Brass of the Month

October 2010 – Margery or Anne Clopton, 1420, Long Melford, Suffolk



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Page last updated 04 March 2015

Copyright: Jon Bayliss

Much of the society’s recent study day at Long Melford concentrated on the Clopton family. Their memorials are on the north side of the church. In the north chancel aisle, the Clopton chapel, a number of brasses to the family remain, although only one pre-Reformation inscription survives, in the form of twenty-two Latin verses. The other inscriptions have obviously been removed by iconoclasts on account of their religious content. Fortunately, various antiquaries visited the church before 1640 and recorded the inscriptions. Of particular importance was the visit of the anonymous ‘Chorographer’ in the very early seventeenth century, as he not only recorded the inscriptions but also basic descriptions of the figures that went with them. In the instance of this month’s brass, he wrote:


    On another [stone] the pourtraytures of two women underneath

  Orate pro a’i’bus Margeriæ et Anne filiar’ Margerie Clopton que obierunt [blank] Octobri a’o  D’ni 1420.

[Pray for the souls of Margery and Anne Clopton, daughters of Margery Clopton, who died in October  1420]


Henry Chitting visited the church on 1 July 1420 and recorded the same inscription. As his transcription also does not note the day in October on which Margery and Anne died, it suggests they died on different days that month. The immediately adjacent stone that both the chorographer and Chitting recorded was for William Clopton, son of William Clopton, which retains not only his effigy but all four shields, which identify him. The younger William Clopton died only six months apart from his sisters Margery and Anne. Their stone now has only one effigy on it and it is impossible to say which sister it represents. The effigy is now in the middle of the slab but, as can be seen on the photograph, there are rivets remaining either side of it, showing where the two effigies were originally.  Presumably the remaining sister was reset to make her brass match her brother’s better.      


It is interesting that the inscription recorded who the sisters’ mother was rather than their father. Although both of Sir William Clopton’s wives were called Margery, the sisters’ mother, Margery Drury, died the same year that they did, so the brasses were presumably laid before Sir William married Margery Francis, the mother of his heir, John. Margery Francis herself died in 1424.  

The dress worn by the remaining sister closely  compares to that on a number of other brasses of similar date with the exception of her headdress, which is most unusual. It may indicate her unmarried status, as married women were often depicted with their hair drawn into horns at the sides of their heads, confined by nets, whereas this young lady’s hair is left free at the sides. Also unusual is what appears to be an animal badge on her collar, in the same position as the swan badge worn by Joan Peryent, died 1415, at Digswell, Hertfordshire.


Sources

The Chorography of Suffolk, edited by Diarmaid McCulloch, was published by the Suffolk Records Society as volume 19 in 1976.

Henry Chitting’s Suffolk Collections, edited and introduced by Diarmaid McCulloch, appeared in part 2 of volume 35 of the Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History in 1978.