William Lack, H. Martin Stuchfield & Philip Whittemore. The Monumental Brasses of Essex. 2 vols. (M.B.S. £20.00 + £5.00 p+p. 2003. ISBN 0 9543271 0 2). Vol.I: A­K, xxvi, pp. 1­426; illus; bibliography; Vol.2: L­­Y, pp. 427­­922, illus; [name] Index to both vols (pp. 860­922). Stiff paper covers.


Think of Essex brasses and places like Aveley, Bowers Gifford, Chigwell, Chrishall, Dagenham, Little Easton, Little Horkesley, Latton, Pebmarsh, Stifford, Upminster, Wimbish, Wivenhoe, and Writtle readily spring to mind. These are but the icing on the cake‘. Here, for the first time since the illusfrated articles by Christy, Porteous and Smith appeared in the Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society and elsewhere between 1898 and 1939, every older figure brass and many (not previously illustrated) inscriptions, are reproduced and recorded together in these two volumes. Add to that the many hundreds of inscriptions in church and churchyard dating from the 19th century to the present day, and it is easy to understand why two substantial volumes were necessary to revise and update Mill Stephenson‘s original List and Appendix.

Like all the volumes in this county series, these two reflect not only boundary changes (several of the parishes covered are now within new London boroughs), but also redundancies, reuses and internal reordering of buildings to reflect changes of use and liturgical needs. The Victorians frequently covered over brasses, and especially indents, with encaustic tiles (see e.g. Maldon All Saints 50­52 buried under tile paving‘); now, particularly in town churches, they are covered by fitted carpets or wooden platforms! (e.g. Barking St Margaret, North Fambridge, Hornchurch St Andrew, Laindon). At West Ham All Saints two indents, only discovered in 1984, are now covered by the organ. Essex has been very fortunate in the number of early antiquaries who recorded its brasses. The earliest was John Bale (1525), who noted brasses formerly in the Carmilite Friary at Maldon (see II, p. 489); later and notably, Samuel Dale (c. 1659­­1739); the very thorough William Holman (1670­­1730), who worked with Dale, and Richard Symonds, whose three manuscript volumes covering Essex, compiled between 1636­40 and 1655­56, are now in the College of Arms. It also has several large collections of 19th to early 20th century rubbings, notably those of Arthur Henry Brown, Robert Miller Christy and Charles Kentish Probert, all now in the Essex Record Office. These are in addition to the comprehensive collections at Cambridge University and the Society of Antiquaries, or modern collections made by individual MBS members (see lists, vol. I, p. xxiv­­xxv). Other losses are recorded in drawings by William Cole, Thomas Fisher, S. Lethieullier (see e.g. Great Ilford Hospital Chapel 14, illus. p. 409), now mostly in Essex Record Office, and J.P.Malcolm.

In common with East Anglia, Kent, etc., Essex has lost large numbers of its older brasses, of which only surviving indents or fragmentary remains serve as a significant reminder, e.g. Saffron Walden (over 30 indents/lost; Maldon All Saints, 31). Many were still in situ when Dale and Holman were visiting churches, so had largely survived the iconoclasm of the seventeenth century, only to be lost or mutilated later in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Such examples occurred at Havering­atte—Bower, where three brasses disappeared after the chapel in Pyrgo Park was demolished in the 1770s. They included an important one to John, Lord Grey, eldest son of the Marquess of Dorset, d. 1564, kneeling, in armour, and his wife Mary, daughter of Sir Anthony Browne, K.G., with their 4 sons and 4 daughters, all named, below them (see I, p. 341). At Castle Hedingham an interesting series of ten brasses dated between 1485 and post 1572 are lost, including two to former Constables of Hedingham Castle, 1458 and 1469. Pleshey 8, an indent of a fine brass to Humfrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, K.G., 1460 and his wife Anne Neville, and 9, an indent of unusual double brass of John Holland, Duke of Exeter, in armour, 1447, and John Burniby, priest in academical dress, 1500 (crude drawings of both brasses by Symonds, reproduced p. 549) are also lost.

