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It was Julius Caesar who did it, so why blame the Wars of the Roses….?

During the Wars of the Roses, was there ever a deliberate policy of depopulation? By that, I cannot think of an example. Destruction, yes. Killing off the other side’s armed forces, yes. But the annihilation of towns and villages? Or of castles and strongholds, which were surely regarded as great prizes. So how could there be a complete scorching of the earth?

I raise this question because of something I have just read in John Dunkin’s The History and Antiquities of Dartford. The introduction to this work describes Caesar’s first arrival in and advance through the county of Kent. He landed on 26th August, 55 BC, perhaps at Pegwell Bay on the Isle of Thanet, see this article, and left again thirty or so days later.


By James William Edmund Doyle

According to Dunkin, the Romans encountered armed resistance when they reached Detling, where they camped for the night in preparation to cross the Medway at Aylesford. There was a rather nasty battle with the Cenimagni, the local Britons, involving stakes rammed into the riverbed to pierce the oncoming Romans. However, Caesar was triumphant and the Cenimagni leader, Caswallon, was forced to submit.

Caesar continued north, the Dartford area being his next port of call. Close to Hextable, he came upon a large circular mound, called ‘Ruehill Wood’, where the Cenimagni had their stronghold. It was a wonderful vantage point, and more substantial than the Romans expected, with sturdy stone buildings, and he set about destroying it. Completely.

Julius Caesar

From this map website

Then he was wrong-footed, because, rather sneakily, Caswallon began to attack the Roman camp on the coast, obliging Caesar to turn around and hurry back. He certainly hurried, that’s for sure, and boarded his ships to sail away. He would return, of course, but this was the rather ragged end of his first invasion.

Why have I described these events? Because, again according to Dunkin, Hasted in his History of Kent hints that the site of the Ruehill Wood fortress could ‘perhaps [be] the remains of depopulation occasioned by the Wars between the houses of York and Lancaster’. Why the Wars of the Roses? Why not the Civil War? And why should the site have been anything other than ancient? Hasted also states that the manor of Ruehill or, now, Rowhill, ‘was, in the reign of King Edward [not explained which Edward] in the possession of the family of Gyse’, and proceeds to give the manor’s descent through several lords to as late as 1778. So Ruehill/Rowhill certainly wasn’t annihilated into extinction during the Wars of the Roses. Besides, if it had been, we’d surely know of it, even if just as a legend.

This manor house is now the Rowhill Grange luxury hotel and spa, and still commands a great vantage point. However, I cannot think it retains much of the original manor.

Rowhill Grange hotel, 2007
The vantage point of Rowhill Wood from Google Street – the hotel is amid the trees

So why would this site have ever been thought of as anything other than Caswallon’s levelled fortress? And why would Hasted light upon the remains being the work of devastating depredations during the Wars of the Roses?

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1968 accuracy about Richard’s resting place….

Here is an extract that I found interesting. It’s from a 1968 booklet titled Discovering London 3: Medieval London, by Kenneth Derwent, published by Macdonald, and while it doesn’t condemn Richard, a previous paragraph states that the disappearance of Edward V and his brother “were disposed of” and that “the circumstantial evidence points most strongly to the Duke of Gloucester”. Well, I have a huge quibble about that!

Anyway, to the extract:-

“RICHARD III. Brother of Edward IV and uncle of Edward V. Ruled from 1483 to 1485.

“After his brother’s death, the Duke of Gloucester stated that Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville had not been legal, since the king had been previously betrothed to a Lady Eleanor Talbot. In those days betrothal was as binding as marriage, and if this were so Edward’s subsequent marriage would be invalid and the children of it illegitimate. On these grounds Parliament offered the crown to Richard of Gloucester who, after modestly declining for a while, accepted it.

“In 1485 Richard III, as he was known, was defeated and killed at the Battle of Bosworth, near Leicester, by Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, who claimed the crown by reason of a distant descent from John of Gaunt.

“Richard was buried at Greyfriars, near Leicester, but no trace of his grave remains.”

