The Brazenose Site in Stamford
The Brazenose name is apocryphally associated with the Stamford Schism in the fourteenth century, when disaffected students and masters migrated to the Lincolnshire town from Oxford. The scholars and their tutors defected from Brasenose Hall and Merton College to escape internecine disputes between northern and southern factions at the university. The first group of dissidents arrived in Stamford in November 1333 and they were followed by further waves in May, June and July 1334 (Peck [a]), to the consternation of their alma mater. They are said to have brought with them a brazen knocker which they affixed to the door of a hall which they occupied in their newly-adopted home. Encouraged by the townsfolk, the Oxford academics read lectures, held debates and taught many of the local youth (Peck [a]). The determined suppression of this neo-university in Stamford by royal decree in 1335 at the behest of the powerful Oxford lobby is well documented.
While it is claimed that the peripatetic brazen nose knocker gave its name to the Stamford property as well as to the eponymous college in Oxford (Madan) 1, the only contemporaneous reference to Stamford’s Brazenose was the mention in 1335 of ‘Philip le maniciple atte Brasenose’ (Hartley and Rogers). The Oxford antiquarian Anthony a Wood added the words ‘in Stanford’ (Wood [a]) but this may have been an unfounded assumption as the first mention of a property in Stamford called Brasenose does not occur until 1559, when a building belonging to the Corporation went by this title (Hartley and Rogers). The lease on this property described it as ‘a messuage called Brassen Nose in St. Paul’s [parish], with all houses, barns, stables and other buildings’. Quoting Brian Twyne’s account of his visit to Stamford in 1617, Wood recounted that the building retained its old name of Brasenose. It had ‘a fair refectory therein’ and also ‘a great gate and a wicket; upon which wicket is a face or head of old cast brass with a ring through the nose thereof’ (Wood [b]) (Fig.1).
In 1673, when Brazenose College was in a very poor state of repair, a building lease was given to Anthony Markham instructing him to spend £300 on the property within three years (Hartley and Rogers). The lease also stipulated that he was ‘to affix ye Brazen Nose upon ye court gate next ye street or elsewhere as ye Mayor and Aldermen shall appoint’, which suggests that it had been removed from the gate at some stage. However, Markham paid to be discharged from his lease within the year in order to move to London. In 1687/88, when William Feast was Mayor, the Corporation voted to mortgage Brazen Nose as they had overspent their budget for it. Alderman Richard Burman proposed to make it fit to hold his mayoral feast the following year and was awarded a grant towards ‘flooring such roomes and glaseing soe much of ye windows as hee shall thinke necessary’ (Simpson). However, Burman did not become mayor and the old building was pulled down that same year 2. According to the Royal Commission survey, Brazenose College appears to have been a large stone building around a courtyard, whose surviving gateway indicated a thirteenth century date (Royal Commission [a]). Architect T G Jackson dated the Brazenose Gateway as no later than about 1260-70 (Madan) and, indeed, it may date from the first half of the thirteenth century (Royal Commission [b]).
Peck informs us that the gateway ‘stood formerly more backward than it does now; but, when pulled down with the college, the corporation, knowing the value of that piece of antiquity, ordered it to be set up again, though not in the very same place where it stood before, yet as near as might be’ (Peck [b]). However, although Peck had been given this information by Alexander Morris, a workman involved in the demolition of the college, Markham’s lease implies that the gate already stood alongside the street and the Royal Commission could find no evidence that it had been rebuilt, thereby raising the possibility that it has remained in-situ. The documental evidence is inconclusive. John Speed’s map of about 1600 (Fig. 2) shows Brasenose College standing well back from the road. In its original form, published in The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine in 1611, the map could be construed as indicating that the gateway is positioned slightly behind the north boundary wall. However, old drawings of the gateway (Fig.1) depict an ornamental string course running above the apex of the arch, and Stukeley's sketch of 1735 (Fig.3) indicates that this feature extended along the wall to the east. The wall is now lower and the string course no longer exists but, as it is unlikely that the boundary wall was rebuilt along its length, the earlier presence of this decorative horizontal band supports the contention that the gate is probably still in its original position (Hartley [a]). If the gate appears on Speed’s map to be too far to the west along the street compared to its present position, this may be an illusion as the wall was rounded at the junction of St. Paul’s Street and Brazenose Lane in 1923 as part of a road-widening scheme (Till [a]).
