Dispute over medieval church brass

A UNITED States museum accused of harbouring a "stolen" medieval church brass believes Suffolk people were content with a deal negotiated 15 years ago.

A UNITED States museum accused of harbouring a "stolen" medieval church brass believes Suffolk people were content with a deal negotiated 15 years ago.

The brass, showing a member of the prominent Colby family, was removed from St Laurence Church at Brundish, near Stradbroke, at some time before the 1950s.

It was discovered in the early 1980s in a collection held by the Museum of Art in Philadelphia and, following an intervention by the Monumental Brass Society in the UK, a formal request was made for its return.

The parochial church council at Brundish later accepted a deal whereby the original would stay in the museum and a copy would be made for the church.


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However, calls have recently been made by US descendants of the Colby family for the original to be returned to its proper home.

Norman Keys, spokesman for the Philadelphia museum, said that an inquiry about the return of the brass had been made in 1988 when the issue was investigated.

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"We came to an amicable agreement at the time and thought the matter was settled," he said.

If a further request was received it would be dealt with on a "one step at a time" basis.

Villagers at Brundish and descendants of the Colby family have expressed their dismay that the original brass is not even on display in the museum, being stored in the vaults.

But Mr Keys said that might not always be the case. "The display is always changing," he said.

Gerald Western, churchwarden at Brundish, said the parochial church council would be discussing the question of whether to make a renewed request for the brass to be returned.

"Times and attitudes have changed. We have new people on the church council and we have been encouraged that some of the Colby descendants wish the brass to be returned," he said.

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