Page 6, 14th December 1956

14th December 1956
Page 6
Page 6, 14th December 1956 — CHURCH BRASSES

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Locations: Cologne, Oxford


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A Member of the Ecclesiological Society THERE is an old jest of Shakespeare having stood godfather to one of Ben Jonson's children; and, being asked for his gift, declaring, " I will give a dozen latten spoons, and you may translate them."

Eliot's Dictionary of 1559 has a definition, "acs caronariurn, latync mettall." Chaucer and Gower wrote it " laten." This allot of copper, zinc. lead and tin was the material of which were made those memorial brasses" to he found in the cathedrals and churches of England. Much of it was imported from Cologne -often fully engraved and inscribed, ready for insertion in the stone slabs prepared for its display. " Latteners ' was the designation of the craftsmen engaged in this work — the Poll Tax returns of 1380 for Oxford tell of three, Robert Fothet, Robert Pynchet and Roger Latener : the last furnishing an illustration of how surnames were acquired.

MONUMENTAL brasses afford a stire guide to the various changes in armour, ecclesiastical vestments and civilian costume, as well as depicting the caprices of ' feminine fashion.

They provide, too. many fine examples of armorial bearings ceccutcd during the golden age of heraldic art : indeed, proficiency in I that science and a knowledge of arms and armour are requisite for advanced pursuit of their study—a desire likely to he fostered by reading "Church. Brasses." by the Rev. Dr. A. C. Bouquet (Batsford. 11 35s.): a work written by a true amateur. a lover of his subject, for amateur and expert alike : a lucid introduction for the former, with the latest data for the latter.

Its attactive dust-wapper, portraying a lady and her knight handclasped, is suggestive not so much of a memento mori as of a ?lumina I vivendi ! But, then, actual brasses have occasional touches of tender' quaintness — two pet dogs have their names perpetuated : at Deerhurst, Lady Cassy is shown with " Terri " ; and at Ingham there lies at his master's feet "Jakke."

FREQUENTLY some brass is discovered to be a "palimpsest"—hearing upon its reverse side signs of having been used in whole or part before — and religious disorder is blamed for such seeming sacrilege. Actually,

it was far from unusual to appropriate not only tombstones but tombs themselves : Stow tells us that the bones of Sir Henry Kehle, the re-builder of St. Mary Aldermary, in the City, were removed from his grave, then required for a later Lord Mayor " till an other give money for their place, and then away with them."

Front the same age of religious upheaval the unwise continue to date every sign of spoliation shown by our parish churches: whereas, of course, by far the more monstrous desecration took place during the great rebellion against the Lord's Anointed; which, naturally. extended to the House of the Lord—the whole of the brasses at Lincoln Cathedral were still in situ' a century after the Reformation; when, by an order of the House of Commons in 1644, all 207 of them were rooted up.

Armed with like authority, the iconoclast Dowsing tore hundreds from their matrices in the churches of Fast Anglia-30 were removed from that of Sudbury alone.

1 have long since coined a new collective noun phrase — a con

jusioit of Cromwells. Despite all this, plus the apathy of Georgian churchwardens and the vandalism of Victorian " restorers," there arc still more brasses in English churches than in those of any other country in Europe.

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