After the medieval property was demolished in 1688, a new building (hereafter referred to as Brazenose Hall) was erected on the Brazenose site using recycled materials from the old college. Brazenose Hall, which was still often called The College (Hartley and Rogers), was evidently completed before the turn of the century as rents were being collected by 1699 at least. It was probably let for several years before being assigned to a charity school in 1704 3 (Howgrave) and it became the town workhouse in 1739 (Hartley and Rogers). Stukeley’s drawing of this building in 1735 shows that it was erected directly on the west side of the ancient gate (Fig. 3) (Stukeley).
While Stukeley drew only the ground floor of the street frontage of the property, engravings of the town by Peter Tillemans in 1719 and by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck in 1743 show its full elevation (Fig. 4).
|Fig.4 Detail of (a) ‘A Prospect of the Town of Stanford’ by Tillemans (1719) from the frontispiece of Peck’s Antiquarian Annals (Brazen-nose College is the building designated by the number 10); (b) Bucks ‘The South Prospect of Stamford in the County of Lincoln’ (1743) (The Workhouse is indicated by the number 16)|
Collating these visual clues, Martin Smith created a plausible depiction of the building in the mid-eighteenth century (Fig. 5) (Smith).
As Knipe’s map shows (Fig. 6), the original Brazenose College was situated on the east side of the current Brazenose site which nowadays comprises part of the Stamford School estate and includes the present Brazenose House.
The Brazenose site lies within two parishes, St. George’s to the west and St Michael’s to the east (Fig. 7).
Although the original Brazenose College was situated in the parish of St. Paul, St. Paul’s parish was amalgamated with that of St. George following an Act of Parliament of 1548. Thus, a lease granted in 1578 by the Corporation to Richard Evely, a Stamford grocer, places the ‘messuage called The Brasson Noose’ in St George’s parish (Title deeds and leases [a]). However, another lease granted to Stamford yeoman Peter Clifford by the Corporation in 1627 refers to a cottage or tenement between Brasennose (tenant William Cammocke) on the west and a tenement in the tenure of William Walton on the east as being in St Paul’s parish (Title deeds and leases [b]), despite St Paul’s having merged with St George’s 79 years earlier. The bipartite nature of St. Michael’s parish can be explained by its smaller isolated eastern moiety being created by the amalgamation in 1556 of the church of Holy Trinity/St. Stephen, which stood just outside St. Paul’s Gate, with the church of St. Michael the Greater on High Street (Churches in Stamford).
Entries in both the Stamford Hall Book and the Till Index state that the workhouse was in St. Michael’s parish (Stamford Hall Book; Till [b]). However, Knipe’s map shows the parish boundary passing northwards immediately to the west side of the medieval gateway. Its position is confirmed by a boundary mark in the form of a St. Andrew’s cross cut into the wall beside the arch (Fig. 8). This would therefore place the workhouse in St. George’s parish rather than St. Michael’s.
The detailed layout of the Brazenose site in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, including the number and arrangement of its buildings, is uncertain. However, by the mid-eighteenth century, in addition to the workhouse, there were other residential properties and various outbuildings, including a brew house, coach houses, stables and a dovecote (Till [c]), as well as a large garden. Two of three houses, which were previously situated close to the workhouse, had been pulled down by William Feast. The original Brazenose site, now designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument, expanded in a westerly direction to incorporate Brazenose House with its yard and outbuildings. The Royal Commission gives the date of Brazenose House at 28 St. Paul’s Street as before 1722 (Royal Commission [b]).
