Call for return of medieval brass

PARISHIONERS are calling for the return of a "stolen" medieval brass which is currently in the vaults of a United States museum.The brass, showing a member of the prominent Colby family, was removed from St Laurence Church at Brundish, near Stradbroke, some time during the past 170 years.

By David Green

PARISHIONERS are calling for the return of a "stolen" medieval brass which is currently in the vaults of a United States museum.

The brass, showing a member of the prominent Colby family, was removed from St Laurence Church at Brundish, near Stradbroke, some time during the past 170 years.

One report suggests it disappeared in 1838 but, according to local people, it was still in the church in 1926 and may not have been taken to the United States until the 1950s.


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Today it is in the vaults of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Last night, nobody from the museum was available for comment.

A descendent of the Colby family in the US has complained to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about the theft of the brass and an FBI officer has spoken to churchwardens at Brundish.

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A copy of the brass was made in the 1980s and handed over to Brundish Church where it now hangs on the wall.

However, churchwardens are calling for the brass to be returned to its rightful home.

"In the present climate it would be a grand gesture on behalf of the Anglo-American movement to return the original to us and take back the copy," said Gerald Western, one of the local churchwardens.

Mr Western said the original was not being displayed in the museum but the curators were still reluctant to part with it.

David Mulrenan , lay elder and secretary of the parochial church council, said: "We are planning to set up a Friends of St Laurence dedicated to the upkeep of fabric of church and we need as much support as we can, particularly in trying to retrieve what is rightfully ours."

The cause of Brundish parishioners has been taken up by the Monumental Brass Society which claims that Britain's collection of burial brasses – known as tomb plates – has never been so vulnerable.

The society was responsible for discovering the Brundish brass and another, from Brinkley in Cambridgeshire, in the US.

Secretary, Martin Sutchfield, said: "We are appealing to their consciences to allow us to have them back and we will ensure they go back to their churches of origin."

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings is also warning that churches and historic houses are still suffering from an epidemic of thefts.

Five church brasses were taken in the space of six weeks in the West Country last year and, countrywide, 3,500 items were stolen from churches.

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