Brass of the month

April 2003: Morley, Derbyshire 1470

Stathum brass at Morley

This brass commemorates Sir Thomas Stathum, d. 1470, and his two wives, Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Langley esq., and Thomasine, daughter of John Curzon esq.. It is one of a series of brasses in this church to members of the Stathum family, who were Lords of the Manor of Morley, Derbyshire and most of whom recorded on their brass building works and contributions to the fabric of St Mathews church and other good works they carried out in the town.

Sir Thomas had very clear ideas as to how he wished to be commemorated. In his will he requested 'Corpus meum sepeliendum in the south side of the chauncell in the kirke of Morley at saint Nicholas Auter ende undir the lowe wall, the said Wall to be taken downe and ther upon me leyd a stone of marble with iij ymages of laton oon ymage maade aftir me and th othir ij aftir both my wifis we all knelyng on our kneys with eche on us  a rolle in our handis unto our Lady saint Marye and to saint Christophore over ourr heedis with iiij scochons of myn armes and both my wifis armes quarterley to gedir '.

The brass provided for Sir Thomas by his executors meets his requirements in most respects. The main difference is that the figures are standing, not kneeling. He probably close this to match his father's brass, which Thomas was probably responsible for commissioning. Kneeling figures appear not to have been part of the standard repertoire of the brass engravings workshops of this time and Sir Thomas's executors may have agreed to the usual standing figures instead. The other change was that a figure of Saint Anne was added to those of St Christopher and the Virgin above the heads of the figure, probably to provide a more balanced composition. Again Sir Thomas's father's brass showed prayer scrolls from the two figures to an image of St Christopher, showing once more how influenced Sir Thomas was by the format of his father's brass.

The specification for the brass set out in Sir Thomas's will is more detailed than most, but shares many common features with other 'testamentary brasses'. The request for 'a marble' was a common one; in most cases, as here, it refers to a slab of Purbeck marble, a polishable limestone commonly used to set London-made brasses. The very brief references to the figures, which we would consider the most important part of the composition, is again not unusual. Medieval brasses were not portraits, but stereotyped figures. What mattered to testators was that they should be showed 'according to their degree or status', for example in armour if they were a knight or esquire. They were often, as in Sir Thomas's case, far more concerned about the display of heraldry, which recorded their descent.

The earliest of the series of  7 Stathum brasses at Morley is a simple 1403 inscription brass to Godithe de Stathum, lady of Morley and her son Richard. Her husband, Ralph, was also commemorated by an inscription brass on his death in 1418. John Morley, father of Thomas, d.1453, is commemorated by multiple brasses. One records a list of prayers ordained by John to be said for the souls of his family and two others, one an inscription brass and one a fine figure brass, commemorate John and his wife Cecily, d. 1444. The latest to a male Stathum is the fine figure brass to Thomas's son and heir Henry, d. 1481 . Despite being married three times, he failed to produce a male heir who reach ed maturity; his heiress was his daughter Joan. She married John Sacheverell esq., whose father died on Bosworth Field. He and his son both followed the tradition of being commemorated by brasses of c.1525 and 1558 in Morley church.  This series spanning over 150 years thus provides much valuable genealogical information about the Stathum and Sacheverell families.

Click here for the Brass of the Month feature

Copyright © 2002 Monumental Brass Society (MBS)

Page last updated 24 July 2003