From 1727 to 1806, the buildings and gardens on the Brazenose site were acquired in stages by successive generations of the Hurst family (Till; Maddison). In 1727, Thomas Hurst (1693-1746) bought a messuage in St. George’s parish, near the spinning school, from Elizabeth Margerum. This comprised the remaining part of a building (lately occupied by Thomas Cade) which had previously been divided into three tenements, including the two pulled down by William Feast, along with one acre of land. Thomas Hurst died in 1746 and in 1752 his wife Elizabeth (1694-1770) sold this property, with its acre of land, brew house, granary and dovecote, to their son James (1727/8-1787). After Elizabeth Lepla died in c.1731, her neighbouring house at 28 St. Paul’s Street (the present Brazenose House) passed through the hands of her sons Mark and Daniel before it was bought (along with other dwellings occupied by Francis Bottomley and Thomas Spink and another untenanted) by James Hurst in 1749. After living there with his mother Elizabeth, James married Philippa Hyde (d. 1793) in 1760, by whom he fathered six children including James Jnr (b.1763–c.1842/1846).4 In 1767, he purchased the adjoining plot, between no. 28 and the workhouse, from Stamford Corporation. This consisted of a garden and a cottage which he had been using as a stable. On his death in 1787, Philippa inherited the Brazenose properties and land, and a life interest in a messuage at 35 St. Martins, which James first acquired in 1751 (and had subsequently sold to and bought back from his brother, Rev Thomas Hurst). When Philippa died in 1793, the whole estate passed to their son, James Jnr, who was then living at the house in St. Martins.
After William Stukeley re-founded the Brazen Nose Society in 1745, its early meetings were held on the Brazenose site (Gough and Nichols). Although it has been said that the actual venue was Brazenose Hall (Stanley), this seems improbable as the premises were occupied by the workhouse beyond the turn of the nineteenth century. The building gradually fell into disrepair in the late 1700s and regular reports on its poor condition were made to the Town Council (Hartley and Rogers). It was sold by the Corporation to James Hurst at public auction in 1806 (? 1805) (Stamford Hall Book).5 Hurst, then a captain in the Royal South Lincoln Militia, also bought an adjoining piece of ground, comprising a garden and barn between St. Paul’s Street and a public lane on the east in St. Michael’s parish, which was offered in separate lot at the same auction (Stamford Hall Book; Till [d]).6 The barn had been used as a coach house by William Toon (Till [d]), who was the master of the workhouse.
In 1822, Major Hurst, who was still living in St. Martin’s, sold all properties and grounds on the Brazenose site to his only son, Robert Stuart Hurst. These were, firstly, the messuage in St. George’s parish and its adjoining one acre of land, by then converted into yards and gardens with brew house, stables, coach houses, granaries, dovecote and outbuildings; and, secondly, the former workhouse with its yard, garden and outbuildings. Drakard says that it was R H Whitworth who bought the former spinning school cum workhouse in 1822 and promptly pulled it down, while leaving its ancient gateway intact (Drakard [a]). This apparent contradiction is explained by the fact that in June 1822 Robert Stuart Hurst took the surname Whitworth by Warrant under the Royal Signet and Sign Manual (Till [e]), becoming R H Hurst Whitworth. The Whitworth name does not appear in street directories or electoral records.
Presumably it was when the former workhouse was razed to the ground that the Brazenose name was transferred to the adjacent house at 28 St. Paul’s Street (Hartley and Rogers) and the site of the demolished building became its garden with the Brazenose Gateway built into its front wall (Fig.9). An archaeological evaluation of Stamford school in 1992, and later ground works in 1995, revealed the remains of walls which were thought to have been part of Brazenose College (Lincs to the Past). A stone-lined well shaft was also discovered (see Fig. 10 for location of well).
