The Villiers Brass

Villiers brass

The original article was written by Dr Bernard A. Juby and edited version for the web site follows:

Drawing of villiers brass in the South Aisle

Drawing of brass
in the South Aisle
based on Nichols

In the South Aisle of All Saints Church, Hoby Leicestershire is a fine brass of a knight and his lady which, according to Nichols, 1815 1, “On a large slab of fine grey marble, in the South aisle, are the effigies of an armed knight and his lady in brass ; but the brasses containing the inscriptions, and those at the four corners which contained the arms, are all torn off”. The Leicestershire Villages web site states, under “The Aisles,” that “The defaced 15th century brass is probably that of Sir John Villiers and his wife Anne, née Digby. He and his wife were resident in Hoby.” This identification is probably wrong.

This article is an attempt to fully identify the figures on the brass and to make suggestions for the missing shields.

The first task was to try to date the brass, since the names of the Lords of the Manor are well documented 2. From contemporary monumental brasses the style of the armour is 1480 3 and according to Zorian Clayton, Assistant Curator of the Department of Furniture, Textiles and Fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London that the lady’s dress is 15th C.

Picture17Taking the Villers’ coat of arms at the time of Vincent’s, “Visitation of the County of Leicestershire, 1619” we note that they quartered, “1. Argent, on a cross gules five escallops or, 2. Sable, a fess between three cinquefoils argent, 3. Gules, a chevron between three cross crosslets fitchée argent, 4. Per pale gules and sable, a lion rampant argent, 5. Azure a bend between six mullets argent, 6. Argent a cross vert, in the first and fourth quarters an annulet of the last.”

Villiers modern

Villiers modern


Villers ancient

Villiers ancient


1. is Villers “modern” and 2. is Villers “ancient”. It would seem impossible to state when they used or even dropped their ancient version 4. The Parliamentary Roll of c.1312 shows a “Vllleres” at 893 bearing the “modern” version.




The drop-line pedigree that follows starts with the Kirkby family and we see from Collin’s Roll of c.1295 (No 393) that William de Kirkeby bore, “Per pale argent and gules a lion rampant sable.” Interestingly these are similar to those born by the neighbouring Beler family with the tinctures changed. (vide infra). Nichols’ “History and Antiquities of the County of Leicestershire” mentions, “a large altar tomb bearing these arms.” in the Chapel at Sutton Cheynell (now Sutton Cheney). There is also a stained glass window to Houby, one-time Lords of the Manor (q.v.) However, as with the Villers family, there must have been a further coat used and this is seen in the sixth quartering:

Kirkby - as shown in Villiers



From  the“Visitation of the County of Leicestershire, 1619”, under “KIRKBY, of KIRKBY and MELTON; and of HOUBY of HOUBY” we read that Sir William de Kirkby, of Melton Mowbray, knt and his wife, Emma produced six children, John (a canon of Wells and York, lord treasurer and lord keeper of the great seal, bishop of Ely 1286, died 1290), Sir William, brother and heir of John (who died without issue 1302), Margaret (married to Walter de Oseville and had a son John), Alice (married to Peter Prilly and mother of Hugh), Mabell (married to Peter Grimbaud and mother of Robert) and Maud.




Maud Kirkby, a sister and co-heiress, had married Sir Gilbert de Houby and had issue but there is no record of them quartering their parents’ arms. Three generations later we find that “Sr Anthoine Howby Kt” had sired Alice, Anthoine and John. Alice is named as heiress and married Sir Thomas Sutton and their son, Anthonie Sutton als Howbey, was a page to King Henry V and bore his armour in the “Warres of France” 5. 

Sir Roger Beler



His only daughter, Elizabeth, married firstly John Beler Esq. of Kirkby, Kettleby and Sisonby, 1461 and secondly, in 1428, Thomas Segrave 6.

Beler quartering Houby

Beler quartering Houby


John and Elizabeth Bel(l)ers produced four daughters and a son John, who died sine prole. These children must have quartered the arms shown in the church of All Saints at Houby (now Hoby). It was the eldest daughter, Joane who married William Villers de Brokesby, ob.20.E.4, thus bringing with her the arms of Kirkby, Houby and Belers.

Unknown quartering



William’s ancestor, John Villers of Brokesby (6.Edw.1) had married Joan Pakeman c. 1430. who was one of three sisters and co-heiresses of Simon Pakeman of Pakeman’s Place in nearby Kirby and whose arms are shown as the third quartering.

