British Ancestry
A BRASS RUBBING


You probably know the Essex countryside and how easy it is to get lost in the lanes, so on the return journey I diverted to Rettenden where I heard than my Humphery ancestors came from. The church was locked so I went to the Rectory to ask for the key and I gave my name. The Rector said, "Oh, you've come to rub your brasses." I did not know I had any. He produced ceiling paper and heelball and sticky tape and took me over to the church. There were the brasses. I started rubbing them and from time to time the Rector would arrive with a drink. In due course he suggested something stronger and would I like to stay to dinner. In fact, I stayed the night and completed the rubbing next morning. The result is in my study.

As we went out of the church with my brass rubbing under my arm the Rector showed me a document nailed to the wall and muttered "that's something to do with your family but my Latin is rusty". I arranged for Derick Emmison who was then Archivist of Essex to collect this original document for the archives and replace it with a facsimile. He did so, sending me a copy of the facsimile as well. On studying it, one recognises that while I am descended from William, the second son, Richard the eldest son who is shown underneath his father's brass was, according to the document, "cleaning his byrding piece" went off. This weapon intended to kill rooks and crows shot his father in the thigh. His father, Richard Humphry died ten months and four days later and Richard Humphry, junior, was charged with murder. The charge was reduced to manslaughter but Richard had to purchase the free pardon from James I. That is the document that was nailed to the wall and had the Great Seal of the Exchequer since money had changed hands.

It was about that time that I learned that red seals were always attached to matters of equity from the Chancellery, that green wax seals were always money matters from the Exchequer; and that white seals were Privy, for or on behalf of the Sovereign - and ribbons or strings corresponded. Richard paid by losing his estates in Essex, selling most of them to the Fitch family (Mark Fitch, the genealogist, was of the Fitch Lovell food company). William went to London and was the ancestor of my great-great grandfather who was a partner in the Hay's Wharf Company. Humphery's Wharf is still visible on the south side of the Thames by London Bridge.
1 August 2008

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