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Raedwald again

Basil Brown’s work at Sutton Hoo, on secondment from Ipswich Museum, began in summer 1938 and reached “Mound One” today in 1939. In time, he explored the many mounds on that site, one of which probably includes the remains of Raedwald, King of East Anglia to about 624 and Bretwalda of England from 616. Raedwald, of the Wuffing dynasty, was a Christian convert and his collateral descendants fed into the House of Wessex and their successors from 1154.

Here are some pictures from The Cricketers, Ipswich, about Raedwald, his family and his times:

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THE EARLS IN THE TENNIS COURT: A VISIT TO BISHAM ABBEY

Bisham Abbey was the burial place of the Earls of Salisbury, and also Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, the ‘Kingmaker’ and his unfortunate grandson Edward of Warwick, executed on a trumped-up charge by Henry VII. The Abbey was destroyed in the Reformation, and on the grounds now stands the National Sports Centre, where many professional athletes train. However, it is less known that it is not just a sports centre but a hotel too, and that although the priory buildings are gone, the medieval manor house still remains.

The house is very striking–and what a history! It was first built and owned by the Knights Templar, passing into the hands of King Edward II when the order was dissolved. Elizabeth, the wife of Robert the Bruce, was kept in captivity there for a while, along with  the Bruce’s daughter, the tragic young Marjorie.

Later, in 1335, William Montacute, Earl of Salisbury purchased the building. He founded a priory that stood alongside the manor house, and he and many of his descendants and their spouses were buried there. Burials in the priory include:

  • William Montacute, 1st Earl of Salisbury & 3rd Baron Montacute, d.1344 along with Catherine, his wife.
  • William Montacute.  2nd Earl of Salisbury, d.1397
  • William, d.1379/83, son of William Montacute, 2nd Earl of Salisbury
  • John Montacute. 3rd Earl of Salisbury, d.1400 along with Maud his wife
  • Thomas Montacute. 4th Earl of Salisbury, d.1428 and his two wives. He and his three-tier monument (as described in his will) can be seen depicted in the east window of Bisham Church.
  • Richard Neville.  5th Earl of Salisbury, d.1460 (aftermath Battle of Wakefield)
  • Sir Thomas, d.1460, son of Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury (Battle of Wakefield)
  • John Neville, d.1471, Marquis of Montague and Earl of Northumberland (Battle of Barnet)
  • Richard Neville “Warwick the Kingmaker”, d.1471, 6th Earl of Salisbury and 16th Earl of Warwick (Battle of Barnet)
  • Prince Edward, 8th Earl of Salisbury & 18th Earl of Warwick, d.1499, son of Prince George, Duke of Clarence (executed)
  • Arthur Pole, son of Richard Pole & Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, 1539

Margaret Pole, tragic daughter of George of Clarence and Isabel Neville, also lived at Bisham for a while, and a dovecote, still standing, is thought to have been raised by her.

The priory church was completely destroyed in the Reformation, although some of the cloister remains attached to the side of the manor house. Judging by its position, this would place the east end of the priory church, with its high status burials,  somewhere under the modern tennis courts. So  the Kingmaker and his relatives lie snugly under tarmac, much as Richard III lay in the buried remnants of Greyfriars.  If there was ever a move to locate them, it would be quite easy to identify the remains; if autosomal DNA could be extracted, they all should have close similarity to Richard (the 5th Earl being his uncle, and the Kingmaker being a cousin, and Edward of Warwick should share Richard’s Y-Dna through George, as well as a lot of autosomal DNA). Several of the skeletons should also show battle wounds, and several evidence of beheading.

Although the priory site has been obliterated, part of two tombs have, in fact, survived–although they are not in Bisham. In the tiny, sleepy village of Burghfield,  a few miles outside Reading, the broken effigy of Richard Neville, 5th earl of Salisbury lies in the porch next to a lady who is NOT his wife but most likely one of his ancestors. Records from the 1600’s describe how Salisbury’s effigy was ‘dragged to Newbury  by wild horses’! How it ended up in Burghfield is unknown but it seems the local lord had some Neville ancestry, so he may have rescued it because of that. Although the face seems to have been mutilated, Salisbury’s effigy shows a great deal of fine craftmanship and must have been very spectacular in its day.

