Brasses in Upper Hardres

Joining in

Upper Hardres church has retained a number of monumental brasses, mainly to the Hardres family and located in the Lady Chapel.

The oldest brass in the church is that of John Strete, Rector of the parish, who died in 1405. It is unusual not just because it is rare, but because it is the only complete example in Great Britain where the deceased kneels in front of a saint. The inscription on the scroll reads:John Strete's brass

Clavig' celor' et Paul doctor populor interceder p me dignei ad regem angelor

("O key bearer of Heaven and Paul the teacher of the nations, deign to intercede for me to the King of the Angels")

The inscription at the foot of the brass reads:

Hie jacet Magist' Johes Strete quodm Rector hui ecclic qui obiit vi die Februarii A dni Mccccv, cui' aie ppiciet' d's Ame.

("Here lies Master John Strete, formerly Rector of this Church, who died February 6th, A.D. 1405, on whose soul may God have mercy. Amen.")

In the south chapel, the oldest brass belongs to George Hardres. George was the son of Philip Hardres (temp. Henry III.) and his wife Grace, daughter and co heiress of Stephen Heringod of Elmstead. He was the grandfather of Christopher Hardres who married Dorothy, daughter of Sir John Paston. This was the Norfolk family famous for the 'Paston Letters'. 

Dorothy Hardres died in 1533, and is commemorated by a brass still existing in the chapel. It consists of a coat of arms and the following description:Dorothy Hardres brass

Dorothy Hardres Brass arms shieldHic jacet Dorothea Hardres, Filia dmi Johis Paston Militis. Que obitt III die Septebris Anno do McVcXXXIII. Cui aie ppiciet deus. Amen

Here lies Dorothy Hardres, daughter of Sir John Paston, Knight who died September 3rd, A.D. 1533. On whose soul may God have mercy. Amen.

The coat of arms bears a lion rampant (Hardres) impaling six fleurs de lis, 3, 2, 1, a chief dauncetté (Paston).

Original arms of Hardres

Arms of Hardres

The Dering Roll of Arms produced during the reign of Edward I. gives the arms of Hardres as: "Ermine, a lion rampant gules, debrused by a chevron or". These are shown on the far left.                               

Arms of de Clare

The chevron was derived from the coat of De Clare, Earl of Gloucester from 1180 to 1314 (when the last Earl was killed at Bannockburn), under whom the Hardres family originally held the Manor.

                                                                                    Arms of de Clare

Arms of Hardres in the East windowThe later version of the Hardres coat of arms can be seen on the stone monument to Sir Thomas Hardres A.D.1688, on the floor of the Lady Chapel. None of the Hardres brasses display it, nor does it occur on the coat of arms of Thomas Hardres (1688) in the monument on the floor of the chancel. It is best seen in the East window of the church. The Hardres arms also appear in a panel of the eastern transept window of Canterbury Cathedral.

Arms of Hardres in the church east window

Mabell Hardres Coat of ArmsNext to the brass of Dorothy Hardres is one in the memory of Mabell, wife of Richard Hardres, who was the son of Christopher and Dorothy Hardres. It now consists of two shields of arms and an inscription, but there is no doubt there were formerly four shields of arms, the matrices of the missing shields being now underneath the arch leading to the chapel. Part of one of those shields was discovered a few years ago at Hardres Court, and is identical with the two still in position. The arms are the same on each, viz. : Quarterly: (1) Gules, a lion rampant ermine [Hardres] ; (2) Six herrings haurient, 3, 2, 1 [Heringold]; (3) Vair, on a chief gules, two mullets of five points or [Fitzbarnard]; (4) Gules, three lucies haurient argent [Lucy], impaling Argent, on a bend sable, three lions' heads erased of the field, crowned or [Wroth of Bledenhall]. The inscription reads:

Mabell Hardres brass

"Here lyeth buryed the bodye of Mabell Hardres, Daughter unto Sr Thomas Wrathe, Knight, the late wife of Rychard Hardres, Esquier, who deceased this present lyfe the VIII daye of Auguste, in the yere of our Lord God MCCCCCLXXIX.'Thomas & Thomas, Roger, John and Peter, Marye et Jane."

Richard Hardres died in 1612 and was succeeded by his son, Sir Thomas Hardres, who married Elanor Thoresby and who died in 1628. There is a brass inscription to the memory of his younger sons, Thomas and John, on a stone on the floor at the East end of the chapel. The matrices of the figures of two children are still visible, though the brasses have now disappeared. Hasted says the figures were in existence in his time ("History of Kent," vol. iii, p. 734, ed 1790). The inscription reads:

John and Richard Hardres Brass

"Here lyeth buried ye bodyes of Thoms Harderes and John Harderes the sonnes of Rychard Harderes Esquyer and Maybell his Wyfe. Wch Thoms was buried the 3. September 1572 and ye sayd John ye 5. of december 1575. Whose soules do rest with Chryst." 

Besides the above, an interesting fragment, probably originally in the chancel, and was taken up at a restoration of the Church at the end of the eighteenth century. Most of the monuments seem to have been laid down in the memory of members of the Hardres family, and there is little doubt that the recently discovered brass represents a member of that ancient family. The figure is that of a man in amour of the time of Edward VI or Mary I. Unfortunately the head is missing and the brass is broken in half. A curious feature of the brass is the 'brayette', which is rarely represented in English brasses. The absence of tuiles, or pieces of plate armour protecting the upper part of the leg, is also most unusual in brasses of this period, and makes this example unique among the brasses of Kent. It seems to have disappeared before Hasted made his "History of Kent" (1790), as he makes no mention of it. This brass has now been mounted and hangs on the South wall of the Lady Chapel.

There is an almost identical "brass" in Cobham Church, Surrey, with brayette and no tuiles. The name and date are unknown, but the authorities place it circa 1550 A.D.

Palimpsest brasses

Some of the brasses at Upper Hardres show evidence of being palimpsests (the back of an older brass having been engraved for the more recent memorial). Impressions taken from the reverse of the inscription plate and shields for Mabell Hardres indicate they were taken from a larger and earlier brass the rest of which is now lost.

Palimpsest brasses and impressions

Impressions of the brasses to Mabell Hardres, indicating the impression on the rear of right hand brass shield.