*  Of interest to Family Historians - Hertfordshire Church of England Parish Registers from 1538 are now available online - only most recent registers are held at the church   *
Kesteven Brass

THE KESTEVEN BRASS


St Mary’s has a number of memorial brasses which can now be found mounted on the walls.

Of these the earliest and the most important is that of William of Kesteven, which is found on the north wall of the chancel. William was the incumbent, or vicar, from 1344 until his death in 1361, having held land in the parish as early as 1337.

There was originally some doubt as to whether the figure was that of another early incumbent, Thomas de Horton, but in 1949 the shield of arms below the figure was confirmed to be that of William de Kesteven.

He is shown in Eucharistic vestments, with chalice and paten, under a canopy, with figures of Christ, saints and angels in panels above it, and his shield of arms below, and various saints on the sides. Christ is holding the representative of the soul of William on his lap. The brass is worth a close look, as it is beautifully worked. The swirl of the small figures is typical of 14th century art.

The workmanship is Flemish, and similar to that of Abbot de la Mare, the Abbot of St Albans, which can be seen in the Cathedral. The metal used is latten, an alloy of zinc and copper, and it would have been set in stone on the church floor, or on a tomb chest. In many churches the brasses have been reset and placed on the wall to avoid further wear and tear. Sometimes the stone has been left in place.

Brass memorials were popular between 1250 and 1650, and about 8,000 remain in England, more than in any other country, although far more have been lost for various reasons. Occasionally a brass was reused, the back being engraved with a different image. This is known as a ‘palimpsest’.

On such memorials heraldic devices and Christian symbols were often featured. In the 14th century most were clerical figures, but later smaller brasses, often in memory of whole families, became popular. Examples of these can be seen on the south wall of the chancel, one of which depicts Robert Knolles and his family.

KNOW YOUR CHURCH

Some years ago, Patricia Cook, a former Churchwarden at St. Mary's, wrote a series of informative articles on interesting aspects of the fabric of St. Mary's for the Parish Magazine. These are reproduced here, together with line drawings by Jean Atkinson, a well known local artist, who has been closely involved with St. Mary's for many years, including serving on the PCC.

The Amber Tankard Holy Water Stoup The Mass Dial
Seating over the years A hidden gem Gargoyles, Corbels or Label-stops?
Decalogue Board A rare tomb Elephants and Royal Arms
Pulpit Kesteven Brass The Somers Memorial
 
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