William Lack, H. Martin Stuchfield and Philip Whittemore (eds). The Monumental Brasses of Gloucestershire. (Monumental Brass Society. £17.50 +£2.50 p+p. 2005 [pub. 2006]. ISBN 0 9543271 2 8). xxiii, 521 pages; illus; refs; bibliography; index of names


This lengthy volume (nearly 4 cms. thick and weighing just over 1.27 kg.) is the thirteenth in the on-going County Series. Whilst Mill Stephenson's List (1926) and Appendix (1938) lists 73 churches and 273 brasses (pre-1800) in Gloucestershire, the compilers of the present volume have recorded 391 churches or other locations with brasses/indents, plus 24 more where no brasses were found. A further 53 pre-Victorian churches were not fully searched (see list p. 480).

Why is the present volume so large? Mainly because of the huge number of brass inscriptions of 18th to mid-20th century date (many signed by the engraver/maker), found in churchyards in the Stroud Valley, e.g. Bisley (312); Painswick (245) and Stroud St. Laurence (272) and elsewhere. Many examples are illustrated in the book, some from direct photographs (which do not always reproduce well). Recording these often overlooked plates has been a very painstaking labour for the compilers, which, together with all the other modern inscriptions recorded, is a matter for congratulation and will be of special value to family historians.

Gloucestershire will always be associated by many people with the medieval wool trade, and the fine brasses to woolmen at places like Cirencester, and especially Northleach, and the so-called 'miner's crest' on the Greyndour brass at Newland I, 1443, seen on the front cover of the book. The complete brass and slab is illustrated on p. 310, the crest on p. 311. To others, it may be remembered as the burial place of our mentor, Rev. Herbert Haines (d. 1872), who, appropriately, has a figure brass in Gloucester Cathedral (q.v.). Not surprisingly, however, there is also much else of interest in the county.

Like many of its predecessors in the series, this volume has an excellent 'Introduction' (pp. v-xii), which I would urge all users to read. As well as a general survey of the county's brasses, there are also longer biographical details about selected individuals commemorated (see esp. pp. viii-x) and of three of the county's historians, Sir Robert Atkyns (1647-1711); Samuel Rudder (1726-1801) and most importantly Ralph Bigland (1712-84). Similarly, details are also given about the author of the only book on the county's brasses, Cecil T. Davis (pub. 1899, repr. 1969), with its curious chronological arrangement and, rather disappointingly, illustrating very few complete brasses, only details from them.

A look through the 'Chronological List of [pre-1700] Figure Brasses with Styles of Engraving' (p. 481) shows all but three are London styles A, B, D, F (and F debased) and G, plus 10 'Johnson' style brasses. The three exceptions include Bristol, St Mary Redcliffe IV, 1475, which appears to be a Bristol design; Blockley II, 1488 (Coventry I style) and Doynton I, 1529 (Oxfordshire I style). The woolmen's brasses apart, there is the fine, large London B brass to Thomas, Lord Berkeley, 1417, in armour with a collar of mermaids, and his wife (Wotton-under-Edge I) and the often illustrated brass of Sir John Cassy, chief baron of the exchequer, 1400, and his wife who has a dog named 'Terri' at her feet (Deerhurst I). A less elaborate, but equally fine legal brass to Sir John Juyn, 1439, with raised letter foot and marginal inscriptions, can be seen amongst the interesting and varied brasses at St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol (pp. 72-80). They now include a well drawn half-effigy of a civilian, c. 1400, (LSW.I) removed from the Temple Church, Bristol, after it was bombed in 1941 [see also illus. on cover of M.B.S. Trans. XV (5), 1996], along with a palimpsest brass of a priest in cope, c. 1460 (see illus. pp. 73 & 75). A figure and foot inscription to Robert Lond, priest, 1461, were stolen from the now ruined church of St Peter, Bristol after it too was bombed in 1941 (see illus. p. 82). Two later inscriptions (one mutilated) from the same church were also stolen, but were later bought in a Bristol public house and, curiously, are now in the Sutton Windmill Museum, Norfolk. Compare also the fine canopied brass of William Grevel, merchant, 1401 and his wife Marion (Chipping Campden I) with the more modest, but equally competent, figures of a wool-merchant and his wife, c. 1450 (Lechlade I) and merchant John Lethenard, 1467, and wife Joan (Chipping Campden III).

The county has some good late-16th/early-17th century brasses (mainly 'Johnson' style) e.g. Weston-sub-Edge I (1590) - man in cloak; Clifford Chambers II, 1601 (lady holding infant); Wormington I (1605) - unusual rectangular plate showing Ann Savage in bed, with infant in swaddling clothes beside her; Todenham I, 1614 - arched plate with kneeling figures at prayer desk; and Daylesford I, 1632 - a cloaked and booted figure, holding a book in his right hand, his left hand on his sword.

