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History in Brass

by Alice R (Year 5)

brass3On 15th January 2016 we had two special guests visit us, called Penny and Elizabeth. They came to our school to teach us about Brass Rubbing, a technique that developed from the Medieval Times to the Tudor period to remember important people who died. There are still some brass rubbings on the floors and walls in churches and old castles, like Bodium Castle. To the right is a brass rubbing of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife.

The brass picture often contained a crest embedded in the brass so other people would know which family the person came from. The brass rubbings were usually not portraits, but showed the person doing something, and their family origin could be learnt from their coat of arms. Any personal achievements were represented in a brass rubbing by way of picturing an animal, for instance, a lion meant you were brave and courageous. People used to leave money in their will for their families to spend it on a brass rubbing. There were sometimes inscriptions in the rubbing in Latin, English or French.

Penny and Elizabeth showed us copies of real brass rubbings and told us that in the Medieval Times people wore pointed shoes. Later, in the Tudor times shoes became more curved. That made it easier to tell which period the rubbing came from. Elizabeth then showed us different copies of rubbings; some of them had screw marks, where little bolts called rivets had been put to hold the rubbing in place. Elizabeth then asked us different questions about the copied rubbings.

brass2The brass rubbings weren’t just of people, but of animals and mythical creatures such as unicorns, griffins and even a winged-ox. For instance, the rubbing on the left is a lion. There were also rubbings of symbols, like crests etc.

Brass rubbings are made by layering sheets of paper on a slab of brass, screwing it in place with rivets and rubbing on it with graphite, wax or chalk.

Next it was time to make our very own mini brass rubbings.We were given a selection of mini copies of rubbings, we chose our rubbings and then Penny and Elizabeth taped a sheet of black paper on top of the rubbings, we were then given a brass rubbing stick with our choice of colour, and we rubbed on the paper with our chalk to see the pattern of the chosen rubbing coming through on the paper. To get a good colour you had to press hard on the paper, but you had to be careful on the edges because it was very easy to go over the edge. With a quick polish of a cloth to make the rubbing shiny and to erase any mistakes, the brass rubbing was finished. We made 2 brass rubbings, I chose a griffin and Anne Boleyn.

After we made our brass rubbings, it was the end of the workshop. We helped Penny and Elizabeth pack up their things and take them to the car. I really enjoyed the brass rubbing workshop. I hope everyone else who attended enjoyed it too!

Report by Alice R (Year 5)