Top left: Salisbury’s effigy, Burghfield; Top right. The tennis court where the burial most likely lie. The rest: Views of the manor house, including the cloister.

 

Evidence found of another siege

This one was at Edinburgh Castle in 1296, as the conclusion of Edward I’s campaign. In late April, his army was victorious at Dunbar, then James the Steward (Robert II’s grandfather) surrendered Roxburgh Castle. John Balliol fled north but was captured and deposed by July.

This article explains a little more about the siege, including the find of a stone projectile on the site, as a Virgin Hotel is proposed for part of Cowgate.

MORE WORK ON ANCIENT DNA

Last year,  ancient DNA was in the headlines  when it was determined  the ‘Beaker People’ who arrived in Britain c 4500 years ago, genetically replaced 90% of the previous population. At that time, studies were saying that the ‘Steppe Ancestry’ found in these people was not found in the Beaker population of Spain, long thought to be the earliest area of  the ‘Beaker package’ and probably the dispersal area into the British Isles. So this changed what seemed to be an emerging picture of a more western origin, as well as the possible source of the highly dominant Y-DNA R1b in these areas.

However, a newer more region specific study has shown that the same Steppe ancestry is indeed found in the Spanish Beaker population, and also that they became genetically dominant in that region in a relatively short time, exactly as happened in Britain. (In other areas, such as central Europe, they became more blended into the earlier populations.)

In fact, the new story is eerily familiar and leads back to what was suspected–that the west Atlantic coast was a corridor for much trade and migration, and perhaps the dispersal of early Proto-Celtic languages. The main difference is that the Beaker culture is now looking to have arisen in central Europe with the blending of Steppe migrants and other local groups, and then spread out in several directions, including Spain, with arrival in Britain coming from BOTH from the Low Countries and Germany and from the western Atlantic seaboard.

The study of DNA in both ancient and medieval examples is certain throwing up many surprises; new work on the remains from the Tudor ‘Mary Rose’  shipwreck also showed that amongst the sailors were several North Africans and a Spaniard.

The stories coded within our genes from time immemorial will eventually be told.

 

ANCIENT SPANISH DNA

 

Beaker Europe

beaker

Fulham Palace, once the summer residence of the Bishops of London….

Fulham Palace

“….With archaeological evidence of Neolithic, Iron Age and Roman settlers and the foundations of a medieval palace under the East Lawn, the present site of Fulham Palace is steeped in history….” This is how the website for the palace commences a description of the site’s history.

The palace was home to bishops for fewer than twelve centuries, and since Tudor times has been the summer residence of the Bishops of London.

As a matter of interest, the nearby manor of Pallenswick or Palingswick (still commemorated in the name of Paddenswick Road, but the estate is now known as Ravenscroft Park, see https://www.lbhf.gov.uk/arts-and-parks/parks-and-open-spaces/ravenscourt-park) was once given by Edward III to his notoriously avaricious mistress, Alice Perrers, who was perhaps not a worthy neighbour of the Bishops of London!

The website is very interesting, and if London’s historic buildings are something which engrosses you, I recommend a visit

The present Fulham Palace, dating from 1495

The website mentioned above also gives details of events arranged for 2019, and on Easter Sunday, tomorrow, there are:-

“….Garden Walks. The gardens of Fulham Palace have a long history and are home to an array of interesting and unusual trees. They have been famous since the days of Bishop Grindal, who sent grapes to Elizabeth I, and were largely influenced by Bishop Compton, a great collector of plants. Learn about the trees and how they came to be here, view the new vinery and hear about the progress so far and the future plans for the historic kitchen garden.