After making extensive alterations to Brazenose House (Royal Commission [b]), Whitworth died in 1831 leaving the estate in equal shares to his three sisters, Sarah Isabella, Augusta and Harriet. In 1832, probably at the time when she married regimental surgeon Titus Berry, Sarah Isabella sold her one third share to her sisters, Augusta and Harriet. After inheriting the remaining half share of the estate on Augusta’s death in 1835, Harriet continued to live in Brazenose House until she died in 1878. In its 1872 edition, Miss Harriet is the only remaining Hurst shown in White’s Directory (White). In a letter to The Stamfordian in 1929, J H Philpot recalled that the Berrys used to spend winter with Miss Hurst in Stamford and that, when they all departed for London in the spring, the house was left in the charge of a childless couple, Mr Bellamy, the butler, and his wife, the housekeeper (Philpot). On Harriet’s death, the Brazenose estate finally passed out of the possession of the Hurst family when Brazenose House, with its associated buildings and grounds, was bought by Thomas Tertius Paget (1807-1892), a Leicester banker and Liberal Party politician, to accommodate his aunt, Mrs Lucy Johnson (1815-1890), widow of Lieutenant-General William Augustus Johnson.7
When offered for sale in 1878, Brazenose was described as a family residence with stabling, outbuildings (including a saddle room, brewhouse and coach house), extensive grounds, lawn, kitchen garden and small paddock (Fig. 10). Brazenose House was, by then, the only remaining residential property on the site.
When re-advertised in 1890 after Mrs Johnson died, the auction particulars specified that the old knocker of Brasenose College, Oxford would be included in the sale. Brasenose College duly purchased the property and offered it for let after removing the knocker to Oxford. Having earlier taken the name, Brazenose House then took on the educational mantle of its predecessors. After 1890, Miss Collins and Miss Davies ran a girls’ school there from 1891-1898 and were succeeded firstly by the Misses Kellett, (Miss A M and presumably her sister) in 1898 and then by Miss Evelyn Thomas from 1914 until 1927/28. After almost four decades as a girls’ academy, Brazenose House was bought from the Oxford college by Stamford School in 1929.
The identity of the Brazenose site is defined by its ancient knocker. Drakard says that the knocker was on the wicker (sic) door of the gateway until about the year 1807 (Drakard [b]), while Blore intimates that it may have been removed a few years later than this (Blore [a]). It was in James Hurst’s possession in 1822 (Drakard [a]) and was later held by Miss Hurst 8 (Burton) who kept it indoors. In his letter to The Stamfordian, Philpot wrote that, in the mid-nineteenth century, the ‘talking knocker’ (referring to the Stamford version of the legend of Roger Bacon) was displayed in a case in Brazenose House (Philpot). Following Mrs Johnson’s death, estate agent Mr Geo. W Johnson, who was handling the sale, removed the knocker from the house to his office in Stamford for security. After purchasing the house, garden and gateway, Brasenose College returned the knocker ceremoniously to Oxford, where it holds pride-of-place above the high table in the College Hall. This outcome would have disappointed Harrod who, in 1785, made the appeal, ‘It is to be hoped that the corporation will never suffer this head to be removed, for.....it is the most precious antique belonging to the town, and is shewn as such to inquisitive strangers’ (Harrod).
In 1951, the Brazenose Gateway was scheduled by the Office of Works as an ancient monument. In 1961, a replica knocker was donated to Stamford School by Brasenose College to commemorate the secession. The old gateway was cleaned and restored and the replacement knocker was hung on its door (Fig.11).
Considering the various comings and goings, mysterious name changes, and the renovation and replacement of properties, it is not surprising that some confusion has arisen between the demolished Brazenose Hall and the present Brazenose House which took its name. Both were built between the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The Royal Commission dates the present Brazenose House as early eighteenth century. If Elizabeth Lepla purchased it in 1722 from John Porter, who had been living there since buying it from Priscilla Beavor (Till [f]), presumably it was erected some time before 1720, although it does not feature in Tillemans' painting which was completed in 1719. In saying that Brazenose House was built in 1688 (Deed), Stamford School headmaster, Basil Deed mistook it for Brazenose Hall. Repeating the mistake that Brazenose House dates from c.1688, Pevsner and Harris (Pevsner and Harris) compounded the error by stating that it was rebuilt in 1723. Writing in 1846, Geo. Burton (Burton) made no mention that the former workhouse was pulled down in 1822.
Brazenose House (Fig.12) is now the administrative headquarters of the combined Stamford Endowed Schools. Much of its garden has become a car park but there remain many features, especially its medieval gateway, to remind its staff, students and visitors of the illustrious history of the site.