At High Easter, the loss of an important and unusual brass to Sir Geoffrey Gate, Marshall of Calais (I, 1487), with male effigy and two sons, kneeling, all in heraldic tabard, the wife in widow‘s dress, plus Trinity and elaborate achievement, 4 shields and chamfer inscription, is now known only from a sketch by Symonds (reproduced p. 233) and the indent (now covered). A small fragment of inscription is all that survives. The figure of a nun from Barking Abbey was in private possession in c. 1759, but is only now known from an impression in the Society of Antiquaries (see illus., I, p. 29). Chigwell 30, c. 1510 and 32, 1620 has lost two civilian brasses, known only from rubbings at the Society of Antiquaries and not previously illustrated (see I, p. 149) Similarly at Chingford All Saints, the lost figures of Robert Rampston and his wife, 1590, he in the dress of a Yeoman of the Guard, are illustrated from an early rubbing (see I, p. 155).

Probably the best known series of losses occurred in more recent times, when Little Horkesley church was severely damaged by a German parachute mine in 1940. Remarkably, the finest of the Swynborne brasses (I, 1412) largely survived, it‘s altar tomb destroyed and later rebuilt, together with three other older brasses/ indents; but two other brasses and several indents were lost. Some 12 losses occurred at Heydon (now in Cambs.), including a priest in mass vestments (12, c. 1490), designated as Cambridge school and illustrated from an old rubbing, p. 355; other losses here were recorded as drawings by Cole. Several unrelated thefts occurred at Gosfield, one in 1944, but most pieces have since been recovered and are in our Hon Secretary‘s possession. Less understandable perhaps, is the loss of an inscription, only engraved in 1981, on a bookstall (St John the Evangelist, Colchester); at Eastwood another on a prie­dieu, of 1976. Theft remains an ever present problem, and two male effigies in cloaks, 1584 and 1585, plus a female figure, Johnson style, 1591, perhaps significantly, all to members of the Heies family, were stolen from West Thurrock church (now redundant) in 1987. The losses at East Horndon in 1950 are already well known, especially the figure of Dame Alice Tyrrell (d. 1476). A roundel with evangelical symbol of St Mark, returned to Roydon, (II, 1521) from Saffron Walden Museum in 1964, was stolen shortly afterwards; whilst in about 1990, an inscription of 1558 [formerly M.S.I] was stolen from Pitsea St Michael; the church has since been demolished.

Taking a broad view, Essex is a county well represented by early brasses, with many existing and lost slabs with Lombardic inscriptions (with and without figures, crosses, shields or other devices), the earliest, Waltham Abbey 35, showing the indent of an abbot in mitre and crozier under canopy, with marginal inscription in Lombardic letters, c. 1302 [similar to indent of Abbot John de Berkhamsted (d. 1302), St Albans Abbey, Herts]. Four individual Lombardic letters are now in Chelmsford Museum (illus. p. 133), and two in Valence House Museum, Dagenham; all are c. 1330­50 Main Group II letters; Saffron Walden 47, has original letters V and P remaining in the slab (but not illustrated). One surviving letter T was recorded by Gough at Ham Abbey (now lost), whilst at West Thurrock a floriated cross, half­effigy and marginal inscription in Lombardic letters, 1315, was reportedly still complete in the early 18th century (illus. p. 709). Most of the existing and lost slabs recorded, can also be found in John Blair‘s list in The Earliest English Brasses, ed. John Coales (M.B.S. 1987), but lost examples like Havering-atte-Bower (Pyrgo Park) I and Little Sampford 13, can now be added.

After the early brasses, and with the notable exception of the London (Camoys) style figure at Pebmarsh I, 1331­38, the mutilated London (Seymour) figure in armour at Bowers Gifford, 1348, and the small London (Hastings) style figures in head of cross at Wimbish, 1347, there are some good examples of military figures from the London B workshop, e.g. Felsted I, 1414 and Halsted St Andrew I, c. 1415 (but with helm, crest and banner lost); distinctive armour at Ashen I, c. 1440; Little Waltham II, 1447 and Willingdale Doe I, 1442, and flamboyant shoulder and elbow pieces at Little Chesterford I, 1462 (lower half lost). Surviving military examples of the London D workshop, again with the one notable exception of the fine Bourchier brass at Little Easton, 1483, can be seen at e.g. Arkesden I, 1439; Bocking St Mary I, 1420; Latton II, c. 1490; Springfield All Saints I, 1421 (rarely illustrated); and Wendens Ambo I, c. 1410.

