Brass of the Month

November 2009: John Repps, 1561, & wives Margaret & Thomasene, West Walton, Norfolk



An unrecorded rebus in Ash Church

Details of the missing shields are given in Blomefield in 1775 (1) and in Armstrong in 1781 (4).
i. Repps: Ermine three chevronels argent with a crest a plume of feathers ermine issuing out of a coronet with a pair of wings or
ii. Repps impaling Heveningham quarterly Or and gules in a bordure engrailed sable of eight escallops argent
iii. Jermy: Argent a leopard salient gules with his crest a griffin passant gules
iv. Jermy impaling Mouteney: Azure a bend between six martlets or
v. Jermy impaling Worth: Argent on a bend sable three lions heads erased of the first crowned or
vi. Repps impaling Jermy
vii. Repps impaling Holditch: Argent on a chevron or two sea-pies proper
viii. Quarterly Repps and Smith: Or a bend azure between three trefoils slipped vert
ix. Repps impaling Derham: Azure a buck’s head cabossed or


                        

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Page last updated 04 March 2015

Mill Stephenson describes this brass thus: M.S.I. Inscription John Repps, esq; 1561, and 2 ws., (1) Margaret., eldest daughter and co-heir of Henry Smyth by whom one son Henry and seven daughters., (2) Thomasen, daughter of Thomas Derham, by whom Ele and John, local, on a board loose.


 This unusual brass has had a chequered history. It is of an unusual, probably unique, design, consisting of six shields, four achievements a central inscription and a most unusual marginal inscription. All may be seen as the top slab on an altar tomb. It was almost complete when Charles Parkin, who completed Blomefield’s History of Norfolk, visited the church between 1753 and 1765 and he was able to record nine of the ten shields. When Mill Stephenson noted the inscription in the 1920’s it was loose and on a board. The shields had disappeared. Since then the inscription has been inefficiently re-fixed in its correct place on the slab.
  On either side of the inscription are two pillars. The three fleur-de-lys at the bottom were repeated at the top where most of it has been broken off. The brass is listed by Mill Stephenson as being of local, rather than London, manufacture.


The inscription reads: Here lyeth John Repps of West Walton in the Countie of Norfolke esquyre who decessed the 25th day of Marche in the yeer of oure Lorde God MCCCCCLXI whiche had ii wyves, the whiche was Margaret eldest daughter and one of ye heyrs to Henry Smyth by whom he had yssue Henry Reppes that nowe ys and seven daughter and his second wyfe was Thomasen daughter to Thomas Derham by whom he had yssue Ele and John (2)

Peter has picked a brass of great interest for this feature. The arrangement of the shields appears unique, while the marginal inscription looks to consist of labels beneath the shields with decorations between them. Placing labels below shields was common on brasses, slabs and monuments in the Low Countries but less so in England and may point to an origin in the Netherlands for the designer. However, the lettering is consistent with London work of the period, despite Mill Stephenson’s identification of the brass as local. The year that John Reppes died was the same one, 1561, during which William Cure, a mason and stone carver from the Netherlands, had contact with the London Marblers’ Company, whose members made monumental brasses. It seems possible to me that Cure may have designed this brass, although the evidence is certainly not sufficient for a firm attribution.


Jon Bayliss

Sources
1. An Essay Towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk, Francis Blomefield, 1775
2. Some Early English Inscriptions in Norfolk, W. Rye.
3. Historical Account of Wisbech, W. Watson, 1827
4. Armstrong, J.M., History and Antiquities of the County of Norfolk, 1781

  The family of Repps held lands and a manor in Wisbech near by. Ralph de Repps is claimed to have lived in the time of the Conquerer. Thomas de Repps was a commissioner of sewers to view the sea walls, bridges and causeways along the sea coast in the time of Edward III (1327). John Repps held the Manor of West Walton and in the 24th of Henry VIII. Robert, prior of St. Pancrase, of Lewes, and the convent, demised to John Repps, late of West Walton. Gent. their manor of West Walton, the site of the manor, houses, demesne lands, meadows, feeding pastures, (except the hall, and two chambers at both ends of the hall,) with the garden, the meadow called Bromstoven, and the New-Hall, at the yearly rent of 26l. 13s. 4d. (4)

  Repps was to farm the same, to find the prior’s officers when they came oats, hay and beans as long as they stayed, the prior to repair the sea-banks, sea dykes, fen dykes, and to pay the king’s dues. In the 31st of Henry VIII the manor of Sybelis or Syblys, with messuages and tenements in West Walton and Walpole was conveyed to him by fine from Thomas Holland, gent. which manor was late Henry Smith’s, Marga, one of his daughters and co-heirs, being married to John Repps, another daughter and co-heir to Holland.
In 1629 Henry Repps, esq,, died seized of a capital messuage and 324 acres of land of which John Repps was possessed about 1750.


Copyright: Peter Heseltine