Brass of the Month

February 2003: Carshalton, Surrey

Detail of Carshalton brass

This brass commemorates Nicholas Gaynesford, who died in 1498, and his wife, Margaret (nee Sidney),  died 1503. Gaps are left in the inscription for the dates of death, showing that the brass was engraved in the lifetime of the pair, probably 1480-5, and so shows them as they personally wished to be represented. He is shown in armour and she in a butterfly headdress and gown with a collar of Suns and Roses, denoting allegiance to the Yorkist dynasty. The brass forms the back panel of a high tomb on the north side of the old Chancel of Carshalton church. The tomb was originally used as an Easter Sepulchre.

This brass is very unusual as it shows original finishes long worn away on most brasses, which were set in the floor. The protected position of the Carshalton brass has enabled it to remain in superb condition, despite the loss of the group of daughters behind Margaret's figure and the representation of the Holy Trinity in the top right hand corner of the composition (shown in outline on the black and white image). As the coloured picture shows, much of the brass retains its original gilding and the slab of Purbeck Marble is still highly polished, showing to advantage the attractive surface patterning of the viviparus  fossils. Even more unusually, the figure of the lady displays original enamelling, used to give the red colour to her dress. The shields on the front of the otherwise plain tomb also retain enamelling.

Carshalton brass

Nicholas Gaynesford, a younger son of John Gaynesford of Crowhust (who was also commemorated by a brass), was one of the 4 esquires for the body of Edward IV and also of Henry VII. He was at various times sheriff of Surrey and Sussex and M.P. for Blechingley, Guildford, Southwark and Surrey. His wife, Margaret Sidney, was possibly the daughter of William Sidney, died 1449, who was commemorated by a lost brass at Cranley. She was one of the gentlewomen to Queens Elizabeth Woodville and Elizabeth of York. The pair were present at the coronation of Elizabeth of York, Queen of Henry VII, Nicholas attending her with other squires of honour in the procession from the Tower to Westminster. The brass shows them to have had four sons, but two do not appear in the records and may have died young. Both the two remaining sons also predeceased their parents. The eldest, John, married Joan Moresby of Kent and had a daughter, Margaret, and a son, Robert, who succeeded his grandfather. Nicholas and Margaret's other son, Walter, is shown on the brass as a priest. All their four daughters reached maturity and married.

Coloured image courtesy of Claude Blair.

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Page last updated 24 July 2003