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TEN OF THE BEST MEDIEVAL ABBEYS IN BRITAIN.

We have lost so much over the centuries down to warfare, fire, wanton and quite senseless destruction.  Perhaps the most grievous loss has been that of our once magnificent Abbeys , which even in their ruinous states are still capable of moving us by their heartbreaking beauty, captured here in stunning and evocative photography Enjoy and maybe weep!

Note for my Ricardian friends.  It will be remembered  Rievaulx Abbey  has  been suggested as the possible burial place of Edward of Middleham, Richard and Anne’s small son,  being within easy reach of Middleham.

 

 

“Laboratory examination of possible royal bones moving ahead!”

If only that were the headline coming out of Westminster Abbey with regard to the infamous urn believed to contain the remains of Edward V and his brother Richard, Duke of York (aka “the Princes in the Tower”).  But, it’s not.  It’s from Winchester Cathedral, where – since 2015 – they have embarked on a project where skeletal remains are being analyzed with modern laboratory techniques.  The bones, some belonging to past English kings and a queen-consort, had been stored in Renaissance-era mortuary chests and placed near the high altar.  There could be as many as 12 individuals contained in them.

Westminster-urns

Westminster urn which tradition says contains the bones of the “Princes in the Tower”

 

We’ve all heard the arguments against testing the bones in Westminster:  It sets a precedent for widespread tomb-raiding.  The urn has multiple skeletons, making them indistinguishable. The amount of information gleaned would be minimal.  Royal bones deserve to be left alone.  None of these arguments dissuaded the Dean and Chapter of Winchester from pursuing historical truth and conservation.  The project, which will culminate in an exhibit (called “Kings and Scribes: The Birth of a Nation”) about the Cathedral’s Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman origins, involves opening the chests, taking an inventory of what’s inside, and having the contents analyzed.  So far, radiocarbon testing performed at the University of Oxford has confirmed that the bones come from the late Anglo-Saxon and early Norman periods.  More research on the bones will be carried out by the University of Bristol to determine their gender, age at death, and physical characteristics such as stature.

mortuary-chests

Mortuary chests at Winchester Cathedral thought to contain commingled royal bones.  Here, they have been moved to the Lady Chapel, in anticipation of analysis. (c) Winchester Cathedral

The chests are thought to contain the mortal remains of some of the early royal families of Wessex and of England, and three bishops, amongst other artefacts and mortal remains.  They include kings Cynegils (d.643), Cynewulf (d.786), Ecbert (d.839), Æthelwulf (d.858), Eadred (d.955), Edmund Ironside (d.1016), Cnut (d.1035) and William Rufus (d.1100). Also thought to be buried in the chests are Cnut’s wife Queen Emma (d.1052), Bishop Wini (d.670), Bishop Alfwyn (d.1047) and Archbishop Stigand (d.1072).  These individuals died and were buried in the Old Minster, but were re-interred when the present Winchester Cathedral was built over the Anglo-Saxon one.  Historical records indicate that their bones were placed in the mortuary chests around the high altar in the twelfth-century.  However, in 1642, at the beginning of the English Civil War, Parliamentarian troops entered the cathedral and toppled the chests in an act of sacrilege. The church officials, who had no way of knowing which bones belonged to who, simply placed them back in six Renaissance-era chests.  They have been opened several times since then, but with the advent of modern forensic laboratory tests, the Cathedral staff believed the interests of historical inquiry made a strong case for the project to proceed.

Let’s hope this may bode well for a change in the Abbey’s and monarch’s current position against disturbing the bones in the Urn, although it’s not likely.

For more information, see the Winchester Cathedral website http://www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk/2015/02/03/the-mortuary-chests/

Canute

Chest believed to contain the mortal remains of King Cnut, located in a high status place atop the Presbytery screen. The chest is from the Renaissance era (note the Tudor double-roses). (c) Winchester Cathedral

Edward III’s manor house at Rotherhithe….

EIII's manor house, Rotherhithe.

“King Edward III is remembered in history for starting the Hundred Years War, annexing large parts of France for England, as well as being the reigning king during the period of the Black Death. What he is infinitely less well-known for, is building a small royal residence at Rotherhithe in South East London, the remains of which can still be seen today.

“When the residence was constructed in around 1350, Rotherhithe was a small hamlet set in low lying marshland. The manor house itself was built upon a small island directly next to the River Thames and consisted of a range of stone buildings around a central courtyard.

“There was a moat on three sides of the complex, with the north side being completely open to the River Thames. This allowed the king to arrive by boat and at high tide to moor up against the steps that led from the river to a gatehouse located in a tower. There was also a hall with a large and imposing fireplace, the king’s private chambers, kitchens and other buildings. Further south, on drier land, was an outer court with other buildings surrounded by an earth bank.”

Taken from http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryMagazine/DestinationsUK/Edward-IIIs-Manor-House-Rotherhithe/  where more can be learned of this manor house.