Well, I have some more quibbles, of course. The word “modestly” implies falsity, when I think Richard really did hesitate about accepting the crown. Or am I being unduly picky? And, of course, Henry Tudor was NOT the Earl of Richmond.

But my main reason for posting this extract is that in 1968 Kenneth Derwent was right about where Richard had been laid to rest!

The Walbrook – river of mystery…!

Showing the area of Dowgate in the centre of the riverfront.

Ah, what a romantic picture the title of this post conjures. It is certainly not descriptive of the now invisible Walbrook , which had to be covered because it stank so much. Well, the smell was one of the reasons for it being enclosed. I have recently been researching the Walbrook’s exact course. Or, at least, trying to. From the wilds of Gloucestershire, I have been an armchair researcher. No tramping around sewer systems for me!

The area where the Walbrook begins, Finsbury and Moorfield, circa 1565

The stream has been covered over and built upon since the mid-15th century, but before then it was a very important feature, cutting the capital almost exactly in half from north to south. North being its source in the area outside the old city wall, now known as Finsbury; south being the shore of the Thames at Dowgate, where it is believed there was originally a delta. The Walbrook is thought to have split into two branches, and this lower portion of its course is called Dowgate, because it was a water gate in the Roman wall around the capital. At least, this is what I understand.

Roman London, showing the mouth of the Walbrook in the red circle, immediately to the left of the palace.
Drawing of the outfall area at Dowgate, showing Cannon Street Station in the background.
Dowgate Dock, illustration from Besant.

It wasn’t a long river, and the extent of its navigability is unknown. Some historians claim that barges could pass upstream as far as Bucklersbury (and Sir Thomas More’s first marital home at the Old Barge/Barge Inn).

From:- Ericawagner’s blog

“….We turn into Bucklersbury and stand outside St Stephen Walbrook, one of Wren’s fairest creations. In its earlier incarnation it was [Sir Thomas] More’s parish church, and his first wife was buried within its walls. Ackroyd dismisses the firm ground upon which we stand, indicating where the river Walbrook would have run, just past the church. ‘His house was called the Old Barge, and barges would come and dock just outside. It’s funny to think of it now. The river was the main means of communication. It wasn’t exactly like Venice, but closer to Venice than it is now.’

“Bucklersbury is now home to forbidding cliffs of offices, but More’s residence would have been as intimidating, in its way. He was a successful lawyer, close to the courts of two kings, and from 1510 under-sheriff of London. ‘It was a big house,’ Ackroyd says. A surviving inventory details ‘a gret cage fir birds’, ‘a gret mapp of all the world’ and ‘a table (picture) of Sir Thomas More’s face’.”

The sites of More’s Old Barge Inn at top right, and Cloak Lane at bottom left.

Now, I don’t know when the Old Barge/Barge Inn was built, but if the Walbrook was culverted in the mid-15th century, I can’t help thinking it would have invisible to More, who was born in 1478, married in 1505, and moved to Chelsea in 1520. This being so, I don’t really see how barges could still have been sailing there during his time at the Old Barge/Barge Inn.

The origin of the story of the Walbrook having been navigable to the Olde Barge appears to have been William Maitland, in his History and Survey of London:-

The author of a PhD thesis reasons that the Walbrook may only have been navigable as far as Cloak Lane, as also shown in the map above, and described as follows:-

From:- this thesis :-

“…Zone A carries the estuarine stretch of the Walbrook. The bed of the river flattens slightly south of Cannon Street and this trend continues through to the Thames. As HWST was 1.50m OD at the beginning of the Roman period and the riverbed was at 0.30m OD, the Walbrook would have been tidal through the whole of this stretch and into the southern half of the Bloomberg Development. However, HWST fell to 0.00m OD by the middle of the 1st C and remained at this lower level until the 4th C. Under these conditions, the Walbrook would have been tidal only as far as Cloak Lane to the south of Cannon Street…”

But this very detailed and technical thesis also concludes that in fact the Walbrook was only of service to vessels for about 50 yards from the Thames.

