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Heraldry, Brasses and Hatchments


Sir John D'Abernon brass
As noted previously Coats of Arms played a large part in the tombs of the deceased in the Middle Ages. Another instance of this particular usage can be found on the brasses on the floor of many churches and cathedrals. In the medieval and early modern periods in particular, monumental brasses and incised slabs were popular forms of monuments or memorials used to cover the tombs of those buried inside churches. An incised slab is a flat memorial with an effigy of the deceased, a cross or Coat of Arms, with epitaph, cut directly into the stone; they originated before the Norman Conquest. A monumental brass, by contrast, is engraved on sheets of metal inlaid in matrices cut into the stone; they have been made in England from the thirteenth century to the present day.

The earliest known example of English Brass is the brass of Sir John D’Abernon at St. Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon which dates from 1277, image above.The D’Abernons came to England as retainers to the Clare family, who served William the Conqueror. For their part in the Conquest the Clares were given lands in Surrey and Sussex some of which they passed on to their followers. At first the D'Abernons had two manors, one in Molesley and one in Albury. Later they acquired the Manor of Stoke and went to live there, giving it the name of Stoke D'Abernon.Three knights called John D'Abernon, are buried in Stoke D'Abernon Church. The Brass is question, see image above, shows the knight in chain mail armor and bearing his Coat of Arms on a shield Azure a chevron or ( a gold chevron on a blue field).Tombs brasses and hatchments, these were the honors of the dead, their epitaphs being the Coats of Arms displayed thereon. These nobles lived on through the depiction of their arms in their final resting places and these arms have in many cases endured to the present day.
Heraldic brass

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