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Music to the bells of St Nicholas, Leicester….

I haven’t heard any of this music, on the site of Leicester’s Saxon Cathedral, so cannot say what it’s like. But it sounds intriguing

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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!

Hey, Richard II and St Edward the Confessor are one and the same…!

 

I have just watched a truly aggravating documentary from this 2014 series. In particular the episode called “Secrets of Westminster”.

It starts with the tomb of Edward the Confessor…for which they show the correct tomb, yes, but then include a lot of lingering close-ups of the tomb effigy of Richard II. The implication is, it seems, to inform the viewer that what they were seeing was the Confessor.

Then there was a section about Henry III…erm, showing Edward III. Again, no mention of Edward, to keep the viewer properly informed. Just the same hint that the tomb was Henry III’s.

The last straw for me was when they showed the wonderful roof of Westminster Hall, of which they spoke in glowing terms as being 11th-century. There was no mention at all of the hammerbeams, angels and so on actually being the 14th-century work of Richard II, who remodelled and improved the entire hall.

So I cannot recommend this awful programme, even though it was interesting in many other respects. The trouble was, I could not help wondering how many other bloopers there might be? Could anything be trusted, and taken at face value? Did Guy Fawkes really try to blow-up Parliament? Was Charles I really executed? Or were both stories muddled up. Maybe Charles was the one who tried to blow-up Parliament? And Guy Fawkes marched into the Commons and started the English Civil War? Who knows?

So don’t bother to watch it, unless you want to sit chucking missiles at the screen. You take your chances with the other episodes in the series. I won’t be viewing them.

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

The history of Knepp Castle….

Knepp Castle, West Sussex.

When researching the movements of King Richard II, I came upon a reference to Knapp Castle, where he stayed in 1384. Well, it proved awkward to locate at first, but then, when searched for under its correct spelling—Knepp—there it was in West Sussex . A lot of our medieval kings stayed in the original Norman castle (see illustration above).

These days there are only the ruins of the castle, the present incarnation being an early 19th-century Gothic house. There is no royal hunting in the park either, instead it is one large experiment in nature conservation. To read more, go here.

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.

Shrewsbury refused entry to Henry Tudor….in 1985….

Shrewsbury - Trumper book

“In the shadow of Rowley’s House, Shrewsbury”

Here’s a little smile—well, smirk, actually—at Henry Tudor’s expense. It’s a snip from a new book by local (to Shrewsbury) historian, David Trumper, and released in November 2018, called ‘Now That’s What I Call Shrewsbury’.

“. . .One of the photos recalls a brutal snub given by Shrewsbury to Henry Tudor – or rather, volunteers who in August 1985 re-enacted Henry’s epic 260-mile trek from Pembrokeshire, through Shrewsbury, and so on to Bosworth, where he defeated Richard III in battle to become king.

“On arriving in the county town, the marchers, who were marking the 500th anniversary of the event, found that nothing had been laid on for them, and the Tudor army was told it could not camp in Shrewsbury Castle grounds.

“Several tents, which had been put up by an advance party, were ordered to be taken down.

“Henry Tudor, aka organiser Geoffrey Davies, had to admit defeat, fuming: ‘What we have seen is bureaucracy run riot in Shrewsbury.’. . .”

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I’m astonished that Henry Tudor was astonished – I mean, didn’t the creepy fellow invent OTT bureaucracy? Now, if it had happened in 1485, I fear we might have had Shrewsbury to blame for sowing the bureaucratic seed in Tudor’s nasty little mind!

As it was 1985 – well done, Shrewsbury!!!!!

ST PETER’S CHURCH, WINCHCOMBE AND THE BOTELERS OF SUDELEY

Sudeley Castle is a beautiful castle in Gloucestershire, once the marital home of Lady Eleanor Talbot (Boteler) and once owned by Richard III, who built the banqueting hall, although most famed for being the burial place of Henry VIII’s last wife, Katherine Parr.

So great are the attractions of the castle that many visitors miss out on the attractive nearby village of Winchombe and the interesting church of St James, which has many connections with the Boteler family.

The original church on the site was raised in Saxon times; later, there was a 12th century building raised on the site,  but by the 15th c it had grown ruinous. It was completely rebuilt in 1452-62 by Ralph Boteler, Lord Sudeley, the local Abbot, two churchwardens and the Town Bailiff. Ralph Boteler’s ancestors were buried in the earlier church’s ruins so he was eager to build a chantry chapel for them, and  for the use of his family.

At the time the church was rebuilt, the area in which is stands looked very different to today. It stood in the shadow of a large monastic building–Winchcombe Abbey, which was completely destroyed in the Reformation. Not one stone of the Abbey remains visible today above ground, although several stone coffins from the abbey now lie in the present church and one of the doors bears the initials of the last Abbot.

The church is locally famous for the large numbers of unique  grotesques set around the roofline. They are extremely large and humorous and are thought to represent those connection with the 15th c rebuild, including  a moustached, widely grinning Ralph Boteler and his wife first Elizabeth (his second wife, Alice Deincourt, it might be noted, was Francis Lovell’s grandmother via her first marriage) The guard the porch, with its centrepiece of a winged angel holding a shield bearing the Boteler coatof arms. Ralph and Elizabeth’s only son Thomas Boteler, the first husband of Eleanor Talbot,  is also thought to be reprented on St Peter’s. Thomas, holding an expensive short sword, is on the northern side of the building, gazing rather fiercely out in the direction of the castle.  Sir Ralph’s image may appear a second time above the now-vanished vestry at the eastern end of the building; here, he wears a baron’s cap and carries a Sword of State. (Ralph was Henry VI’s  standard-bearer.) These carvings are not the most famous of the grotesques, however–that honour goes to the Town Bailiff, who is wearing an extraordinary hate and pullin a face–he is said to be the inspiration for the illustrations of Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter! Other figures include men with dogs who may be the churchwardens, a man with a fiddle, a singer, a labourer, and a Master Mason, who may be Robert Janyns, who was the architecht of Merton College in Oxford.

The interior is worth a visit too–the Lady Chapel was once the Chapel of St Nicholas and  was the Boteler family chantry. No tombs now remain unfortunately, but on the other side of the church there is a truncated chancel screen which is 15th c. There is also a glass seraphim from arond 1450 in one of the windows, and behind a curtain, the  church’s treasure–an altar cloth made of  vestment orphrey between 1460-70. The colours still remain vibrant and the images clear even today.

 

 

 

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

 

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