 

Another eleventh century struggle

This article reveals the little-known sequel to the battle of Hastings. It took place in North Devon, between Appledore and Northam near Bideford, on 26 June 1069 and was led by Brian of Br_88394404_battlefieldbbcittany and Alan the Black for the Normans against Godwine and Edmund, sons of Harold II, for the Anglo-Saxon “resistance”. The result was very similar.
It seems that Harold’s teenage sons had taken refuge in Leinster after their defeat at Hastings and sailed back with a Dublin fleet supplied by Diarmait, king of that province. During 1069, when the “Harrying of the North” was in progress”, Edgar the Atheling was in exile at the Scottish court where his sister, Margaret of Wessex, married the widowed Malcolm III that year or the next. For the location, you should seek “Bloody Corner“.

Gytha (sister to Godwine and Edmund) is among Richard III’s ancestors, as are Malcolm, Margaret and Domnall mac Murchada (Diarmait’s successor).

The Battle of Barnet was a real Game of Thrones….!

battle-of-barnet

Things are afoot in Barnet to make more of their famous 15th-century battle, which they rightly regard as a real “Game of Thrones” because it featured three kings: Edward IV, Henry VI and the future Richard III.

 

‘RECENT INVESTIGATIONS REGARDING THE FATE OF THE PRINCES IN THE TOWER’ by L E Tanner and William Wright 1933

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Interior view of the Henry Vll Chapel by Giovanni Canaletto.  Henry’s tomb can be seen in the distance with the chapel housing the urn to the left.Tanner,-L.E.-after-Maundy-service-72.jpg

Lawrence E Tanner Keeper of the Muniments (1926-66)  Librarian, Westminster Abbey

Who could blame anyone, after reading Tanner and Wright’s report of their investigation into the infamous bones in the urn in the Henry Vll Chapel in Westminster Abbey,  for concluding that both the gentleman may have believed the bones in the urn were, indeed, those of Edward’s IVs sons, Edward Prince of Wales  and Richard of Shrewsbury.  Tanner was Keeper of the Muniments and Librarian of Westminster Abbey while Wright was a distinguished anatomist and president of the Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland.  Wright was assisted thoughout the investigation by Dr George Northcroft, a dental surgeon of wide experience especially in the dentition of children.

Tanner explains in his book – Recollections of a Westminster Antiquary –  that in July, 1933,  in an attempt to solve the questions and allegations that the urn was either empty or contained animal bones and not human bones,  the then  Dean of Westminster, Dr Foxley Norris, although not without considerable hesitation,  determined to have the urn opened.  This was done on the evening of 5 July by the Clerk of the Works and the urn then covered with a white tablecloth until the next day.  At 9 a.m. on July 6 1933 , with various dignitaries  present,  the cloth was removed, and voila!, the urn was to be seen full of bones.  On the examination commencing  ‘it soon became apparent that these bones were those of two children of about the right age for the Princes.    Parts of two skulls, two jawbones, two thigh bones were seen to be there and the thigh bones when placed side by side, demonstrated  that one was longer than the other'(1).  It was then decided that the matter ought to be pursued further and the chapel was closed so that Prof Wright, aided by Dr Northcroft, could work there undisturbed.  Lawrence Tanner was entrusted with the ‘historical’ side of the investigation, that  of  determining the ages of the ‘princes’.

Princes-in-the-Tower-Urn.jpg

Urn designed by Sir Christopher Wren to contain the bones of the two children

It  would seem that Prof Wright was on something of a roll, as they, say, concluding that from the evidence he saw, the bones were those of children of the same age as the princes and, besides that, he had ‘no doubt’  that the red/brown stain on the face of elder child ‘was a blood stain such as would have been caused by suffocation,  which is well known to be associated with intense congestion of the face…which of course  corresponds to the traditional account of the murders (2).  Before long Prof Wright is addressing the bones as Edward and Richard!  He opined ‘As to what happened after their death no-one can say, but I imagine that when placed in the elm chest in which they were found, Edward lay at the bottom on his back with a slight tilt to the left, that Richard lay above him face to face, and that when the chest was discovered in the 17th century the workmen broke into it from above and near its middle.  I am led to these conclusions from the fact that there was far more of Edward’s skeleton present than that of Richard’s, since presumably lying deeper it was less disturbed…ribs..no less than six have been found, and that of these,  three were of the left side and belonged to Edward and three of the right side belonged to Richard…and that similarly only the left clavicle of Edward and the right clavicle of Richard were present, strongly suggesting that the left shoulder of Edward had been in close contact with the right shoulder of Richard…’ …need I go on?

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 Skulls of the  two children in the Urn..

FullSizeRender 2.jpg Lower jaw of the younger child                          Lower jaw of the older child

Later,  in his book, Recollections of a Westminster Antiquary,  Tanner wrote “It will be noted that Prof Wright for convenience assumed that the bones were those of  ‘Edward’ and ‘Richard’.  This was perhaps unfortunate for it has led some people to suppose that we definitely identified the bone as those of the princes.  No such claim was made, and I was, in fact particularly careful in the paper which we read before the Society of Antiquaries to make no such indentification , and to adopt a cautious and ‘not proven’ attitude throughout’.

