Durable monumental brasses (that were difficult to deface) began to replace stone, plaster or wooden monuments in the 13th century. These were ways of commemorating the lives of famous individuals and found their way into churches and cathedrals across Europe, especially in England, France and Germany.
The first brass plaque in England is thought to be one in Stoke d'Abernon church in Surrey, dated 1277.
Although these plaques are generally heavy, they are often set flush into the floor of a church so that service can be conducted around them. Despite their weight - and often size - time has not always treated them kindly. Many were plundered (for money) during Henry VIII's reign, the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the Reformation. In the English Civil War many were ripped up and melted down for ammunition. Out of a total of perhaps 8,000 monumental brasses in England, maybe only under a half of these still survive. In France, after the terror of the Revolution, hardly any remain. England, therefore, now has a relative abundance of these splendid brasses.
Traditional brass rubbing
The process of creating a paper rubbing from a monumental brass plate is time-consuming and requires a certain amount of skill. It involves unrolling a sheet of paper across the surface of the brass - perhaps taping it in place to stop it moving about - and then slowly tracing with a wax crayon the area underneath the paper where the original engraving or etching was made in the metal plate.
Modern day brass rubbing
Because this process of rubbing paper placed on a sheet of brass is progressively damaging to the brass, most brass rubbing is today done with modern, replica brasses. These are sometimes smaller than the original brass plates.
All the rubbings that are available on this website were made using the original brasses. Permission to create rubbings from these original brasses is in most cases no longer granted.