Brass of the Month

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Page last updated 11 July 2018

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Copyright: Jon Bayliss

July 2018, Thomas, 1450, & Agnes Knaresburght, 1498, Floore, Northamptonshire

This month's brass illustrates that not all losses of religious imagery stem from the religious turmoil of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.



The brass was described when much more complete in the first volume of John Bridges' History and Antiquities of the county of Northampton. Bridges himself had died in 1724 after undertaking extensive research for his proposed history but without having written any of the text. His brother engaged a publisher and editor to complete the task and there was an attempt to publish it in parts  1739 which was abandoned after six parts were produced. It was then further revised under another editor and the first full volume appeared in parts between 1759 and 1763.  When George Baker published the first part of his own History and Antiquities of the county of Northampton in parts between 1822 and 1830, he repeated Bridges' description of the brass but noted what had since disappeared: “Upon an old grey marble near the chancel door, is the effigies of the Virgin Mary in brass clasping our Saviour in her arms ; beneath them a man in armour, and a woman in the habit of the times, with their hands conjoined in the gesture of prayer: from the man’s mouth issues a scroll with these words, Misericordias Domini in aeternum Cantabo, and a like scroll from the mouth of the woman with these words, 0 Blyssyd Lady pray to Jhu of us to have mercy. Under each of their figures were their coats of arms, which are now gone”. Only the figures (about 21 in. in length) are now remaining, and “under their feet, on a brass plate, Orate p' aiab' Thome Knaresburght Armigeri et Agnet uxoris ej. q' quidem Thomas obiit in die Ramis Palmar' A' D'ni Mccccl° et p'dicta Agnes que hic jacet obiit xxvi° died Martii A° d'ni Mcccclxxxviij quor; a'i'ab' p'piciet' de' Amen.

    

There is nothing about this family in Baker's account of the manorial descents in Floore and neither do they seem to have left a trace elsewhere for the inscription says that Agnes is buried here,  thus indicating that her husband was buried elsewhere. The forty-eight years between the two deaths is a substantial time for her to have remained a widow. Did she return to her own family's home after he died? The loss of the shields of arms before Bridges recorded the brass is a barrier to discovering more. The phrase 'in die ramis palmarum' tells us that he died on Palm Sunday but the rest of the inscription is straightforward, giving the dates of death of both, 1450 for him and 26 March 1498 for her. The inscription opens and closes with standard Latin wording translating as 'pray for the souls of' and 'on whose souls god have mercy'. The brass has been relaid, so the missing components of the Virgin and Child, scrolls and shields of arms are no longer apparent.

    Floore is close to Watling Street, one of the major roads of medieval England. It no doubt served to transport the brass in its marble slab from London to within a couple of miles of the church. The figures of Thomas and Agnes show the beginning of the decline of London F series brasses from the very fine figures they had been in the 1470s and 1480s to those of the early sixteenth century with their unattractive pinched faces. The two other brasses at Floore were produced in Coventry workshops, like last month's brass at nearby Norton, demonstrating the competition a more local workshop could provide to the metropolitan marblers.