If you haven’t seen this before, it’s well worth watching. Very clever.
Oxford’s Christ Church Cathedral lies in the precincts of the college of the same name. Originally it was the church of St Frideswide’s priory, and contained a shrine bearing the saint’s relics. This shrine was destroyed in the reformation but has since been pieced together as much as possible. The remains include some rare carvings of the ‘natural world’ including heads wreathed in foliage which may represent Frideswide and her nuns. Next to the shrine is what is called a ‘watching chamber’, where someone would keep watch over the gold and jewels that decorated the saint’s shrine. The watching chamber was built in the late 15th or early 16th century, possibly by none other than the infamous Bishop John Morton…
Frideswide was a particularly venerated in the Oxford area, and one of Francis Lovell’s sisters bears her name.
The church also contains several notable medieval burials, including the beautiful tomb of Elizabeth de Montfort (died 1354), Baroness Montacute, an ancestor of Richard Neville–Warwick the Kingmaker. Bright colours remain on the tomb-chest even today–although the faces were all smashed off the carved weepers during the Reformation. The numerous weepers once depicted Elizabeth’s children.The remains of a chantry chapel with a painted vaulted ceiling extends from the Baroness’tomb.
There is also the effigy of an enormous knight whose identity is not known for certain–it is given as Sir Henry de Bathe or Sir George Nowers, a companion of the Black Prince who died in 1425. (It is more likely to be the latter. )Whoever it was, the armour detail is very fine and the skeleton within was about 6ft 8!
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.