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					ACTON, SUFFOLK                                                              All Saints
I. Sir Robert de Bures                   M.S. I                             HH act 1302
                                                                            [eng. c1320]
                              London work: Camoys style1

      The effigy of Sir Robert de Bures, died 1331, cross-legged, in mail and
      surcoat with shield; marginal inscription in French lost. Engraved c1320.
      On the floor of the North Chapel.

        The full-face effigy of Sir Robert de Bures (78" or 198.1cm high) has often been
called the finest military brass extant, and it probably deserves such praise. Sir Robert
is depicted in the armor worn during the closing years of the reign of Edward II. Over the
upper part of his body, he wears the hauberk, a garment of mail with a skirt reaching
almost to the knees and split in front and back for riding horseback. The mail hood,
which was usually still an integral part of the hauberk, seems here to be separate since
it apparently covers part of the cloth surcoat and guige on the knight's right shoulder.2
The bulbous shape of the mail hood suggests further that beneath it he wore some kind
of padded coif to keep the mail from touching the head itself. The mail mittens, however,
were a part of the hauberk. Open at the palm, they could be thrown back if desired. The
mail, as was typical, consisted of rings, each of which was interlinked with four others.
To prevent chafing and to deaden blows, a thick-padded or quilted coat, the aketon, not
here visible, was worn beneath the mail. Over the hauberk, and extending to the middle
of the legs, Sir Robert has on a sleeveless cloth surcoat, longer in back than in front.
Like the hauberk, it is divided front and back and here has a fringed, embroidered
border. The surcoat is confined at the waist by a tight cord, below which Sir Robert
wears a wide, decorative sword belt, buckled in front and with a rather complicated
arrangement of straps to hold the sword almost perpendicularly in front to his left. The
sword, which has an elaborately decorated hilt and a pommel with an engraved cross, is
large and heavy, more useful for striking and cutting than for thrusting. The defensive
shield, slightly curved at the top, with its two curved sides meeting at a point at the
bottom (heater-shaped), is secured to Sir Robert's left side by a strap or guige slung
over the right shoulder and buckled in front. In combat, of course, he would also strap
the shield to his right arm. As on the brass of Sir John D'Abernon at Stoke D'Aberaon,
the shield displays its bearer's family arms: Ermine, on a chief indented Sable two lions
rampant Or.3

         Norris, II, 314, figure 14. Bertram, p. 35, dates the engraving c1310. Binski, p.
94, identifies the Camoys style.
         It was, however, probably attached to the hauberk in some way so that is could
be thrown back. Cf. Bertram, p. 80.
         Felgate, Suffolk Heraldic Brasses, p. 37. On an ermine field, a black upper
horizontal band with an indented lower edge. On this band are two gold lions, each with
one paw on the ground and three raised, head forward and tail erect.
       The leg-harness is rather simple. Over some type of cloth leggings, Sir Robert
wears mail stockings that reach over the knees, which are themselves covered with
elaborately decorated poleyns, probably of cuir boulli (i.e., boiled leather). Strapped
around the instep are prick spurs, the sharp spikes of which would appear to have
wounded rather than prodded a horse. The legs, which are crossed, rest on a well-
designed, facing lion whose head is turned slightly to the viewer's left.
       The many similar details between this effigy and that of Sir John D'Abernon (MS.
1277)—the position of the lion's head, the faces of the two knights, the decorative
details of guige, sword pommel, and belt—all suggest that both were made by the same
London engraver. Certainly, despite the early ascribed dates, the brasses could not
have been engraved earlier than 1310 and probably were engraved closer to 1320.4
Felgate notes, too, that the shield is a separately inserted plate and suggests that the
effigy may have been made for an earlier knight whose arms were replaced by those of
Sir Robert.5 His suggested date of c1300 for the year of the engraving, however, is
probably too early.
       Once a marginal inscription in Norman French and in separately inserted
Lombardic capitals surrounded the effigy. Mutilated by the end of the 17th century, it
was recorded as reading:

      Sire : Robe[rt : de : Bures] : gist : ici : deu
      De: sa : alme : eyt : mercy : kiki : pur :
      sa : alme: p[rier]a quara[v]nte : iours : de : pa[r]dun: avera6


      Sir Robert de Bures lies here. May God
      on his soul have mercy. Whoever for
      his soul will pray will receive 40 days of pardon.