.”Tickets £6 per person (accompanied children free), booking is not required. Visit our What’s On page for upcoming tour dates. Meet 2pm in the museum. Bishop’s Park Tours FREE. If you are interested in the history of Bishop’s Park, join us for our free guided walk of Bishop’s Park. Tickets are free, booking essential. Meet 2pm at the Putney Bridge Entrance to Bishops Park….”

“….Springtime at the Palace. Best of all, there is fun for the children! Suitable for ages 3+ N.B. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Free; no booking necessary. This event takes place across the Palace and Garden. Celebrate all things springtime at this Easter Sunday family activity day, with seasonal storytelling, creative crafts, Easter trails and a host of fun-filled activities….”

A good time waits for one and all!

History in Peril: The Carved Cave at Royston

Beneath the street in the little town of Royston lies an unusual cave filled with medieval carvings that appear to date mainly from the 14thc, although some may vary. Discovered only in the late 18th century, Royston Cave has been ascribed to pagan cults and to the Knights Templar–however, I think, much more prosaically, it was probably a hermit’s cell or, as has been suggested, connected in some way with the nearby Augustinian Priory. Whatever the case, it is full of mysterious and evocative carvings, including  the Holy Family, St Lawrence with the gridiron that killed him, a St Michael (or George)  with an impressive sword, and a very fine crowned St Katherine. The carvings were at one time painted; in the 1800’s traces remained of yellow in Katherine’s dress and flecks of red paint on the Holy Family. Niches in the wall below the figures would have contained candles or lanterns.

Sadly, this ancient and evocative cave  has now been placed on the ‘at risk’ register with Historic England, as water is seeping from the street above and causing noticeable new damage to the carvings. An earlier infestation of worms that caused erosion of the figures was successfully eradicated several years back.

The owner is hoping that bringing attention to the latest plight will enable restoration work and new repairs and conservation work to be done.

Hopefully, this will happen in the near future, and perhaps an upside of the added publicity might be easier, more frequent access to the cave. At present it is only open for a few hours on a few select days per week, mainly during the summer months.

ROYSTON CAVE

ROYSTON

London: 2000 years of history (channel 5)

Who let Dan Jones out? At least, as in his last outing, he is accompanied both by a historian (Suzannah Lipscomb) and an engineer (Rob Bell), narrating and illustrating almost two millennia of the city’s past.

In the first episode, we were taken through the walled city of “Londinium” being built and rebuilt after Boudicca’s revolt. Whilst Bell showed us the Kent stone from which the original Tower was built, we were told about the Ampitheatre and the remains, near Spitalfields, that include the “Lamb Street Teenager” and the slaves that helped to build the city, strategically located on the Thames. Some archaeology has resulted from the building of Crossrail.
As Roman Britain ended and the Anglo-Saxons arrived, their original city (“Londonwych”) was on a smaller scale. Viking raids followed and Alfred moved the city inside the Roman walls as “Londonburgh”, as broken glass and pottery found near Covent Garden testifies, with the previous entity further east now being known as Aldwych. Although the Vikings took the city, Ethelred II reconquered it and destroyed London Bridge as well.
The programme finished with William I’s coronation on Christmas Day 1066, followed by his rebuilding of the Tower with Norman stone, not to be confused with this historian, with the domes later added by Henry VIII.

The second episode showed us Westminster Abbey, later to be rebuilt at great expense by  Henry III, in a smaller city then separate from London, where every coronation since Harold II has taken place, followed by Westminster Hall, where Wallace, Fawkes and Charles I were all sentenced to death. Half of the evolving city’s population fell victim to the Black Death, after which Richard Whittington, younger son of a Gloucestershire knight, really did serve as Mayor three or four times under Richard II and Henry IV. The population then increased exponentially to the days of the wealthy Cardinal Wolsey, who built Whitehall Palace before falling from Henry VIII’s favour, so Henry and his successors occupied it from 1530 until the fire of 1698. This part ended with Elizabeth I knighting Drake aboard the Golden Hind.

