‘As Bold as Brass’ – The life of Brass Crosby
Brass Crosby was born in Stockton to Hercules and Mary Crosby in 1725. His unusual christian name was in fact his mothers surname before she married Hercules.
After a good education locally, Brass went to Sunderland to work for a solicitor, and then to London to seek fame and fortune.
He served several years as an attorney, in rapid succession becoming Sheriff of the City of London, Alderman of Bread Street Ward, MP for Honiton, and in 1770 was elected as Lord Mayor of London, and Chief Magistrate. When sworn in as Lord Mayor he assured his fellow citizens that ‘at the risk of his life he would protect them in their just rights and privileges.’
In 1771 a newspaper printer called Miller published the proceedings of Parliament, illegally using MP’s real names throughout the description of the debates. Miller was arrested and brought before Brass Crosby for sentencing. Crosby refused to sentence him, saying that the citizens had the right to know what those who represented them and made their laws were saying. Brass Crosby was brought before Parliament, who would not accept this decision. He argued that London Charters granted him the role of protecting the rights of the people, and that it was his first duty. He was sentenced to imprisonment in the Tower of London.
Whilst he was in the Tower there were rallies in support of Crosby and his actions, not only throughout London, but around the whole Country. When he was released 6 weeks later there was great jubilation – bonfires were lit, there was a 21-gun salute and his carriage was escorted by 53 others.
From that day on, verbatim reports of the House of Commons debates have been published.
This is where the famous saying ‘As bold as Brass’ originates because Brass Crosby had the courage to stand up to the parliament of the day. Brass Crosby died after a short illness on 14 February 1793, at his house in Chatham Place, Blackfriars Bridge aged 68. He was buried in Chelsfield Church, near Orpington, Kent, where a monument was erected to his memory.