Waller also suggests that there were two shields on the stone slab.
        Like so many of the early brasses, both the date and the identification of the
person commemorated has been called into question in recent years. Long assumed to
represent a Sir Robert de Bures who died in 1302, it has now been convincingly
identified by Jennifer Ward7 as representing another Sir Robert who died in 1331. The
earlier Sir Robert, indeed, did not actually die until 1324. Having distinguished between
the two Sir Roberts, Ward has discovered many details about him. Presumably of a
family of small yeomen farmers in the vicinity of Bures, Suffolk, this Sir Robert rose
through service to the Crown, first in a military capacity, serving Edward I in Wales,
especially in the period between 1288 and 1295, when the Welsh revolted against

        Norris, I, 11.
        Felgate, Knights, p. 33.
        Quoted in Waller, Notes to figure #3.
        Ward, pp. 144-150.
English rule. In addition, he was frequently employed on commissions of enquiry and on
judicial commissions in Wales, Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmorland.8
        On the death of Edward I in 1307, Sir Robert, temporarily out of royal service,
acted as steward of the honor of Clare, belonging to the Clare Earls of Gloucester, who
were then among the most powerful of the nobility. By 1309, however, he was also back
in the service of the Crown, and by 1312 was a Suffolk land owner. Indeed, from the
early fourteenth century, Robert began to acquire estates in Suffolk. In 1302, he
obtained the manor of Bansfield in Wickhambrook, and in 1309, land in Great
Waldingfield, but his most important acquisition was Acton Hall, which he got the
following year and immediately made the family seat.9 Formerly the home of John de
Hodebovile, it came to Robert through his marriage to John's widow Hilary, the daughter
of Sir John de Fermor. This was Robert's second marriage, his first having been to a
woman named Alice, according to a seventeenth century record, the daughter of Sir
Robert de Reydon.10 He soon acquired more lands in Acton and gradually acquired
more in surrounding villages, some for life, and some to pass on to his heirs. Indeed, by
1331, he held land in fifteen Suffolk villages besides Acton in addition to one estate in
        Sir Robert died in 1331, probably in September, and Hilary died later that same
year in December. They had no children, but by his first marriage, Sir Robert had a
large family. He was succeeded by his son Andrew, then about thirty. So it was that
Robert rose to comparative wealth through service to the Crown, his own ability, and
marriage, and was able to leave to his son a landed inheritance.12 The manor of Acton
Hall remained in the family until 1528 when the last male heir, Henry Bures, whose
brass is nearby (q.v.), died.

       Ward, pp. 145-6.
       Ibid., pp. 147-8.
         Felgate, Suffolk, p. 37.
         Ward, pp. 148-9.
         Ibid., p. 150.


Bertram, Jerome. Brasses and Brass Rubbing in England. Newton Abbot: David and
       Charles (Publishers), Ltd., 1972.
Binski, Paul. "The Stylistic Sequence of London Figure Brasses," The Earliest English
       Brasses, ed. John Coales. London: Monumental Brass Society, 1987.
Brenner, Gernard, and Madeline H. Brenner. Sir Robert de Bures: A Soldier of
       Edward I. Falls Church, Virginia, 1981.
Felgate, T.M. Knights on Suffolk Brasses. Ipswich: East Anglian Magazine, Ltd., 1976.
Felgate, T.M. Suffolk Heraldic Brasses. Ipswich: Angliam Magazine, Ltd., 1978.
Norris, Malcolm. Monumental Brasses: The Memorials. 2 vols. London: Phillips and
       Page, 1977.
Waller, J.G., and L.A.B. Waller. A Series of Monumental Brasses from the 13th to the
       16th Century (1864). London: Phillips and Page, 1975.
Ward, Jennifer C. "Sir Robert de Bures," Transactions of the Monumental Brass
       Society, 10 (1965), 144-50.

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