BOOK REVIEW: William Lack, H. Martin Stuchfield & Philip Whittemore (eds.). The Monumental Brasses of Buckinghamshire (Monumental Brass Society. £15.00 + £1.50 P+P. April 1994. ISBN 0 9501298 9 5). xvi, 277 pages; many illus; bibliog.; index.


Few counties with such a number and variety of brasses has been so poorly represented in publishing terms as Buckinghamshire. Now at last, not only has this been remedied, but also done so completely.

This volume, the third in the series, is much larger than its predecessors (Bedfordshire 114 pages; Berkshire 194 pages), and is especially valuable for its near 300 illustrations, many of them of brasses not reproduced before. Whilst Buckinghamshire may lack many of the country’s ‘great’ brasses, it more than makes up for it in variety and interest. The volume follows the same basic format and descriptive content as the previous ones, but differs in one major way with theinclusion of many more modern dedicatory/commemorative plates on furniture and fittings, e.g. organ plates; inscr. on pews, altar rails, etc; at Langley Marish (no. XXXIII) reference to ‘23 dedication plates on chairs in N.A., dating from 1968–1991’; and at Beaconsfield (no.IX) ‘Inscr. commem. presentation of flag by Royal Army Educational Corps, 1992, mur., N.A.’. Inclusion of such items is presumably due to the help given by the local NADFAS Church Recorders and might be considered questionable.

The best guide to the contents of this volume is, as previously, our President’s excellent concise and helpful Introduction, which I do not intend to duplicate. With its close proximity to London, Buckinghamshire inevitably contains largely London style brasses, notably many London F & G. It also has a good selection of Gerard Johnson and Edward Marshall brasses and inscriptions, plus two unusual compositions by Robert Haydock (Tingewick I & Bletchley I); one by Epiphanius Evesham (Marsworth V) and two lesser known, more conventional compositions in the style of William Wright, Wavendon I, inscr. & acht, 1639; and Wooburn VII, recumbent child on A.T., inscr. & acht, 1642. The latter is illustrated with its stone border inscription, now separated from the brass, but listed as ‘destroyed’ by Mill Stephenson.

Of the many lesser known, yet interesting older brasses reproduced, most have not been illustrated before, or at least not since Lipscomb’s four volume county history (1847); Chenies IV; Dinton I; Edlesborough II; Monks Risborough II; Nether Winchendon I & II; Saunderton I and Swanbourne I are good examples. Only four actual indents are illustrated, but many more lost brasses and indents are recorded. Other examples have missing figures/parts inserted from early rubbings/impressions in national collections, e.g. Hitcham II and Upton II. Most losses have been suffered by All SS, Marlow, including an especially interesting brass to four brothers, 1388 (illus p. 149) and a double priest brass, c. 1475 (illus p. 151). Three of the lost brasses illustrated here are based on impressions by Craven Ord. In all 14 lost brasses are listed at Marlow, and another smaller, but interesting series of indents can be found at Hanslope.

Some churches like All SS Marlow, Langley Marish and Weston Turville abound with Victorian and modern plates (the majority at the latter on chairs and pews), but for sheer quantity Eton College Chapel, with 300 post–1700 inscriptions alone, is exceptional. Quite a number were made by Gawthorp (whose name, incidentally, is spelt incorrectly as ‘Gawthorpe’ on several occasions), and whilst there are not as many signed Victorian or later figure and cross brasses as Berkshire, well known designers/engravers such as J.W. Archer, George Friend, A.W.N. Pugin, A.G. Wyon and the Wallers, are all represented. Eton College has a small number of plates with scenes relative to the life of the deceased (illus. p. 91) and at Chenies is a WWI memorial engraved by William Morris & Co. (not illustrated). Would it be possible, I wonder, to print the names of any post–1700 signed brasses or manufacturer’s names in a different or bolder type, as they are difficult to spot, and are not in the index.

This latest volume is a great credit to its three editors and to those members and others who helped them. It is also a fine example of what can be achieved by determined effort and sheer hard work. It is an invaluable work of reference and extraordinarily good value at the price. Copies available from The Monumental Brass Society, Lowe Hill House, Stratford St. Mary, Suffolk. C07 6JX. Cheques, etc. payable to the Society.

Richard Busby
From Monumental Brass Society Bulletin 66 (June 1994), pp. 126-7