Brass of the Month

Copyright © 2017 Monumental Brass Society (MBS)

Page last updated 10 July 2017

July 2017 - Sir George Throckmorton 15[52] & wife, Coughton, Warwickshire


Print this page:

It was Sir George Throckmorton's father Sir Robert who had apparently made Coughton in Warwickshire the family seat, albeit settling at no great distance from the ancestral home of the Throckmortons at Fladbury in Worcestershire. George finished his education at the Middle Temple, which he entered alongside his kinsman Sir Edmund Knightley on 1 May 1505. While Knightley, a younger son, pursued a legal career, Sir George's attendance was aimed at giving him an understanding of the law sufficient to hold his own as a landowner and in those official duties likely to come the way of those in his position. He went on to hold many posts but was also prominent at court as an esquire of the body by 1511 and king's spear in 1513. He also served in the war against France in the latter year. He married Catherine the daughter of another courtier, Sir Nicholas Vaux (later Lord Vaux) in or before 1512. George's uncle Sir William Throckmorton was a trusted servant of Cardinal Wolsey and George had a number of dealings with the cardinal and was made Steward of the lands of the bishopric of Worcester in Warwickshire and Worcestershire after requesting this and other offices in 1528. Wolsey employed Throckmorton to deal with disputes in his area of the Midlands but he was not implicated in Wolsey's fall. He was elected MP for Warwickshire in 1529 and may have sat in the both the preceding and succeeding parliaments. He was knighted in or before 1533 but imprisoned in 1537, confessing his part in the Catholic opposition to Henry VIII's reformation although in a rather confused manner that does not not clarify exactly what he had opposed. He was suspected of expressing support for the rebels in the North but there was seemingly insufficient evidence to sustain any charges. He was imprisoned again a few months later but was soon free again. In 1538, a kinsman, Richard Rich, suggested he receive building material from Bordeley Abbey following its dissolution. He flourished after Thomas Cromwell's fall, in which he may have played a minor part, acquiring a number of properties and serving again in the post of Sheriff of Warwickshire.  Seven of his eight sons sat as MPs in Parliament and he also had eleven daughters. He had spent much of his life rebuilding Coughton Court, which survives today much as it as Sir George left it.

This month's brass was made before the deaths of both husband and wife. Mill Stephenson dated it to c.1535 but it is likely to date from some years later.

Sir George's brass is one of the most significant belonging to those designated Coventry 3. It is set in a large Purbeck marble cover slab with a marginal inscription set in a chamfer of unusual shape. This lies on a tomb chest constructed of Purbeck marble, a couple of the panels of which show clear signs of re-use. The brass itself is likely to be re-used metal, all of which suggests a post-Reformation date. While it is possible that it forms part of the building material from Bordesley Abbey that Sir George may have received, he was not, as Edmund Knightley was, a commissioner for the dissolution of monasteries. Knightley's Coventry 3 brass at Fawsley, Northamptonshire, shows clear signs that the slab is re-used, suggesting that Knightley acquired it during the course of his duties. The Coventry workshop probably had its own access to monastic material and had not used Purbeck marble in its pre-Reformation work. Of particular interest is the seeming influence of John Rastell's 1529 book Pastime of the People on its designs. Rastell, originally from Coventry, was both a lawyer and a printer in London but kept his links with Coventry throughout his working life. Pastime of the People had woodcuts of the kings of England from William the Conqueror to Richard III. The kings wear either robes or armour, the depictions of the former being heavily influenced by Northern European prints, as indeed were the brasses of the Coventry 3 workshop from its beginning in the mid-1520s. These influences can likewise be seen on some London brasses of the period but to a lesser extent. The angular treatment of the drapery folds and the engraved lines terminating in triangles that can clearly be seen on Catherine Throckmorton's  dress beneath her knees are a prime example of this influence. The fanciful  heart-shaped plates protecting Sir George's elbows appear to derive from those depicted on Rastell's engraving of Richard I. Although the armour shown on the Coventry 3 brass at Harrington, Northamptonshire, commemorating Laurence Saunders, who died in 1545, is otherwise completely different, the plates at his elbows are the same. Although it has been suggested that the brass at Coughton commemorating Dame Elizabeth Throckmorton, last Abbess of Denny, who died in 1547/8, is a later restoration, the lettering of the inscription shows that it is also a Coventry 3 product. The four evangelical symbols may also be original although the two rectangular plates bearing heraldic lozenges probably date from the time that the brass was affixed to the west end of a tomb-chest commemorating a Victorian Throckmorton It seems likely that Sir George took the opportunity of ordering brasses for his aunt and himself at the same time. The date suggests that the re-used material was acquired during the suppression of the colleges and chantries under Edward VI rather than from the dissolution of the monasteries.    

Copyright: Jon Bayliss