London B civilian brasses are well represented at Dovercourt I, c. 1430; Elmdon I, c. 1440 (though the group of sons, the eldest shown as an abbot with crozier, and a mouth scroll, were stolen in 1940, when the brasses were still in the now redundant church of Wenden Lofts); Leigh St Clement I, c. 1465; South Weald St Peter I, c. 1450 and II, c. 1460 and Wormingford I, c. 1460, unusually with livery collar. Two half effigies of London B priests at Great Leighs I, c. 1370 and Stifford I, 1378, both have the distinctive reversed swastika‘ on the amice. Two fine London D brasses to members of the legal profession can be seen on altar tombs at Gosfield I, to Thomas Rolfe, serjeant­at­law, 1440, with rhyming foot inscription [almost identical in size and lettering to that under a monk in St Albans Abbey, Herts, M.S.VI, 1446]; the other to Sir Peter Arderne, chief baron of the exchequer and a justice of the common pleas, 1467, in robes and coif, M.S.I., Latton. Amongst the better London D military brasses is Little Bentley I, c. 1490 (incomplete, and with an achievement in a style more commonly seen in E. Anglia). Stifford St Mary II, c. 1480, has one of the very few shroud brasses in the county.

Not surprisingly, there is a wide selection of early to mid—16th century civilian brasses, including a number of Cambridge‘, e.g. Elmdon II [1532]; Saffron Walden St Mary the Virgin VIII, c. 1530; Fermer‘, e.g. Rettendon I., c. 1535 — the man with an unfortunately ugly head; and Suffolk‘ designs, e.g. Chrishall III, c. 1480 and Great Coggeshall III, 1533. The common and distinctive London G civilian figure with long hair and splayed feet, usually palimpsest, can be seen at Lamboume St Mary and All Saints I, 1546; Orsett, IV, c. 1535; Loughton St Nicholas I, 1541 [covered by fitted carpet; not known to be palimpsest] and Upminster III, 1545. Essex is also particularly well represented in brasses of late 16th to early 17th century, notably London G style, e.g. Colchester St Peter I, c. 1570 and IV, c. 1575, unusual in both having red inlay, and Faulkbourne II, 1576.

There are also many figures and inscriptions designated as Johnson‘ style, e.g. two early examples at Stisted I, 1584 and Tillingham I, 1584, both kneeling figures, with black letter Latin inscriptions; the very well designed brasses to well dressed ladies at Great Baddow I, [1614] and Bradfield IV, 1604; the curiously engraved, seated figure of Dorcas Musgrave, who died in childbirth, her right hand on an hour glass, an infant in swaddling clothes on a cushion by her feet at Cressing I, 1610; Epping Upland I, 1621; Latton IV, 1604 — a lady of unusually ample girth, with two diminutive figures of her daughters at her feet; whilst South Ockendon IV, also 1602, shows a slim and fashionably dressed lady by comparison. Latton III, c. 1600, is unusual for its time, because the dates of death of neither husband nor wife are filled in. Some of the Johnson‘ designations remain questionable, e.g. Roydon IV, 1589 (illus. II, p. 593). Crecksea I, 1631, consists of four separate inscription plates (one, looking like a shopping list! recording the first name, and surname every time, of the 5 sons and 6 daughters by the deceased‘s two marriages), whilst a fifth bears 10 lines of English verse beginning: If any prying man here after come / That knows not who‘s the tenant of this tombe. Of the later figure brasses, Harlow St Mary & St Hugh, XI, 1636 [man in armour and 2 wives, etc.] and XII, 1642 [kneeling figures of civilian and wife, with achievement above] are particularly good; this church also has a very good general selection of other figure brasses.

Surprisingly, Essex has very few Victorian or modern figure brasses. The best is the kneeling figure of Rev. Edward Foley Evans (d. 1933), engraved by Gawthorp c. 1935 (N. Ockendon XIII, illus. p. 523); another Gawthorp brass, with kneeling figure on rectangular plate, with inscription and verse below, 1922, Great Ilford St Clement, [now demolished, reopened as a hall, but closed 2003] is not illustrated. The other well known example, is the Arts and Crafts style brass, with small, dumpy figure of Rev. R.H. White (Little Bardfield II, engr. c. 1907); it was designed by architect Richard Creed. In the same church is a plate with Crucifixion scene in relief (III), to Richard Creed, son of the above, who died in 1911, aged only 21, and given by friends and pupils in the office of G.F.Bodley‘, the famous Victorian architectural practice. At Layer Marney IV, 1897, is an inverted shield­shaped plate with kneeling figure of young Thomas St John Boys, died North Ockenden XIII aged 18, with sailing ship above, signed MATTHEWS & CO (GAWTHORP) CASTLE ST EAST W.8. LONG ACRE W.C.LON. Another brass, with two angels holding an inscription, 1895, and bearing the same engraver‘s name [currently loose in the strong room], is at Leyton All Saints (I).