Week three covered the Great Fire, which the trio had previously examined in much greater detail, although they did mention Pepys’ description, the probable origin in a Monument Lane bakery, the timber-framed buildings of the old city and the easterly wind that spread the fire. Although we can see the new St. Paul’s today, Wren’s original plan for the area was even more radical, featuring a Glasgow-style grid of streets. London then expanded to the west for merchants and their imports via the Thames, whilst the poor stayed in the east where gin was popular. In the nineteenth century, industrialisation caused the city’s population to rise rapidly, although smog became a factor.
London Bridge became the city’s first rail terminus, in 1836, before Euston was built and Paddington was soon added to serve Brunel’s Great Western lines. The steep hills of Hampstead were overcome through a man-made valley, as Bell showed by visiting the abandoned Highgate station, allowing London to expand to the north. Poor water hygiene caused a cholera outbreak, which Bazalgette’s civil engineering solved with pumping stations, sewers and the reclaiming of land. Heavy traffic then necessitated the strengthening of the ancient bridges. The reclaimed land (Embankment) and Great Fire site (Monument) are both remembered on the Underground map.

The series concluded by pointing out that road congestion was quite possibly worse in 1860 than it is now, as trains were banned from running within two miles of the epicentre at street level. The solution was to run them underground, with the Metropolitan line being started first by “cut and cover” and the Northern line, authentically bored, to follow. Residents moved out of the first engineered areas to the east, leaving Shoreditch and Whitechapel overcrowded with twice the mortality level of London as a whole. By 1890, the capital had five million residents and Charles Booth’s “poverty map” highlighted a quarter of these, with the worst cases in the East End, where “Jack the Ripper” preyed on some of them. From the maps, living conditions were addressed and the worst slums demolished. Following Edward VII’s accession in January 1901, recognisable modern buildings such as Admiralty Arch, the MI5 building and the War Office arose. Visitors could stay in hotels such as the Savoy and shop at Selfridges as we can do today. Suffragettes were active before the First World War, during which they suspended their activities and many worked in armaments manufacture, for instance at the Royal Ordnance factory known as the Woolwich Arsenal.
Air warfare came to London with Zeppelin bombs in 1915. In the remainder of the conflict, there were thirty raids killing forty thousand people, including thirty children at Poplar in 1917. Armistice Day was followed by the “Spanish ‘flu”, which was generally three times as deadly as the war itself, with some 20,000 deaths in London alone. In the following years, houses were built along the expanded Metropolitan Lane, taking in towns such as Pinner and Harrow, and advertised in a “Metroland” magazine to raise the population to 8.6 million. The Blitz brought the Second World War to London a year after the start but, importantly, after the corrugated tin structures known as Anderson shelters were made available. It happened on fifty-seven consecutive nights in the first instance and a total of two million homes were damaged or destroyed. Replacing these and housing Commonwealth immigration from 1948 was hampered by the Green Belt so that London could no longer expand outwards, only upwards. As freight expanded, containers could no longer fit into the Thames so the docks were less busy from the sixties, in favour of more coastal ports. However, Docklands regeneration was initiated in the eighties as the City was pushed eastwards to Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs. In a further effort to relieve congestion, the great Crossrail project opens later this year with twenty six miles of new tunnels, forty-two metres below ground, providing a unique archaeological opportunity to view London’s past.

In conclusion, it is possible to enjoy a history programme with Dan Jones, so long as he has at least two colleagues and cannot simply indulge his prejudices against particular figures. The second half of the series was more a social and economic history, which is a further restraint.

Excavations at Bath Abbey

In 1485, there were 22 monks residing at Bath Abbey, the place where Edgar was crowned ‘King of the English’ in 973 AD. However, the abbey was in decline and by 1499, when Bishop Oliver King visited it, to his shock the building was ruinous. King began a rebuilding project, making it the last great medieval religious building erected in England.

Unfortunately, from this time forward there were upwards of 4000 burials placed beneath the  floor, which has caused it, in modern times, to sink and become unstable, with large craters and gaps forming underneath through subsidence. Archaeologists have therefore been called in to excavate in anticipation of repairing and consolidating the dangerous floor.

