Brass of the month
September 2004: Allensmore, Herefordshire, 1392
September's feature is not a brass, but an unusual inlaid and incised slab from Allensmore, Herefordshire. It commemorates Sir Andrew Herley, who died in 1392, and his wife, Juliana. This is one of a small group of such slabs probably produced in Hereford in the late 14th and early 15th centuries, the others being at Canon Pyon, Dilwyn and Hereford Cathedral.
The Allensmore slab shows a knight in plate armour with a tight fitting jupon, with a lion at his feet. Beside him, the figure of Juliana wears a low necked gown with an edging of fur. In the folds of her gown at her feet is a delightful terrier with a bell suspended from a collar round his neck. The couple are shown under a canopy flanked by shields and, at their feet, an inscription, in textura quadrata lettering, which reads ‘Sir andrew herl gist ycy et Julian sa femme dieu de lour almes eyt mercy’(Sir Andrew Herl[ey] lies here and Juliana his wife, God have mercy on their souls).
The Allensmore example is easily the best preserved of the group, probably because it has been better protected than the others. It currently lies on the floor to the north of the altar, but the antiquary, Richard Gough, recorded that it was previously on an altar tomb in the north chapel, perhaps originally a Herley family chapel, but in the 18th century used as a charnel house, which was later converted into a vestry.
These slabs were made in a manner broadly akin to that of monumental brasses, but instead of sheets of brass being inlaid into the indents in the sandstone slab, the workshop inlaid 'tiles' of a composition, mixed from various compounds of calcium with some sort of binder to enable it to form a rigid substance, held together with a white cement. Then, as the picture on the left shows, the design was incised and the lines filled in with coloured material. In addition there may once have been painted detail on the surface of the inlays.
The most colourful features of this slab are the shields of arms, several of which retain red colouring. The 'tile' shape was cut back and cross-
Arms of Herley
Arms of Pauncefoot
Shield with unknown arms
In its current state the slab is impressive, but when first laid down over 600 years ago it must have been truly breathtaking!
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Page last updated 02 September 2005