Brass of the Month

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Page last updated 04 March 2015

July 2012 – Anne Bulwer, 1604/5, Guestwick, Norfolk

 

Incised effigial slabs are rare in East Anglia, so it is most unusual to find two in the same church. They commemorate husband and wife. Anne Bulwer died first, on 27 January 1604 (1605 by modern reckoning). Her husband Edward died over twenty years late, on 6 April 1626. Anne was the daughter of William Becke of Southrepps, a few miles north-east of Guestwick. The Bulwer family had previously been settled in neighbouring Wood Dalling, where there are a number of brasses still remaining to them, if somewhat fewer than in the eighteenth century. Simon Bulwer, died 1504, who is represented there by a small brass of a civilian, appears to have been the great-grandfather of Edward's father Roger. Roger was the first of the Bulwer family to live in Guestwick, where he acquired land in the 1560s. Edward and Anne had three sons who survived to adulthood, Roger, Edward and William. As her slab shows a fourth son, they obviously lost one at a young age. The slab also shows nine daughters.  The inscription reads:

Here lyeth the Bodie of Anne

the wife of Edward Bulwer

gent who deceased the xxvii

daye of Januari Ano Dni 1604.

In something of a throwback to the bracket brasses of the Middle Ages, Anne is placed on a pedestal. Perhaps that is how her husband viewed her, although one would have expected an encomium rather than the bald statement of fact of the inscription if that were the case. She wears a a stomacher and a farthingale, its skirts spread wider than is usual on other brasses and slabs of the period and is presumably more realistic to judge from the farthingales depicted in portrait paintings of the period.


There were once two more Bulwer slabs of the same period in the chancel, commemorating

Edward's parents. As Parkyn recorded in his continuation of Blomefield's History of Norfolk:

In the chancel, on a gravestone,

Hic jacet Rogerus Bulwer, generosus, hujus ecclesie patronus, octo-
ginta annos natus, ob. 1st Julij, 1616.

Adjoining, another:

Christiana suo jacet hic vicina marito,

Nunc consors tumuli, quæ fuit ante Tori.

Sexaginta et octodecem annos nata, obijt vicesimo
Octavo die Junij An. Dni. 1615.

As Parkyn does not mention the incised effigies on either Ann's or Edward's slabs, it is an intriguing possibility that these two slabs also had effigies.



Copyright: Jon Bayliss

Edward's slab was evidently made to be a companion to his wife's but had to be made by a different maker, presumably by a London mason, whereas Anne's is attributable to Thomas Goodwin, a Norwich freemason whose other incised effigies are on mural monuments. The treatment of the sons and daughters on Ann's slab is very similar to that of the kneeling family, males on the left, females on the right, of Jacques de Hem, died 1603, in the church of St Michael at Plea in Norwich. The script of the inscriptions are also very similar. The light coloured slabs at Guestwick have survived very well and it is surprising that Goodwin did not make others. There is a darker, more marble-like slab in St Clement's church in Norwich with an inscription in a square frame that must also be by Goodwin but it seems to be an isolated example.