Margaret Castyll

Margaret Castyll


Drawing of brass in the South Aisle

Drawing of brass in the South Aisle


From the brass of Margaret Castyll 7 in St Andrew’s Church, Raveningham, Norfolk we learn that her husband was a Squire of the Body to Richard III and a comparison of her overall dress and head ware together with the use of shields, would make this a near contemporary example with that of the “Lady of Hoby”, whose husband had died 20E4 (c. 1461).

It is therefore reasonable to assume that the brass depicts William Villers of Brokesby, together with his wife, Joane Belers, especially since the brass is in Ho(u)by Church – her ancestral home.

William had a choice of five shields, and it is safe to assume that Villers “modern” would have been the first above his head. Could we also assume that those of his 4 times grandmother (Pakeman) were below? Similarly Joane would have had the quartered arms of Beler and Houby above her head together with those of her 4 times maternal grandmother (Kirkby) below.

The brass could therefore have looked something like this:
My thanks to all of those people, already named, together with Mrs R. G. Hill, Mr Steve Horsfield, Mr William Lack and Mr Michael Harris, of The Monumental Brass Society, who have been of assistance in the compilation of this article. For the remainder I have drawn heavily on personal family papers.

Dr Bernard A. Juby, Hon. F.H.S. (February 2016)


1. From Fig.28 page267 of John Nichols’, “History and Antiquities of Leicestershire”, 1815, Vol.2 Part 1 (redrawn by Tessa Fenner)
2. John Nichols’, “History and Antiquities of Leicestershire”
3. “A Series of Monumental Brasses, Indents and Incised Slabs from the 13th to the 20th century”, ed. by William Lack & Philip Whittemore, 2, Part 2, (London: Lynton, 2006), p. 14. See Footnote.
4. Private communication dated 9th Feb. 2016, Robert Noel Esq, Lancaster Herald, College of Arms, London and Dr Bernard A. Juby.
5. The Visitation of the County of Leicestershire 1619.
6. Collin’s Roll c.1295. (The variously differenced arms of Segrave are recorded under 29, 205, 210 and 464)
7. British Museum; Margaret Castyll, Raveningham Church Norfolk.
The Villiers Arms were painted for me by Anthony L. Jones, of Glamorgan, South Wales.


“Man in armour, c. 1480, Hoby, Leicestershire. Plate XVI.
When John Nichols illustrated this brass in his History of Leicestershire with an engraving by Longmate, 143 considerably more of it remained, the man’s effigy being complete and the greater part of the female figure still remaining. Crucially, no part of the inscription or any of the shields remained to aid identification. Nichols provides no clue as to who was commemorated by the brass, although locally it is thought to be a member of the Villiers family. It is still to be found where Nichols recorded it, in the south aisle.

Since then the two pieces of brass from the female figure have disappeared, as has the head of the male effigy, part of his arm, and the greater part of the lion at his feet. It is suggested that the loss occurred prior to 1846, for Manning, 144 Simpson 145 and Haines 146 all list the male figure alone.

The brass is a London series ‘F’ product and shows similarities to other brasses of approximately the same date. A number of effigies showing men in armour of approximately 1480 survive, for example Putney, Surrey, 1476, 147 and Howden, Yorks., c. 1480 148. At Stoke Charity, Hampshire, the man is accompanied by his wife who wears a large butterfly headdress but does not have the exaggerated backward stance of the Hoby lady. The same feature is also lacking on the brass at Goudhurst, Kent 149. Here the brass is dated c. 1490.

In recent years the surviving pieces of brass had become loose and vulnerable and they were removed from the slab for conservation on 8 December 2004. After cleaning, repair and re-rivetting the brass was relaid on 25 January 2005.

Dimensions: Male effigy originally 1130 x 395 mm, now 982 x 350 mm, female effigy indent 1100 x 430 mm, shield indents 140 x 115 mm, marginal inscription indent 2455 x 1155 x 35 mm, slab 2640 x 1340 mm.

Date of rubbing: 8 December 2004.

William Lack“

Plate XVI

Plate XVI

Villiers brass

Photograph 5/3/2016

143 Vol.III (1800), pt. 1, pl. xxxix, p. 267.
144 C. R. Manning, Monumental Brasses remaining in England (London, 1846), p. 48.
145 J. Simpson, Sepulchral Brasses of England (Stamford, 1857), p. 43.
146 Rev. H. Haines, A Manual of Monumental Brasses (Oxford and London 1861), II, p. 114.
147 Mill Stephenson, A List of Monumental Brasses in Surrey (Bath, 1970), p. 412.
148 Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, XI (1891), p. 170.
149 W.D. Belcher, Kentish Brasses (1905), II, p. 59.