Brass Crosby became Lord of the Manor of Chelsfield in 1772, on his marriage to Mary Tattersall. She had inherited the Manor from her father, James Maud. Brass Crosby is important for championing freedom of the press in the eighteenth century, for which he was briefly imprisoned. Many believe the phrase “bold as brass” refers to his actions. He lived at Court Lodge from 1772 to 1793, spending six months of the year in Chelsfield and six months in London. There is a blue plaque on Church Road commemorating him. He was born in Stockton on Tees in 1725, the son of Hercules Crosby who had married Mary Brass. He trained as an attorney and came to London to practice, where he eventually became Alderman (1765) and Lord Mayor (1770). He was a staunch defender of the freedoms of the citizens of the City of London. “Press gangs” were in use at the time to press men into armed service for wars abroad. Crosby declared that this infringed the liberties of his citizens, as enshrined in the ancient charters of London, and he advocated voluntary enlistment with a bonus to willing volunteers. At this time, it was a breach of Parliamentary privilege to publish parliamentary debates. Despite this, debates were often published using false names or formats to disguise their origin. In 1771 the House of Commons sought to take legal action against printers who had dared to print the names of MPs. When the printers were brought before Crosby and two other magistrates, they released the printers, and imprisoned the parliamentary officer for wrongful arrest. The Commons then ordered Crosby to the House of Commons, where he argued that their warrant could not be executed in the City. They committed him to the Tower. He was eventually released, to great popular acclaim, and became a hero for his actions. For those interested in constitutional history, there is a transcription of the original judgment handed down by the Lord Chief Justice and his colleagues on the University of Chicago website. After stating that “the case seems so very clear to us all, that we have no reason for delay”, the justices set out some very extended reasoning before agreeing to execute the Commons writ and remand the Lord Mayor to the Tower. There is a detailed account of the story of Brass Crosby in “Half Lights on Chelsfield Court Lodge” by A Theodore Brown, whose mother, Susanna Crawford, lived at Court Lodge. Crosby was a Justice of the Peace, but did not serve as Churchwarden or in any other parish office. Brass Crosby died in 1793 and was buried in Chelsfield churchyard in the same grave as James Maud. The memorial in the church to James Maud also commemorates Mary. The inscription reads: “To the Memory of JAMES MAUD ESQr Lord of the Manor of Chelsfield Who died July 19th 1769. This Monument was erected By his only Daughter MARY CROSBY Relict of the late ALDERMAN CROSBY. She died Octr 6th 1800 And in a Vault underneath Her Remains with theirs Are United.” Mary died in 1800, and left the Manor and Court Lodge to her cousins, George and Frederick Morland. The 2006 extension of St Martins is named after Brass Crosby, and the room contains two picture panels giving information about his life.
Chelsfield A Community Archive
Brass Crosby
The monument to Brass Crosby in St Martins Church. The inscription reads,”erected to his memory by his surviving sisters, Susannah married to Cuthbert Sharpe Esq. of Sunderland; Elizabeth married to Wm. Brooks Esq. of Kingland; and Jane who married 1st. Vinus Hodgkinson Esq. 2nd. A. Logan Esq. of Durham.
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