Portfolio of Brasses
Each month we feature an article about a brass of particular interest.
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The Much Married Spycer of Cirencester: the brass of Reginald Spycer (d. 1442)
The parish church of St John the Baptist, Cirencester, contains a number of remarkable monumental brasses from the fifteenth century.1 Together with St Peter and St Paul, Northleach, and St James, Chipping Camden, Cirencester forms part of the ‘triumvirate’ of wool churches in the Cotswolds. The wealth of these churches is not only reflected in the magnificent architectural features but also in the extent of the funerary commemoration of the parishioners, in the form of brasses, within them.2
1. I am grateful to Martin Stuchfield, Rupert...read more
September's brass commemorates a neighbour of the Paston family.
Stokesby is in the area known today as the Norfolk Broads. Nearby is Mautby, where Margaret Paston was buried in 1484 alongside her ancestors, and beyond Mautby are Caister and Ormesby. Ormesby was the seat of William Clere, Edmund’s grandfather. Edmund’s father Robert was a younger son, as was Edmund himself, but Edmund outlived his brothers, who died without heirs, and so inherited Stokesby from his father, who had been left it in his mother’s will. Edmund had a first cousin of the same name, a younger son of John, William...read more
August's contribution is a brass that was engraved engraved c. 1467, c. 1630 and c. 1850.
The remarkable collection of brasses at Stopham, near Pulborough in Sussex, deserves a full and detailed account, but this one is offered as a sample of the difficulties in store when it comes to disentangling just when, why and by whom the Stopham brasses were made. The series of brasses to the ruling family runs from 1428 to 1977 (so far), although there was a period between the late seventeenth and mid nineteenth centuries when they were commemorated by inscribed marble tablets instead of...read more
July’s brass usually resides in a hinged wooden frame on the east wall of the north aisle of the church of St Margaret of Antioch in Rochester, Kent. However it is not there at present as it is currently being conserved. The brass is palimpsest, i.e. it is engraved on both sides and the hinged frame allowed both sides to be viewed. Various vicissitudes overtook it in the nineteenth century and the metal is so thin that it can hardly support its own weight. As R..A..S. Macalister said when he spoke to the Society in 1891 (C.U.A.B.C. Transactions Vol.read more
The memorial brass to John Stonor now lies under the communion rail in the Church of at Andrew, at Wraysbury (Wyradisbury), in its cut down Purbeck stone. The brass “was formerly under the feet of the servants in the pew belonging to the lay rector”; its removal in the mid 19thC was “to prevent abrasion from pressure”. The church stands on a slight hill, only noticeable in time of flood, on the edge of the village of Wraysbury in the Thames valley opposite Runnymead. A bronze-age Causeway camp lies alongside the churchyard. Only half a mile from the river...read more
May's contribution is a brass that set an interesting precedent.
Anyone reading this who is not a member of the MBS may not be aware of the excitement generated by a metal-detector find in the fields a short distance from Merton church in Norfolk a couple of years ago. Part of one of the scrolls that had been missing from a brass in the church for hundreds of years was unearthed and has now been set back into its indent. It was the first time that a find recorded under the Portable Antiquities Scheme had been linked to an...
County: Meurthe-et-Moselle, 54
April's contribution is a French incised slab with some unusual imagery.
Part of the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Toul (Meurthe-et-Moselle, 54) incorporates the 13th century buildings of the ‘Maison-Dieu’, a hospital traditionally founded by the bishop Saint Gérard towards the end of the 10th century. The ‘Salle des Malades’ has been converted into a ‘salle lapidaire’ containing a large number of sculpted figures, panels, epitaphs, fragments and other curiosities.
On the floor of this vaulted room are six incised slabs, quite likely in their original positions. Five of them are engraved with figures of the deceased and appear to have...read more
Date: 1578 & 1593
Anne Fitch, subject of March’s brass, is portrayed on two different brasses in the same church.
Anne Fitch was the daughter of John Wiseman of Felsted, a wealthy Roman Catholic landowner. Her first husband, William Fitch, lord of the manor of Little Canfield, died on 20 December 1578, aged 82, and was buried in Little Canfield church. His will provided for his burial in the chancel next to the burial place of his first wife, Elizabeth. His executors were to prepare ‘a convenient and fair marble stone engraved with my arms and the pictures of myself, my wife [sic] and...read more
February 2008read more
February’s brass of the month is from St Botolph’s church, Boston, Lincolnshire. It now appears a somewhat anonymous figure. Of the inlay only the figure remains, although the cut-down slab shows that it originally had a canopy. There is no record of wording of the marginal inscription, which must have been stolen before Francis Thynne visited the church in c. 1605 and recorded such basses as then remained.
The brass has long been thought to commemorate John Strensall [variously also spelled Stransgill or Stranshale], who was rector of St Botolph’s from before 1378 to his death in 1408.
Date: c. 1370
January 2008read more
January's brass of the month is the earliest surviving brass in its county.
