William Lack, H Martin Stuchfield & Philip Whittemore (editors). The Monumental Brasses of Cheshire. (Monumental Brass Society. £15.00 + £2.50 p. & p. 1996. Isbn–0 9523315 1 9). 222 pages; 107 illus.; bibliog.; index; stiff paper cover.


This now well established series of county volumes is the fifth to appear since April 1992. It is considerably larger than one would expect from a county which takes up only some 4½ pages in Mill Stephenson‘s List and Supplement. It is thus immediately evident that the volume includes many entries for l9th and 20th century inscriptions. There are, however, some fine and interestingfigure and cross brasses of the same centuries, notably by the Waller brothers. In addition there are records and/or illustrations of some tantalisingly noteworthy lost brasses, mostly recorded by 17th and 18th century antiquaries, but some as surviving indents. This volume is the only one to be published on the county‘s brasses since J L Thornely‘s Monumental Brasses of Lancashire & Cheshire (1893 repr. 1975), though there is a now largely forgotten illustrated article ”The Monumental Brasses of Cheshire• by L M Angus–Butterworth of 1940 (Trans Lancs & Cheshire Antiquarian Soc, LV pp. 81–106).

The volume begins with a very helpful Introduction (pp. iii–vi), surveying the range of brasses of all dates, highlighting the unusual or unique examples. Best known of the latter is the Mass of St Gregory on the Legh brass, l506, at St Michael‘s Church, Macclesfield. This is illustrated on the front cover and the whole brass (with missing parts restored‘) on p. 105. This London G brass was repaired by William Lack during 1996.

In all, some 320 churches are recorded with brasses, ranging from single to 119 entries (including lost brasses and over 30 stall plates) at Chester Cathedral. A further 33 churches were visited, but no brasses found (see list on p. 192). Other churches with large entries include Malpas (St Oswald) with 69 and Wallasey (St Hilary) with 63. Many others have 25 entries or more. Of the many inscriptions listed, the earliest in one of c. 1360 (Malpas I), whilst amongst the many mainly dedicatory, or small, plates on furniture and fittings, are examples as recent as 1995, e.g. Grappenhall XXVIII; Over (St John the Evangelist) X and Stalybridge (St Paul) XXV. The most recent is a plate recording the gift of a processional cross in memory of Bob Stanley, died 1996 at Stalybridge, St George XVII. These show just how up to date the compilers have made this volume. Many war memorials are also listed.

Of figure, cross and similar brasses, there are relatively few pre–1750 examples; a good, if standard, London F knight of c. 1510 at St Chad, Over (Illus. p. 129) and an interesting, but mutilated knight and wife holding hands under a double canopy (part lost) at St Bartholomew, Wilmslow (M.S.I, 1460), illustrated p. 187. There is also a good selection of 17th and early 18th century plates, some with decoration, most illustrated for the first time.

Of Victorian and modern brasses there are illustrations of some good figures and crosses, five by Messrs Waller. Of the latter the family group of mourners of Edward J Stanley, 1869, Nether Alderley VI, is both unusual and outstanding (see illus. p. 2); three figures of SS Peter and Paul with the Good Shepherd between them, all under a canopy like a triptych, probably by Waller though unsigned, is also finely executed (illus. p. 71, Daresbury VIII, 1867). There is an elegant cross, with the Good Shepherd in front of the head, l856, again by the Wallers at Upton by Chester, illus. p. 171, and others, unsigned, at Chester Cathedral XIII (l842), Daresbury V (1855) and All SS,Runcorn III (1865) and IV(1878), the latter in the churchyard. The figures of SS Christopher and Francis, on brass plates on either side of the altar and with coloured background, at Bowden (illus. p. 15) are signed F.D.S.‘. Who the engraver/designer is remains unclear, but the style is late 19th century and in the Arts and Crafts‘ fashion.

117 indents and lost brasses are recorded, including, at Acton (14 & 15), an appropriated slab with half–effigy and inscription of c. 1400, reused c. 1550 by being turned upside down for a man in armour, wife, foot inscription, two groups of children and 4 shields (illus. facing p. 1).An important early indent of a canopied figure of a lady, 2 shields and marginal inscription in Lombardic letters, c. 1320–30 at Warmington is illustrated p. 181. Perhaps the most unusual lost brass, recorded by Cole in c. 1755, is the shrouded figures of Randall Dodd and his wife (1634) in shrouds, with inscription, on a rectangular plate, on a tomb in the churchyard at Little Budworth (p. 30, not illus.). Four interesting indents are recorded by Randle Holme (BL Harl. Ms 2151) at Bowden 1531 (illus p. 23), Bunbury 22, 26 & 27 (illus. pp. 32 & 35), Holy Trinity, Chester (illus. p. 53) and Sandbach (illus. pp. 146–7). Thomas Dingley records the lost brass of Hugh Calverley, in arm., and wife, under double canopy and with marginal inscription, 1415, at Bunbury (illus. p. 33); at St Michael, Macclesfield, 1552, is a very worn indent which includes the rarely shown emblems of mortality (illus. p. 107) from Holme‘s drawing). Again at Bunbury, is a poor late 19th century restoration of the kneeling figure of Sir Ralph Egerton, Standard Bearer to Henry VIII, 1527 (illus. p. 32).

The above give just a taster‘ of this splendid and worthy volume of which the MBS and the compilers can be justly proud. As always, the editors will be pleased to hear of additions and corrections. The transposition of pp. ix and xi in the preliminary pages is unfortunate (a correction slip notes the error) and is insignificant in comparison to the overall value of the volume. The book is dedicated to MBS members Patrick Farman and Peter Hacker, who did much of the fieldwork and provided most of the excellent rubbings for the illustrations. It is also an In Memoriam‘ to our late President, Dr Malcolm Norris, who wrote the Introduction to the previous four volumes in the series and who gave so much support to the project.

Richard Busby
From Monumental Brass Society Bulletin 73 (Oct. 1996), pp. 264-5