About Frances Roberts
"1560.-And the XXth daye of July Francys my wyffe departyd thys worlld, whoes solle God pardon, who was dawghter and eyre unto Rychard Wells of Ware, esquyer, and lefte IIIJ chillderyne alyve, whome Jhu' send grace to lyve in thys worlld to hys pleasor, and she was buryd in Wyllesdon churche the XXVth of July, beyng sent James daye, 1560. God have mersy on her solle, I beseche Jhu'. Amen."
The last brass is that of "The Lady Unknown" - Frances Welles (1560) The kneeling figure wears a "Mary Queen of Scots" cap with a long lappet hanging down behind. She has a straight mantle with a plain collar which is held together by small bows at the front. From its puffed and slashed shoulders, false sleeves hang almost to the ground. The sleeves are close fitting and have small frills at the wrists. Behind her, in contemporary costume, kneel two boys and four girls. They are all wearing the costume of the age.
In his book on Church Brasses Dr A C Bouquet refers to this brass as "the Lady Unknown" and suggests that it may be "from the same workshop as the Saunder brass of 1553 at Charlwood in Surrey and other similar memorials". He also records the story that it was dug up in St. Mary's churchyard in 1923. However, according to a covering letter from H. Burton (son of Rev. Robert William Burton, Vicar of St. Mary's during the 1852 restoration) to Rev. James Dixon, the brass was returned to St. Mary's from Bournemouth by parcel post in 1917. It looks as if the Rev. Burton took the Brass with him when he retired, as a souvenir of his time at Willesden.
In 1923 it was fixed to a board inside the church, and later kept in a muniment chest in the clergy vestry. When the church was restored in 1964 it was taken out and set in the Chancel with the other brasses.
Not until 1983 was the unknown lady identified. Ken Valentine noticed the similarity between Frances Wells (d. 1560) and the unknown figure in terms of dress, date, and the number and sex of her children, and suggested that when, much later, the large "Edmund Roberts" brass was engraved, this small brass depicting only Frances and her children could have been put aside as superfluous. If this identification is correct, the first of the two boys kneeling behind their mother is Francis Roberts christened in 1551 at Royston, who near the end of his long life founded a charity for the poor of Willesden; his grandson and heir Roberts (1604-62) was knighted in 1624 and became one of Oliver Cromwell's most trusted administrators during the Commonwealth period. The other figures on the brass will then represent Francis' younger brother Thomas (who died young) and their four sisters Catherine, Mary (died young), another Mary and Elizabeth. Most of these younger children of Frances were either born at Neasden or christened in Willesden church.
Source: St. Mary's Church, Willesden