BODIESUNDERBATHABBEY

Besides human remains and coffins from the 1500’s to Victorian times, they have also uncovered beautiful and well-preserved floor tiles from the earlier medieval abbey. These date to the 12th or 13th C and the colours  are still remarkably vivid and bright.

BATHABBEYTILESARTICLE/PIX

tilesatBath

Did we children ever find buried treasure….?

a-group-of-delighted-children-climb-a-tree-in-sefton-park-1960s

Hoards of buried treasure are found fairly regularly, or so it seems, and when I recently saw a photograph of the Cuerdale hoard of Viking silver, dug from the bank of the River Ribble near Preston, Lancashire, it struck me that many of the items are so small and seemingly insignificant that if they had been found on their own, they might not have been recognised for what they were. But they were found in a hoard, and so granted the importance they deserve. The hoard is now in the British Museum.

Cuerdale Hoard - a selection of what was found

The Cuerdale Hoard – a selection of what was found. Now in the British Museum.

It really made me think back to my childhood in the 1940s and 1950s, when children were much freer than they are now. My friends and I went everywhere without supervision. I went for miles on my own, with a few sandwiches, and told only to be “back in time for tea”. I always returned at the correct time, but in the meantime I had rambled or cycled in all sorts of places that today would most certainly be out of bounds. Modern Health & Safety authorities would implode at the mere thought!

old RAF camp - 1

Disused military camp

For instance, I can recall abandoned quarries, the shores of Lough Erne, a deserted saw mill (complete with all the rusty machinery), a German forest just after WW2, farms, disused RAF stations, riverbanks, up dangerously dead trees, into tunnels, down holes, up huge piles of parachutes in a hangar, falling in ponds, being chased by huge dogs, scrumping apples, getting stuck in a collapsed air-raid shelter, wandering and climbing over bomb-damaged buildings and sites, and running down dark alleys after nightfall.

old machinery - 1

We even bought fireworks with our pocket money, and then lit them in the street! It was what we did, and I don’t remember anyone ever coming to any harm. We were trusted, and we obeyed instructions.

guy-fawkes-night

We were absolutely all over the place; scruffy, happy and exhausted at the end of the day. But we were also respectful, and a threat to “Tell your Dad!” really put the frighteners up us, even though my father had never laid a finger on me.

So, what is the point of all this reminiscing? Well, while we were scrambling under hedges, investigating rusty old farm machinery, dumped vehicles, and so on, we often came upon things. By that I mean, for example, a wonky ring of dark metal that didn’t seem to belong to anything. In short, something that I now think looked like one of the items from the Cuerdale hoard. It often happened. We’d find something, examine it, decide it was rubbish, and throw it away. Just what treasures might have suffered this fate? Did we ever come close to a hidden hoard? What might we have dug up so unknowingly from among the roots of an ancient hedge?

Oh, it hardly bears thinking about. That yearned-for time machine would come in handy to take us back to such moments. We could then take a second look, and shout, “Don’t chuck it away! Take it to your Dad or your local museum! Just in case.”

Treasure-Hunt

 

The inspiration for Richard III’s rosary….

The following article and extract are from Nerdalicious:

 

“ ‘In the nineteenth century the Clare Cross was found in the castle ruins. It’s actually a reliquary, containing a fragment of the True Cross, and it was probably made soon after 1450  so probably it belonged to Richard III’s mother. For that reason, when I got an agreement from Leicester Cathedral for a rosary to be buried with Richard III I chose a quite large, black wooden rosary which I bought years ago, when I was a student at the University of East Anglia, in Norwich. Then I had the cross and the central link replaced by George Easton (who made Richard III’s funeral crown for me too). George copied the Clare Cross for me, to replace the original crucifix, and he also made an enamelled white rose (like the ones he made for Richard’s crown) to replace the central link. A white rose is the symbol of the house of York, of course, but it’s also a symbol of the Virgin Mary, who is at the centre of the prayers of the rosary.’ “

 

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