Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Faussett, Bryan

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FAUSSETT, BRYAN (1720–1776), antiquary, born on 30 Oct. 1720 at Heppington, near Canterbury, was the eldest of the thirteen children of Bryan Faussett of Staplehurst, Kent, by his wife Mary, daughter of Henry Godfrey of Heppington and Lydd. He was educated at a Kentish grammar school and at University College, Oxford, where he was known as ‘the handsome commoner.’ At Oxford he endeavoured to organise a volunteer corps in aid of the cause of Prince Charles Edward in 1745–6, and his father convened secret meetings of the Jacobite gentry at Heppington. Faussett graduated B.A. 1742, M.A. 1745, and was elected fellow of All Souls as of founder's kin to Archbishop Chichele. He was ordained in 1746, and from 1748 to 1750 held the living of Abberbury in Shropshire. From 1750 he lived for some time at Street-end House, near Heppington, without clerical duties. Writing to his friend Dr. Ducarel in 1764, he says that he is sorry he ever took orders. Towards the close of his life Archbishop Secker gave him the rectory of Monk's Horton and the perpetual curacy of Nackington, both in Kent. In 1762 he was elected fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. From about 1750 he had devoted special attention to antiquities, chiefly Anglo-Saxon. He was a good herald and genealogist, and is stated to have visited every church in Kent, copying all the monuments and armorial windows. His papers were used by Hasted for his ‘History of Kent.’ Hasted describes him as ‘living entirely rusticated at Heppington’ (Nichols, Lit. Illustr. iv. 649). Faussett formed a collection of more than five thousand Roman and English coins. This was sold at Sotheby's on 3 Dec. 1853. The prices realised were not high (Southeby, Sale Catalogue). He had melted down his duplicates, to the weight of 150 lbs., into a bell inscribed ‘Audi quid tecum loquitur Romana vetustas—Ex ære Romano me conflari fecit B. F. A. S. S. 1766.’ He began his well-known excavations in Kentish barrows, chiefly of the Anglo-Saxon period, in 1757 at Tremworth Down, Crundale. He afterwards went to work at Gilton, where he opened 106 graves during eleven days in 1760, 1762, and 1763, and at Kingston Down, where he opened 308 graves between August 1767 and August 1773. From 1771 to 1773 he also explored 336 graves at Bishop's Bourne, Sibertswold, Barfriston Down, Beakesbourne, and Chartham Down. Faussett made pecuniary sacrifices in order to excavate, and superintended the opening of barrows with ‘almost boyish enthusiasm.’ He kept a journal of his operations, minutely recording each grave's contents. This was edited by Mr. C. Roach Smith from the original manuscript in the possession of Mr. J. Mayer, and published with notes and engravings in 1856 (London, 4to) as ‘Inventorium Sepulchrale.’ From the numerous antiquities found by him, Faussett formed a collection which was especially rich in Anglo-Saxon objects of personal adornment, such as fibulæ (including the ‘Kingston fibula’ of gold, garnets, and turquoises; Invent. Sepulchr. pl. i. and pp. 77, 78), pendent ornaments (e.g. gold drops set with garnets), beads, buckles, &c. After Faussett's death this collection remained almost unknown till it was exhibited in 1844 at the Archæological Association's meeting at Canterbury by its owner, Dr. Godfrey Faussett, grandson of Bryan Faussett. In August 1853 Dr. G. Faussett's son Bryan offered it for sale to the British Museum, when it was unwisely declined by the trustees. Some outcry was raised in archæological circles without effect (see C. R. Smith, Collectanea Ant. iii. 179–192, ‘The Faussett Collection;’ Gent. Mag. 1854, new ser. xlii. 605). In 1855 the collection was bought by Mr. Joseph Mayer, and is now in the museum at Liverpool. During the last twenty years of his life Faussett suffered from gout. He died at his seat at Heppington on 10 Jan. 1776. There is a monument to him in Nackington Church, Kent. He married Elizabeth, daughter of the Rev. Rowland Curtois of Hainton, Lincolnshire, and had by her two sons and a daughter. The eldest son, Henry Godfrey (b. 1749), helped his father in his excavations and succeeded to the estates.

[Faussett's Inventorium Sepulchrale and the memoir there in appendix I., by T. G. Faussett; Burke's Landed Gentry, 1886, i. 619; various references in Archæological Journal; C. R. Smith's Collect. Ant. iii. 179–92; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ix. 353–5; Nichols's Lit. Illustr. iii. 556, iv. 649–650, iv. 432, viii. 598; private information.]

W. W.