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Copyright: Jon Bayliss

John Feld, 1474, & son John, Standon, Hertfordshire

On the face of it, this subject of this month's brass is straightforward: the elder John Feld, Alderman of London and a merchant of the Staple of Calais, was successful enough to enable his son John to acquire the rank of esquire. The problem is that the brass was apparently ignored despite others in the church being recorded in the seventeeth century.

    Weever, in his Antient Funerall Monuments of 1631 gives inscriptions from a number of monuments at Standon among which the Feld brass does not, on the face of it, appear despite occupying a prominent tomb-chest in the church. On closer examination Weever includes an inscription to a John Isley, alderman of London, who died in 1474 and had a son John. A little research indicates that there was no alderman of London called Isley at this time. If the inscription is seen as a paraphrase of that on John Feld's brass with a mistaken surname, the position becomes clearer.  The inscription occupied a chamfer running around three side of the top slab of the chest but only that on the long side remains and the name Feld does not occur on this part. It does include a full date of death for one of the effigies and a day and month for the son John who was a squire. The initial words 'Stapull at Caleys' point to the company of which the first effigy was a member. The heraldic jupon of the second effigy and the shield with the same arms below it have the arms of Feld, [Azure] a fess [or] between three eagles displayed [arg] goutty [gules].

    The elder John Feld is well documented. John Green Waller's account of him is remarkably full and deserves to be read as giving an account of him largely from sources other than those used here. From the beginning he is usually called a stockfishmonger but by 1448 he was also a merchant of the staple of Calais. In 1442 his name appears alongside others who had helped resolve a trade dispute between the City of London and Bayonne and by the early 1450s he was also involved in the governance of the City of London. In 1454 he was elected as one of the Sheriffs of London and appears among the Aldermen of London following the completion of his term as sheriff. He makes his last appearnce as an alderman in late 1461 and in 1463 he was granted a release from his civic duties on grounds of ill-health, from which he later must have made at least a partial recovery.   

    Like many men at this time, John Feld was litigious but on one occasion in 1445 this backfired on him: he was on his way to the Court of Common Pleas as plaintiff in a case against Richard Herst of Walberswick, Suffolk, when he was arrested and imprisoned. As a result, the mayor and sheriffs were ordered to bring him before the Westminster justices to explain why he had been taken and detained. His case against Herst appears to have dragged on for at least a couple years more, like many actions did, as Richard 'Hoist', husbandman of Walberswick, and John 'Hoist', also a husbandman of Walberswick, failed to appear in court in 1447 regarding a debt of 100s to Feld. The same amount was also claimed as damages in another action by Feld against Christina Bremer alias Chapman, a widow from Tisbury, Wiltshire, who had in 1441 bought five barrels of salmon and the same quantity of white herring for eight pounds but had failed to pay. This action was also long-lived with four mentions in one term of the 1448 Common Pleas alone.

    John Feld the younger is much less documented but in 1476 Cecily, Duchess of York, Edward IV's mother, appointed her servant John Feld keeper of her park of Standon for her life. He is also found participating in local government alongside other Hertfordshire worthies. He and his wife Agnes were the executor's of his father's will, which involved bringing a number of action for debt against a few individuals in the Court of Common Pleas in 1475. A gentleman of London and Worcestershire named John Ottyr seems to have been particularly reluctant to pay. The younger John's year of death is confirmed by the Inquisition Post Mortem (IPM) which revealed that his heir was a daughter, Dorothy. He had considerable property, especially in Kent but also Hertfordshire and Essex, the latter including the manor of Stepyll Hall, which his father had bought from another fishmonger, John Beauford. Dorothy Feld's own IPM in 1538 as the wife of Sir William Fyllol  reveals that she was seised of the same manor during her life.

    The inscription on the brass, including the missing first part in brackets, read [Here lyeth John Feld, somtym Alderman of London, a merchant of the] Stapull of Caleys the whech decessed the xvj day of August in the yere of our lord god M CCCC lxxiiij Also her lyeth John hys son Squire ye whech decessed ye iiij day of May ye yere of . . . . The missing final part presumably started  'MCCCClxxvii' and would have concluded with a prayer, perhaps why it is missing. The last part of the remaining inscription (ye iiij day of May ye yere of) appears to be in a different script from the rest, indicating that the younger John was responsible for the erection of the monument and presumably its unusual father and son format, his date of death being added later. The miscopying by Weever or his informant seems to included the correct number of vertical strokes in the younger John's year of death but interpreted them as iiij rather than vij. Weever has Here lyeth John Isley somtym Alderman of London, who dyed …. M.cccclxxiiii, and Iohn his sonn, who dyed the same yere. A figure of a man in civilian dress, originally assumed to be that of John Curteys, whose inscription is given by Weever and who died in 1465, has more recently been seen as John Isley's brass on the strength of the remaining shield being interpreted as [Ermine] a fess [gules], the arms of Isley of Sundridge, Kent. As the date given by Weever cannot be supported, the question arises of which John Isley it might represent. John Isley, younger brother of William Isley of Sundridge, would be a candidate. His son John was William's heir when the latter died in 1463 but there is no indication of the date of death of the elder John Isley nor where he lived. It is likely that the shield in question is of lead rather than brass and thus less clear than one of brass would but it clearly bears a fess. However the brass is now under a fixed carpet and not therefore cannot currently be studied. The previous acription to John Curteys is interesting as he was a London stockfishmonger like Feld and they were joint plaintiffs in a Common Pleas action. Agnes, the widow of John Curteys, undertook an action against Feld in the Court of Chancery to recover the whole amount of a partly paid obligation, indicating that the two worked together more than once. While the most common arms of Curteys/Curtis could not be confused with that on the brass, that described as Sable a fess between three horse's beads couped bridled gules, if depicted on a worn lead shield, just might be.

    The Feld brass is one of the most attractive London-made brasses of the late fifteenth century but rarely depicted in its entirety. John Feld the elder is shown wearing his aldermanic robe and his son an heraldic tabard over his armour, echoing the charge of the shield below his feet. The other three shields have the arms of the Staple of Calais (mutilated), of the City of London and John Feld's merchant mark.   


J G & L A B Waller, A Series of Monumental Brass:

Letter Books of the City of London, K & L

Calendars of the Patent Rolls &  Calendars of the Close Rolls

Calendars of the Plea and Memoranda Rolls of the City of London, 1437-1457 & 1458-82   

Court of the Common Pleas: