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A WEEKEND IN A MEDIEVAL MANOR IN WALES

If you are looking for a pleasant medieval weekend away you could do worse than  staying at the manor house of St Pierre, near Chepstow in Wales. The deerpark may be a golf course now but there are still acres to walk, an ancient church,  and a handsome twin-towered gatehouse surrounded by a courtyard.

The church of St Peter retains some Saxon stonework but also Norman work, including a memorial slab in Norman French to one of the founding early members of the St Pierre family, Urien de SaInt Pierre, who died in 1239.

Sometimes around 1380, the manor came into the possession of Sir David Ap Phillip, who served under both Henry IV and Henry V. Henry must have trusted Sir David well, for not only did he make him governor of Calais,  it is said he hid the crown jewels at the manor house of St Pierre during his absence from England. Sir David had a son called Lewis, and the family decided from then on to adopt the name ‘Lewis’ as their surname.

Lewis, David Ap Phillip’s son, had a son called Thomas Lewis, who  was a supporter of the Yorkist cause. Unfortunately he was killed at the Battle of Edgecote in 1469.

A pleasant walk from the manor house will take you to  another interesting historical village called Mathern. It has a holy well sacred to the early king (and saint) Tewdric, who was supposed to have washed his battle wounds there before dying,  as well as a fine church where the king was buried in 630 (the present building is 15th c.). His stone coffin was apparently still visible in 1881, and local reported you could look in it and see his skull, complete with spear-wound.

Mathern also has the lived in (private) remains of a palace belonging to the Bishops of Llandaff. Some of the extant remains date to around 1419. There is also another ancient  house, Moynes Court, which is occasionally open to the public.  The present building is mostly from the 1600’s but has subsumed and earlier house and there are earthwork remains from what may have been a moated manor.

 

St Pierre and church

 

 

 

 

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Does someone not understand science?

This blog suggests that the failure of Richard’s Y-chromosome to match that of the Dukes of Beaufort doesn’t make him a male line descendant of Edward III through the “illegitimacy” of Richard, Earl of Cambridge.

The issue it fails to address is this:
The inconsistent chromosome has several other, more likely explanations – that Richard III’s Y-chromosome has degraded, or that false paternity in the Beaufort-Somerset line is far more probable because the latter is much longer, as we explained here.

Furthermore, as pp. xii-xvi of Ashdown-Hill’s Cecily Neville explain, citing heraldic evidence, the “forked beard” portrait below, said to be of Richard Duke of York (with Cecily), as taken from Penrith church, is far more likely to be of his father-in-law Ralph Earl of Westmorland (with Joan Beaufort). That the portrait  doesn’t resemble Edward III is unsurprising because Westmorland’s most recent known royal ancestor was Ethelred II.

We have no DNA taken from Edward III to compare with Richard’s or the Beaufort family’s. Sorry to repeat ourselves, but if people repeat errors, we must do so.

 

ST OSWALD’S IN GLOUCESTER–A TOWER FOUND

The scanty arches of St Oswald’s Priory lie tucked in a Gloucester suburb  a few minutes walk  from  the cathedral. Once a place of great importance, it was the burial spot of Queen Aethelflaed, daughter of Alfred the Great. She was a warrior-queen who fought the Vikings. Henry of Huntingdon wrote this about her–

Heroic Elflede! great in martial fame,A man in valour, woman though in name:Thee warlike hosts, thee, nature too obey’d,Conqu’ror o’er both, though born by sex a maid.Chang’d be thy name, such honour triumphs bring.A queen by title, but in deeds a king.Heroes before the Mercian heroine quail’d:Caesar himself to win such glory fail’d

Her husband Aethelred was also buried at St Oswald’s and it is though they were attempting to found a new royal Mercian vault after the destruction of the one at Repton by the Norse invaders.

Recently, on the anniversary of the Queen’s death, a re-enactment was held in Gloucester  with a funeral cortege bearing a ‘body’ arriving by water then passing through the town, past the cathedral and out to the priory.

