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St Mary's

Godmanchester’s unknown civilian c1520

Max Cashback

This small memorial brass, now mounted on an Iroko hardwood block and fixed to the North wall of St Mary’s Church portrays a civilian of about 1520.

The figure, whose identity is not known, is a London engraved brass portraying a civilian in a long furlined gown. From his belt hangs a gypciere (a purse). It was formerly secured to a Purbeck marble slab, now unfortunately broken, on the south side of the Memorial Altar Sanctuary. This was
hidden for some years under wooden steps but when these were renewed with a stone platform in October 1999, the slab was moved to its present position.

The indent that remains shows the additional figures of two wives, one on either side of the surviving figure. Beneath are the indents of two
groups of children, possibly one group for each wife, and a foot inscription.

A manuscript by the antiquary, Richard Gough, in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, notes that one of the wives (who was shown wearing a pedimental head-dress) and a plate of twelve sons under the other wife, survived c1750. By 1765 another antiquary, the Rev. William Cole (manuscript in British Library) noted that only the sons remained.

Memorial Brass c1520

These had gone by 1831 when Robert Fox published his history of Godmanchester from which the illustration above is taken.

By 1981 a small part of the foot had been broken off so when it was removed to allow for the new flooring the opportunity was taken to send the figure for repair, cleaning and mounting at Bryan Egan’s workshop in Milton Keynes. It was returned in 1983. This was not its first trip to a repair workshop as there is evidence on the back of a bodged 19th Century repair. A photograph of a rubbing in the Inskip Ladds Collection at the Norris Library and Museum in St Ives shows the missing foot.

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