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Why bury a chest of books….?

Here is a puzzle, circa 1400. Why would a usurped king’s half-brother bury a chest of books in the ground at the church in his Devon estate? The usurped king was Richard II, the half-brother John Holand, Earl of Huntingdon (had been Duke of Exeter), the Devon estate Dartington.

Dartington - for Chest of Books buzz

This was just before Holand joined the Epiphany Rising against Richard’s murderer and usurper, Henry IV – a rebellion he, Holand, did not survive. The titles of the books are not known, but apparently the key to the chest is still in existence.

JH'S CHEST OF BOOKS

The 15th century tower is all that remains of the church, which is adjacent to Dartington Hall, only a few steps from Holand’s private apartments in the main house.

I learned of this strange activity in “William called Long Will” by Michael Bennett:-

“More intriguingly, he [Holland] was the owner of a chest full of books that, prior to the conspiracy that led to his execution in 1400, he hid in the ground in Dartington church.63

63The titles of the books are not recorded. The label to the key to the chest is extant in the exchequer records (Clavis de quadam cista plena diversis libris qui fuerunt Iohannis nuper comitis de Huntingdon in terra absconditur in ecclesia de Dartyngton in comitatu Devonie): Kew, TNA, E 101/699/25.”

If anyone has any ideas – other than Holand’s desire to prevent the books from falling into other hands – please comment. It doesn’t seem that he buried other valuables at the same time, just the books.

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One thought on “Why bury a chest of books….?

  1. viscountessw on said:

    This article was written several months ago, and having just returned from another stay at Dartington Hall, I can honestly say that I searched inside and outside the isolated church tower, wondering if John Holand buried more than the single chest of books. What other 14th-century treasure might still be there, awaiting discovery? Well, not for me a Philippa Langley “R” moment. Nothing leapt up at me and said “Search here!”

    Like

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