About

Nick Sparks in front of a framed brass rubbing of Eleanor de Bohun, from Westminster Cathedral, London.

Hello. I'm Nick Sparks and I'm the person who created all the brass rubbings that are for sale on this website.

At the tender age of 14 I developed a passion for the brasses that one finds in English churches and cathedrals. Growing up in the south of England, I was lucky to have the opportunity to visit churches in many corners of the country. I was also lucky to have the opportunity to make paper rubbings of many of these brasses, something that, since 1978 and for reasons of conservation, it has become no longer possible to do.

Over a period of two or three years in the early to mid 1970s, I identified some of the best brasses (in terms of size, quality and historical interest) and travelled round the country (by bus and by train) making rubbings of them. (You might be interested to see these different places on a map.) Eventually, this became a substantial personal collection which I have kept carefully stored ever since.

I must have been pretty well-organised for my age. I needed a certain amount of specialist rubbing paper (I used black, white and even purple paper), and specialist gold, silver and black wax crayons. I also sought permission in writing from church vicars and cathedral deans and must have planned my different visits around the dates that were granted in each reply. (Yes, I even provided a stamped-addressed envelope!)

Sometimes requests were refused because the brasses in question were too worn. Sometimes permission was granted under condition of a small rubbing fee being paid, which no doubt went towards general upkeep. For example, the princely sum of £15 was asked in return for the utter privilege of taking three rubbings of Westminster Abbey's stupendous brass of Eleanor de Bohun (one of which is framed behind me in the photo on this page). I believe that I was one of the last people to be allowed to do this; everyone else now works with a replica outside the abbey.

Sometimes a church's vicar would usher me into the church and delight in uncovering a brass from under its protective carpet or sheet of perspex. Perhaps I saw close up something that a regular congregation rarely or perhaps never saw.

My early efforts were disappointing and scrappy. No doubt everyone who worked at this found the same. One needed to be extremely accurate, applying the wax only where there were markings in the brass under the paper. Some people worked using an image beside them of the brass that was hidden under their paper. I found best results by gently feeling where the concealed designs did or didn't extend.

Although it took perhaps four hours to finish a large and complicated rubbing, I see each as being part of the larger culmination of perfecting a talent. Being able to work with these original brasses was an absolute privilege. All the brass rubbings that I'm offering for sale here have a tangible connection with the plaques from which they have been derived. Each is an original that is as far removed from mass-production as one can get. I am delighted to offer them to you for sale. I hope you get as much pleasure hanging one of them on your wall as I did in creating them all those years ago!