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THE LOST FONT OF MARLBOROUGH CASTLE

Marlborough is a quaint little town in Wiltshire. It has a rather famous College (once attended by Kate Middleton) but no buildings dating much before Tudor times other than two heavily restored churches. However, it used to have a castle, and a rather important one too.

The first castle was built by William the Conqueror in timber, and he raised it on Marlborough’s most famous landmark–a huge mound (sometimes called Merlin’s Mound) that stands in the middle of the college grounds. This mound is not the usual motte and bailey but in fact a neolithic mound that is a smaller ‘sister’ to nearby Silbury Hill, the largest artificial mound in Europe. Later the wooden castle was replaced by stone; it held out for King Stephen during the Anarchy. King John made many changes and repairs, having been presented  the castle while his brother, Richard Lionheart, was king. His second wife the infamous Isabella of Angouleme spent some time there and some of his children may have been born within its walls. It was  a strange arrangement–Isabella was under the care of Hugh de Neville, whose wife had been one of John’s many mistresses. After John died in the early 1200’s, political prisoner Eleanor of Brittany, whose claim to the throne equalled or surpassed that of Henry III, was kept there for a while before being shunted off to another stronghold. After Henry died, however, it became a Dower House, used by the Dowager Queen, Eleanor of Provence, and then was held by a series of Queen after her.

By 1370,  Marlborough was unused, and in ruins by 1403. Edward VI passed it to his relatives, the Seymours, who built a grand house that is now part of the College. All traces of the castle vanished, save for the mighty mound with had already stood for thousands of years before the Conqueror built his castle.

However there is a rumour that one item from the castle  survived–a huge ornate stone font which had come from the freestanding chapel of St Nicholas. Local legend says  several of King John’s children were  baptised in this font.

And sure enough about a mile away, a massive stone font sits, seeming slightly out of place, in  the tiny, remote church of St George at Preshute (an old name meaning Priest’s Hut.). It is an enormous block of polished black stone imported from Tournai, and would hardly be likely to have originally belonged to such a small, out of the way church. A few similar fonts of Tournai stone  do exist in England, but they are in much grander buildings that St George’s–including Worcester Cathedral.

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Marlborough castle Font

 

 

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A portrait of Richard in Lego….!

Lego Richard

It was a great idea for the Easter Holiday, to let visitors to the Richard III Centre in Leicester help to create a portrait of Richard. Somehow it doesn’t seem possible that it eventually contained nearly 97,000 bricks, or that it might be destroyed. It deserves to be kept at the centre!

 

Now open

As this Smithsonian article reveals, there is now an additional museum in Westminster Abbey – in the hitherto closed attic, admired by Betjeman. This triforium, now known as the “Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries” is built on the new Weston Tower, designed by Ptolemy Dean.

Exhibits include Henry VII’s funeral effigy, an African Grey parrot owned by Frances Duchess of Richmond and Mary II’s coronation chair.

 

John Ball and Colchester

Here are some of the panels just inside the door of the Colchester Playhouse, now a theatre-themed public house. They illustrate John Ball, after whom a minor town centre road is also named, becoming a priest, a prisoner at Maidstone and then participating in the 1381

Peasants’ Revolt (from 30 May), fighting at Blackheath (on 12 June) and then being executed at St. Alban’s on 15 July that year.

All the Johns of St Stephen’s Chapel….

St Stephen's Cloister Garth

As a writer of medieval fiction, and therefore stuck with a preponderance of Johns, Edwards, Richards, Edmunds and so on, I’m only relieved not to have been asked to write a history of St Stephen’s Chapel. SO many Johns? Of the human variety, I hasten to add!

