Brass of the Month

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Page last updated 05 May 2019

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May 2019: Sir Humfrey Stafford, 1548, & wife Margaret, Blatherwyck, Northamptonshire











































Copyright: Jon Bayliss

The Stafford family of Blatherwyck had their origins with the Staffords of Grafton. Their is a profusion of heads of the family named Humfrey that makes identifying any particular Humfrey a task that needs care. Like his father, who died little more than a dozen years before his son did, the particular Humfrey represented on the brass was a knight. He is referred to on occasion as as Sir Humfrey Stafford junior, as when he was on service on the Continent in Henry VIII's army in the early 1540s. At other times, as when he wrote to Thomas Cromwell in 1536, asking for the gift of the priory of Fyneshed should it be suppressed, he wrote that his father likewise wanted the house of canons of Worspring of which he was founder, the reader has to work out which Humfrey Stafford had written the letter.

    As the inscription tells us, Sir Humfrey was one of the esquires for the body of Henry VIII 'of famous memorye'. It names his wife as Margaret and notes that he was son and heir of Sir Humfrey Stafford. He died on the 8th May 1548. Margaret was a daughter of Sir Edmund Tame of Fairford, Gloucestershire, the Tame arms appearing on two of the four shields. Only the bottom half of her figure remains. The group of daughters behind her has also been lost. The brass, to judge it purely from a rubbing, looks entirely standard in its layout bar the position of the groups of sons and daughters behind their parents. In reality, it was relaid in a limestone monument, probably in the late sixteenth-century, now against the north wall. The brass is fixed with rivets cut from another brass set in lead poured through holes on the reverse side of the stone. The brass was clearly designed to be laid flat, whether on the floor, or perhaps more likely on an altar tomb, rather than upright as it now is. As Robert Hutchinson and Bryan Egan have pointed out, the brass belongs to the Fermour style and was quite possibly engraved some five years later than Sir Humfrey's date of death. 1548 was a year when parish churches were being stripped of many of their ornaments during Edward VI's reign, some churches also clearing their brasses. By 1553, with the restoration of Catholicism, it may have seemed that stability had been restored under Mary I and that it was safer to lay a new brass than it had been under Edward VI. Like so many other brasses of this period, it is made up of plates taken from older brasses that has been turned over and re-engraved. The component parts of the brass are the same as the very similar Fermour-style brass of William Foxe and his wife Jane at Ludford, Herefordshire, still in its original slab but no longer on its altar tomb. The Foxe brass has its inscription directly under the main effigies and the groups of sons and daughters below the inscription but above the lower pair of shields, probably duplicating the original appearance of the Stafford brass. Why the Stafford brass needed to be reset so soon after it was made remains unclear.


Reference

R. Hutchinson & B Egan, ‘History Writ in Brass – The Fermer Workshop’, TMBS, XVII part 1 (2003), 52-54.


The church at Blatherwyck is maintained by the Churches Conservation Trust