Alan Fleming (Flemyng) (d.1361)

The Fleming Brass in Newark parish church

The Flemyng Brass in Newark Parish Church

 In his History of Newark-on-Trent (Vol.1, 1904, pp.319 – 321), Cornelius Brown writes:-

Of the brasses in Newark Church, by far the most interesting and unique is the famous brass on the west wall of the south transept, to the memory of Alan Fleming, of Newark, merchant…….

The Fleming brass was formerly on the floor, for in his ” Diary of a Tour” in 1732, one, John Loveday, writes : ” In the south of the cross aisle is a large tombstone, overlaid with brass very well wrought, whereon is t!ie portraiture of Alan Fleming, who died in 1361.”

The Chauntry Houses as originally built by Dame Alice Fleming on Appletongate, Newark

The Chantry Houses as originally built by Dame Alice Fleming on Appletongate, Newark

Both Alan and Alice Fleming were liberal contributors to religious objects, the lady establishing the Chantry House for chantry priests.  Amongst the petitions to the Pope in 1351, preserved at the Vatican, is one from Alan Fleming and Alice, his wife, who sought and obtained an indult permitting them to choose confessors who should give them, being penitent, plenary remission at the hour of death, with the usual safeguards. 

After what was undoubtedly a successful career, Alan Fleming died in 1361. The memorial of him is admitted to be one of the finest extant.  It is a magnificently carved brass, measuring 9 feet 4 inches by 5 feet 7 inches and nearly the whole of this large surface is covered with beautiful work. The plate is composed of 16 pieces of metal, each being about 2 feet 6 inches in length, and it is seldom that a larger sheet of m?tal is seen at this early period, when the modem application of power and machinery was unknown .

“The deceased is represented in a civilian’s habit of the time – a long tunic with strait sleeves, having lappets lined with fur, and a cape covering the shoulders.  The hands are conjoined in prayer, and a scroll upon his breast lias these words : ‘ miserere mei Domine Deus meus.’ At his feet is a lion seizing upon a hairy human figure ;  it is perhaps allegorical – ‘ the roaring lion seeking whom he may devour’.   

The figure is under a rich and ornate triple canopy, surmounted with tabernacle work, containing representations of ‘ Abraham’s bosom,’ the soul of the deceased in a winding-sheet, and on one side a figure of St. Peter, who points significantly to the keys of heaven and hell which he holds.

The figure on the other side is that of a female saint. The effigy is filled with those curious grotesque forms which are so frequently met with in the 14th century, and which resemble the gnostic emblems of an earlier age.  Above the head is a starry firmament.  The shafts which support the canopy are of the richest description, and contain a double row of niches , with interesting figures of mourners, in very varied costumes, forming a complete study in itself of the dress of the civilian in the latter part of the 14th century.

The inscription is in sunk letters on the verge, and has a beautifully designed border on each side of it, the idea being a running plant something like a briony, from which it was prbably taken.  The inscription runs thus (the scripture text being taken from the 19th chapter of Job, v.25-27, slightly varied from the Latin vulgate version):-

Here lies Alan Fleming, who died in the year 1361, on the day of St. Helena, may his soul rest in peace by the mercy of God. Amen.  I believe that my redeemer liveth, and that I shall rise up from the earth on the last day, and shall again be clothed with my skin, and in my flesh I shall see Gof my Saviour, whom I shall see myself, and my eyes shall view and not another, this my hope is laid up in my bosom

At the corner of this inscription are the symbols of the evangelists, some much defaced; and in the middle on each side is the mark or monogram of the deceased, the merchants’ heraldry. 

The brass belongs to the class called Flemish, and in character is similar to those of Topcliffe, in Yorkshire, Lynn Regis, and St. Albans. It may be remarked that Flemish brasses are most frequently found in the “ancient seats of our manufactures, and it is no doubt due to our connection with Flanders that these splendid specimens of the graver’s art are to be found in this country.”