In The London Encyclopaedia, Christopher Hibbert insists that the Walbrook was never navigable. Anywhere. Full stop.

Someone has to be wrong. And yet, is the very name of More’s home an indication of its original situation? After all, why call something the Old Barge Inn if it had nothing whatsoever to do with barges? So, in Chaucer’s time, might the Walbrook indeed have been navigable to this point at Bucklersbury? As Maitland would appear to have believed?

Bucklersbury

Another disputed point about the Walbrook’s course is whether or not it formed a meander immediately north of the Chaucer residence in (Upper) Thames Street. This is because in 1873, F.J. Furnivall discovered an important document that had a bearing on Chaucer’s property. It was a quitclaim deed, dated 19th June 1381, in which [one] Geoffrey Chaucer named himself as the son of John Chaucer, vintner of London, and released his interest in a tenement once owned by his father, located in Thames Street in the City of London.

A busy medieval street, maybe resembling Thames Street

Thames Street is still a very long street, now divided into two portions, Upper and Lower, and so it is necessary to define this building’s whereabouts more accurately. The above deed, which was written in Latin, was printed in Life-Records of Chaucer, published by the Chaucer Society in 1900, and again in the Crow-Olsen Chaucer Life-Records, and describes the location of the tenement as follows:-

The whole area is now loomed over by Cannon Street Station, of course, but certain points in the translation above are important. I was always under the impression that the Walbrook simply flowed north to south, passing to the east of the Chaucer residence. Well, according to the image above, it did indeed pass to the east, but also to the north, because there was a meander there in Chaucer’s time. The Walbrook flowed quite swiftly from its source, but on nearing the Thames, the land flattened considerably, and the river seems to have indulged in a curve.

This now-lost river is also described as being crossed by many bridges. Right. Well, I have found vague references to unnamed bridges and some references to specific bridges, but there’s one bridge which I think must have existed, yet it is never mentioned. What happened when the Walbrook crossed (Upper) Thames Street?

The blue circle marks the intersection of the Walbrook/Dowgate and Thames Street

All this is important to me, because the characters in my work in progress have to move around in this very area. But there is a resounding blank when it comes to the intersection with Thames Street. I want my characters to proceed to and fro along this important thoroughfare, and if I am to describe their surroundings with any vividness and accuracy, I cannot ignore the Walbrook.

This map very definitely shows a bridge over the Walbrook, immediately north from the Thames, in Thames Street. But was there one?

Thames Street seems to have originated as the waterfront itself, but gradually the buildings and wharves on the Thames extended south, resulting in Thames Street becoming a little further inland. It was that much further inland in Chaucer’s time. So, what happened when the considerable traffic of the city came to the Walbrook? Did they all pole-vault? Of course not, so there must have been a proper crossing. Mustn’t there?

Well, two things. One, was there a fixed bridge? If the Walbrook was navigable for barges, then the flow must have been considerably lower than Thames Street, in order to permit vessels to pass beneath. Or two, the bridge must have been a drawbridge/swingbridge. I refuse to believe there was a ferry. Or a ford.

So, what is the answer? Which version of the Walbrook is the true one? Was there a meander behind the Chaucer residence? Did Sir Thomas More reside beside thronged waters that were the scene of commerce and bustle? What happened at the intersection between the Walbrook and Thames Street? Was the Walbrook even navigable at all?

See also: this map.

https://knowyourlondon.wordpress.com/2015/10/26/walbrook-dock/

https://knowyourlondon.wordpress.com/2017/11/13/walbrook-and-dowgate-overview/

http://www.lamas.org.uk/images/documents/Special_Papers/SP13%201991%20Middle%20Walbrook%20valley.pdf

https://guildhallhistoricalassociation.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/7-the-citys-rivers-the-walbrook-and-the-fleet.pdf

https://data.bloomberglp.com/company/sites/30/2017/11/BLA-web.pdf

History Book Part One

The Legendary Ten Seconds have a new album out. The tracks go back chronologically to Arthurian times, before including two about the Battle of Hastings – or of Battle to be precise. The last six cover Richard III’s adult life and reign, from the seemingly effortless taking of Edinburgh to the Harrington dispute and the subsequent Stanley treachery at Bosworth.

