Some West Country Armorial
Stained Glass Showing Arms of
de Bryen, de Bures, Monthermer and Montagu
By John Campbell-Kease
From the quarterly magazine, The Coat of Arms, Autumn 1992
Typed by Kim Bryan
In my article The Arms of de Bryen and de Moyon/Mohun published in the Coat of Arms NS Vol IX No. 154, I included a drawing of the achievement of Sir Guy de Bryen KG (?1320-90), the shield of which may be blazoned or three piles conjoined in base azure. The family to which he belonged was a distinguished one and connected to several noble houses throughout its known history from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries. Among these were Montagu, Monthermer, and de Bures.
The parish church of Hazelbury Bryan in Dorset contains in the tracery of the east window, two pieces of stained glass which seem to date from the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries. They depict, in their different ways, the arms of de Bryen, de Bures, Montagu and Monthermer. The better preserved of the two shows a shield-of-arms quarterly of Montagu and Monthermer, of which the first may be blazoned argent three lozenges in fess gules and the second or an eagle displayed vert, membered and beaked gules. Barely six and three quarters inches high it is placed at the top of the window and, in a good light "gleams like a jewel that owes an added grace to the mellowing increase of the years" as an unidentified nineteenth century author recorded. The full description that writer gave of the glass, still true, is worth repeating for its genuine appreciation of the earlier craftsmans work. "As is usually the case with heraldic glass of the middle ages, the leadwork is very noteworthy. It will be observed how apparently capricious the lines are, yet how perfectly they fulfill their office and how admirably they aid the whole effect. The colours are wonderfully pure. The silver glass throughout is of a beautiful pearly tint. The red is splendid crimson, though some of it had corroded and become nearly black. Monthermers eagle in the second quarter is of a pale olive green, while his fellow is as brilliant as an emerald. The shield is by no means a true drawing but the whole thing looks, and indeed is, perfectly right in feeling, and the bands of pale gold on the either side of the shield going up into a rudely shaped loop above it add not a little to the decorative effect."
The second piece of armorial stained glass is to the south of the first in a similarly proportioned compartment of the tracery. Unfortunately it has at some time been broken and has been very clumsily repaired. The shield displays on the dexter side the arms of Bryen with a label of three points and on the sinister the arms of Bures (of Suffolk) which Burke blazons per chevron indented sable and ermine in chief two lions rampant or but which could, perhaps, be more accurately described as ermine on a chief indented two lions rampant or.
The label identifies Guy eldest of the three sons of the Garter Knight, who died within the lifetime of his father leaving his two small daughters as heirs in common of the older man on the latters death in 1390. Being impaled with Bures the arms commemorate the marriage of the younger Guy with Alice (Avice) daughter of Sir Robert de Bures (or Bowers) of Acton, Suffolk.
As to how the marital shield of arms of the two came to be in the Church of St. Mary and St. James in Hazelbury Bryan the matter is logically explained. Sir Guy de Bryen KG had purchased the manor and the advowson for 300 marks in 1361. On the death of his eldest son at the age of thirty-two in 1386 the young widow took Hazelbury as part of her dower. Soon after, the then parish church (the second known to have been on the site) was demolished and the present structure was initiated, building work continuing well into the first quarter of the fifteenth century. Being also the patron of the living Dame Alice almost certainly marked her share in the work by authorizing this shield of her paternal arms impaled with those of her husband.
The identity of the bearer of the Montagu quartered shield is not quite so easy to ascertain. In 1340 the marriage and inheritance of the Monthermer heiress, Margaret, were given to William de Montagu, earl of Salisbury and she wed his younger son, John de Montagu. The quartered coat shown is known to have been used by the third Montagu earl of Salisbury (1397-1400), also named John, son of the above John and Margaret, and his son Thomas the fourth Montagu earl (1409-28). Both were near kin to the de Bryen family, Sir Guy KG having married Elizabeth Montagu daughter of Earl William and sister of Margaret Monthermers husband.
It is likely that for reasons of kinship the Montagu family contributed to the cost of the new church and perhaps the quartered arms were placed in the window as a memorial, but history is silent as to whether the third earl or his son is commemorated, or whether the shield honours both.
Burke's General Armory (reprinted 1984) p 145
There were born between the years 1150 and 1353 at least eight generations of de Bryen men named Guy.
Feet of Fines for Dorset (No. 254) for 1361. The transaction was made at Westminster "in fifteen days from Easter Day." The seller was Sir Richard Acton. The name Bryan was added to Hazelbury some time in the sixteenth century, perhaps to distinguish it from a not too far away village, now called Haselbury Pluncknett (after early de Plugenet lords).
Dame Alice lived until 1435, mainly in Suffolk in the caput of the de Bure honor. The inquisition pot mortem shows that on her death her vast estates spread through Dorset, Gloucestershire, Essex and Suffolk. She also owned property in London.
The Complete Pearage, Vol IX, pp 143/4.
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