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John, 1559, & Jane Corbet, Sprowston, Norfolk

Copyright: Jon Bayliss

John Corbet, born by 1514, was the son of John Corbet of nearby Spixworth, gentleman, who died in the early 1540s after a career as a brazier in Norwich, where he rose to be sheriff. The Corbet family came from Morton Corbet, Shropshire, as evidenced by their arms, Or, a raven proper, although the Norfolk branch used a different crest, a squirrel sejant, cracking a nut, proper. The Jermy family granted the manor of Mounteney in Sprowston to John Corbet, esquire, around the time of his father's death. The family retained it for nearly a hundred years, Sir Thomas Corbet selling it to Sir Thomas Adams in 1642. John was a lawyer, probably in the service of the Duke of Norfolk, and recorder of Norwich in 1547-1550,  serving as MP for Norwich in at least one parliament. He appears to have done very well financially, acting as a commissioner for the sale of church goods in Edward VI's reign, and acquired the lordships of Woodbastwick and Ranworth along with other lands. The dates on his brass do not quite correlate to other information, which shows his will being proved six days after his death on 4th January 1559 whereas the inscription on the brass gives his death as occurring on 28th December 1559. He had married Jane, daughter of Ralph Berney, esquire, who survived him. Their brass shows four sons and six daughters kneeling on tiled floors between their respective parents, one son and two daughters presumably having died before their father. John was succeeded by his son Sir Miles, who died in 1607 and has a mural monument in alabaster with kneeling effigies. Below this is the best Corbet monument in the church with recumbent alabaster effigies of Sir Miles' son, Sir Thomas, died 1617, and daughter-in-law lying on a chest. The final Corbet monument, a tablet, is a cenotaph, Sir John Corbet, Bart, having been buried in St Margaret's church in Westminster in 1627. The family was split by the Civil War. Sir John's son Sir Thomas fought for the king and suffered on his behalf while Sir John's brother Miles was one of the regicides, a signatory of the warrant for Charles I's execution, for which he in turn was executed in 1661.


 The brass is on the back panel of a Purbeck marble tomb, although not as elaborate as some. It consists of a tomb chest with shields in lozenge-shaped recesses once with brasses on them, with an arched and heavily worn panel on the wall over the central part of the chest. Above and behind the kneeling effigies are shields and between them a lozenge-shaped achievement. Below the effigies is an inscription reading:


    Here under this Tombe lyeth buried In the mercy of Jhesus Chryst the body

    of John Corbet esquyer and Jane his wyfe which John decessid the xxviij

    day of December Ano dni mo ccccc lix and ye said Jane dyed ye   

    of      Ao movc    whos Bodie & soule god grant a ioyful reserexcion    

 

Jane's date has been left incomplete.

    The brass was made in London and belongs to the group of brasses given the soubriquet Lytkott after the brass of Christopher Lytkott, died 1554, at Swallowfield, Berkshire. John Corbet's armour has the tasset fastenings and dagged skirt of mail associated with Lytkott brasses of men in armour and both he and Jane kneel on typically lumpy cushions, the folds of drapery of her dress over the cushion also being typical.. John has lost the upper half of his figure since Cotman drew the brass early in the nineteenth-century but one of the shields then missing from the brass has been reinstated.


Sources:

Blomefield, History of Norfolk, vol 10, 458-460

http://historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/member/corbet-john-ii-1514-59