The list of Engravers and Designers‘ in the index runs to over 70 different names, including inevitably, several not yet noted in Peter Heseltine‘s Engravers of Monumental Brasses (2001) e.g. THE LONDON LABEL CO (1921) LTD, LONDON‘ (IV, Wennington). It is perhaps surprising to find a posthumous inscription to Rev. William (d. 1864) and Mrs Marianne Birch—Wolfe (d. 1897) (II, Arkesden) engraved by Curtis of Dublin, Eire, until we find that the widow was the daughter of a former County Court Judge in Co. Wexford! As in all the volumes in this series, there are hundreds of modem inscriptions, from ornate mural plates with a blazon of arms or regimental insignia, to inscriptions on furniture, fittings or church plate, plus vast numbers of, often bronze, grave markers in churchyards or burial grounds, e.g. Chigwell (over 90); Great Ilford St Peter (90); Shenfield (over 170). Not unexpectedly there are many plates and war memorials to those who died during wars, from the Indian Mutiny to the Falklands, a large number to men of the county yeomanry and volunteer regiments, e.g. at Great Henny VI, 1907, Admiral Barnardiston served in Burma 1853; Baltic Fleet 1854­55 and Abyssinia 1868; Romford St Thomas I, inscription to Major Arundell Neave, who fought and was twice decorated in the Boer War 1900­02, only to die at Ypres in 1915; a series of similar plates at Chelmsford Cathedral IX; Great Clacton I; Colchester St Botolph, II; East Ham All Saints, III and Maldon All Saints, IV, to men of the City of London and Essex Regt. Volunteers, who all died in 1900 during the South African War; at sea, Fleet Surgeon W J. Bearblock, died on H.M.S. Invincible at Jutland, 1916 (Hornchurch St Andrew XXIV); at Little Easton, 3

plates, XVIII­XX, pos. 1990, record nearly 200 names of US airmen of the 386th Bomber

Group, USAF 1939­45, who died in 263 missions over 13 months, flying from Easton Lodge Airfield.

Local tragedies are recorded at South Benfleet III, where the vicar Rev. J.A. Cook died in 1854 from the same cholera as many of his parishioners after ministering to them without sleep himself for 7 days and nights‘. Althorne III, records the deaths of two brothers aged 16 and 18 and another boy aged 15, who all drowned in the River Crouch‘ in 1919. In the south porch at Great Easton, an inscription (VII, pos. c. 1900) to a man found murdered in 1830 at Handless Spring. Others are to well known local people e.g. Greensted—juxta—Ongar to F.K.W. Craven Ord, (I, d. 1894), grandson of the famous Suffolk antiquary Craven Ord (illus. p. 293); Hadstock, in the churchyard, to a leading British sculptor, illustrator, stage and costume designer, Michael Ayrton (1921­75) and Elizabeth Ayrton, writer (V, d. 1991); West Bergholt IV, inscription to historian Dr. J.H. Round (d. 1928) Hon. Adviser to the Crown in peerage cases‘ and former President of Essex Archaeological Society; Braintree St Michael IX, a posthumous inscription with bust in relief to Samuel Dale, a leading 18th century botanist and author, made by Gawthorp, 1912. The famous Essex earthquake of 1884 is recorded at Colchester St Leonard­at­the­Hythe, II, (now redundant) and more recent events at Great Ilford All Saints XXVIII, with an inscription, engr. 2003, with over 150 names of those who contributed to the Millennium Clock Tower project.

In a work of this complexity and size, I noticed remarkably few literals or errors, but the following deserve mention. The illustration cited as Barnston I, 1525, on p. 49 is that of Finchingfield II, 1524, which is repeated correctly on p. 265. Debden 34 (p. 216) is wrongly numbered 35 under the photograph on p. 217. Designer Richard Creed (Little Bardfield II) is omitted from the list of Engravers and Designers‘ in the index, but does appear in the main index. These are but small details in so complex a publication. These two volumes are a remarkable achievement in any terms, and the compilers, editors, indexer and MBS members, who have helped complete it within a remarkably short time scale, are to be congratulated and thanked. It has many good illustrations and has made intelligent use of digital photographs of indents and tombs. Not only will it prove a major source of reference, but a veritable goldmine of names for family and local historians. It is very appropriate that the volume should be dedicated to Nancy Briggs, whose name has been synonymous with Essex brasses for many years. It is also a tribute to earlier antiquaries and MBS members, past and more recent, whose names and work have formed a firm foundation on which to build volumes such as these.