Brass of the Month

June 2010 – Nicholas Toke, 1680, and his three daughters, Great Chart, Kent



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Copyright © 2007 Monumental Brass Society (MBS)

Page last updated 04 March 2015

Copyright: Jon Bayliss


The last man to be depicted in armour on brass in England before the Victorian era was Nicholas Toke. He died at the age of 92 and so may have been younger than some of those shown in armour on brasses of the 1630s and 1640s. Having married on five previous occasions, he is said to have died while on a visit to London to find a sixth. He had served in the Navy in his younger days and was heavily involved with his local militia, often being referred to as Captain Nicholas Toke. In view of his military history, his depiction in armour is by no means inappropriate. Toke is shown wearing padded breeches under his armour, a fashion of his youth. His sword is very short for a military man and looks more like one that might have been worn by a civilian at this period. He  served as sheriff of Kent in 1663.


Nicholas Toke is now better known for his farming activities. For many years he kept an account book when he was cultivating not only his own estate at Godinton in Great Chart but much leased land too. His vines had the reputation of producing as good a wine as those of France and he kept sheep on Romney Marsh. His account book, continued by his nephew of the same name, was published in 1927. He also rebuilt the hall at Godinton, which still survives today. Portraits of Nicholas and his fifth wife, Diana, thought to be by Cornelius Johnson, also survive at Godinton.  


The inscription reads:

HERE LYETH INTERRED THE BODY OF NICHOLAS TOKE OF GODINTON ESQ WHO HAD FIVE WIVES AS BY THESE COATS OF ARMES DOTH APPEAR & THREE DAUGHTERS ELLIANOR, BRIDGET, & MARY: HE DYED IN THE 93D YEAR OF HIS AGE & WAS BURIED THE 29TH DAY OF NOVEMBER IN YE YEAR OF OVR LORD. 1680.


His daughters have often been referred to as unmarried, as they are shown with their hair loose. However, all three married, two of them twice. Eleanor married George Chute and Richard Deane, while Bridget married a distant cousin, Charles Toke of Bere Court, West Cliffe. Mary married Sir Robert Moyle, died 1661, and Thomas Godfrey.



In contrast to their father, Eleanor, Bridget and Mary are shown in up-to-date costume. Each holds a book, as does their father, but they also hold plants, namely a rose, a laurel and a palm leaf.


The shields of arms are not of brass but are of a lighter coloured stone set into the slab, which is most unusual. Two of the shields are now effaced. Top left shows the arms of Toke impaling Toke of Bere, suggesting that the monument was provided by Bridget. The other five represent Nicholas Toke’s five marriages.


Figure brasses are rare after the 1640s and some contemporary brasses  are incompetently executed. This one is probably by a major London monument maker but there is very little that it can be compared to apart from the brass of Robert Shiers at Great Bookham, Surrey.