The Foxearth and District Local History Society

Local group - events and information.

Meetings and activities, announcements and notices for the Foxearth and District Local History Society, and associated organisations. For more information on recent events and current programme, please email or contact Clare Mathieson 01787 311337 or Lynda Rumble 01787 281434




The Society welcomed Martin Stuchfield, Vice-President and former President of the Monumental Brass Society, to give a talk on the Monumental Brasses of Essex and Suffolk. Martin last gave a presentation to the Society some six years ago. There was a sizeable audience hanging onto Martin’s every word and who were glued to his impressive powerpoint presentation.

We learned that by geographical distribution of brasses, Essex and Suffolk rank 3rd and 4th respectively in the United Kingdom. Essex has a total of 473 and Suffolk 436. Norfolk is in first position with 946. When it comes to effigial brasses, Essex is in second place behind Kent with 272. If those figures are impressive, Martin has visited 75% of all churches in England.

Monumental brasses were a popular form of floor or wall memorial in the Middle Ages and can still be found in many churches especially in East Anglia. Some depict important figures in British and European history, while others commemorate local ‘worthies’. In much the same way as wealthy landowners and merchants contributed to or built large churches, brass monuments signified wealth and position in society – one had arrived!

As well as being fascinating in their own right, brasses prove a rich visual imagery for those interested in other subjects including armour (Martin pointed out how these had changed over the years which he called the ‘Mary Quant effect of their time!), costume and heraldry. Remarkably they also provide a deep source of social and local history and genealogy. As an example of the genealogy's importance, two slides were shown depicting brasses of Thomas Beale, twice mayor 1593 with his two wives and eight of his surviving 21 children. The brass is particularly interesting as it also depicts his ancestors back to 1399. This particular brass is at Maidstone in Kent. The other brass is of a recumbent figure in civil dress with a curious genealogical tree of the Lyndley and Palmes family placed in the church at Ottley in Yorkshire in 1593.

Nearer to home is what Martin described as the best-preserved monumental brass in the country at Acton, depicting Sir Robert de Bures c.1331. The finest collection is, in his opinion, at Cobham, Kent where 18 full size monumental brasses have been laid on the chancel floor filling the chancel. These date from between 1320 to 1529.

During the presentation Martin held up a key which he asked the audience to identify. Correctly answering ‘church key’, he proceeded to explain that this was the church key to Little Horkesley church which was destroyed by a German bomb on 21st September 1940. He then showed a photograph of the destruction of the church and the badly damaged brass depicting Sir Robert Swynborne, Lord of the Manor, 1391, and his son, Sir Thomas, Mayor of Bordeaux, 1412. These brasses were recovered from the destroyed church, subsequently restored at Colchester Castle and returned in 1957.

Foxearth and Borley churches also have significant brasses – in Foxearth an inscription commemorating Joseph Sidey, gent., 1605. In Borley the inscription is to John, 3rd son of Thomas Derhame of West Dereham, Norfolk, Esq., 1601, aged 67. In Pentlow church there is an indent for the lost brass of a civilian with a foot inscription, dated c.1490.

This report only touches on the content of the superb, in-depth presentation. There were many other fascinating gems shared by Martin. The reusing of brass, adaptive brasses, ‘waster’ brasses where brass had been reversed. One brass had actually been reused, the original had depicted a male with two wives. The reused benefactor of the brass did not have two wives so he converted one wife to depict his mother!

As a measure of the engagement generated by Martin, there were many questions which included the method for dating and analysing the age of brass, the constituents of brass, the cost of brass memorials and engraving in today’s value (6 figures and some 7), the origins of the raw manufactured brass, how NOT to clean brasses (keep the Brasso can well away) and when did Martin take up his interest in monumental brasses.

Martin has devoted a life-time to his interest in monumental brasses that has included authoring many books and academic papers. This presentation was so full of interesting facts and discoveries it is worthy of a follow up as it is very likely Martin has only skimmed the surface of this subject.

FLDHS - Kelvin  Hastings Smith


Post a Comment

<< Home