TAKE A LOOK AT... (in Derbyshire)

This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 15th October 1990 and 13th September 1999 (p.23), reproduced by kind permission of its author, Julie Bunting.


To many people, church brasses mean burnished pictures of medieval knights-in-armour and their demure ladies, the long-deceased of noble lineage and considerable wealth.

This type of monument is especially popular for brass rubbing, occasionally allowed by prior arrangement with the minister. At Hathersage, however, facsimiles are provided to protect the originals of the splendid Eyre collection. The earliest depicts Robert Eyre and his wife Joan (née Padley), who died in 1459 and 1463. Robert in his plate armour is armed with sword and dagger, Joan wears a peaked head dress and a fur-trimmed gown befitting the heiress of the wealthy Padleys. Smaller figures represent their fourteen children.

The eldest surviving son, Robert, also armour-clad, kneels with his fashionably-attired wife Elizabeth. Effigies of their nine children are incomplete. Another son, Ralph, in plate armour, shares a monument with his wife, also Elizabeth, dressed in gown and flowing head dress. A later knight, Sir Arthur Eyre, and the first of his three wives, Lady Margaret, kneel at desks on their brass above the sedilia.


A variety of fascinating brasses belong to Tideswell church, including tablets on the magnificent tomb of Sir Sampson Meverill, who fought for Henry VI against the French led by Joan of Arc. Early monumental brasses represent Sir Robert and Lady Isabella Lytton, who died 1483 and 1458. Sir Robert, one-time Under Treasurer of England, wears a capacious purse in front of his ermine-trimmed robe. Lady Isabella is shown in stiffened head dress and a girdled gown with deep ermine cuffs.

In 1875 a missing thirteenth-century brass of Sir Thomas Foljambe was replaced by a replica showing a true knight of old. He wears pointed helmet, jointed chain-mail armour blazoned with his arms, spurs at his ankles and a splendid moustache.

On the chancel floor is a fine brass to Bishop Pursglove, clothed in Eucharistic vestments from mitre to jewelled slippers and gloves. Such attire is remarkable on a brass of this late date, but Robert Pursglove was one of the last 'Romish' bishops, refusing to take the oath of supremacy to Elizabeth I. Tideswell born, he rose to become Prior of Guisborough, Suffragan Bishop of Hull, Archdeacon of Nottingham and Provost of Rotherham College. After his enforced retirement he died at Tideswell in 1579.

The Elizabethan era is recalled too at Edensor, in an unpolished brass to John Beton who died in 1570 of dysentery at Chatsworth House, where his mistress, Mary Queen of Scots, was held captive. Before her execution an escape plot led to the execution of Anthony Babington, amongst whose ancestors' monuments at Ashover is a rare palimpsest - a brass engraved on both sides. One side names Thomas Babington whilst the reverse commemorates Robert Prykke, Sergeant of the Pantry to Margaret of Anjou in the fifteenth century.

Another rarity is the seventeenth-century brass to rector's wife Mary Potts in St. Helen's church of Darley; known as a polyglot brass it bears inscriptions in Hebrew, Greek and Latin.


Wirksworth church contains brasses to members of the ancient Blackwell family, including Thomas, grandson to Sir Robert Lytton referred to earlier. His brother, Richard Blackwall, is seen on a brass in Taddington Church wearing a fur-lined robe. His wife, Agnes, wears costume of unusual interest, her hood and mourning mantle apparently denoting a lady under a vow of perpetual widowhood. She was able to have Richard's date of death, 1505, shown on the brass but her own is incomplete. Eleven children stand beneath their parents.

From a miniature seventeenth-century brass in Hope church, we see from his book and pen that the quaintly dressed Henry Balguy of Derwent was a scholar. A brass of similar size and date at Bakewell, to Latham Woodroffe, represents another ancient Hope family.

Rarely is a young unmarried woman depicted on a brass, but in Youlgreave church Frideswide Gilbert can be seen in her fine Elizabethan gown, on a monument erected by her bereaved brother. St. Luke's church at Sheen contains in a lovely brass the relief of a ringletted lady, Mildred Arabella Charlotte Henrietta Beresford-Hope ‘who loved Sheen and Beresford of which she was destined heir’. She died at Nice in 1881.

Around the Peak many cherished, if less ornate, brasses are decorated with simple detail; a lightly engraved coffin, skull and crossbones at Baslow, cherubs at Hartington, and a shrouded corpse in an open casket - perhaps the re-usable parish coffin - at Beeley. But as a plain brass plate at Bakewell reminds us:

‘No epitaph need make the just man famde
The good are praysed when theyr only nam'd’

© Julie Bunting
From "The Peak Advertiser", 15th October 1990
and 13th September 1999.

Articles by Julie Bunting are reproduced with her kind permission.

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