Here is a recording of their performance at Coldridge, with reference to the stained glass window there.

The butterfly that is Nottingham Castle….?

We all know of Nottingham Castle, perched high on its rocky hill overlooking the city. It was the lair of the wicked Sheriff, and has legendary connections with Robin Hood. It also has amazing caves through which Mortimer escaped, and that “It was from Nottingham Castle that news was announced to the people of England that second half of the reign of Edward IV had begun”. It was also where Richard III and Anne heard the tragic news of their son’s death, and where the widowed Richard stationed himself while awaiting Henry Tudor’s invasion.

The original castle’s actual appearance is not known, but it is believed to have looked like the illustration above, and perhaps more accurately like this:-

The castle as it was known to these great historical figures has disappeared, of course, and became instead:-

Then this incarnation was burned down in riots in 1831:-

The castle was rebuilt, but is now to be “renovated” again, although I do not know how much of its appearance will change. If anything. At the moment it is covered in scaffolding and hidden behind plastic sheets.

What will emerge from this cocoon? The suspense is awful, but we must wait until 2020 to see the eventual butterfly. I haven’t been able to find any satisfactory illustrations of the glamorous new wings that will unfold.

To read more, go to:
https://nottinghamhiddenhistoryteam.wordpress.com/2015/05/25/nottinghamshires-part-in-richard-iiis-story/ and
https://www.nottinghamcastle.org.uk/ and
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-24725569

“The Secret Garden” with a connection to Richard III….

 

Well, the link below is about the 450-acre Duncombe Park estate and house, which has provided the backdrop for the latest film version of The Secret Garden. The interest for Ricardians can be found in the following extract:-

“….This impressive medieval fortress was built in stone in the 13th century and has passed through the hands of several noble families – it was once owned by King Richard III.….”

To read more, go to this page.

Digging up London’s surrounding ditch….

London Ditch at the end of the 16th century

We all know that medieval London was surrounded by great city walls, a lot of which dated from Roman times, and that there was a wide ditch outside the wall, to add to the capital’s defences. It gradually became silted up, and although it was dredged and cleared several times, it was encroached upon by building and eventually disappeared altogether.

In 2015 the ditch was investigated in the area of the street still called Minories, a name received from the Franciscan Abbey of St Clare, where the Minoresses were to be found. The abbey was the resort of many a highborn lady who wished, for various reasons, to retreat from the world. It was not a bare living, by any means, for many of them were in luxury, with their ladies-in-waiting and other necessities. And an occasional man was to live there as well, for instance the abbey’s Great House was the residence of Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, who was murdered in Calais in 1397.

These ruins are of the second incarnation of the abbey, the first having been destroyed by fire in the early 16th century.

The abbey was outside Aldgate, amid a few houses and a lot of farms and fields, and was separated from the city wall by the great ditch. It is here that the archaeological digging and excavations went on. To learn more, go here

Wander the streets of London in 1520….

Finding the original town plans of London, before the Great Fire of 1666, is always intriguing, and very rewarding indeed for those of us who love all things medieval. So, in this respect, I welcome the Tudors. I already have books of London maps, published by the London Topographical Society, of our capital in the Elizabethan, Georgian and Regency periods, and very detailed and rewarding they are.

But now I find that the British Historic Towns Atlas, in association with the London Topographical Society, publishes foldable maps, in the same form as Ordnance Survey Landranger maps, and so on. Intrigued, I purchased the Tudor map of London, which reveals the city in about 1520, which is much closer in time to the reigns of Richard III and Henry VII. It is a very beautiful thing, and led me to browse the streets just for the sake of it.

If you go to their website you will find their range of maps, but most, if not all, are later than Tudor. Mostly 19th century, in fact, as York, which dates from 1850. Bristol is a series of detailed chronicological articles available on line. You will have to delve through the website in the hope of finding what you want.