As past of the commemorations, the local children were also asked to get involved with  the local archaeologists, and a hitherto unknown tower belonging to St Oswald’s appears to have been found.

Maybe futher excavation might also find the bones of this ancient Queen, although it seems most likely her remains and that of her husband and St Oswald himself were moved around in the 11/12c rebuildingof the priory, and then everything was destroyed in the Reformation, leaving little above ground

P1340192P1340164

 

CHILDREN FIND TOWER.

 

 

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.

MYTH TO REALITY: VORTIGERN’S CAVE IN MARGATE

Margate is rightfully known for its famous, undatable Shell Grotto, which has been known as a folly, a Roman mithraeum and even a Phoenician temple.  However, FAR lesser known is another set of caverns, known as Vortigern’s cave. Probably dating between the 1600-s-1700’s, these caves have been closed on and off for several hundred years; the last time they were open was in the 1990’s (when I was lucky enough to visit them.) The wall paintings of redcoats and the  hunt were very well preserved colour-wise and quite unique. There were also an elephant and a crocodile.

The name Vortigern (meaning Great Lord) seems fanciful, being that of a semi-legendary ancient British king who supposedly gave the region of Thanet to his  son-in-law Hengist the Saxon. It was only applied to the caves in the later 1800’s when a new tenant of Northumberland House, through which the caves could be accessed,  decided to open the caves as a tourist attraction.

However, recent archaeological digs in anticipation of re-opening the caves in 2019, have shown that there was indeed a pre-Roman presence in the bumpy field overlying the cave site. In fact a rather imposing one–a large defensive ditch surrounded by postholes and pits filled by Iron Age pottery.  The Iron Age occupation appears to end with the advent of the Romans, implying that the locals were either annihilated or driven away.

Now this makes it far too late for Vortigern and his Saxon alliance (said to have taken place late in the 5th century) but it shows there probably WAS a powerful chieftain and tribal group dwelling on high ground near the shores at Margate in prehistory.

Link to article on  margatecaves excavations

 

caves

 

 

 

St Edmund, the king under a tennis court…?

King Edmund

A wall painting at St Mary the Virgin church in Lakenheath which depicts King Edmund

“November 20 is St Edmund’s Day, the feast day of the ‘last king of East Anglia’ and – some would say – England’s proper patron saint. But where do his bones lie? Trevor Heaton explores the twists and turns of a centuries-old mystery…” Is he under a tennis court? Read on for another take on Edmund the Martyr, who was almost certainly not a Wuffing.

 

A Bayeux Tapestry replica comes to Woodbridge

This EADT article explains how, with help from the writers Michael Linton and Charlie Haylock, together with the Mayor and themselves, have ensured that a metal replica of the tapestry will be on show in Woodbridge for two months:image (2)image (3)

Invasions

 

SamWillis

I have watched Dr. Sam Willis on several occasions and regularly enjoy his programmes, particularly his artillery series. With the prematurely grey beard, he is usually much more informative than Dan Jones, who is of a similar age.

 

However, part two of his Invasions fell below this standard. It featured a lot of black and white film of William I as a control freak drafting the Domesday Book, building castles and organising archers; John as “evil”, “Perkin” as “an impostor” and Elizabeth I speaking at Tilbury. John was shown stealing a puppy, hanging several and blinding someone for taking deer from a royal forest – a penalty actually introduced by William I. “Perkin”‘s imposture was referred to at least four times with a clip from “The Shadow of the Tower”, whilst Willis didn’t think about the possibility that  he falsely confessed to save his wife and child, which Wroe, Fields and Lewis have considered.

It wasn’t quite as simplistic as many Jones programmes because we were told about Louis the Lion being invited, by some nobles) to ascend the English throne from 1215-7, the Barbary pirates and the Dutch Medway raids of Charles II’s time. As a result, I shall be watching the final episode.

