The Lost Brass of Sir Thomas Englefield in St Mark's Church

My husband and I popped into Englefield tea rooms for a coffee the other morning and afterwards we went for a little walk around the village. We approached the beautiful church of St Mark's and, as it was open, popped in to have a look round.

There are some wonderful monuments inside the church, in particular one in relief and embellished with gold, erected in memory of John Englefield and his wife Margaret Fytton, in 1605. There are also two fourteenth-century effigies under the windows, one of a knight and one of a lady. 

But as we approached the altar, I noticed on the left an ornate stone tomb with a canopy that once had a brass on it. So many brasses have been lost or stolen from parish churches, either during renovation works in the nineteenth century or by opportunistic thieves in previous centuries likely hoping to sell them on. I stood for a while looking for any clues that could give the identity of this person.

Always up for a bit of a side quest, I did some research online, and discovered that not only is the identity of the person who commissioned the brass known, but a detailed description of it was recorded in the seventeenth century. 

Thanks to an entry in the Berkshire Archaeological Journal of 1911, I discovered that the brass has been attributed to Sir Thomas Englefield and his wife Margery. It's also identified as such by other websites, including David Nash Ford's Royal Berkshire History.

The Englefield Chapel at St Mark's was actually founded by Thomas in 1514. This places its foundation in the early reign of Henry VIII, while Katherine of Aragon was queen.  The couple presided over a flourishing, Renaissance court while both were known for their military and regal power around Europe. in 1513 Henry returned from a war with France, while Katherine had directed forces and supplies for the Battle of Flodden in the north of England. The chapel then, was founded while the royal couple were at the height of their influence.

Thomas lived at Englefield, although carried out a number of roles in the early Tudor government. He was a young adult during the later years of the Wars of the Roses and would have known England under Edward IV, Richard III and Henry VII. It was with this last king that he served as Speaker of the House of Commons in 1496-1497, and received the honour of being awarded a Knight Banneret, a senior member of the knighthood. The History of Parliament Online states that he was an executor of Henry VII's will in April 1509 and therefore was around to assist the new king in his first years as monarch. It also records his involvement in 1513, when Henry was absent from the realm and Sir Thomas was appointed one of the advisors to assist Katherine of Aragon as Regent.

Elias Ashmole, an antiquarian and historian, recorded a number of monuments around the country in the seventeenth century and he stated that in the window of this chapel was an inscription in black letters: 'This chapel was builded in the year of our Lord, MVCXIIII'.  The inscription no longer survives. It's here, in this little chapel, where many of the Englefield and Benyon family members are remembered, so has certainly been in use since the early sixteenth century. 

Sir Thomas Englefield's son, also named Thomas, was a Justice of the Common Pleas, and fulfilled a legal and administrative role locally. It is likely to have been this Thomas that was involved in assessing the shocking assault at Padworth and Ufton Court in 1534 against the Parkyn family. His grandson, Sir Francis, is the politician who conspired to set Mary Queen of Scots on the throne and was subsequently attainted by Elizabeth I. 

Luckily, Ashmole described the brass as follows: 

On the north side of [the] chancel is a fair grey marble monument erected, at the head whereof (in plates of brass) is the portraiture of a knight, kneeling in complete armour, over which is a surcoat of his Arms. Behind him are the figures of his five sons, kneeling. His wife was also drawn kneeling before another fal-stool, placed over against him; but the Brass is now torn away.

He also recorded the words written on the scrolls. Coming out of the knight's mouth was:

O, good Jesus, thou knows't and cans't and willest God to our souls, we neither know nor can.

While out of the woman's: 

Thou according to thy goodness ineffable with us dealest according to what thou knowest is agreeable to thyself and to us profitable. 

He recorded the wording of the inscription below it, which seems to have been broken in Ashmole's time, as it is not complete: 

Here lyes Sure Thomas Englefilde, Margery his wife, the which Sure... The 3rd day of April, the yeare of our ... V and XIIII, on whose soulles Jesu have....

The wife in the tomb referred to is Thomas' first wife Margery Danvers. He later married, after around 1510, Mary Fortescue, the widow of John Stonor and also Anthony Fettiplace. Thomas was Mary's third husband then, and it's likely, the monument being dated to just four years later, that she outlived him. We know that women's roles during this period would have involved running the household and both Margery and Mary would have been responsible for this particularly when Thomas was away at the royal court.

Thomas' son is also buried in the church, and his brass also does not survive. It was recorded by Ashmole as remembering him and his wife Elizabeth, along with their twelve children. The younger Thomas died in 1537. 

The older Sir Thomas is a forgotten figure of early Tudor government and exerted his own influence during the time. He personally knew Henry VII, Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, and was important enough to the two kings to carry out sensitive and important roles for them. He lived until he was around 59 years of age.

Liked this? You might also like: The Tudors in the Village of Tilehurst, Reading; The History of the Englefield Family, Berkshire and Elizabeth Marvyn: Forgotten Tudor Woman of Berkshire and Wiltshire.

If you're interested in women's roles during the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries you might enjoy my book, Forgotten Women of the Wars of the Roses. It discusses the hugely varied and influential roles women fulfilled under the national civil war and is published by Pen and Sword.  Order your copy here. 


The Berkshire Archaeological Journal, 1911.

Arthur Irwin Dasent, The Speakers of the House of Commons, 1911.

History of Parliament Online, Sir Thomas Englefield [accessed 4 June 2024]

David Nash Ford's Royal Berkshire History 'Sir Thomas Englefield' [accessed 4 June 2024]