- The ‘Brazenose’ form is normally used for properties in Stamford and ‘Brasenose’ for those in Oxford. In Stamford, early spellings of the name included Brassen Nose, Brasson Noose, Brasennose and Brazen-nose. Generally, the version given in the text corresponds to that used in the source material.
- The frequently-given alternative date of 1668 has been attributed to an error originated by Harrod and repeated by many others including Blore, Drakard and Burton (Hartley and Rogers). Possibly some work was carried out on the building in 1668 as in 1688 the Corporation ordered that it be mortgaged on the grounds that more had been spent on it than expected. Referring in his essay to the setting up of the charity school in 1704, Howgrave describes Brazen-Nose College as ‘having been then but lately rebuilt’. It is unlikely that the property was completely rebuilt in 1668 and then pulled down and rebuilt again a mere twenty years later.
- Blue Coat School was a charity school where poor children of the town and neighbourhood were instructed in religion and taught to read, write and sing psalms, while being employed in spinning (Howgrave). The rebuilt Brazenose was occupied exclusively by the school until about 1739, when half of the building was reclaimed by the Corporation and converted into a parish workhouse. When the rest of the property was also given over to the workhouse (Blore [b]), the stewards of the Charity rented a small house on the north side of St. Paul’s Street (on a site now occupied by Stamford School) for use as a schoolroom, before acquiring a new building on St. Peter’s Hill in 1838 (Davies).
Although Blore states that the partial conversion of Brazenose to a workhouse was carried out in or before the year 1734 (Blore [b]), account and vestry books confirm that it was 1738 or 1739 when the parishes of St. Michael and St. John separately agreed that a workhouse was needed for the maintenance of their poor. St. Michael’s received a loan to fit out the workhouse in April 1740. In 1791/2, it was being used by St. Michael’s, St. John’s, St. George’s and All Saints parishes but St. George’s appears to have withdrawn in 1802 (Hartley [b]). It would appear that the building continued to be used for this purpose until at least 1813 (Vestry Books), despite being sold by the Corporation to James Hurst in 1806. Tenants and masters of the workhouse from 1761 until its closure included Mr Simonds (Symonds), William Gray, Henry Knowles, William Kent, Thomas Frisby, Thomas Kirby, Peter Pearson, Basil Farrow (Ferrar), William Toon and Mrs Toon.
- Street directories indicate that James Hurst died between 1842 and 1846.
- The Hall Book entry for 29 August 1805 records the Corporation’s decision to sell the workhouse ‘at auction on the twenty eight day of September next to the best bidder’. Annotations confirm that it was sold to James Hurst Esq but do not specify when. Drakard and Burton say that Hurst bought the workhouse in about 1816 (Drakard [b]; Burton), evidently after being promoted to Major in the meantime (Pigot). However, writing in 1813, Blore states that the Corporation had sold the property to James Hurst a few years previously (Blore [a]), which makes it likely that 1806 is the correct date.
- In 1424, John Whiteside of Stamford gave the garden in the corner plot to John Brown. It previously belonged to Thomas Barker, a local shoemaker. The south boundary of the garden abutted on the town wall east (Rogers), which is consistent with Speed’s map showing the town wall veering inwards to the southeast corner of Brazenose College. The tenement to the west of the garden (on the plot which was later purchased by Thomas Hurst) was owned by John Stockton, a clerk (Rogers). In the early 1800s, the southern portion of the garden was sold by the Corporation to John Boyfield (Till [d])
- Deed erroneously described Mrs Johnson as the owner of Brazenose House; she was a tenant.
- If Burton was referring to Harriet when he described Miss Hurst as James Hurst’s sister, then he was incorrect. Rather she was his daughter and the sister of Robert Stuart Hurst Whitworth.
