Monumental brass with a deathly story to tell

St Dunstan church, near Hunsdon, has lots to catch a visitor’s attention. I want to show off their monumental brass with a deathly story to tell. It is rare, detailed and has a fascinating tale.

NOTE: I am sorry to disappoint but at the moment this church is only open to visitors through arranged appointment. It is well worth the visit – from nationally significant monuments to fragments of medieval wall painting you could not fail to be impressed. But it just depends on the experience you want to have! (No further comment).

Monumental brass from St Dunstan's church, Hunsdon, dedicated to James Gray who died while out hunting.


This plaque is dedicated to James Gray. He died in 1591, apparently while hunting in the nearby estate. Gray was the park and house keeper at Hunsdon house, this brass depicts James in fashionable Elizabethan clothing. Attached to his belt are a horn and a sword. He holds a crossbow with which he shoots an arrow into a stag. This is a wonderful record of costume history with intimate attention to detail. Just look at each individual button, carefully carved!

Death stands in his skeletal embodiment, in the centre of the brass, between James and his prized stag. He turns towards Gray and points an arrow at him. The scroll that sprouts from the mouth of death reads “Sic Pergo” meaning “As you do, So do I”. This is a display of Memento Mori. Reminders of mortality and death were common place in this period. Although John may not have lived long enough to design his own brass, some individuals would have chosen morbid representations for their tombs to remind viewers of the transience of life.


The rest of the plaque reads:
“Beloved of all whilst he had lyfe, unmoened of none when he did die, James Gray, interred of his wife, near to this deaths-signe brasse doth lye, yeares thirtie fyve, in good renownne, Park and housekeeper in this towne. Obit 12 Die. December Ao Domini 1591. Atatis Sve 69.” If you look closely you can see a couple of words where too letters have been squished together. Such as the TH in deaths.

Happy days. If you’re interested in reading about other church monuments check out my post on Hester Salisbury in Stansted Mountfichet. Or are you interested in my church exploration in general? Then check out my post on Salle Church.

Otherwise, stay tuned and Bye for Now!!


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