Brass of the Month

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May 2016, John Hynkley, 1432, and widow Margaret, 1442,

engraved after 1454, Great Thurlow, Suffolk

In East Anglia a great many brass effigies have lost their inscriptions. In some cases, the inscriptions had been previously recorded by a herald or antiquary prior to the visits by puritan iconoclasts such as William Dowsing in the 1640s, whose targets included not only imagery they regarded as superstitious but inscriptions in English and Latin that included words they deemed unacceptable. Sometimes these words were cut out or scored through but it was more likely that the whole inscription would be removed. If the commemorated were not armigerous, they would have been ignored by the heralds.

    John Weever's Antient Funerall Monuments, published in 1631, lists a number of monuments recorded in the previous century in Suffolk by William Hervey, Clarencieux King of Arms, some of them repeating in less detail the information given in Weever's main text but others providing evidence of monuments lost and recorded nowhere else. These notes from Hervey's manuscript collections sometimes indicate that an inscription was on glass or a tomb, meaning a raised monument, as with the surviving Drury tombs in the church of St Mary in Bury St Edmunds, but most of the rest were, to judge from surviving examples, probably brasses. Among them is one at Great Thurlow commemorating John Hynkley esquier dysceased the xxiii. of January an. Dom. M. cccc. xxxii, and Margaret his wife, the xxiii. of November M cccc. xlii. This couple held, through the inheritance of her mother, Katherine Notbeam, half of the manor of Great Thurlow. John and Margaret had two daughters and co-heirs, Alice, married to John Marshall and Cecily, married to Henry Caldbeck.  Cecily died before Alice. An inquisition post mortem after Alice's death in 1454 proved that her heirs were her adult Caldbeck nieces, Thomasine married to John Turner, of Haverhill, and Margaret, married to Geoffrey Blodwell. The latter inherited half of the manor of Great Thurlow from her aunt.  


 The intriguing brass at Great Thurlow that has lost its inscription and four shields  commemorates a man in armour and his widow. A loose figure depicts a very similar widow. This is now headless but had been rubbed before the head was lost. As these brasses have no parallels elsewhere they have been regarded as early Bury St Edmunds work and dated by the man's armour to about 1460. It is a very reasonable assumption that they were laid down at the same time as a single commission. The inquisition of July 1454 established that Alice Marshall had no heirs of her body. A common common reason for providing a monument in the medieval period was the end of family, whether through complete failure to produce an heir or failure in the direct (male) line of descent. Alice Marshall was a widow as was her mother before her, so she and her parents, John and Margaret Hynkley, look the best candidates for these two brasses. It has been argued that the couple represent John Gedding, whose inquisition post mortem of 1469 indicated that the two halves of the manor of Great Thurlow had been reunited, and his wife Margery, daughter of Sir John Heveningham. John Gedding was the grandson of William and Mirabel Gedding, his father Thomas having died in 1465. Mirabel was the half-sister of Margaret Hynkley and both were co-heiresses of their mother. John and Margery Gedding had a son Robert, who married Margery, daughter of Geoffrey and Margaret Blodwell. Robert was been a minor when his father died. He himself died in 1494, leaving a daughter and heir Margery, the wife of Jasper Lucas.

    An unusual but not unique feature of these two effigies is the V-cut joint where the heads join the body, a feature shared with the other, now headless, effigy here ascribed to Alice Marshall. The brass of Bishop John Young in New College chapel, Oxford, engraved about 1523, also had a head done in the same manner. As noted above, the armour of the figures ascribed to John Hynkley apparently dates from the period around 1460. Comparing it with brasses from the London B workshop, it most resembles the armour of those at Sherbourne, Norfolk, 1458, (September 2010) and Wilmslow, Cheshire, 1460,  in its shoulder and elbow defences and the large buckles connecting the tassets to the main armour, but has more cross-hatched shading than contemporary London brasses.


Copyright: Jon Bayliss