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Not all of the brasses are large, but all were securely mounted and would not normally be considered at risk. “The thief is targeting high quality brasses. They are of significant monetary value and incalculable historic value,” said Martin Stuchfield of the Monumental Brass Society.

It is thought likely that the thief was also responsible for brasses stolen in 1995 from Cuxham and Stadhampton, Oxfordshire. “It is virtually certain this thief will not stop here,” Mr Stuchfield added.

In July, the thief took a group of five daughters in prayer, 61/2 x 8in (16.5 x 20.5cm), and a son, also praying, 81/2 x 3in (12.5 x 7cm) from the 1501 brass at Lacock, Wiltshire. The male, with long hair, is depicted in three-quarter profile, facing right, and the row of females are facing left.

Another figure was damaged in an attempt to rip it from its mount. Around the same time the 1439 brass effigy of Edmund Forde was stolen from under the sanctuary carpet at Swainswick, Somerset. The 2ft 11/2in x 61/2in (65 x 16.5cm) brass shows a short-haired man with a sword at his waist, standing on a mound of clover.

Nearby, at Langridge, Somerset, a 1441 brass of Elizabeth Walshe with a small dog on her right foot, 3ft 11/2in x 13in (95 x 33cm) was also taken.

In August a Trinity, depicting the crucified Christ before God on his throne, 71/2 x 53/4in (18.5 x 14.5cm) was stolen from the 1534 brass at Fairford, Gloucestershire. In this attack, the thief tried to prise off another figure, but stole a misericord carved as a man and woman drinking from a barrel instead.

Also that month the 1485 brass of Sir John Seyntmaur, clad in full armour with ‘bob’ haircut and standing on a hound, 2ft 1in x 8in (64 x 20cm) was stolen from Beckington, Somerset. Again the thief attempted to take other brasses.

Churches are urged to be aware of the threat and to take extra security precautions, especially on Saturdays, which is when the recent thefts seem to have occurred, and dealers are asked to be vigilant if they are offered any church items.
Illustrations of the brasses can be found on the Monumental Brass Society’s Website at: www.mbs-brasses.co.uk.