Fresh hope in church brass battle

OFFICIALS from a tiny Suffolk church fighting a David and Goliath battle with one of the world's most famous museums have been given fresh hope precious brasses stolen more than 100 years ago will be returned.

OFFICIALS from a tiny Suffolk church fighting a David and Goliath battle with one of the world's most famous museums have been given fresh hope precious brasses stolen more than 100 years ago will be returned.

Leaders from Brinkley Church, near Newmarket, are to seek help from charitable arts bodies in the UK in their fight to recover the priceless medieval floor brasses, recently discovered in the vaults of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The brasses, which were originally embedded in the church floor, are thought to have been removed from St Mary's during an extensive renovation project more than 100 years ago. No one knows how they ended up in New York.

Speaking yesterday, officials from St Mary's church said villagers had been given hope their fight would succeed after similar cases, fought through the courts in America, resulted in the return of the stolen goods.


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However, church warden John Robertson added that officials were preparing themselves for a long, drawn-out battle to recover the medieval brasses.

"We decided locally to set in motion a recovery, which will have to be low key as we are a very small parish and have not got much capital at our disposal," he said.

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"We wrote to the American ambassador, and he advised us to get a good lawyer. This was quite encouraging, as he did not say our fight was hopeless, and seemed to suggest we had a case.

"The Americans also seem to have the British legal convention of returning goods taken improperly to their original owners, but we have clearly got to demonstrate more evidence about the actual theft.

"But recovering something which went AWOL well over a century ago is going to be a slow business."

The tomb brasses went missing from St Mary's more than 100 years ago, and were uncovered in the Metropolitan Museum's vaults by the Monumental Brass Society.

Representatives from the Metropolitan Museum yesterday declined to comment.

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