This articleWhere did all the Johns come from? – An Oddity in the History of St Stephen’s Chapel is both interesting and amusing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CROSBY PLACE – HOME TO THE DUKE AND DUCHESS OF GLOUCESTER 1483

 

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The arms of Richard III in Crosby Hall 

On June 5th 1483 the Duchess of Gloucester arrived in London and joined her husband at Crosby Place (1).  She had left both her small son and and  home at Middleham to join her husband, who had been staying  until then, with his mother at Baynards Castle,  and on her arrival they would have had much to catch up on covering the drastic events which had taken place since she had last seen Richard.  Much has been written about these events elsewhere and I would like to focus here on the place that would be their  home for a short while, Crosby Place, and the man that built it.

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A print of Crosby Hall before the extra floor was added.

Crosby Place was built by Sir John Crosby in Bishopsgate on land he had leased from Alice Ashfed,  prioress of the Convent of St Helens,  on a 99 year lease for an annual rent of £11.6s.8d, on land previous used for tenements/messuages.

Sir John , a soldier, silk merchant, alderman and MP, came from a staunch Yorkist family and was knighted by Edward IV at the foot of London Bridge on 21 May 1471 after having driven off the  attack  on that bridge by the Bastard of Fauconberg.

He lies with his first wife Agnes in St Helens church, Bishopsgate, where their  splendid effigies, well preserved, he with a  Yorkist collar and Agnes with two dogs at her feet can still be seen,  His second wife , Anne nee Chedworth,  was related to Margaret Chedworth, John Howard Duke of Norfolk’s second wife, Anne’s father being Margaret’s uncle.  At the time of Sir John writing his will,  Margaret, his wife’s cousin was living with them.

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Sir John Crosby and his wife Anne’s effigies on their tombs, St Helens, Bishopsgate.

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Sir John Crosby and his Wife Lady Anne drawn by Stothard c1817 British Museum

Sadly, Sir John, who died in 1475 did not live long to enjoy his stunning home which was completed in 1470,  and  described by Stow as ‘built of stone and timber, very large and beautiful and the highest at that time in London’(2)

There is some debate as to whether the house was then either rented to Richard Duke of Gloucester or purchased by him.   Stowe wrote that Richard had ‘lodged’ there although there are others of the vein that Richard had purchased it (3) .  However I am confident enough to say that I go along with Richard only renting.  For surely if it had belonged to Richard it would have been taken by Tudor when he usurped the throne and gifted  to either one of his acolytes or his mother who was known for her acquisitiveness. Certainly  Sir John’s will provided unconditionally that his wife,  Anne, should have the lease of Crosby Place for her life.  It would seem that Anne was pregnant at the time of Sir John’s death and  that this son, Sir John’s heir, died without issue upon which Crosby Place etc., then was left to Sir John’s cousin, Peter Christmas,who also died without issue (4) and thus Crosby Place passed out of the hands of the Crosby family.

 

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Old drawing of the oriel window 

 

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The Oriel window in Crosby Hall today.  Modern glass and repainted

 

IMG_4832.PNGThe Oriel window repainted

In the 17th century it became the home of the East India Company until a disastrous fire in 1672, the first of several,  left only the Great Banqueting Hall and Parlour surviving.  These buildings then slowly declined after that until in 1910 the Hall was saved from demolition  and removed brick by brick to its present location in Chelsea, finally passing into private ownership in 1989.

Returning to the past,  after Anne Neville’s arrival in London , Richard seems to have spent his time between his mother’s house Baynard’s and Crosby Place, using Crosby Place for meetings.  It has been speculated that it was at Crosby Place that Richard was offered the crown by the Three Estates rather than at Baynard’s Castle.

1) Richard III Paul Murray Kendall p207

2) A Survey Of London John Stowe p160

3) Memorials of the Wars of the Roses W E Hampton p120

4) Crosby Hall, a Chapter in the History of London Charles W F Goss 1907

Another female jouster

Recently, we posted about female jousters and here is one you will recognise …

 

A haunted property

Donington Manor

Donington le Heath

Not at all eerie in daylight!

Feel like being spooked? Somewhere with a connection to Richard?

