Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

  • Title: Margaret Williams
  • Creator:
  • Description:

    Margaret Williams’ hands are held together in prayer and her gaze is directed upwards, showing her attention is on the heavens and the afterlife rather than the viewer of the brass. She is shown in semi-profile highlighting her simple, pedimental headdress. She wears a pleated, floor-length dress with a low-cut neckline and long sleeves that end in folded, fur cuffs on her wrists. A patterned belt is loosely cinched around her waist and hangs down the side of her dress, almost touching the floor. In the full version of the brass, Margaret is pictured with her husband Thomas Williams who died in January 1495. They are pictured standing together facing each other. His hands are also held in prayer, and he is shown in semi-profile. Decorative details of his clothing include large fur cuffs, a pouch and rosary at his waist, and a long, decorated belt. Walford’s history of London (1895) identifies Thomas Williams as an attorney, accountant and scrivener who built a large house at Mortlake.

    The couple were buried in the parish church at St. Helen’s Bishopsgate. In the nineteenth century, their monument, along with others, were moved for preservation reasons to the church’s chapel dedicated to the Holy Ghost. The inscription on the brass reads in translation “Here lies Thomas Wylliams, gentle-man, and Margaret his wife. The said Thomas died on the sixteenth day of January 1495 and the said Margaret died…On whose souls may God have mercy. Amen.” See the original Latin inscription below. Margaret’s death date is not included in the inscription. Therefore, it can be assumed the brass was created following her husband’s death and preceding her own. Below the inscription, there are indentations made for two groups of children and four spaces, one on each corner, intended to display family shields, but these portions of the brass have been lost.

  • Source: Haverford College, Special Collections, donated by David and Maxine Cook
  • Rights: By permission of Haverford College
  • Subject (See Also): Brass Rubbing Fashion Tomb Effigies Wives
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 15
  • Date: 1495
  • Related Work: Photograph of the brass monument in St Helen's Bishopsgate: http://www.ipernity.com/doc/stiffleaf/16631447/in/keyword/442512/self
    Other monuments in the church include:
    Lady in a heraldic mantle, circa 1535: https://inpress.lib.uiowa.edu/feminae/DetailsPage.aspx?Feminae_ID=32238
    Civilian and wife, circa 1465: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol9/pt1/plate-30.
  • Current Location: Special Collections, Haverford College, Haverford, PA
  • Original Location: Bishopsgate, London, England. St. Helen’s Parish Church
  • Artistic Type (Category): Digital images; Brass rubbing
  • Artistic Type (Material/Technique): Gold heelball; Paper
  • Donor:
  • Height/Width/Length(cm): 76.2/25.4/
  • Inscription: Hic iacet Thomas Wylliams Generos' et Margarete uxor eius qui quide Thomas obijt xvj die mens' Januarij Ao dni Mo CCCCo lxxxxvo Et pdicta Margareta obijt _____ die mens' _____ Anno dni Mo CCCCo quorum [animabus propicietur deus Amen]. (Here lies Thomas Wylliams, gentle-man, and Margaret his wife. The said Thomas died on the sixteenth day of January 1495 and the said Margaret died…On whose souls may God have mercy. Amen.)
  • Related Resources: Brass Rubbings Collection. 2013. Hamline University. http://www.hamline.edu/brass-rubbings/;
    Reddan, Minnie and Alfred W Clapham. “St. Helen's Bishopsgate: Fittings”, in Survey of London: Volume 9, the Parish of St Helen, Bishopsgate, Part I (London, 1924), pp. 36-51. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol9/pt1/pp36-51;
    Walford, Edward. Greater London: A Narrative of Its History, Its People and Its Places (Vol. 2). Forgotten Books, 2013. (Original work published 1895). Page 472. http://www.forgottenbooks.com/readbook_text/Greater_London_v2_1000496892/489