Blore, Tho. An Account of the Public Schools, Hospitals, and other Charitable Foundations, in the Borough of Stanford in the Counties of Lincoln and Rutland. Stanford: Drakard, 1813 [a] p.23-4; [b] 100-1
Burton, Geo. Chronology of Stamford. Stamford: Robert Bagley & London: Edwards and Hughes, 1846 p.43
Churches in Stamford. Holy Trinity/ St Stephen. www.stamfordchurches.co.uk/holy-trinity.shtml Accessed 08.03.2012
Davies, Christopher. Stamford Bluecoat School. Stamford Historian 1977; 1: 36-40
Deed, B.L. A History of Stamford School. Cambridge: University Press, 1954 p.28
Drakard, John. The History of Stamford in the County of Lincoln. Stamford: Drakard, 1822 [a] p.609; [b] p.312-3
Gough, Mr. and Nichols, J. Some account of the Gentlemen’s Society at Spalding. In: Nichols, John. Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century. Vol. VI (1). London, 1812 pp.4-5
Harrod, W. The Antiquities of Stamford and St. Martin’s. Vol. 1. Stamford: Harrod, 1785 p.71
Hartley, John [a] Personal communication; [b] ibid
Hartley, John S. and Rogers, Alan. The Religious Foundations of Medieval Stamford. Stamford Survey Group Report 2, 1974. Published by University of Nottingham. pp.76-7
Howgrave, Francis. The Antiquities and Present State of Stamford. An Essay of the Ancient and Present State of Stamford. An Account of the Charity School. Stamford, 1726 pp.105-8
Lincs to the Past. Site of Brazenose College, Stamford (Reference name MLI30625). www.lincstothepast.com Accessed 11.12.2011
Madan, F. The Name and Arms of the College, including the Brazen Nose and the Stamford Migration. Brasenose College Quatercentenary Monographs. Vol. 1. Oxford: Clarendon Press,1909 pp.14-20
Maddison, A.R., ed. Lincolnshire Pedigrees (The Publications of The Harleian Society). London, 1903 pp.524-6
Peck, Francis. The Antiquarian Annals of Stanford (Academia tertia Anglicana). London, 1727 [a] XI, iii; [b] XI, vii
Pevsner, Nikolaus and Harris, John. Lincolnshire. The Buildings of England. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd, 1964 p.671
Philpot, J.H. Brazenose. Stamfordian 1929; 8(2): 15-7
Pigot and Co.’s National Commercial Directory of Lincolnshire, 1835
Rogers, Alan (ed.). People and Property in Medieval Stamford. Bury St Edmunds: Abramis Academic Publishing, 2012 p.342 (161.14/2)
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments England. An Inventory of Historical Monuments. The Town of Stamford. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1977 [a] p.144; [b] pp.149-50
St. Michael’s Parish Vestry Books and Accounts Books 1738-1813
Simpson, Justin. Stamford Parish Registers. (Extracted from the Reliquary Quarterly Journal and Review) p.216
Smith, Martin. Stamford Then and Now. Stamford: Paul Watkins, 1992 p.105
Stamford Hall Book IV (1773-1805) p.388
Stanley, S.H.F. Brazenose. Stamfordian 1983; Autumn: 31-35
Stukeley, William. Designs of Stanford’s Antiquitys, 1735. Plate 70; Designs, 75
Till, Eric. Card Index. Museum Collection, now held at Stamford Library, based on photocopies of Stamford’s Hall Books, Vols. I and II (1657-1714) and other documents. Brazenose: [a] 26.6.1923; [b] 25&26.3.1822; [c] 12&13.3.1752; [d] 7&8.5.1806; [e] 26&27.11.1832; [f] 14.4.1722
Title deeds and leases. Stamford Town Hall archives. [a] p.211.21; [b] p.214.57
White, William. History, Gazetteer and Directory of Lincolnshire. Sheffield: William White, 1872
Wood, Anthony a. Historia et Antiquitates Universitatis Oxoniensis, 1674. Vol.1. First published in English by John Gutch. Oxford, 1792 [a] p.430; [b] p.432
I gratefully acknowledge the guidance and help of the following:
John Smith, former curator of Stamford Museum
John Craddock, archivist and former master of Stamford School
John S Hartley, former master of Stamford School and member of the Stamford Survey Group
Alan Rogers, Honorary Research Fellow in the School of History at the University of Nottingham and member of the Stamford Survey Group
The staff and volunteers of Stamford Library, Stamford Town Hall and Spalding Gentlemen’s Society