Portfolio of Brasses
Each month we feature an article about a brass of particular interest.
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July 2004read more
One of the most spectacular brasses in Europe spent fifty years hidden in a cellar in Leningrad, generally believed to be destroyed. It disappeared from Poznan Cathedral at the beginning of the Second World War, and only reappeared when the administration of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg rather sheepishly produced it in 1990, along with half a dozen other Polish brasses, and restored it to its place. It is now fastened to the wall - rather high up - in the north east ambulatory, and not very well lit.
On the heroic scale, the brass...
June 2004read more
The feature for June is not a brass, but an incised slab. It is from Crowland, Lincolnshire and commemorates William de Wermington. Although modern-day Crowland is a small, sleepy village, it was very much more important in the medieval period, when it boasted a Benedictine Abbey of broadly equivalent status to that at Peterborough. The abbey chronicle is one of the main historical sources for the reigns of Edward IV and Richard III. The present parish church is all that remains of the much larger Abbey church.
William de Wermington's incised slab shows the beared...
May 2004read more
May's brass of the month is from Llandinabo, Herefordshire. This unusual mural composition in a stone frame commemorates Thomas Tompkins, who died in 1629. Only the figure is shown here, but it is accompanied by a rectangular plate with a poorly-engraved and worn inscription in Roman lettering.
Amongst the most poignant of monuments are those to children who died young. It is often thought that infant mortality rates meant that parents were rather resigned to such losses and rarely bothered to commemorate deceased children, yet that is not true. Although most brasses commemorate adults, it is...
April 2004read more
April's brass of the month is an unusual composition to William Bradschawe, gent., d. 1537, and his wife Alice, which was stolen brass the church of St. Mary, Wendover, Buckinghamshire in 1980. The two main figures, showing kneeling at their prayer desks, and the inscription constitute a standard type of brass produced by the London G workshops in scores, but the design has been modified to show the descendents of the couple.
Under the two main figures are their 2 sons and 7 daughters, all with their names underneath. Bridget, Margery and William are shown...
Date: c.1370 and c.1510
March 2004read more
March's brass of the month is from Ticehurst, Sussex. The inscription records that it commemorates John Wybarne, who died in 1490, and his two wives, Edith and Agnes. John Wybarne was the son of John Wybarne of Hawkwell, in Pembury, Kent, by his wife Agnes, daughter and heir of John Sidley, and the brother of Nicholas Wybarne, a knight hospitaler of Rhodes, He was possessed of considerable property in Ticehurst parish, and was a great benefactor to the church. He married first Edith Hide, by whom he had 9 children, and secondly a widow, Agnes Harris, who...
February 2004read more
February's brass of the month is from Holme-next-the-Sea, a small and somewhat remote village just inland from the north west coast of Norfolk. The brass commemorates Henry Nottingham and his wife, Agnes. Both are shown on the brass, but oddly her name is not given in the inscription. The brass originally covered their tomb in the Lady Chapel at the east end of the south aisle. When this aisle was demolished in 1778, the brass was saved and moved to the nave wall.
Henry Notingham was a country administrator and a retainer of the Duke of...
January 2004read more
January's brass of the month is the earliest surviving brass in England commemorating a woman, Joan de Cobham, who died before 1298. It is the first of the outstanding series of brasses at Cobham, Kent, which lie in serried ranks before the high altar, attesting to the power and importance of the Cobham family.
Joan's husband, John 'the younger', Lord Cobham, who died in 1300, also was commemorated by a brass. Sadly this is now lost, but it was described in antiquarian sources as 'the brass of an ancient knight with a lion under his foot and...
December 2003read more
December's brass of the month is a curious and unusual genealogical composition of c1580, from Norton Disney, Lincolnshire, commemorating three generations of the d’Iseni or Disney family, ancestors of the famous animator, Walt Disney. The brass is a two-dimensional representation of the type of wall monument popular in the late 16th century. This is particularly evident from the pediment, flanked by crests incorporating heraldic beasts, which surmounts the four rectangular panels comprising the main part of the monument. In addition to the figures and inscription, the brass has a proud display of family arms, emphasising the Disney...
November 2003read more
November's brass of the month features a monument now in the north transept of the church of Holy Trinity, Tattershall, Lincolnshire. The brass has been relaid in a slab which has rivets of the inscription from another brass; the original slab no longer survives. All that remains of this composition is a figure of a priest, though it must originally have had at least an inscription. Many inscriptions on brasses were deliberately destroyed by iconoclasts during the Reformation, but in this case the cause was probably neglect. Eighteenth and nineteenth century accounts of the brasses at Tattershall...
