Brass of the Month
March 2008: Anne Fitch, 1593, Little Canningfield, Essex
Anne Fitch, subject of March’s brasses of the month, is portrayed on two different brasses in the same church.
Anne Fitch was the daughter of John Wiseman of Felsted, a wealthy Roman Catholic landowner. Her first husband, William Fitch, lord of the manor of Little Canfield, died on 20 December 1578, aged 82, and was buried in Little Canfield church. His will provided for his burial in the chancel next to the burial place of his first wife, Elizabeth. His executors were to prepare ‘a convenient and fair marble stone engraved with my arms and the pictures of myself, my wife [sic] and children and with such superscriptions as shall seem best to my executors’. The brass showed both his wives, two sons and three daughters by Elizabeth, four sons by Anne and shields of Fitch. The central figure of William Fitch disappeared after 1718. At the time of William’s death, there were three surviving sons, Thomas, William and Francis, two of whom were under age. Although a bequest was left for a sermon, William’s overseers were also members of the Wiseman family and two of his daughters by his first marriage had married well-
Anne remarried Ralph Pudsey of Gray’s Inn and died on 3 December 1593. Her brass, also on the chancel floor, is markedly different in style to that of her first husband. She is shown wearing a large ruff, a modified Spanish farthingale and a petticoat ornamented with an arabesque design. The small figure in a cloak with doublet and trunk hose, on a separate plate below the inscription, may be an unrecorded child of her second marriage. The shields show the arms of Fitch impaling Wiseman and Pudsey impaling Wiseman.
The wording of the inscriptions does not suggest any particular religious sympathies, but the family history strongly suggests affinity with the old religion. In 1586 William Fitch emigrated to France and entered the Capuchin order, taking the name in religion of Benet of Canfield. He was the author of The Rule of Perfection, a major work of 17th century mystical spirituality. This background could well account for the choice of a brass memorial.
Christy, M. and Porteous, W.W., ‘Some Brasses illustrative of Elizabethan Costume’, Antiquary, xxxix (1903), pp.6-
Emmison, F.G., Elizabethan Life, iv, pp. 81-
Eland, G., At the Courts of Great Canfield Essex, 1949, p. 131.
Berridge, J., ‘Benet Canfield: an Essex Mystic’, Essex Review, lviii (1949), pp. 35-
Innes, S., ‘Fitch, William [Benet of Canfield] (1562-
Copyright: Nancy Briggs; photographs, H.M. Stuchfield
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