Brass of the Month

March 2009: Lady Sydney Wynne, 1632, Llanrwst, Denbighshire

                         

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Page last updated 04 March 2015

Copyright: Hubert Allen


      In 1965 I was between jobs, and was re-training in Bangor to become a teacher. Wales is not rich in brasses, but when my closest friend from university days, Malcolm Norris, heard where I was going, he asked if I could try to get him rubbings of some of the half-dozen brasses at Llanrwst in what then was still Denbighshire. So we made that village our destination for a family outing. The sexton was friendly, but said I might find it difficult to rub the brasses as several were now mounted in wooden frames on the wall. Sure enough, when I made an attempt to rub one of them it began to fall out of its frame and I had difficulty catching the heavy plate. The others were in much the same state. We agreed with the sexton that it would be dangerous to leave them like that anyway, so we helped him to lift them down, and take them out of their warped frames. He said he’d go off and find out what ought to be done; but in the meanwhile he suggested I should lay them down on the floor of the church porch in a good light and get on with making my rubbings (which were consequently the easiest rubbings of my limited career – apart from Dame Sarah Wynne’s, whose brass was still on the wall, and far too lightly engraved to be satisfactorily rubbed 1).


      Malcolm was delighted with my efforts and used two of the rubbings as illustrations in his classic work 2. But what proved to be far more important was that the sexton came back with the news that there was correspondence about some of these brasses among the Wynne papers, which had been deposited in the National Library of Wales. Malcolm followed this up, and discusses the letters at some length in Monumental Brasses 3. He was chiefly interested in the conflict between respectability and accurate portraiture that seems to emerge from discussion about Sir John Wynne’s father: the engraver wanted to know “whither you will have Sr Owen engraven’d with a face new trym’d…or with a bushie beard, as I remember hee had… for hee allwayes wore it Careless…” 4

 But Malcolm also surmises from the stylistic evidence that this same engraver, Robert Vaughan of London’s Fetter Lane, was likewise  responsible for the very similar brasses of Sir John himself and of his mother, Lady Sidney Wynne, resplendent in ruff, lace cap and hood, which is my brass for the month.

1.   See Fig.262 in Malcolm’s Monumental Brasses: the Craft.


2.   Fig.76 in The Craft (Sir Owen Wynne) and Fig.281 in The Memorials (Lady Sydney Wynne). Presumably all six rubbings are now in the Birmingham archive.


3.  The Craft, pp. 93f.; and The Memorials, pp.248f. and footnote 4, p.310.


4.  This letter is illustrated as Fig.77 of The Craft.

 

Lady Sydney Wynne

Her son, Sir Owen Wynne