Brass of the Month

October 2009: Reginald de Assche, Ash-next-Wrotham, c. 1380: An unrecorded rebus



An unrecorded rebus in Ash Church

                         

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An unrecorded rebus in Ash Church


Research is now underway for the forthcoming County Series volume, The Monumental Brasses of Kent by William Lack, H. Martin Stuchfield and Philip Whittemore. After several forays into the county it is already becoming apparent that there are many errors, omissions and discrepancies between Mill Stephenson’s List of Monumental Brasses in the British Isles (published in 1926 with an appendix 1938) and our current findings.

On a recent visit to Ash-next-Wrotham, it was noted that there was a major omission from the entry for M.S.I.  Mill notes an inscription to Reginald de Assche and wife Alice, engraved c.1380, which is a product of the London A workshop, but has failed to record that on either side of the inscription are separate plates with images of Ash trees. These plates are a rebus on the name of Assche. A rebus [Latin: by things] is a mode of expressing words and phrases by pictures of objects whose names resemble those words, or the syllables of which they are composed. A rebus is a variation on a pun. In a pun, the sound and/or meaning of two words is made into a play on words. In a rebus, the pun is created by using pictures to evoke a sound that is identical or similar to a word or word part.


Fig . 1  Inscription - complete

Fig. 2  Inscription rubbing

The inscription is engraved on a fillet measuring 63 x 546 mm. Immediately abutting either end are plates incised with the Ash trees. These do not match in size, the dexter (left) being 67 x 43 mm and the sinister (right) 66 x 40 mm. This arrangement is most interesting for its unusual shape, design and wording. It offers a pleasing effect. Floral and other forms of decoration often appear on fillet inscriptions between the words, or to fill in blank spaces, but these two delightful Ash trees deserve attention.


The inscription (contractions in italics) reads as follows:


Ies[us] nazaren[us] rex iudeor[um] Hic iacet Reginaldus de/

 Aſſhe & Alicia uxor eius quor[um] a[n]i[m]ab[us] p[ro]picietur deus.


This inscription is noteworthy for its unusually pious preface I.N.R.I. which represents [translated] Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.


It is interesting that Thorpe’s Registrum Roffense  also fails to record this brass, which lies at the east end of the nave in a prominent position, so negligence would seem the most obvious reason for its omission. It is also likely that Mill Stephenson himself had not seen this brass, but was working from secondary information - an important reminder that there is nothing like visiting the churches and recording for yourselves.


Rubbing by Janet Whitham on 28 September 2009

Photographs by H. Martin Stuchfield


Fig. 3 Dexter plate

Fig. 4  Dexter plate rubbing

Fig. 5  Sinister plate

Fig. 6  Sinister plate rubbing

Copyright: Martin Stuchfield & Janet Whitham