John E. Vigar MA, FSA Scot., FRSA

A visit to Brightlingsea

Bright 1

Yesterday I paid a return visit to Brightlingsea church after a gap of about 30 years. I remembered it as being special but had no idea it contained so much of interest.

It is best known for its memorial plaques whch run around the walls of nave and aisles. They remember people who have died at sea, and were the idea of a nineteenth century incumbent. In most cases, as well as the name of the deceased, they also give the name of the boat they were in, and in some instances details of the accident. I`m sure a whole book could be written about these unfortunate people.

The east end of the church contains four wonderful fifteenth century image niches, the back walls of which retain their original colouring. In any other church these would be the highlight of a visit but here the north chapel contains a group of family brasses the envy of Essex (which as a county contains some of the best in England).

These are to the Beriff family, and date between 1496 and 1578. They were a prominent family in this Cinque Port and two of their brasses depict their merchant marks. They were all produced in London, but evidently not at the same workshop as the styles are very different.

Brightlingsea Church is open on summer afternoons and is very well worth the journey.

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Norfolks Chalice Brasses

I first became interested in these unique memorials when I found the indent of one in a ledgerstone at Oulton. An indent is where the brass has gone but the shape remains. I have now recorded over 20 of these memorials in Norfolk, and realise they cover just a 30 year period.  The image above is of one in St Giles Church, Norwich which is the oldest I`ve yet discovered, 1499.

Each one is to a priest, and usually their names are quite readable. Even when the brass has disappeared the shape gives it away. They must have been made by one workshop - presumably in Norwich - and they are distributed across the eastern half of the county. They are all very similar, with minor variations of the style of chalice. 

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