But the 1520 map of “Tudor” London is excellent. I recommend it.

A narrow escape from Richard III….

Cothele

Ambling around the internet, I came upon the following. This passage is from The Sporting Review, ed. by ‘Craven’, edited by John William Carleton and contains a delightful description of what it was like for early tourists to sail down the River Tamar and visit the sights along the way. I have taken this particular passage because of the anecdote/legend that appears at the end, concerning Sir Richard Edgecumbe/Edgcumbe.

“. . . .The Tamar now becomes most interesting, winding along like a gigantic snake, every turn bringing some picturesque village or ancient mansion in sight; the lofty hills on either side covered with foliage, amidst which we saw the gothic pinnacles of Pentillie Castle. Every minute brings some fresh object of beauty, until we reach the noble woods of Cothele: here we landed at the Lime-kilns, and soon found a shaky nook, where we partook of our luncheon; then with renewed strength we set off on foot for Cothele House.

“Its embattled walls and massive arched doorways give it the appearance of a feudal castle. It was built by Sir Richard Edgcumbe in the early part of the reign of Henry Vii. The Earl of Mount Edgecumbe, to whom it now belongs, most kindly allows visitors to see the interior, with its antique furniture that has remained untouched for centuries.

“We entered under a massive arched-doorway, and found ourselves in a large court surrounded by buildings; from this we passed into the hall, where we felt as if we had left these modern times, and been carried back to the days of feudalism. The walls are hung with every kind of ancient arms—coats of mail, shields, helmets, gauntlets, arquebuses, bows and arrows, spears, swords, etc. At the upper end of the hall is the figure of a warrior armed cap-à-pie.

“We next visited the dining-room, hung with tapestry. Well could we picture the good old hospitality of those bygone times, when the table groaned beneath barons of beef and haunches of venison, and in the huge open hearth blazed piles of wood, while tankards of Burgundy and loyal toasts passed around. Alas! For these degenerate days of dinners à la Russe, and thin French wines, which cool instead of warm the heart of man.

“The chapel inspected, we ascended the broad oak staircase, which polished floor rendered the ascent rather perilous; on the walls were portraits of many of the ancestors of the Edgecumbes, but time has nearly obliterated their features. We were shown the room where Charles II. Passed several nights. Nearly all the rooms are hung with tapestry.

“After spending some time in visiting all the nooks and corners of this interesting olf house, we bid it adieu, and passed down an avenue of chestnuts to the river’s bank, where stands a gothic chapel almost concealed in the thick woods by which it is surrounded; it was built by Sir Richard Edgecumbe, who was comptroller of the household of Henry VII. There is an inscription on the walls from Carew’s Survey, which explains the reason for its erection.

Cothele - Sir Richard Edgecumbe's Chapel

Sir Richard Edgecumbe’s chapel in the woods at Cothele.

“ ‘Sir Richard Edgcumbe was driven to hide himself in those thick woods which overlook the river, at that time being suspected of favouring the Earl of Richmond’s party against King Richard III. He was hotly pursued and narrowly searched for, which extremity taught him a sudden policy—to put a stone in his cap and tumble same into the water, while these rangers were fast on his heels; who looking down after the noise, and seeing his cap swimming thereon, supposed that he had desperately drowned himself, gave over their further hunting, and left him liberty to shift away and ship over into Brittaine, for a grateful remembrance of which delivery he afterwards builded in the place of his lurking a chapel.’ ”

Tomb of Sir Richard Edgecumbe, d. 1489 - Morlaix

Tomb of Sir Richard Edgecombe, died 1489 – Morlaix

The History of Southwark….

When it comes to medieval history, London and its environs always figure prominently. Well, it’s inevitable, since the king and Parliament were usually there. Not always, I grant you.

Anyway, I have come upon a very interesting and informative site about Southwark. A little ramble around it will certainly unearth something of interest to you.

For instance, the wall in the photograph above is all that remains of the notorious Marshalsea Prison. It is to the side of the John Harvard Library.

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