October 2003read more
October's brass of the month commemorates Joan, Lady Cromwell, who died in 1479. It is one of three major canopied figures now in the north transept of the church of Holy Trinity, Tattershall, Lincolnshire.
Lady Cromwell is depicted in the ceremonial robes of a peeress: an ermine-trimmed sideless cote and a mantle held together by a jewelled clasp. She wears her hair loose, with a jewelled circlet, and wears an elaborate necklace. Her appearance can be compared with that of the ladies in waiting on Catherine de Valois in the scene of her marriage...
September 2003read more
This month's featured brass is from Ingrave, Essex, though it was originally in the old church of West Horndon alias Thorndon. It is one of two brasses to the Lewes or FitzLewes family moved in 1731 for their better preservation.
Only the five main figures survive. Above their heads is an indent of a plate which contained religious imagery, perhaps a depiction of the Trinity. Below their feet, but not shown in the picture opposite, are two groups of children, one with 6 or 8 children and the other with 6 sons and 3 daughters. The...
This month's featured brass is from Shottesbrooke, Berkshire in the virtually unaltered late Decorated church of St. John the Baptist, one of the finest small churches of the period in England. It was rebuilt in the 2nd quarter of the 14th century following the foundation by Sir William Trussell of a college at Shottesbrooke in 1337.
Trussell himself was buried in an eye-catching tomb with a relief effigy in the north transept. In front of it is a brass to his daughter and heiress, Margaret, wife of Sir Fulk Pembridge of Tong, Shropshire.
This month's brass of the month feature is an incised slab, rather than a brass.read more
All Saints church Derby was one of that important class of establishments known as Collegiate Churches or Secular Colleges, which in the later Middle Ages came to outnumber monasteries, and to displace them as the most common setting for religious community life. Members lived together and celebrated the eight-hour Divine Office in choir together, like monks, but unlike monks they had a pastoral and teaching role in the local community, and were permitted to own private property in moderation. The canons, fellows, chaplains or...
This brass commemorates Adam Ertham, who died in 1382. It is the earliest of a magnificent series of 17 brasses and 8 relief tombs in the Fitzalan Chapel at Arundel, Sussex. The chapel is a remarkable survival of a chantry choir attached to a parochial nave, in this case the parish church of St. Nicholas. It formed the eastern portion of the former College of the Holy Trinity, founded by Richard Earl of Arundel, in 1380, out of the confiscated lands and income of the alien Priory of St. Nicholas, a cell of the Abbey of Seez, Normandy, which...read more
This brass commemorates Richard Torryngton, a prosperous London wool-merchant, who exported wool with his partner, John Norborw. He died in 1356. His wife Margaret Incent died in 1349, presumably a victim of the Black Death.
What survives of the brass shows the pair in civilian dress, a fragment of the marginal inscription and two shields The arms above his head are those of Torryngton, also once seen in the east window of the north transept aisle: Silver a cross fretty gules between in chief a saltire engrailed and a double cross formy azure. The arms above her head...read more
This brass commemorates Sir Thomas Stathum, d. 1470, and his two wives, Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Langley esq., and Thomasine, daughter of John Curzon esq.. It is one of a series of brasses in this church to members of the Stathum family, who were Lords of the Manor of Morley, Derbyshire and most of whom recorded on their brass building works and contributions to the fabric of St Mathews church and other good works they carried out in the town.
Sir Thomas had very clear ideas as to how he wished to be commemorated. In his will he...read more
This brass commemorates George Rede, who was rector of Fovant, Wiltshire from 1473 to his resignation in 1504. The inscription reads, in translation 'Pray for the soul of George Rede, formerly Rector of the Church of Fovant at the time of the building of the new tower there, AD 1492, on whose soul God have mercy Amen'. This indicates that it was not laid down by his executors after his death, as was the norm at this time, but was commissioned by Rede himself, probably around the time that the building works to the tower were completed.
The brass which Rede...read more
This brass commemorates Nicholas Gaynesford, who died in 1498, and his wife, Margaret (nee Sidney), died 1503. Gaps are left in the inscription for the dates of death, showing that the brass was engraved in the lifetime of the pair, probably 1480-5, and so shows them as they personally wished to be represented. He is shown in armour and she in a butterfly headdress and gown with a collar of Suns and Roses, denoting allegiance to the Yorkist dynasty. The brass forms the back panel of a high tomb on the north side of the old Chancel of Carshalton church.read more