Portfolio of Brasses
Each month we feature an article about a brass of particular interest.
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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
February's brass of the month is from St Nicholas-at-Wade in Kent.
This brass lies in the north chapel of the church of St Nicholas at St Nicholas-at-Wade, on the Isle of Thanet in Kent. What immediately strikes one is the very odd placing of the main figures above the inscription. The first clue as to the reason for this is to be found in the inscription which reads:
Here lyeth buried ye Bodyes of Valontyne Edvarod Gentylman who had tooread more
wifes Agnes and Joane by Agnes he had iiii sonnes & too daughters and also
by Joane his second wyfe iii...
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