Brass of the month

May 2004: Llandinabo, Herefordshire

May's brass of the month is from Llandinabo, Herefordshire. This unusual mural composition in a stone frame commemorates Thomas Tompkins, who died in 1629. Only the figure is shown here, but it is accompanied by a rectangular plate with a poorly-engraved and worn inscription in Roman lettering.

Amongst the most poignant of monuments are those to children who died young. It is often thought that infant mortality rates meant that parents were rather resigned to such losses and rarely bothered to commemorate deceased children, yet that is not true. Although most brasses commemorate adults, it is possible to discover children commemorated in their own right, often with an inscription that testified to the grief felt by the bereaved parents. Most frequently such children are shown as 'chrysoms' (swaddled infants) or as miniature figures dressed as adults, but some more creative compositions also exist. This brass, produced by a local craftsman, shows how young Thomas died.

The effigial plate brass shown here depicts a boy with a prominent cross on a chain round his neck. He stands in a pool of water surrounded by bullrushes. The iconography is explained by the charming Latin verse below.


The inscription reads

Me Prius infantem seruauit pura renatum                First did pure water wash a babe regained

   postea me puerum tubida mersit aqua                       Then muddy water drowned me immature

Sic bis lotus eram Foedus, sed nunc sine labe        Thus I was twice washed clean, but now, unstained

   Ablutus Christi sanguine semper ero.                         Washed with the blood of Christ for ever more.

It is thus clear that though we do not know how old poor Thomas was at his death, he died as a youngster by drowning in a pond. A parallel is drawn with his baptism as a baby and the expectation expressed that his unsinful state would earn him a place in Heaven.

For more brasses of children see the Picture Libary pages on chrysoms, children and maidens and matrons.  

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Page last updated 26 April 2004