Brass of the month

August 2004: Society of Antiquaries of London, c. 1475

August's brass of the month features a brass from the collection of the Society of Antiquaries of London. It was presented to the Society on 8 January 1848 by Hugh Welch Diamond, who also presented two shields of arms also 'purchased by him, some years since, of a person who stated them to have been dredged from the bed

 of the river Thames'.


The brass shows a bare-headed figure of a man in armour resting his feet on a lion. Though only 519mm tall, it is a delightful composition. The style shows it to have been made in the London workshop termed 'Series F' c. 1475. There are slight traces of colour in the lines (white in the hair and red in the eyes) though this may not be original. The most interesting feature of the brass is the large crown badge worn on the shoulder, denoting that the person this brass commemorated was a Yeoman of the Crown. Sadly, it is not known whom this brass might have commemorated.


The likelihood is that the brass originally lay in a London church and was thrown in the Thames during the Reformation, when many brasses and other 'graven images' were ripped up from church floors. It might be thought that the fanatics who removed this fascinating brass might have thrown it into the Thames in an excess of reformist zeal, but that was not necessarily the case.


Many brasses sold as scrap metal (and often turned over for reuse). Possibly that was the case with this brass; by the mid 16th century Southwark was an important centre of brass engraving and this plate may have fallen from a barge while being shipped across the Thames.


Fortunately, like many other interesting artefacts, it sunk into the Thames mud, only to re-emerge when the bottom was dredged in the nineteenth century.


 


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Page last updated 09 August 2004