Portfolio of Brasses
Each month we feature an article about a brass of particular interest.
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Brasses commemorating children were far more common than sculpted monuments until James I and VI commemorated two small daughters early in the seventeenth-century. Thereafter monumental sculpture memorialising children became much more frequent. A late sixteenth-century example of a brass to a child can be found in Brightling church in Sussex. It commemorates Thomas, only son of Thomas Pye, professor of sacred theology, whose surname was appropriatly latinised to Pius.
The figure of young Thomas kneels on a cushion in prayer. He wears a gown that indicates he was very young, as both male and female children wore the...read more
Date: 1507 1518
This month's contribution highlights the contrast between the present condition of two brasses at Isleham and many others in the same county, Cambridgeshire.
On 28 August 1643 Parliament passed an ordinance stating that 'all Monuments of Superstition and Idolatry should be removed and abolished'. These were to include 'images and pictures of saints or superstitious inscriptions'. It was intended that churchwardens would carry out such work or the justices of the peace if they failed to do so and that it should be done before 1 November 1643. On 19 December 1643 the earl of Manchester issued a warrant to...read more
On the south side of the chancel of the church of St Nicholas in Dereham is a brass shield set on an older Purbeck slab. In Blomefield's History of Norfolk, this is associated with an inscription, thus:
On a brass this imperfect epitaph, in memory of ____ Aquila.
Alta petens Aquila istac jam conditur aula :
Qui manet precibus justorum gaudia lucis,
Hic rexit ter
The iconoclast William Dowsing visited four Cambridgeshire villages on Wednesday 3 January 1643/4. He had spent his time in late December and the very beginning of January visiting Cambridge college chapels and churches, resulting in a great deal of destruction of images and words in these building although a surprising amount of the material that would have caused him offence remains to this day, some of it perhaps removed in advance and thus unavailable for inspection. Brasses in King's College Chapel were deliberately damaged but their more inoffensive components were allowed to remain. Dowsing's diary can be frustratingly sparse...read more
This month’s brass commemorates Abbot Heribert von Lülsdorf (1481) from
Kornelimünster, in Nordrhein-Westfalen Germany
Transactions (vol.X (1965), pt.3, pp.173-4) contains an article entitled “Brasses in
Germany & the Low Countries” by Messrs. Belonje & Greenhill, which features the above brass from the parish church of St Kornelius Kornelimünster, formerly a Benedictine Abbey founded in the 9th century.
An illustration opposite page 173 from a work by L. von Fisenne (1880) showsread more
the brass after its first restoration in the 19th century. It comprises a central plate with a demi figure of the abbot under a canopy, and...
August 2019read more
It is not often that brasses make the news around the world but the simple inscription commemorating Ann or Anna, daughter of Sir John Paston, did so in the second week of June 2019. An archaeologist, Matt Champion, working on the Paston Footprints 600 project on the church at Oxnead had happened to notice her inscription and that it recorded a member of the family previously unknown to historians. The story was then taken up by the media.
The Paston family of Norfolk has attracted a great deal of attention over the past 250 years. The...
The 'Recovery of an Ancient Brass at Salisbury' was reported in a short article of the same name by C[lifford] W[yndham] Holgate in the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine published in 1894.1 It was the brass of Henry Dove and the church was that of St Edmund. He described it as copper rather than brass and thought it had probably been taken from the vault under the church where Dove had been buried and appeared once to have been inserted in stone. It was in the possession of someone living near Andover who had informed a museum director...read more
The 1480s were a time of rapid change in the ruling circle of Stamford. The town was governed by twenty-five men, with an alderman at their head and two groups of twelve burgesses, the first and second twelve. Christopher Browne, a nephew of William Browne, founder of Browne's Hospital, and grandson of John Browne, merchant of the staple, was a member of the family that dominated fifteenth-century Stamford. He was made free in 1482, made a member of the first twelve without having served in the second twelve and became alderman at the end of the year, a very...read more
The subject of this month's brass has recently attracted attention because he has been identified as the owner of a surviving illustrated missal in Cambridge University Library. Research into his life is currently being undertaken by Professor Carole Rawcliffe and Dr John Alban.
With homes in Norwich and Honing, close to Bromholm Priory, where the elder Sir John Paston was buried in 1466, Nicholas Parker might be expected to feature in the contemporary letters of the Paston family, yet the man of the same name who does was the notary public of the diocese of Norwich and was buried in...read more
The Stafford family of Blatherwyck had their origins with the Staffords of Grafton. Their is a profusion of heads of the family named Humfrey that makes identifying any particular Humfrey a task that needs care. Like his father, who died little more than a dozen years before his son did, the particular Humfrey represented on the brass was a knight. He is referred to on occasion as as Sir Humfrey Stafford junior, as when he was on service on the Continent in Henry VIII's army in the early 1540s. At other times, as when he wrote to Thomas Cromwell...read more
April 2019read more
The church of St Peter at Offord Darcy lies outside the main village but close to the manor house. It is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. While the brass depicting the kneeling rector William Taylard lies in its original Lincolnshire marble slab, that of Sir Laurence Pabenham and his two wives has been relaid in a piece of Purbeck marble large enough to contain the remnants of the three figures and the inscription but considerably smaller than the original, now lost, last recorded as being in the tower.
