The Monumental Church Brasses of Thurrock



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Thurrock Church Brasses

The brass of most import to the enthusiast at Aveley, is that of Radulphus de Knevynton c.1370. (Fig. 7). It is 62 cms. long. Ralph may have lived in the area of the Kennington farmhouse but at the present time no record of his life has come to light.

The brass, which is of fine Flemish workmanship, lies on the south side of the chancel. The inscription beneath is in Latin and almost certainly engraved in England. It reads, 'Hiere lies Ralph de Knevynton, who died on the Thursday before the feast of St.Nicholas the Bishop, in the year 1370 when the Dominical letter was F.'

Dominical letters are the first seven letters of the alphabet used in church calendars denoting Sundays in any year. They are very rare on brasses. The exact record of the day of the knight's death is also uncommon.

Near Ralph, in the south side of the chancel lies the brass of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Bacon (Fig 8). They are the infant children of Edward Bacon and they died within nine days of each other. 1588 was the year in which the Spanish Armada was routed and must have been a happy year for most but a sad one for the Bacon family. The lengths of the figures are 27.5cms. for the boy and 25.7cms, for his sister. The inscription beneath them reads:

'Here under lyeth buried the bodies of Nathaniel Bacon sonne of Edward Bacon Esquire & Helenne his wyfe and Elizabeth Bacon sister of ye said Nathaniel. Nathaniel departed this present life the XIIIIth day of Marche 1588 beinge of the age of III yeares and Elizabeth lykewise died the XXIII of Marche in the same yeare beinge of the age of two yeares.'

There are three shields of arms, surrounding the figures and inscriptions,

Also in the south of the chancel lies the brass monument to Edwarde Barrette 1585 (Fig 9) who was High Sheriff of the County of Essex in 1570 and added considerably to his estate of Belhus. He was also grandfather of the more famous Edward Barrette, Lord Baron of Newburgh who was Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1628. There is no effigy of Edwarde. The brasses consist of a plaque 46cms x 13cms., a shield 24.3cms. x 21.5cms. and a lozenge 18cms. x 18cms. The plaque reades,

'Here lyeth buried the bodie of Edwarde Barrette who being a faithefull pfessor of the gospell lyvinge most Christianly therein, depted this liffe the laste of Januarie Ao Dm 1585, and now restethe in the Lorde,'

The shield consists of numerous quarterings and includes those charges which appear on the lozenge. Edwarde Barrette married Anne, daughter of Sir G Somereset. The armorial insignia of ladies are usually blazoned on a lozenge so it is possible that this is a memorial to Anne. There was a rectangular plaque but the brass has gone and only the indent remains.

Charles Barrett l584 (Fig. 10), son of Edwarde, died a year before his father at the age of twenty-nine. Charles married Christian, daughter of Sir Walter Mildmay, and it was their son Edward who was knighted by James I in 1608 and raised to the peerage in 1627 when he became Lord Baron of Newburgh. The brass to Charles Barrette lies in the North Chapel and consists of a plaque and shield. The plaque measures 49.5cms x 12.5cms and reads,

'Here under lyeth Charles Barett sonne and heire to Edward Barett Esquire who maryd Christian daughter to Sir Walter Mildmay, and had by her two sonnes and one daughter. He deceased in the XXIX year of his age the VIII daye of August Ano Dmi 1584.'

On closer appraisal one sees that this plaque has been split in two at some time and rejoined. Behind this fact lies a strange story. The first mention of the plate being broken was in 1856 when a brass-rubber of the time reported half of it missing. Twenty years later half an inscribed brass plate was dug up during the construction of a workshop at Romford. The plate was entrusted to a Mr. Kennedy who traced its origin to Aveley church. Later two clergymen from Romford, with Mr. Kennedy's permission, took the plate to Aveley and found the other half still in its original position. With the aid of the church clerk these clerics ripped up this portion and took both pieces back to Romford. Mr. Kennedy was horrified at this act of vandalism and gave his part of the brass to Colchester Museum on condition that it would finally be restored to the church. The other half came into the possession of the Vicar of Aveley and in 1907, nearly fifty years later, both parts were replaced in their original position,

This brass of Charles Barrett is also interesting in that it is an example of a palimpsest i.e. it has been used for a second time. On the back of the brass there is part of an inscription in Low German dated about 1425. All that remains of the inscription is,
'23rd day of May........
Here lyeth.............'

At the North side of the Sanctuary lies a tomb which is thought to be that of Isolda de Belhus, 1520 and family. Most of the brass work is missing from the stone slab and only the brasses of six sons and two daughters remain (Fig.11). However, these are quite charming and warrant close inspection. The boys are 19.5 cms. in length and the girls are 18.5 cms. Also remaining are four shields of arms made of lead but these are very badly damaged and are hardly discernible.

The remaining brass in the church is in the north Chapel. It is set in a marble tablet in the wall but unfortunately is almost completely hidden by the reredos. The brass is to the memory of Elizabeth Bacon. It is said to depict a chrisom child, i.e., a chrisom is a child's white robe worn at baptism, used as a shroud if the infant dies within a month.

Fig. 7

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Fig. 8

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Fig. 9

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Fig. 10

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Fig. 11

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