Brass of the Month
October 2003: Tattershall, Lincolnshire
October's brass of the month commemorates Joan, Lady Cromwell, who died in 1479. It is one of three major canopied figures now in the north transept of the church of Holy Trinity, Tattershall, Lincolnshire.
Lady Cromwell is depicted in the ceremonial robes of a peeress: an ermine-
Although the canopy is mutilated at the top, it still retains its full complement of saints in niches, identified by inscriptions on their pedestals. On the left are the Blessed Virgin Mary, crowned, holding the Christ Child, St. Christopher, carrying the Christ Child across a river, and St. Dorothy, holding a rose spray and a basket of flowers. On the right are St. Anne, dressed as a widow, teaching the Virgin to read, St. George, trampling on the dragon which he spears, and St. Edmund, holding the arrow of his martyrdom. The uppermost four are general favourites, but St. Edmund points to a link with East Anglia, and St. Dorothy, whose cult was more established in Germany and the Netherlands, had begun to appear on East Anglian roodscreens by the late fifteenth century.
The foot inscription reads: Orate p[ro] a[n]i[m]a Johanne d[omi]ne Cromwell que obiit decimo die marcii Anno d[omi]ni mill[esi]mo CCCCo lxxix cui[us] a[n]i[m]e p[ro]piciet[ur] deus amen. [Pray for the soul of Joan, Lady Cromwell, who died on the 10th day of March in the year of our Lord 1479. On whose soul may God have mercy, Amen.]
At the four corners were shields, now all lost. The arms are however recorded in antiquarian sources. The one at the upper left bore quarterly 1. France and England with a bordure 2. Bourchier 3. Louvain 4. Cromwell impaling Tattershall. This represents Joan's alliance with her first husband. The upper right shield bore Ratcliffe impaling Cromwell quartering Tattershall. This represents Joan's second marriage. The lower left bore Stanhope impaling Cromwell quartering Tattershall and the lower right bore quarterly 1&4. Stanhope 2&3 Cromwell quartering Tattershall. These arms represent her parents' marriage.
Joan was the younger of the two daughters of Sir Richard Stanhope of Rampton by his second wife, Maud, the sister of Ralph, Baron Cromwell, Lord Treasurer of England from 1433 to 1443, and the founder of the collegiate church of the Holy Trinity at Tattershall. After Lord Cromwell died childless on A January 1455/6 September 1454, Joan and her elder sister Maud became his coheirs. By 14 February 1455/6 Joan had married Sir Humphrey Bourchier, the third son of Henry Bourchier, Earl of Essex. Humphrey, a cousin of Edward IV, was created Lord Bourchier de Cromwell in 1461 and died fighting on the Yorkist side at Barnet on 14 April 1471.
Blessed Virgin Mary
The brasses of Ralph, Lord Cromwell and his wife Margaret (now sadly mutilated) and Maud, Lady Willoughby, also at Tattershall, are products of the London D workshop, datable to the 1470s, and possibly laid down about the time of the completion of the chancel of Tattershall in 1475-
However, the brass of Joan, Lady Cromwell was executed not in a London workshop, but was made c. 1490 in the Norwich workshop that produced Norwich Series 3 brasses. The treatment of the eyes, the refined, tapering fingers and the lettering of the inscription are all distinctive. Though on a much larger scale than most Norwich brasses, it has design features in common with brasses at Felbrigg, Aldborough and Warham All Saints, dating from the late 1480s. The Norwich 3 workshop was run by the glazier William Heyward (fl. 1485-
Copyright: Nicholas Rogers.
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Page last updated 07 February 2005