Brass of the Month

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Page last updated 06 March 2015

Copyright: Jon Bayliss


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February 2015 - Simon Boleyn, 1482, Salle, Norfolk

This month's brass is at Salle in Norfolk, which will be visited during the Society's Conference at Norwich in September this year. David Harry will be talking about the Brigge family, one of whose brasses remains at Salle but the best-known Salle family is Boleyn.

    The Boleyn family are first recorded in Salle in the second half of the thirteenth-century but first achieved wider recognition in the fifteenth-century when the second Geoffrey Boleyn, a mercer,  served as lord mayor of London and was knighted. With his wealth he bought the manor of Blickling. His sister Cecily was buried in Blickling church in 1458 and, like other members of the family, was commemorated by a brass there. Cecily's parents have a brass at Salle, put down after the death of her father, the first Geoffrey Boleyn in 1440. It was not the last Boleyn brass there, for it was followed over forty years later by the brass to Simon Boleyn, who died in 1482.

    It is not clear how Simon was related to either Geoffrey although Blomefield makes him a son of Sir Geoffrey. Before Sir Geoffrey died in 1463, he made a will mentioning two sons and three daughters but not Simon if the extracts of the will contained in Testamenta Vetusta are sufficiently complete from which to judge.

    According to W L E Parsons in Salle: The story of a Norfolk Parish, Simon Boleyn was first recorded as a priest in 1455. At Salle, he was often called parochial chaplain in disctinction to a gild chaplain, of whom there were a number at any one time – the will of one, Robert Luce, made in 1454 and proved two years later, gives the names of six plus his uncle. In 1474 Robert Aldrych. A notary public, left six shillings and eight pence to Simon and William Jekkes to pray for him. Robert Aldrych was commemorated by a brass. When William Jekkes died in 1499 he willed to be buried next to his friend Simon Boleyn.

    Only one other brass to a chaplain survives at Salle, that of Thomas Hagham, who died in 1483/4. His inscription survives, as do four evangelical symbols, but his figure has gone. Simon Boleyn was not represented by a figure but by a chalice. Before brasses largely took over from incised slabs, chalices were frequently found on the slabs of priests and other symbols denoted other occupations. The chalice is the one such symbol found on brasses in any numbers and can be found on continental examples as well as English. Strangely, London made examples are very few in number while provincial examples abound, especially from the Norwich, York and Bury St Edmunds marblers' workshops. Although Simon's chalice does not survive, its indent is clear and the style of lettering identifies his brass as having been made in the Norwich 2 workshop. Judging from from their outlines. the most attractive chalice brasses may well have been those in the Norwich 2 style but unfortunately none survive in situ, although one survived at Fakeham long enough to be drawn by Cotman. The workshop was run by Richard Foxe, who appeared in Norwich taxation records in 1489 as Richard Marbeler. He lived near the bell tower of Norwich cathedral, an edifice long since destroyed. He died in 1497 and was buried in the church of St George, Tombland.

Cotman’s engraving of the now lost brass to

Henry Newman at  Fakenham, Norfolk

Henry Newman at  Fakenham, Norfolk