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MONUMENTAL BRASSES in St. Mary's Church by AJO
(Article 8 in St Mary's Church Loop)

These are thin pieces of metal made, not of brass, but of a mixture of copper and zinc, known as latten. They were fixed flush with the surface, in stones covering the graves of people buried inside a church. Invariably they were engraved to represent the deceased and were sometimes accompanied by an inscription, often in Latin, urging the reader to "Pray for the soul of - - - "

Whilst visiting a church in Derbyshire recently I came across some attractive commemorative shields made of copper and fixed to the inside walls of the church. The shields measured about 9 ins. x 6 ins., were highly polished and bore simple inscriptions. They were late 19th Century and as such would not be of interest to those enjoying the increasingly popular pastime of "brassrubbing".

Some of the earliest brasses still in existence date from 13th century and commemorate the members of only wealthy families. Many churches had their brasses removed at the Reformation, the metal being melted down for other uses, leaving shallow depressions in the grave slabs.

We know that four of the brasses in St. Mary's Church managed to survive the Reformation as Blomefield mentioned them in his "History of Norfolk" in the late 18th Century. They were still "in situ" on their respective stone slabs.

They commemorated:-

1. Osbert Moundeford (the son of Adam Moundeford) his wife, Elizabeth. Osbert died 1st January, 1479. (This grave also bore a brass of the Moundeford arms.)

2. Adam Moundeford and his wife, Esselina. Adam died 7th March, 1463.

(On the head of a seat near this grave were the arms of Moundeford.)

3. Francis Hethe and his wife, Grace. Francis died 4th January, 1479.

4. Margaret Moundeford, wife of Francis Moundeford. Margaret died 26th March, 1520).

Unfortunately, No's. 1 and 2 have since disappeared, Blomefield mentioned these as being "on the pavement as you ascend the nave".

It could be that these were removed when the first heating system was installed - this was beneath the grating in the centre aisle.

No's. 3 and 4 have since been removed from their original positions and have been transferred to the south wall of the chancel. The shallow recesses in their respective gravestones can be seen between the pews on the north side of the nave.

No. 3 is 13 " high and depicts a youthful man in 15th century chainmail and armour. Beneath (and attached to) the figure is the inscription:-

Orate P. Aiabs. Frauncisci Hetht D. Mylde'hale. Armigeri Et Gracie Uxoris Qui Quidem Fraunciscus Obiit iiii Die Januari Ao. Dni. MCCCCLXXIX".

No. 4 is 18 " high and beneath the figure, and attached thereto, is the inscription:-

Orate P. Aia. Margareti Mundford Quondam Consortis Francisci Mundford Armigeri Que Obiit XXVI Die Mensis Marcii Anno. Dni. MCCCCCXX Qui Ais P'Picietur Deus".

Francis and Margaret had a son, Osbert, who was only 13 when his mother died. Francis married again and his second wife was Gertrude, daughter of Robert Hoting of London. Margaret's son, Osbert, (see the larger of the Monuments on the chancel wall) also married twice and his eldest son (second marriage) is commemorated on the smaller monument in the chancel.

The only other monumental brass in St. Mary's Church is a large "modern" one bearing the figure of a gentleman in clerical attire and two coloured shields (1. Newcome and 2. Newcome impaling Clough). It is in memory of Rev. William Newcome, M.A., Vicar of Sutton, near Ely, who died 29th May, 1846 in his 67th year. At the age of 30, he married Catharine the youngest daughter of Rev. Cyrill Clough of Feltwell Hall.

William’s father, also William, was a Doctor of Divinity, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland. Catharine outlived not only her husband but also her two sons. She died at the age of 88 in 1875. She was buried in the Clough family vault and was the last person to be buried inside St. Mary's Church.

I tried my hand at brass rubbing and my first attempt is reproduced here. It shows us what ladies' fashions were like in the early 16th century. The headdress she is wearing is known as a "kennel". I have seen similar head-dresses in profile on brasses of the same period, where the top of the head-dress extended beyond the back of the head, looking more like a dog's kennel than does the one which Margaret is wearing.

A study of this rubbing will show that Margaret appears to be wearing gauntlets. From her ornamental belt hang a rosary, a large purse and what appears to be a mask. Blomefield referred to the mask as a pocket.

Continue on the St Mary's Loop or go to Written Records   The Conducted Tour