Portfolio of Brasses
Each month we feature an article about a brass of particular interest.
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January's brass of the month is part of a larger monument at Blénod-lès-Toul in France.
The village of Blénod-lès-Toul (Meurthe-et-Moselle) is one that often falls outside the tourist route along the A4 autoroute, which heads from the glories of Champagne eastwards to the sophistications of Alsace. Yet this village is notable today not only as a centre of good wine production but also for its remarkable early-Renaissance style church, which is a legacy from Hugues des Hazards, bishop of Toul 1506-17.
Hugues himself consecrated the church in 1512. It was an example of a new conception of church building as a...read more
December's brass of the month is a mural panel from Cottisford in Oxfordshire.
This happy little family group has never been illustrated in print, and in many ways is typical of the smaller brasses of the early sixteenth century. With eight sons and five daughters, the household must have been a noisy one. Unfortunately the inscription has long been lost, and there is no record of its wording, but the likely attribution is to John Samwell, who was lessee of the Manor from 1469 to 1505, though it could conceivably be his son Robert, who died in 1515. The dexter...read more
The brass for November features another example attributed to Edward Marshall (July 2006: John Eldred, Great Saxham, Suffolk, 1632), but laid down to a very different character.
Samuel Harsnett (1561-1631) was born at Colchester, the son of William and Agnes Haselnoth; he had changed his name to Harsnett by the time he went up to Cambridge in 1579; he was ordained five years later. In 1587 he became master of the grammar school at Colchester, where he had probably been educated, but left teaching in 1589 to return to the university. He was appointed master of Pembroke College in 1605,...read more
October brings us a brass where the figure is very much subservient to the heraldry - the number of shields on the plate totals twenty-seven.
There is still much to surprise the student of monumental brasses in the less visited parts of the English countryside. The brass of Margaret, wife of John Lambart (or Lambert), at Pinchbeck in Lincolnshire, with its extensive gilding and painting, is a case in point. Although listed by Mill Stephenson, it escaped notice in the Lincolnshire church notes compiled in the seventeenth century by Holles and in the nineteenth century by Monson (Lincolnshire Record Society,...read more
September's brass of the month is the first to show a brass to a king and queen. Surprisingly only four monumental brasses survive which commemorate royalty. Two can be found in England with one each in Germany and Denmark.
The English examples comprise a curious half-effigy at Wimborne Minster, Dorset, which depicts St Ethelred, King of the West Saxons (died in 871 although the brass was not engraved until c.1440), wearing a crown and holding a sceptre. The other English example, in Peterborough Cathedral, is a rather battered inscription engraved at the end of the 18th century, to Queen Catherine...read more
This attractive brass lies on the Sanctuary floor in Denham parish church on the north side of the altar. It shows Dame Agnes in conventual dress, consisting of a long gown tied with a girdle, a veil, wimple and cloak. She was Abbess of the Bridgettine Convent of Syon at Isleworth, which had been founded by Henry V in 1415. The house was dissolved by order of Henry VIII in 1539, and Agnes was given a generous pension of two hundred pounds a year.
The inscription reads:-
Of your charity pray for the soule/read more
of Dame Agnes Jordan sometyme/
July’s Brass of the Month is to John Eldred, Citizen and Clothworker of London, at Great Saxham in Suffolk. Attributed to Edward Marshall, Master Mason of England from 1660 to 1675, who worked in Fetter Lane in the City of London, the brass was commissioned by John’s son Revett at the time of his father’s death in 1632. Originally on an altar tomb, the brass and its original slab of dark marble are now set in the floor of the nave not far from his complementary monument of painted clunch stone on the South side of the chancel whence...read more
June's brass of the month features the large brass to Thomas, Lord Berkeley and his wife, Margaret, which is on a Purbeck marble tomb chest in the north aisle of the church dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin, Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire.
The brass of Thomas, Lord Berkeley is an excellent example of the work of London style ‘B’ in its heyday – authoritative, economical and austere: the characteristics of the Perpendicular architecture of the period. The figures are near life size.
The brass was commissioned in 1392 on the death of Thomas’s wife, Margaret, daughter and heiress of Warin, Lord Lisle. It...read more
May's brass of the month features a brass which was stolen in May 2004 from Dauntsey, Wiltshire. This is one of two brasses to commemorate Lady Anne Danvers, both of which were set up in Dauntsey church. The earliest , which still survives, is one of two figures on the top in an altar tomb on the north side of the altar commissioned on the death of her husband, Sir John Danvers, in 1513. These brasses are securely rivetted to the Purbeck marble cover slab, which is probably why they remain in the church.
Anne was the daughter of Sir...read more
April's brass of the month is from St Alban's Abbey, Hertfordshire and commemorates a rare example of a brass to a monk, Brother Robert Beauner, who died in the mid fifteenth century.
The number of surviving monastic brasses is relatively few. When this brass was laid down in the Benedictine abbey at St Albans (now St Albans Cathedral) in c.1450-60, it was one of the richest monastic houses in England. It boasted many fine brasses, a number of which have survived in varying states of completeness or as indents only, notably the fine Flemish brass of Abbot Thomas de la...read more
March’s brass of the month features an unusual type of emblematic brass at Rendham, Suffolk, commemorating Thomas Kyng, who died in 1523.