Sir Laurence was...
John Corbet, born by 1514, was the son of John Corbet of nearby Spixworth, gentleman, who died in the early 1540s after a career as a brazier in Norwich, where he rose to be sheriff. The Corbet family came from Morton Corbet, Shropshire, as evidenced by their arms, Or, a raven proper, although the Norfolk branch used a different crest, a squirrel sejant, cracking a nut, proper. The Jermy family granted the manor of Mounteney in Sprowston to John Corbet, esquire, around the time of his father's death. The family retained it for nearly a hundred years, Sir Thomas...read more
Although his month's brass was mentioned in many guidebooks in the century before the First World War it has since received rather less attention but relates directly to one of the major problems faced by Elizabeth I during her reign.
On 2nd May 1568 Mary Queen of Scots escaped from imprisonment in Castle Leven, set on an island in Loch Leven. She had been forced to abdicate in favour of her ten month old son, James VI, on 24th July the previous year following the murder of her second husband and her marriage to the man many believed to be...read more
It is quite unusual to find a brass combined with an alabaster tablet; usually alabaster tablets have inscription panels of slate or black marble, some of which also have incised figures. An alabaster tablet at West Malling, Kent, to Jane, Lady Fitzjames, who died in 1594, has a large brass inscription panel set in an alabaster tablet attributable to Giles de Witte, a sculptor from Bruges who arrived in England in 1585. The alabaster tablet to Francis Saunders at Welford in Northamptonshire goes one step further and has a plate with kneeling effigies of Francis, his three wives and...read more
The brass this month is affixed in a most unusual position.
The church of Bolton-by-Bowland (Yorkshire) boasts a large and imposing octagonal font of Egglestone marble. There are a number of such fonts in Yorkshire and Durham in particular, but this one is distinctive due to the inscription engraved on pairs of brass strips on four of the concave panels of the bowl.
The inscriptions run from the southernmost panel to the northernmost in sequential order. They read ‘Orate p[ro] a[n]i[m]ab[u]s / d[omin]i Radul / phi Pudsay / milit[is] & de /...read more
The last man to be depicted in armour on brass in England before the Victorian era was Nicholas Toke. He died at the age of 92 and so may have been younger than some of those shown in armour on brasses of the 1630s and 1640s. Having married on five previous occasions, he is said to have died while on a visit to London to find a sixth. He had served in the Navy in his younger days and was heavily involved with his local militia, often being referred to as Captain Nicholas Toke. In view of...read more
This month's brass has been chosen by our president, the Venerable David Meara.
The brass of John Kyngeston, who died in 1514, and his wife, Susan Fetyplace, whose date of death was never filled in on their inscription, is one of the three to have a plate of the Holy Trinity. It has lost two shields and parts of each of the two mouth scrolls. On the back of the Trinity and one of the remaining shields are two parts of the figure of a lady very similar to Susan's figure. Although there is...read more
The outline of Anne Bedingfield's life can be found in Eva Griffiths' biography of her in the Dictionary of National Biography and a précis of the DNB entry by John Blatchly was published in the MBS Bulletin, illustrated by Suckling's lithograph of her brass. It recounted how her father had died in 1576 and left her the leasehold of property in Clerkenwell that was part of the bequest of freehold land by Thomas Seckford that supported his almshouses at Woodbridge. When her mother dismissed a clerk from the family brewing business, he took her to court. Her defence was...read more
County: Seine et Oise
In 1890, the text of a contract for an incised slab was published in France by Albert des Méloizes in Bulletin monumental. Contracts for monuments are much less rare in France than in Britain, as they were officially recorded as legal documents and some of those records survive. In this case it is the original contract rather than the official record of it that survived. While very large numbers of incised slabs survived both the wars of religion and the French revolution, not to mention church renovations and rebuildings, many others did not. Amongst their number was...read more
Date: 1547 (C17 engraving)
In the seventeenth century at various places around England, brasses were laid down that purported to represent men, women and children that had died in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. In some cases this was done to repair and replace earlier brasses, while in other instances the motive was to help establish spurious pedigrees. The most well known instance of the latter is the series of brasses at Pluckley in Kent, supposedly representing the ancestors of Sir Edward Dering but there is at least one more example, at Rugeley in Staffordshire. The most extensive example of...read more
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