippet and a silver spoon. There were a number of other bequests, including half a quarter of malt to Dame Elizabeth Stanhope. (The Stanhopes incorporated Shelford Priory into their new house and Michael Stanhope acquired the rectory of Rauceby a few years later). Styrlay made Sir Henry Edwards and Richard Carre his executors and left them the residue of his estate. Presumably one of them arranged for the brass. Edwarde was commemorated by an inscription in the church when he died, but it was not necessarily a brass: Hic jacet Henr. Edward, curatus de Rausby, qui obiit XIº die Julii, Ano Dni 1552, &c., as Holles recorded it in the seventeenth century.

Styrlay's chancel was replaced by one designed by Teulon in the mid nineteenth century. During the rebuilding Styrlay's grey marble slab, described as 'most massive' was broken and his brass found its way into the vestry. It was conserved by Bryan Egan in the late 1990s, towards which work the MBS gave a grant, and remounted on a wooden board on the south chancel wall.


William Styrlay's brass was identified by Mill Stephenson as 'local', as were a number of brasses in Lincolnshire. It does not belong to any of the 'local' styles to which other brasses in the county have been attributed, which include brasses made in Bury St Edmunds and Norwich, or Fens 2, the latter probably originating from Boston. A number of other brasses in the county have lettering characteristics that match those found on Styrlay's brass, including inscriptions at Snarford (Joan St Poll, 1521, wife of John Tornay), St Mary le Wigford in Lincoln (John Jobson, 1525, fishmonger and sheriff), South Kyme (Gilbert Taylboys, Lord Taylboys, 1530, and his wife Elizabeth Blount), and Heckington (William Cawdron, 1544, bailiff of Heckington). These dates fit with the presence of a marbler called John Hippis in Lincoln. Hippis was paid for a brass in York Minster in or soon after 1508, when he was based in Newark, Nottinghamshire, and contracted to make a tomb with brasses at Wollaton, near Nottingham, in 1515. Neither survive. He was taken to the Court of Common Pleas for debt on a number of occasions, by John Markham, esquire, of Coton in 1510, by Hamon Whichcote in 1525 and by William Sammes in 1536. The name of John Markham of Cottom and Coton, Nottinghamshire, occurred on a Pardon Roll in 1510, as son, heir and executor of Sir John Markham, Hamon Whichcote presumably belonged to the Whichcote family of Harpswell, Lincolnshire, and William Sammes was a mayor of Lincoln in 1515-16 and MP for Lincoln in 1529. Whether these debts relate to commissions for brasses is unclear. As more data emerges from the University of Houston's Law Center and Department of History as they index the Common Pleas, it remains to be seen how much more we can learn about the activities of marblers.

Copyright: Jon Bayliss

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