Brass of the Month

Copyright © 2013 Monumental Brass Society (MBS)

Page last updated 04 March 2015

Copyright: Jon Bayliss

March 2013 – Thomas Kinnersley, c. 1530, Uttoxeter, Staffordshire


The churches of the English Midlands are home to many alabaster incised slabs, although relatively few have survived in good condition because they are not the most hard-wearing of floor surfaces. The minority of slabs that instead form the tops of tomb chests haven't had to face that particular problem but are more prone to being defaced by graffiti. While that is the case with the incised effigial slab commemorating Thomas Kinnersley at Uttoxeter, it is as nothing compared to the other vicissitudes that this slab and tomb have been through and survived.

    We can probably assume that Thomas Kinnersley's tomb survived in reasonable state until the the rebuilding of St Mary's church in 1828, despite the side of the chest having a depiction of the crucifixion that would have ensured its defacement or destruction had an iconoclast visited the church in the 1640s. At an uncertain date after the rebuilding, the top slab was being used as a windowsill, one edge being cut away to fit. The front of the chest was placed under it some feet off the ground, supported by masonry. It has since been reassembled on the north side of the nave. Another slab of the same period was not so lucky: it depicted a man in armour of the Minors family and his wife and was destroyed when the Minors chantry chapel was turned into a vestry. What the rest of the Kinnersley tomb looked like, we do not know – the ends are now plain pieces of alabaster.  Opposite it is another tomb chest with a sculptured figure of a lady on it, once mistakenly thought to be an abbess but now identified as Agnes Hussey, died 1523, third wife of Thomas Kinnersley. It was once under a plain stone arch and at another time, according to a drawing by John Buckler, set in line with Thomas's tomb.

    As F A Greenhill realised, Thomas's slab does not date from the time of the date of Thomas's  death as recorded by Andrew Oliver on his drawing of the slab, 1505, but from c. 1530. Oliver's dating has been queried elsewhere too. The decoration down the remaining side of the slab identifies it as coming from the period around 1530 when the Burton tomb-makers first started experimenting with Renaissance decoration and the pilasters of the tomb chest are of the same sort.



Thomas's armour appears to be an attempt to show the same sort of tassets used on the sculptured effigies of Robert Haselrigg at Castle Donington and of Sir George Manners, in St George's chapel at Windsor, both tombs dating from around 1530. On the side of the tomb chest are sculptured kneeling figures of Thomas and his three wives either side of a crucifixion. The wives all apparently wear gable headdresses with the lappets up and they have a type of pleated undersleeve that is not found on alabaster tombs before c. 1530. A battered Latin inscription (It has been transcribed as Hic jacent corpa Thomas Kinnesley de Morley armigeri et uxoris suaru cu[m      i]is et fili abs corum [sic] qui quidem Thomas obiit a dni MVO [sic] quor aibs ppicicietur deus amen)  along the chamfer of the slab was translated by a fomer incumbent as Here lie the bodies of Thomas Kynnersley of Morley, Knight [sic] and of his wives and their sons and daughters. Thomas died in 1505. May God have mercy on their souls. Amen.

The date seems wrong as does the place name. Thomas's first wife was Margery, daughter of John Agarde (she is recorded as Thomas's wife in 1494) and his second was Elizabeth, daughter of Humphrey Wolriche and widow of Henry Pettit. The Kinnerleys had arrived in Uttoxeter in 1327, John Kinnersley marrying the heiress of the manor of Loxley, land the family retained for centuries after Thomas's time, while they seem to have no connection with Morley. Thomas was succeeded not by his son John, who died in 1514/5, but by his grandson, another Thomas.  The date on the inscription, if taken from the Latin transcription, seems to suggest MVC , ie 1500 but with a blank left for the exact year, which would fit with an erection date before Thomas's death in or a little before 1538, the date of his Inquisition Post Mortem. If so, it seems that he put up his own tomb, a few years after the one set up for his third wife. As she shares the central niche with him, as identified by the arms on the shield in set under the crucifix, and has her own tomb too, it would seem likely that his third marriage was a love match while the first two were for dynastic reasons. It is likely that both tombs were originally erected in the chantry chapel that the Kinnersley family were known to have had at Uttoxeter. His tomb has been patched behind the figures of both his first and second wife, where it is likely there once were kneeling figures of his children by them.





References

The Staffordshire Views website has a number of drawings of the Uttoxeter tombs, notably of the slab of Thomas as used for a windowsill. Use Uttoxeter and tomb as search terms at the search page:

http://www.views.staffspasttrack.org.uk/engine/search/default.asp


Burke’s A genealogical and heraldic history of the commoners of Great Britain on Google Books has been useful as has S A Jeavons’s ‘ Monumental Effigies of Staffordshire’  part 2 in the Transactions of the Birmingham Archaeological Society, volume 70.