Of indents and lost brasses, many of the latter are recorded by Bigland (including late inscriptions), whilst both he and Rudder (1779) note a brass of two knights (one Ralph Botiler) at Great Badminton, shortly before the church was demolished in 1785. Of surviving indents, Gloucester Cathedral 61, 62 & 66 are of mitred bishops, whilst Tewkesbury Abbey 63 & 66 are of Maud, Countess of Gloucester, 1315; and Robert Fitz-Hamon, Prince of Glamorgan (buried 1107, but brass engr. c. 1397). Dingley (1680) also records and sketches the lost brass of Prince Edward, son of Henry VI (d. 1471), see illus. p. 421. Painswick 247 is the indent of Sir William Kingston, KG and wife, 1540, on an altar tomb with an emblem of the Garter in one corner (line illus. p. 337). An good early indent, Wotton-under-Edge 27, has a small kneeling figure of Richard de Wotton, rector c. 1330-45, under a canopy at the base, with a long prayer scroll trailing upwards towards a floriated cross head with B.V.M. inside. Unusually, the scroll has a single letter Lombardic inscription. Two indents at Siddington show kneeling figures in tabards and mantles (illus. p. 379), whilst Cirencester 163 has 14th century indents of two shields, with composition inlays for a cross and scrolls. Finally, Weston-upon-Avon 4 (now Warwickshire) has the indents of a heart held between hands, with three scrolls coming from it (illus. p. 447).

Modern figure and cross brasses are not widespread, but there are good signed examples by Hardman at Gloucester Cathedral XV, (kneeling figure of Catherine Anne Marling, d. 1863; illus. p. 214) and cross brasses at Great Barrington I, 1869 and Woodchester (R.C.) II, 1853. A Crucifixion scene by Hardman can be found at Newnham-on-Severn VIII, 1894. Brasses by Waller can be found at Upper Slaughter IV, 1854 (cross with E.S. at ends of arms and tabernacle at foot) and Mitcheldean II ,1843 (angel holding long, wide scroll bearing inscription, with Waller monogram clearly visible on small shield at base of composition; see illus. p. 301). The figure of Capt. Ralph Streatfield-James, d. 1916, in military uniform and leaning on a walking stick, can be seen at St. Andrew's, Churchdown I, but is unsigned. By far the largest Victorian brass is Bristol Cathedral X, a Flemish style rectangular brass to Rev. Jordan Roquette Palmer-Palmer, d. 1885, signed by Singer & Sons of Frome and London (see illus. p. 61).

Finally, and arguably the best-known Victorian figure brass, is that of our mentor, Rev. Herbert Haines, d. 1872 (Gloucester Cathedral XXVI), author of the two standard manuals on monumental brasses (1848 [see MBS Bulletin 101, pp. 11-13] and 1861). Haines' figure in clerical robes under a canopy, with two shields and marginal inscription, was designed by Capel N. Tripp and engraved by Heaton, Butler & Bayne (see illus. p. 215). It seems appropriate here to admit to one error I perpetuated in my Introduction to the reprint of Haines' Manual of Monumental Brasses (1861, reprinted 1969) and repeated on p. ix of the Introduction to the present volume. I used a Victorian translation by F. Hannam-Clark of the marginal inscription on Haines' brass without question, in which he gives date of death as 14th October 1872. Haines actually died on 18th September and Hannam-Clark (and then I) failed to take account of the Roman method of dating and mistook the 'A.D.' on the inscription for 'Anno Domini'. 'A.D. XIV. Kal. Oct.' is short for 'ante diem XIV Kalendas Octobres'. This means the 14th day (reckoned inclusively) before the Kalends (i.e. 1st) of October, which is the 18th September, the correct date of death. I am belatedly very grateful to our member Mr J.H. Bowman for his letter to me of 8th March 1970, pointing out the correct translation. Haines, as a Latin scholar of note, would have been mortified by the misreading of his inscription.

This volume differs in some ways from earlier ones, in that it makes greater use of line drawings, rather than rubbings or photographs, of indents (nothing wrong with that) and in having to record the huge number of 17th-19th century churchyard inscriptions. Some might argue that these are actually more relevant and important than small 20th century and later metal plates (often not made of brass) on chairs, furniture and in churchyards.

Conversely the latter (especially externally) tend to have a limited life span, because they are not often made of a durable metal, so may never be recorded at all. In some cases, it might be questioned how much additional detail about the deceased is added, e.g. their awards, qualifications, etc., their ancestry, military history and so on; it makes for 'human interest', but can also make these volumes that much longer. Such thoughts are not new, but should be reviewed periodically, but in no way should be allowed to detract from the value and achievement these volumes represent.


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