George Washington’s England, especially Sulgrave Manor….

sulgrave-manor

Sulgrave Manor

 

Sulgrave

Sulgrave Manor

I had never looked into the English origins of George Washington’s family, although I did know that his ancestors were associated with Washington Old Hall, Washington, Tyne & Wear. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/washington-old-hall

Washington Old Hall

Washington Old Hall, Tyne & Wear

So I am surprised to discover that the family was also associated with other places, including Purleigh in Essex

 (http://www.kenmore.org/genealogy/washington/descendants.html) 

and Sulgrave Manor in the south of Northamptonshire, the latter being what I am mainly concerned with here., especially, I suppose, because Northamptonshire also happens to be the birth county of Richard III.

There was a castle at Sulgrave, on a site next to the present church, where some of the earthworks can still be seen. https://sulgrave.org/sulgrave-history-society/sulgrave-castle-project/

sulgrave-castle-mound-and-st-james-the-less-church-sulgrave

Earthworks of Sulgrave Castle beside the parish church

It is believed that the first buildings on the site were 10th-century Anglo-Saxon, maybe a stone and timber house and detached kitchen, with defensive earth ramparts. Then came the Normans, who replaced the original hall with one built entirely of stone, and increased the height of the ramparts. The castle site seems to have been abandoned at around 1140.

Toward the end of the reign of Henry VIII, Sulgrave and two other manors were granted to a wool merchant and former Mayor of Northampton, Lawrence Washington, who set about building a new manor house, using local limestone. The manor remained in the Washington family until 1659, when it was sold to the Hodges family (who reunited the three estates into which Sulgrave had become divided). Then Lawrence’s descendant, John Washington of Purleigh in Essex, emigrated to the Colony of Virginia. John was the great-grandfather of George Washington, the first elected President of the United States.

The house that Lawrence built, between 1540-60, stands at the north-east of the village, facing south-west. Because of foundation stones found a considerable way from the present building, it is believed the original house was much larger than the surviving property. The great hall has a stone floor, and a Tudor fireplace in which there is a salt cupboard bearing Lawrence Washington’s initials.

Great Hall Sulgrave

Great Hall, Sulgrave Manor

Over the south-west porch, which projects through two storeys, are the royal arms of England and the initials E.R., for Elizabeth I. There is also the Washington arms of two bars and three mullets or spur-rowels.

Sulgrave_Washington_Coat_of_Arms

Washington coat of arms, Sulgrave Manor porch

Today, Sulgrave Manor is a very attractive proposition for a visit, as indeed is the whole village. The manor house had lost one wing, which was restored in the 1920s. Here it is before restoration.

Sulgrave-Manor in 1910

Sulgrave Manor in 1910

Sulgrave village

Sulgrave Village

See more at:

https://www.sulgravemanor.org.uk/about-us/a-brief-history

http://www.discoverbritainmag.com/visit_sulgrave_manor_ancestral_home_of_first_us_president_george_washington_in_northamptonshire_1_3937451/

http://www.britainexpress.com/attractions.htm?attraction=2404

Another place that is associated with George Washington, although not in the usual way, is at the American Museum in Claverton, near Bath. His garden at Vermont has been recreated there, complete with white picket fences and some wonderful old-fashioned roses that have the most heavenly scent imaginable. It is some thirty years since I was last there, but I can still remember that exquisite fragrance on the warm summer air. Well worth going to for that alone. https://americanmuseum.org/about-the-museum/gardens-grounds/

Washington, of course, was born when Britain and its colonies were living under the Julian calendar. American independence happened long after 1752, when it switched to the Gregorian calendar, under which he died – see here.

More news from Reading

When I watched this video, talking about the precise location of the high altar of the Abbey with respect to Henry I, the parallels with the search for Richard III in Leicester’s Greyfriars are almost exact:

Neither should we forget Henry I’s Queen, Edith (Matilda) of Scotland, who reintroduced Anglo-Saxon royal (Wessex) blood to the English monarchy.

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