BOOK REVIEW: William Lack, H. Martin Stuchfield & Philip Whittemore (editors). The Monumental Brasses of Derbyshire. (Monumental Brass Society. £15.00 + £2.50 p. &: p. May 1999. ISBN 0 9523315 6 X), xx, 260 pages; 134 illus., bibliography; index.


The county of Derbyshire has a number of well known and often illustrated medieval and later brasses of note. These include places like Ashbourne (including the early dedicatory latin inscription of 1241, illus. p. 8); Dronfield (notably the unusual double priest brass with indent of a hunting horn between the figures, M.S.I., 1399); Etwall; Great Longstone (M.S.I., 1694, on copper); Hathersage; Morley; Sawley; Staveley; and Tideswell (notably M.S.I. & III). The majority are from London workshops, principally London G, but there are also examples of Coventry 1 (Walton-on-Trent I, 1492) and 3 (Ashbourne I, 1538, plus three later brasses in 'Peakland' style at Crich II, 1637; Bakewell II, 1648 (more akin to incised stone work than brass) and Hope I, 1685 (omitted from the Chronological List on p. 231).

In addition, there are several examples of late 17th/early 18th century date, also of local origin, some with the names of the designer/engraver, e.g. Anthony Wall, Robert Thorpe of Sheffield, carver, (now lost) and 'R.H.' (probably Robert Hall of Nottingham). Beeley I, 1710, but unsigned, has a crudely drawn recumbent figure in a shroud at the base, but good, bold lettering (illus. p. 21).

There are remarkably few surviving indents, suggesting 'it might be that there were few additional brasses of consequence‘ other than those recorded here' (Introduction p. iv). Of the 36 indents (of all periods) listed and surviving, the majority are external inscriptions of 18th and 19th century date, e.g. Crich - 10 indents in churchyard. Perhaps the most unusual indent is Alfreton I, 1507 (illus. p. 2) with its mass of scrollwork, five kneeling figures and 4 shields (one surviving, along with the raised letter inscription). Among the most interesting are Morley 27, a priest under super canopy c. 1370 (perhaps moved from Dale Abbey) and Derby Cathedral 65 (but formerly in St Alkmund‘s, Derby), a head and hands, c. 1320 with marginal inscription and comer symbols. The slab, later reused to mark the burial place of the famous local artist Joseph Wright (1734-97) and now outside the Cathedral, was featured in the last Bulletin p. 425.

Very few slabs survive with single letter Lombardic border inscriptions, see e.g. part of a slab from Dale Abbey (illus. p. 61); another, Sutton Scarsdale 15, is lost (p. 196). Other losses include a priest in cope, c. 1400 (Chesterfield 62) lost after 1789, and a skeleton, 1518 (Ashover III). In all some 130 lost brasses and indents are recorded, a number stolen in the 1980s, e.g. Heanor. At Chapel-en-le-Frith one of three 18th century inscriptions, last rubbed in 1925, was 'dug up' in 1971 but has since disappeared again (see p. 44). An unusual inscription at Eyam, now lost, recorded the 1874 will of Peter Furness, proved 1876, directing that my name shall be engraved on the Brass Plate attached to the Brightmore Monument in the Chancel ...‘ (see p. 102). Twenty two losses are noted at Chesterfield and 24 at the disused church of St James, Derby.

As in previous county volumes, it is the 19th and 20th centuries that have added substantially to the number of items recorded. These range from some fine Victorian figure brasses to simple modern plates on furniture and fittings, perhaps the most unusual being that at Ockbrook XVI, 1977 'on microfilm machine'; many are listed on churchyard memorials. All life is here, from two tragic drownings (Alfreton III & V) and two young miners killed at Swanwick Pit (Alfreton IV & VIII) to deaths of almost whole families (Pinxton I & Ashover IV) within a few years of each other. In contrast Rev. D.F.A. Grahame died in 1943, aged 101 (Trinity Chapel, Buxton II), whilst John Love Vokins (d. 1989) must hold the record for serving as a chorister at Hathersage - 92 years!

