Brass of the Month

May 2006: Anne Danvers, 1539, Dauntsey, Wiltshire

May's brass of the month features a brass which was stolen in May 2004 from Dauntsey, Wiltshire. This is one of two brasses to commemorate Lady Anne Danvers, both of which were set up in Dauntsey church. The earliest , which still survives, is one of two figures on the top in an altar tomb on the north side of the altar commissioned on  the death of her husband, Sir John Danvers, in 1513. These brasses are securely rivetted to the Purbeck marble cover slab, which is probably why they remain in the church.

Anne was the daughter  of Sir John Stradling, and heiress of Sir John Dauntsey, Lord of the Manor of Dauntsey. When she died in 1539, Anne was buried in a separate ornate wall tomb on the south of the chancel, as befitted her position as heiress. Set under a window, it has a tomb chest with shields in richly-cusped quatrefoils, polygonal buttresses with concave mouldings. The tomb has a low arch with leaves in the spandrels and a ltop frieze surmounted by angels holding shields of arms.

The brass was formerly on the back wall of the tomb, as shown in the photo by D & M Ball on the right, but it was fixed only by screws, leaving it very vulnerable to theft. A few years ago the church was advised by the MBS Conservation Officer that the brass should be re-fixed more securely, but the work was not carried out. This was unfortunate as Dauntsey is located in the area near the M4 in which a spate of brass thefts has been carried out in recent years, probably by one person.

This thief started by stealing small parts of brasses, such as children, but in 2002 moved on to collecting larger compositions, including fine figure brasses. The Danvers brass has not re-appeared at auction, so probably  has been added to the thief's personal collection. Churches in the Wiltshire, Somerset and Oxfordshire areas in particular are advised to ensure that their brasses are firmly fixed to avoid the thief targeting their treasures.

Lady Anne Danvers's brass, shown in the photograph by James Fielding on the left, is an unusual devotional composition on a rectangular plate. The scene on the upper half shows, under a low ogee arch with Renaissance detailing, an effigy of Anne kneeling at a prayer desk. A scroll emerges from her mouth reading 'Dne misere mei anne danvers' 'Lord, have mercy on me, Anne Danvers'. This is addressed to the Seat of Mercy style representation of the Trinity. Behind her is a large shield with the arms of Dauntsey.

The bottom half of the plate has the following verse inscription:

What vayleth yt Riches or what possession

gyftes of high nature nobles in gentry

daftens depurted or pregnant pollyey

sith prowes sith power haue their pgression

ffate it is fatall on selff succession

that world hath no thing yt smellith not frealtie

where most assaraunce is most unsuertie

Here lieth dame Anne the lady of dauntesey

to sir John danvers spowse in coniunction

To sir John dauntesey by lyne discencion

Cosyn and heire herytage highlye

fastely be firmed in Christe his mancion.

It is thus a curiously contradictory inscription, the first part belittling worldly status and riches, but the second ensuring that  on-lookers were made very well aware of Anne Danvers's own high status!


If anyone sees this brass offered for sale, either in the UK or abroad  (stolen brasses may pass quickly through a succession of dealers before being offered for open sale), please alert the MBS, who are in touch with the parishes from which these brasses came. Anyone with information regarding these thefts is asked to contact urgently either:

    the Hon. Conservation Officer

        Martin Stuchfield,

        Pentlow Hall


        Suffolk CO10 7SP  or e-mail

        or Crime Stoppers (tel 0800 555111).

Copyright: Sally Badham

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Page last updated 01 May 2006