Brass Crosby

CROSBY, Rt Hon. Brass 1725-1793. Politician. MP for Honiton from 1768 until 1774, Brass Crosby owed his unusual forename to his mother, née Mary Brass. When elected Lord Mayor of London in September 1770, he declared that at the risk of his life he would protect the citizens of London in their just rights and privileges. Almost immediately he denied entry to the City to press-gangs intent on forcibly enlisting men into the army or navy. When in February 1771 the printers of certain London journals were charged by the Commons with breach of privilege for publishing accounts of parliamentary debates, Crosby refused to allow the warrants for their arrest to be executed within the City. Still an MP himself, Crosby was charged with breach of privilege by the House of Commons. In March 1771 he was committed to the Tower of London where he remained until the parliamentary session ended in May. On his release he was escorted back to the Mansion House in triumphal procession. He received the thanks of the Corporation and a valuable cup for having supported ‘the liberties of the corporation, and for having defended the constitution’. During his mayoralty an obelisk was erected at the centre of St George’s Circus in Southwark, to which position it has recently been restored. A portrait of him can be seen in the Guildhall Art Gallery, and his courageous example has since inspired many to be ‘as bold as Brass’.

From 1756 Brass Crosby was a resident of Dulwich, and his name is listed in the College Rent Tables until 1786, although he probably sub-let his property after 1775. Blanch informs us, in ‘Ye Parish of Camerwell’, that Crosby’s departure from Dulwich followed his having ‘married a great deal of money’. He was married three times, his third wife, who survived him, being the daughter of James Maud, a wealthy London wine merchant. Crosby’s house, with nearly 16 acres of land, was situated on the south side of Ireland Green (now Half Moon Lane), almost exactly on the site of what is now the Judith Kerr Primary School. Brass Crosby died in 1793, and was buried in Chelsfield Church near Orpington, where a monument commemorates him.

Hilary Rosser and Patrick Darby