As always there are many plates commemorating those who served and/or died on active service, from Waterloo to World War II. At Stanton-in-the-Peak I, 1850 an inscription and shield (by Waller) recall the remarkable Lt. Col. William Thornhill (1781-1850), who survived severe wounding from cannon fire at Waterloo and fought and served in nineteen other 'engagements' despite three further woundings. At Brampton lies Capt. "Bubbles" Robinson, killed commanding 139 Brigade Machine Guns in 1916, aged 23. Eckington XIX has a more unusual memorial to civilian war artist Dick Wake 'who fell mortally wounded [aged 23] whilst ... an artist at the front of British positions at Sunkim ...' in 1888. At Fenny Bentley are a window and brass inscription (dedicated 1892) to Capt. Hans Busk (1815-82), the 'originator of England's volunteer army'.

Of the Victorian and modern figure brasses, amongst the best are Edensor IV, a bearded, kneeling figure of John Cottingham (d. 1879) probably by Hardman; Elvaston V, a tall, slender figure of the young 6th Earl of Harrington in his academical robes, carrying his mortar board in one hand, a book in the other. He died aged only 21 and his brass was made by Hart & Son, London [illus. (figure only, canopy, achievement and marginal inscription omitted) p. 97]. Tideswell XXIV is a completely restored figure in armour with heraldic jupon, scroll and marginal inscription of John Foljambe (d. 1388), restored in 1875. Two very contrasting modern figure brasses of note are (1) Mons. Charles Payne (d. 1944), vicar and Protonotary Apostolic and Vicar General, a kneeling figure in mass vestments with mitre, under a Romanesque-style canopy, lightly engraved and unsigned (illus. p. 167), Padley I (Martyr‘s Chapel, R.C.); and (2) Bishop Geoffrey Hare Clayton (d. 1957), boldly drawn with figure in plain cope and mitre holding his primatial cross, shield and marginal inscription Chesterfield 30 (St Mary & All Saints), illus. p. 52, unsigned. Lastly, Tideswell XXV, shows the recumbent effigy of Samuel Andrew (d. 1900), Prebendary of Lichfield and Rural Dean. Made by Gawthorp, the composition is similar but not identical to that of Dean George Fellow (d. 1866, pos. 1889 by his children), in Norwich Cathedral, also by Gawthorp (illus. D. Meara, Victorian Memorial Brasses, Pl. 46, p. 85).

There are also some cross brasses, each quite distinctive, at Ilkeston (1917); Mappleton (1863); Smalley (1855 ?by Hardman); Wormhill (1905, good, by Barkentin & Krall), and a more ornate example, with kneeling figure of a lady, scroll and heraldic lozenge, at Tissington (1862). Some very good examples of 'Hardman angels' can be seen at Mappleton (1882 & 1902), and a more elaborate gothic style canopy, with an angel at the centre and the four Evangelists in side shafts (illus. p. 8) at Ashbourne (1870), also attributed to Hardman.

These revised county volumes offer a vast amount of information for family and local historians, as well as for those with a wide interest in brasses. The book‘s Introduction is, as in previous volumes, well worth reading and is a good general survey, and the Index of names an essential feature for all users. The compilers and editors of the volume are to be congratulated on their thoroughness and for getting the book out on time once again. It is most appropriate that it is dedicated to Patrick Farman and Peter Hacker. If I have any regret, it is that there are not many reproductions of lost or now mutilated brasses from the 17th to l9th century drawings to be found in the large number of manuscript sources cited on pp. xviii-xix of the Bibliography, though clearly this would add to both production costs and research time.

In all some 344 churches have been searched (including 13 where nothing was found), 319 Anglican; 23 Roman Catholic and 2 other (including one museum). That is out of 331 Anglican and some 34 R.C. churches listed in current directories. Overall, the volume lists 3432 existing brasses; 130 lost brasses known from rubbings or documentary sources and 36 surviving indents — a total of 3,598 items. The Mill Stephenson List and Appendix includes only 44 churches. Only one church, Mellor, appears in both this and the earlier Cheshire volume, due to boundary changes.

Finally, two small amendments I spotted. Whitfield X is in memory of Rev. William Martin-Ellis, vicar 1904 ff., and should now be added to the Index (p. 217). The contemporary designer and engraver John Skelton R.A. mentioned at Weston-on-Trent VI, is incorrectly listed in the index under p. 214 instead of 216. These are but tiny crumbs from such a feast of facts and figures.

Richard Busby
From Monumental Brass Society Bulletin 82 (Sept. 1998), pp. 456-8