On 8th June, Haunted Heritage Paranormal Events are visiting Donington Le Heath Manor House, near Coalville in Leicestershire, one of the oldest houses in England!

“It is believed that Robert De Herle bought the land and had the house built between 1258 & 1295. For nearly 700 years the house remained a family dwelling. In the early part of the 16th Century, the house was modernised. Around this period the house may have been owned by the Digby family. Sir Everard Digby achieved notoriety as one of the conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot; he was a close friend of Guy Fawkes. In 1963 the house was purchased by Leicestershire County Council and the building was restored and opened to the public in 1973 as a museum.

“There are ghosts at Donington Le Heath Manor House. A housemaid has been seen flitting about and also a man of 17th Century appearance with a tall brimmed hat, thought to be the shade of Sir Everard Digby. During one of our events we captured our famous EVP (electronic voice phenomenon), moments after leaving King Dick’s bedroom, home of the bed that Richard III, the last Plantagenet King of England slept in on his way to the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Our EVP hit headline news across the world! You can hear this recording on our YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4GkgTFBPWk

“Donington Le Heath manor House is steeped in history. It is charming and quaint whilst being remarkably eerie. The house, barn and gardens offer a range of exciting and different paranormal experiences. Group members will have the opportunity to use a comprehensive range of paranormal investigative equipment such as dousing rods, EMF meters, ‘Ghost Boxes’ (record voice phenomena) as well as participate in séances, glass divination and table tipping sessions. All of our paranormal events to date at Donington Le Heath have been hugely successful with activity getting stronger every time we visit!”

Here are the details:- Starts 8 June @ 9:00 pm
and ends 9 June @ 2:00 am
The cost is £36.50
Venue 1620’s House (Donington Manor) Manor Road, Coalville,
Leicestershire. LE672FW
http://www.hauntedheritage.co.uk/events/

Some notes on Henry Pole the Younger

These are taken from Pierce’s biography of his paternal grandmother Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, we have some sinister clues to his fate. Our witness is Charles de Marillac, French ambassador from 1538-43, whose correspondence with Francois I is copiously quoted in the Letters and Papers of Henry VIII.

de Marillac wrote on 1 July 1540 that “Edward Courtney is more at large than he was and has a preceptor to teach him lessons, a thing that is not done towards the little nephew of Cardinal Pole, who is poorly and strictly kept and not desired to know anything” (L&P XVI, no.1011)

In June 1541, shortly after the Countess’s execution, her cousin Lord Leonard Gray, son of Eleanor St. John and Thomas Marquess of Dorset, was beheaded “for aiding and abetting the escape of his nephew Gerald, 11th Earl of Kildare. It was with Reginald, in exile, that Kildare found refuge and the Cardinal arranged his education and settled an annuity of 300 crowns upon him.” (B. Fitzgerald The Geraldines, an experiment in Irish Government).
Among the accusations against Grey was that he employed the services of a page who had been in Lord Montague’s service for 4 or 5 years and used him as a messenger in his treasonous intrigues. Moreover in 1538, as deputy of Ireland, he reputedly left all the king’s artillery in Galway ready to put at the disposal of the Pope of the Spaniards should they invade “as a report that Cardinal Pole, with an army would land about that time” (L&P XV no.830, pp.398-9; L&P XVI no.304 (iii)).

The last payment was made for Pole’s diet some time in 1542 (L&P XVIII no.880 f.436).

Developments at Sutton Hoo

This East Anglian Daily Times article reveals that Sutton Hoo, almost certainly the burial of Raedwald, the Wuffing King of East Anglia who was Richard III’s collateral ancestor, will be the subject of its first major dig for nearly thirty years.

A new viewing tower (left) will be installed during the process, between May 29th and June 2nd. Tranmer House, home of the late Edith Pretty will also be transformed, as the result of a substantial National Lottery Heritage Fund grant.

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