BOOK REVIEW: William Lack, H Martin Stuchfield & Philip Whittemore (eds). The Monumental Brasses of Cumberland and Westmorland. (Monumental Brass Society. £15.00 + £2.50 p+p. May 1998. ISBN 0 9523315 4 3). xvi, 209 pages. 78 illus.; bibliography; indexes; stiff paper covers.

A glance at Mill Stephenson‘s List for these two counties shows only a handful of pre-1750 brasses, few of them with figures. However, as the writer of the Introduction to this volume succinctly points out, it would be wrong to dismiss the counties as containing little of interest‘ (p.iii). What may be regarded as a paucity of older brasses and indents is more than made up for by a very wide range of mid-late 18th, l9th and 20th century examples. One very noticeable feature of this volume is the large numbers of brass inscriptions to be found on stones in the churchyards of both counties, many commemorating several generations of the same family. Another feature is the high number of plates bearing the engraver‘maker‘s name, adding many hitherto unrecorded elsewhere.

Of the pre-1750 figure brasses, the best known and most illustrated are those of bishops Richard Bell (M.S.I, 1496) and Henry Robinson (M.S.II, 1616) in Carlisle Cathedral; the fine London D style armoured figure in tabard of William Stapilton, 1458 (M.S.I, Edenhall); Wenefride Newport, 1547, palimpsest (M.S. VII, Greystoke), all in Cumberland, and Alan Bellingham, 1577, in armour (M.S.I, Holy Trinity, Kendal, Westmorland). M.S.I. at Arthuret, Cumb. has a very curious 14th century rectangular plate bearing a squat cross fleury and two hands holding a heart (illus. p. 5); its purpose remains unresolved. Other lesser known figures, only illustrated previously in local publications, include Crosthwaite I, 1527; Greystoke III, 1526 (half-effigy in almuce), V, c. 1540 and VIII, 1551; and Bootle I, 1562 (London G figure in armour, similar in style to the Bellingham brass at Holy Trinity, Kendal), all in Cumberland.

In Westmorland there is the London F figure of Thomas Ouds, priest, Great Musgrave I, 1502, with inscription on his breast (illus. p. 183) and Morland I, 1562, inscription with interesting palimpsest reverse of c. 1530 (obv. & rev, illus. p. 178). At Watermillock, Cumb. is a slightly mutilated inscription of 5 lines to John Castyllow and wife, 1562, previously unrecorded by Mill Stephenson (illus. p. 99). There are many good examples of 17th century inscriptions, many local, in both counties; Wigton I, Cumb. (1648), has 8 laudatory verses very similar in style to an earlier inscription at Holy Trinity, Kendal, Westm. (M.S.II, 1627).

Indents are relatively rare in both counties, especially of early brasses, even Carlisle Cathedral having only six surviving examples, including a good one of c. 1480 (illus. p. 29). At Great Ashby, Westm. is one of similar date, but with no canopy. Most indents are of inscriptions only, mainly 18th and 19th century, several in churchyards, e.g. Dacre and St Andrew, Penrith, Cumb. and Temple Sowerby, Westm. Arguably, the most unusually worded inscription is found in the churchyard at Maryport, Cumb. on an undated oval plate inscribed:

Here lie the remains of 10/= Smith. An Irishman aged £25.

Perhaps the most unusually placed inscription is to be found on an obelisk in a field about one mile from Burgh-by-Sands, Cumb., commemorating King Edward I, 1307, but erected in 1685 by Henry Howard, Duke of Norfolk (see p. 17). Of the signed brasses, nearly all inscriptions, (some with shields or other accessories) many are from well known London and provincial firms, but with firms like F. Osborne & Co and William Morris & Co responsible for many of the World War I war memorials. At some churches, there are several examples by the same firm, e.g. Barbon, Westm., 6 by Gawthorp/Culn Gawthorpe & Sons 1883 to 1927; at St Bee‘s School Chapel, Cumb. are 10 by Wippell‘s of Exeter & London, 1906-16.

Victorian figure and cross brasses are rare, but several are of high quality, notably those at Brougham, Westm., where there are three fine cross brasses, two with figures, 1846-47, designed by A.W.N.Pugin and made by Hardman of Birmingham. They were all commissioned by Lord Brougham & Vaux in memory of 16th and 17th century ancestors, with figures in the costume of the time (see illus. pp. 145-47). At Lowther, Westm. is a figure of Henry, Earl of Lonsdale (1876), in Life Guard‘s uniform and carrying a plumed helmet. The brass was made by Matthews & Sons of London and an illustration of it was later used by Gawthorp‘s in 1900 in an advertisement on the back cover of the Oxford Journal of Monumental Brasses, vol.II, pt. 2 (see illus. in D. Meara. Victorian Memorial Brasses (1983, plate 47, p. 86). [I discovered recently that Edward Matthews (est. 1810) were incorporated with the the firm of Gawthorp of 16 Long Acre, London,W.C., and by the 1890s shared a common address at 19 Castle Street [East], Oxford St,London,W. However, by 1910 Matthews had gone from that address, but Gawthorp‘s survived until being taken over by Wippell & Co in about 1936].

One of the very few figure brasses by a local engraver is that at Holy Trinity, Kendal, XLIV, to Sir Roger Bellingham, in armour (d. 1533) and his wife;. this was restored by John Broadbent in 1863 and engraved by Wm Garside (illus. p. 164). There is an inscription of 1858 in the same church, signed W.C. Garside Sc and a ?late 19th century one at St Mary, Ambleside signed T.Garside.

All human life is here‘ to delight both genealogists and social historians alike. From the centagenarian Mary Mounsy (Melmerby VI, Cumb.) who died in 1928 aged 100 years and 10 months and, likewise, Margaret Atkinson (Morland VI, Westm.) who died aged 100 in 1781. From 85 year old Henry Read (Ings VIII & IX), voluntary organist at three parishes for a total of nearly 150 years, who died in 1928 doing what he loved best whilst playing the organ at evensong at Stavely‘; to Rev L. Thompson of Kirkbride, Cumb., who lost all six of his children and his wife from smallpox in 1746. Perhaps the single largest group of inscriptions are to military personnel, whilst inevitably there is a memorial to the great Lakeland poet William Wordsworth at Rydal, Westm. X, erected by the Armitt Trust c. 1995, and the inscription designed by Lisa Lopes Cardozo. North American connections are made through the inscription to Mildred Warner (d. 1697), wife of Major Lawrence Washington and the grandmother of General George Washington, lst U.S. President (plate erected 1955 and now in the remains of St Nicholas‘ Church, Whitehaven, Cumb.).

Finally, some statistics. In all, 306 churches with brasses are listed (212 in Cumberland, 94 in Westmorland) and a total of 2,977 brasses recorded. A further 28 churches were searched, but nothing found (see lists pp. 109 and 197). In addition, 95 indents/lost brasses are recorded (44 in Cumberland, 51 in Westmorland), bringing the overall total of items recorded to 3,072. As in previous volumes, quite a large number of entries record small plates on items of furniture and fittings, and a number of plates are not made of brass in the traditional sense. Once again, we have to thank the compilers for a truly comprehensive and detailed record, especially given the topography of the two counties and the timescale in which it was completed by Patrick Farman, Peter Hacker and Peter Marshall.

Richard Busby
From Monumental Brass Society Bulletin 79 (Sept. 1998), pp. 396-7