Description: Cavetto-canted rectangle with arched top; astragal and cavetto edging (top and sides); pictorial; back-to-back figures of a bearded man and a woman in a poke bonnet, both dressed in tunics, their arms raised, respectively left and right; they are chained to a vertical pole; below, flames issue from vertically stacked logs, while smoke rises above them; the physical proportions of the figures are naïve, the man’s eyes being over-large, as are the hands of both.
Notes: The design is a free adaptation of an illustration from The Book of Martyrs by John Foxe (1563), a copy from a back originally noted at Brick Cottage, Burwash, Sussex, in 1871. This may be the design of fireback referred to in an enquiry printed in the St James's Chronicle, or British Evening Post, of 9 August 1788, which described it as 'having two Bishops burning at Stakes thereon' at a house in Warwickshire. At an auction sale in 2017 the same design of fireback was interpreted as the burning of Bishops Latimer and Ridley in 1555. Protestants were burnt to death at several Wealden locations as well as elsewhere in the south-east of England during the reign of Mary I, notably at Canterbury and Lewes. The subject of the fireback should be regarded as symbolic rather than commemorating any individual martyrs.
Copies of this fireback are known.
- Decoration tags:
- cavetto-canted arched rectangular (shape)
- astragal with cavetto (edging)
- whole carved pattern
Manufactured: in the late 16th to early 17th century in the Weald area of England.
Current location: Anne of Cleves House, Southover High Street, Lewes, East Sussex, England.
Museum number: LH000.903 (part of the Sussex Archaeological Society museum group)
Citation: Butterfield, W. R., 1916, 'Old Wealden Firebacks', The Connoisseur, 46, pp. 197-209.
Citation: Dawson, C., 1903, 'Sussex Iron Work and Pottery', Sussex Archaeological Collections, 46, pp. 1-54.
Citation: Hodgkinson, J. & Quinn, P., Dec 2013, 'The Two Martyrs Fireback: Further comments ...', Sussex Past and Present, 131, p. 8.
Citation: Hodgkinson, J. S., 2010, British Cast-Iron Firebacks of the 16th to Mid-18th Centuries (Crawley, Hodgers Books).
Citation: Hodgkinson, J. S., 2012, 'Pre-Restoration Iron Firebacks', Journal of the Antique Metalware Society, 20, pp. 2-15.
Citation: Paine, C., Aug 2013, 'Mystery of the Two Martyrs', Sussex Past and Present, 130, pp. 6-7.
Citation: Straker, E., 1931, Wealden Iron (London, Bell).
- Attached to series:
- Commemorative firebacks