Furthermore Tanner, who lived to the ripe old age of 80, and whose ashes are buried in the lower Islip  chapel, Westminster Abbey,  lived long enough to read Paul Murray Kendall’s biography of Richard and the conclusions drawn by that author,  that he had ascertained the opinions of various professionals and that  a) it was not possible to determine the sex of either child and b) that the stain on the skull was not a bloodstain.  Tanner, who was not without a sense of humour, seems to have kept an open mind on the whole,  although it does seem to have been mostly a toss up between Richard or Henry Tudor being the murderer..if there was one.  He quotes his friend,  Geoffrey H White,  who summed it  all up rather nicely when he remarked “that a strong case can be made out for either view if  the arguments on the other side are ignored”.

I would love to know  what Tanner would have thought, if he  had survived long enough, he died in 1979,   if he had  read Helen Maurer’s  excellent article  “Whodunit: The Suspects in the Case” written in 1983,  in which she made the comment in her notes “As for why the bones should have been discovered more or less where More said they would be, it might be profitable, in the interests of leaving no stone unturned, to forget about Richard, Henry and the last 15th century for the time being and concentrate upon Charles II and the political pressure and perceived necessities of the 1670s.  Any takers?”.  Anyone interested in going on to find out  what Maurer’s thoughts on this matter were,   can find them in her follow up article “Bones in the Tower Part 2.  I’m sure this marvellous and remarkable gentleman would have been very, very intrigued.

(1) Lawrence Tanner Recollections of a Westminster Antiquary p153.

(2) Lawrence Tanner Recollections of a Westminster Antiquary p156

 

A second ring was found within sight of Sandal Castle, and then lost….

a love ring from Sandal

On Facebook, I recently reposted an item from a year ago, concerning the above love ring found at Sandal Castle. The following link was the particular article that alerted me about it. There are many more, I am sure. http://www.mylearning.org/learning/creative-writing-at-sandal-castle/The%20most%20interesting%20finds%20from%20Sandal%20Castle.pdf

While looking for more information about this ring, I learned that it is not the only one to have been found in the vicinity. Another, now lost, was found at the spot where the Duke of York is believed to have fallen in battle on 30th December 1460.

This second ring is mentioned in From Wakefield to Towton: The Wars of the Roses by Philip Haigh, as follows:

“The Duke of York fell fighting to the last. Camden says that there was a small space, hedged around, enclosing a stone cross on the spot where the duke fell; and Gibson adds that there, before the civil war between Charles I and his parliament, the owners were obliged, by tenure, to keep the hedge. A very ancient willow long marked the spot but it has been cut down within the last few years. (Hutton in his own work says, ‘the spot was about 400 yards from the Castle, close to the old road from Barnsley to Wakefield, now called from the sign of the public house, Cock and Bottle Lane. The public house is no longer in existence, but its location can be found on the Ordnance Survey map of the 1850s.) On the spot where the duke and his faithful friends made their last stand an antique ring was found. Within it was engraved the words Tour bon amour (meaning either ‘for good love’ or ‘in true love’). And on one side was wrought the effigies of the Virgin Mary, Our Saviour and two other saints. The ring formed part of Thoresby’s [exhibition at the] Museum at Leeds.”

a ring found at Sandal

a ring at Sandal

The book  by Philip Haigh contains a great deal more about the circumstances and location of the duke’s demise, which came about for the same reason that his youngest son, Richard III, was to die. Treachery. Not a Stanley betrayal this time, but one by Lord Neville, who hoisted false colours at a critical time and changed allegiance to the Lancastrians.

To learn a lot of details about the battles of the period, I recommend the book.

A lesson in disposing of That Urn…!

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Here is an excellent account of That Urn at Westminster Abbey. It demolishes all the “Tudor” flimflam, and entertains as it does so. Read, enjoy and digest, in connection with this.

Coming up in July …

literally where it all began nearly five years ago, children can just turn up at the Visitor Centre and learn how archaeology happens.

Another Car Park, Another Find

What is it about carparks? They seem to hide a wealth of archaeology.

My own local one may not have held a king, but it certainly contained burials–a handful of   Bronze Age people who had been cremated and buried in long-vanished barrows strung out  along what once was a prominent  ridge. Several thousand years later their graves were desecrated by Anglo-Saxons, who inserted their own inhumation burials into the earlier mounds–one of them taking  a stunning amethyst bead into the afterlife.

The latest famous carpark find is from Switzerland, however, rather than Britain, and it is probably the oldest by far. It is the five thousand year old door of a neolithic hut, rather fine in its craftmanship, with a prominent hinge still existing–not at all what most people imagine when they hear the word ‘neolithic.’ It was discovered  while making, rather than digging up, a NEW carpark in Zurich, in an area where there were a number of ancient lake villages. It wasn’t the only door found either–others had been located in the area in previous digs, but it was the best preserved and most ‘modern’ to look at.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/oct/20/swiss-unearth-neolithic-door-zurich

door

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