From the twelfth century onwards, it became the custom for priests to be buried in their vestments, often with a chalice and paten placed upon the breast. These chalices were commonly made of pewter, tin or lead, not the actual vessels used in the celebration of mass, though they were copies of them. Priests were often depicted on monumental brasses in Eucharistic vestments with their chalices. There are about fifty surviving examples of this type of memorial, including...read more
February's brass of the month is from Deene, Northamptonshire and commemorates Sir Thomas Brudenell (d.1549) and his wife Elizabeth (d.1558).
The brass lies in the Brudenell Chapel at Deene. Sir Thomas is shown in armour slightly facing towards his wife who is on a separate plate. Sir Thomas died on 10th March 1549, and was a Justice of the Common Pleas. As such could also have been depicted in his judge’s robes. However, the brass was not laid down till 1586, by his son, another Thomas.
Interestingly no children are shown. Yet Thomas left a wife and ten of their eleven...read more
The first brass of the month for 2006 features an excellent Victorian example at Skipton, Yorkshire commemorating Elizabeth Tempest, who died in 1845.
The brass to Elizabeth Tempest was designed by A.W.N. Pugin and engraved in 1847 by the firm of John Hardman of Birmingham at a cost of £67. It shows a lady in widow’s robes holding a model of a church. She stands under a single canopy, with the families’ arms in the occulus, surmounted by a cross. Two scrolls with the prayer ‘Jesu mercy’ and a foot inscription seeking prayers for Elizabeth and her husband Stephen’s souls...read more
Over the centuries many brasses have disappeared and are only known from the indents in the stones left in churches or from illustrations in old books, manuscripts and, occasionally, rubbings. This example is from Thorndon in Suffolk and was drawn probably around 1734. It is from the Hengrave Mss. in the Cambridge University Library.
The notes that goes with it read: “In Henry ye 7th's time Edward Grymston Esq lived here, for whom there is a large altar tomb on the north side of the chancell the inscription in brass torn off. His effigies with his arms on his surcoat...read more
November's brass of the month from Upper Hardres, Kent commemorates John Strete (d.1406). It is a rare survivor of a type of brass mostly known only from indents, in which the deceased is depicted kneeling in prayer before a devotional image, either on a bracket, as here, or within a crosshead. Sometimes, as in the case of the monastic indents at Ely, the object of devotion is the cross itself. The earliest known example of this type of iconographic brass is the indent in St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford, ascribed to Adam de Brome, the founder of Oriel College...read more
October's brass of the month commemorates Dame Margaret Chute, née Welford (d.1614), and is from St Mary the Virgin church, Marden, Herefordshire.
Conserved and remounted on an Iroko wood board by William Lack in 1988, it shows Margaret in extravagant early Jacobean costume flanked by her two young daughters, with her delicately engraved coat of arms above her and an epitaph below on two separate rectangular brass plates.
The epitaph explains that Margaret was the second wife of Sir George Chute (b.1586) and daughter and sole heir of Thomas Welford, Esq., of Wisteston. She had two daughters: Anne, who is depicted...read more
Sepember's brass of the month illustrates the combined skills of the brass engraver and stone carver. The brass to Sir William Wadham and his mother Joan, is set in a fine slab of Purbeck marble, size 131 by 52 ins. upon an ornate table tomb in the north transept of St Mary's Church, Ilminster, Somerset.
Sir William Wadham was the eldest son of Sir John Wadham, Kings Sergeant and one of the Justices of the Common Pleas in the reign of Richard II, and died in 1411. Sir John married Joan Wrotesley who is the lady represented on the brass.read more
August's brass of the month feature has, for the first time, a brass from Yorkshire. It lies in the chancel of Beeford church and commemorates Thomas Tonge, rector of that parish. He was instituted to the Rectory of Beeford in 1431, on presentation of the Prior and Hospital of St John. In November 1471 he made his will asking to be buried in the choir of Beeford church. He died on 24th September the following year.
While most of the brasses shown in earlier brass of the month features were made in London, this brass was made in...read more
July's brass of the month, laid at the east end of the chancel floor at Little Plumstead, Norfolk commemorates Sir Edward Warner d.1565. It is a large, impressive brass from the London G workshop. Sir Edward is shown as a knight in his later years, with the long beard and short hair fashionable for Elizabethan men. The inscription tells us that he was 54 when he died.
Sir Edward Warner lived through the political and religious upheavals of the reigns of Henry VIII, Mary I, Edward VI and died in the reign of Elizabeth I. He was a court official...read more
June 2005read more
All the brasses and incised slabs so far featured in Brass of the Month have been of figures and it is these “pictures” that tend to make brasses popular. However, they are not even half the story. Over 50% of surviving brasses dating from the 13th to the beginning of the 18th century have no effigy. They are either an heraldic shield with an inscription, or simply an inscription. When the large number of indents of lost inscriptions is taken into consideration, the percentage probably exceeds 60%. Furthermore, with the study of brasses now extending through the...