The brass of a lady, c. 1370, at Winterbourne is the oldest extant in Gloucestershire. It probably commemorates Agnes, second wife, and widow, of Thomas, Lord Bradeston, an important Gloucestershire landowner who died in 1360. Agnes’s natal family is not known. The brass is a good example of the work of London style ‘B’, austere and drawn with an economy of line. It shows Agnes’s figure under a single canopy with shields between the pinnacles and an inscription surrounding the whole. The canopy, shields and...
On the floor of the Northwest corner of the sanctuary of the church of All Hallows-by-the-Tower, close to the Tower of London, lies a smallish (58cm x 48cm) plate which is December’s Brass of the Month. It is dated 1560 and commemorates William Armorer, his wife Elizabeth, their three sons and two daughters. It is a Lytkott style brass using Script 8, and is not noted as being palimpsest, despite having been taken up from time to time as we shall see below.
The engraving of the figures is very light so that, except close-up (fig.2), they are...
November 2007read more
November's brass of the month is illustrated from a century-old rubbing.
This brass is illustrated from a rubbing in a large portfolio that will be on its way to the Society's archive in Birmingham shortly. The portfolio was put together by Julia Warde-Aldam of Hooton Pagnell Hall in Yorkshire and mostly comprises rubbings made some years before World War I by Julia and other members of her family.
The only person named on the brass is Edward Naylor, rector of Bigby. His education and clerical career is summarized by Venn: he matriculated as a sizar at Corpus Christi...
October 2007read more
October's brass of the month was made in 1593 at a time of crisis for the family commemorated.
Christopher Daubeney died in 1587 but it was not until 1593 that his wife Philippa put up this memorial. Rather strangely, the inscription refers to her father as Mr Roberts in the county Essex esquire. He was Thomas Roberts of Little Braxted, one of the auditors of the Exchequer to Henry VIII.
Although the inscription of his brass stresses his good name and fame as well as his ancient patrimony, Christopher Daubeney had been prepared to cut the odd corner...
September 2007read more
September's brass of the month is now lost.
One of the problems with the study of brasses is that the student is working with a relatively small sample when compared with the number originally laid down. There is a considerable amount of material available on lost brasses through a number of sources.
1. Indents. These are the recessed hollows in church floors where brasses have been set. Even though the brass may have disappeared many years ago, much can be told from the shapes left
2. Manuscript sources. Many antiquarians, heraldic visitors and others made notes of what...
August's brass of the month is, although damaged, of great interest.
Headless and lacking parts of its canopy and inscription, as well as all but one of its shields, the brass of John Byrkhed at St. Mary, Harrow-on-the-Hill, Middlesex, is not immediately attractive. However, an investigation of the life of the person commemorated adds considerable interest to the brass. In his will, made on 24 July 1467 and proved on 5 October 1468, Byrkhede requested to be buried in the chancel, and his brass still lies there, in its original stone, though usually covered by a carpet. He appointed as...read more
Date: engraved c.1535
I didn’t know there were pirates in Oxfordshire
July's brass of the month has represented two different families.
I was once told by a former tutor that the best thing to do when visiting a parish church is to take up the carpet to see what’s underneath. Ever since these words of advice I have done just that and on more than one occasion I have been delighted to find some real gems hidden away. One such brass is to Walter Curson, gentleman, (d.1527) and Isabel, his wife, hidden away in the parish church of St Mary the Virgin, Waterperry, Oxfordshire.
June's brass of the month is part of a major sixteenth century monument.
Edward III founded the Most Noble Order of the Garter in 1349, with St. George as its patron saint. On his brass at Hever, Kent, Sir Thomas Bullen (1538) wears the full insignia of the Order, including the collar of garters. From the fifteenth century onwards, Gartered knights encircled their shields with the Garter in their achievements of arms.
The example of a Gartered shield illustrated here is to be found on the tomb of George Talbot, Fourth Earl of Shrewsbury, who also died in 1538, and is...read more
May's brass of the month very narrowly escaped the melting pot.
Entering Methwold church and looking across to the north aisle, the impression is that Sir Adam de Clifton's figure, remounted on a wooden board against the wall, is complete. Closer inspection shows that the missing pieces have been reproduced in paint on the board.
Sir Adam was born in 1306 at Denver in Norfolk, the son of Roger de Clifton, who had married Margery, daughter of Adam de Cailly and his wife Emma, daughter and co-heir of Robert de Tateshall, whose estates were very substantial. In 1327 he petitioned Edward...read more
April's brass of the month commemorates a leading citizen of Norwich.
Two recent events brought this brass to mind; the announcement that the Monumental Brass Society conference is taking place in Norfolk this year and the chance purchase of a book on Norfolk Silver. 1
Here is Peter Rede depicted as a knight in armour on his memorial brass in St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich. He is shown as a knight of c.1470, however he died in 1568. The engraver has taken the request for a design of an earlier style of armour too far and has used a model from 100...read more
March's brass of the month is is in its third church, all at Hindolveston in Norfolk.
On Sunday 31 July 1892, the nave of the church of St George at Hindolveston, Norfolk, was demolished when the eastern half of the tower fell on it. Until a temporary church was set up, the parish used the chancel for worship. It wasn't until 1932 that a new church was opened. The new church, while obviously a twentieth century building from the outside, reused a significant amount of the fabric of the old one inside. Among the items rescued was the memorial to...read more