In recent years, Dan Jones’ posing and fanciful Crimewatch-style re-enactments, together with Starkeyesque conclusions formed before he started, has marred quite a few series on mediaeval history. Now he seems to have changed tack completely with this series, covering canal building from the middle of the eighteenth century and – yes – I rather enjoyed it, even though Rob Bell may have been more appropriate.
My main criticism is not with the programme content or the presenter but that it was broadcast as two ninety minute episodes and not three separate hours. The content definitely subdivided this way, showing that canals superseded the unreliable roads and rivers of the Early Modern Era.
The first hour was about the Grand Union Canal, originally conceived to join Birmingham and London via Oxford, with the first stretch to Coventry already constructed – it eventually went further east and the Oxford Canal filled the gap. Then came the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, taking Yorkshire produce to the great west coast port via a few higher rainfall Lancashire mill towns – after negotiation because lengthening the route would slow down the journey. Finally, it moved on to the Avon-Kennet Canal that opened in 1810 to link London and Bristol, although railways and improved roads were about to make them commercially obsolete, particularly through a certain Mr. Brunel. As Jones made clear, canals remain popular for pleasure boats and the Avon-Kennet Canal avoided closure in the 1950s for this reason.
No sooner has this series finished than Jones has returned to the Channel Five “cluster” with a show about Roman roads. Trailers showing him dressed as a centurion are not promising.
Well, it just goes to show that although the past may now be buried far underground, now and then it still comes to light to thrill us all. Now it seems they’ve discovered the site of the Red Lion, “the earliest known attempt to build a playhouse in the Tudor era, a precursor to the famed Globe Theatre”.
“….Around 1567, a man named John Brayne built an Elizabethan playhouse called the Red Lion just outside the city of London to accommodate the growing number of traveling theatrical troupes. Its exact location has proven elusive to archaeologists—there were many streets and pubs named the Red Lion (or Lyon) over the ensuing centuries—but a team from University College London (UCL) believes it has found the original site at an excavation in Whitechapel….”
“….Benyngton (Simon de), draper.—To be buried in S. John’s Chapel, to the south of the chancel of the church of S. Laurence in Old Jewry, near Idonia his late wife. To Idonia his present wife he leaves lands and tenements in the parishes of S. Laurence aforesaid and S. Mary de Aldermanbury for life; remainder to the church of S. Laurence for the maintenance of chantries therein for the good of his soul, the souls of his wives, of Roger his father and Cecilia his mother, John de Abyndon, and others. In default of the vicar and parishioners of S. Laurence aforesaid providing the chantry priest, the aforesaid lands, tenements, and rents are to go to the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty of the City of London for the time being, for the maintenance of a chantry in Guildhall Chapel. To the Master and Brethren of the house or hospital of S. Thomas de Acon, near the Conduit of London, a certain quitrent for the maintenance of a chantry in the church of S. Thomas aforesaid, at the altar of S. Mary in gysma, for the good of his soul, the souls of John de Abyndon, late draper, Idonia, wife of the same, John their son, and others; similar remainder to the foregoing in case of default. Dated London, 14 October, 42 Edward III. [A.D. 1368]….”
In his book The Black Death in London, Barney Sloane says “….the altar of St Mary in Gysma (in childbirth), probably situated in the Lady Chapel in the priory of St Thomas Acon….” Was the priory at the hospital in Cheapside? Or elsewhere. If elsewhere, the only one I can find from that time was in Kilkenny, which I somehow doubt would have caught the attention of Simon Benyngton, mercer of London.
I’d never heard of St Mary in Gysma before. It means St Mary in Childbirth, and at that time, with the pestilence recurring it’s likely many women died in childbed, and their babies with them. I decided I ‘d like to bring this information into my wip, so the search was on for more information. But first I had to find out about the apparently very English Knights of St Thomas of Acon, for this altar was located in their church.
This section from Rocque’s Map has been taken from here, together with the passages:
“….Look to the southern end, and to the right of Ironmonger Lane is a block of building and the abbreviation “Cha” for Chapel – this is the area where Thomas a Becket was born and also the site of the Hospital of St Thomas of Acon….
“….The hospital was built on land purchased from the Becket family. The name Acon is the anglicised version of Acre (now part of Israel), and dates from the Third Crusade between 1189 and 1191, and possibly originates from an order of monks / knights formed during the Crusade and the siege of Acre….”
“…In Rocque’s map, you can see that the Mercers’ Hall is also shown where the hospital was located….
“….The Mercers’ Company represented the interest of merchants who traded in materials such as wool, linens and silks and it was the Mercers who became patrons of the Hospital of St Thomas of Acon, and used the hospital’s chapel as a ceremonial meeting site from when the chapel was built in the 13th century in 1248….”
Well, after floundering around for some precise information about who, what, where,why and when, I finally reached this British History online piece , which commences:-
“….This entry concerns the house where Thomas Becket, the martyred archbishop of Canterbury, was born; the hospital of St. Thomas of Acre, which was established on the site of the house and was then extended over several neighbouring properties; the hall and chapel of the Mercers’ Company, which were first set up within the church of the hospital; the rebuilding of the hall and chapel in the early 16th century; and the site of the dissolved hospital, part of which after the Great Fire came to be occupied by the third hall and chapel of the Mercers’ Company….
“….On the street frontage the property corresponded to nos. 85-6 Cheapside in 1858….”
If you read the above article, you will find the following, which concerns the chapel to which Simon Benyngton referred in his 1368 will:-
“….The choir, which was presumably between the high altar and the nave, is first mentioned in 1372. There are several references to the Lady Chapel, presumably to the E. of the choir, where the altar of St. Mary in childbirth (in gisina), mentioned in 1368, was probably located. 20
20 Cal Wills ii, pp. 149, 548; MC, Reg of Writings i, ff. 13, 80; PRO, PROB11/24, f. 22r-v.
There is much much more information in the article, but my concern is the late 14th century, and so my requirements are limited to that period only.
I tell you now that Google Search insisted on asking me if I meant “St Mary in Gym”. Well, I can’t quite see Our Lady working out, even if Google can!
Anyway, unless someone out there knows better, I will have my fictitious character (who has suffered miscarriages) go to the Lady Chapel of the Hospital of St Thomas of Acon in Cheapside, to pray at the altar of St Mary in Gysma.
The image above is not one that I’ve seen before – but that’s just me, no doubt you all recognise it. It’s from the Album amicorum of “a man named Michael van Meer, who seems to have lived in Hamburg and travelled to London around 1614–15”. Unlike imagined reconstructions, this drawing was made of the castle as it was the day van Meer viewed it.
When looking for information about a residence associated with the ill-fated Sir Simon Burley (executed by the Lords Appellant in 1388) I had cause to investigate the properties around London’s Leadenhall Market. It seems Leadenhall stems from a mansion on the site, owned at the beginning of the 14th century by Sir Hugh Neville, which had a lead roof, and was thus called Leaden Hall/Leadenhall.
Anyway, Sir Simon and his brother possessed a residential property in the grounds of Leadenhall mansion. But that is by the by, because the search lead me to the fascinating 19th-century tale of a gander called Old Tom. If you want to read about this valorous bird, who survived to the age of 37 in a market where poultry was sold (!) go to this article.
He passed away of natural causes on 19th March 1835, and his obituary was published in The Times:-
In memory of Old Tom the Gander. Obit 19th March, 1835, aetat, 37 years, 9 months, and 6 days.
‘This famous gander, while in stubble, Fed freely, without care or trouble: Grew fat with corn and sitting still, And scarce could cross the barn-door sill: And seldom waddled forth to cool His belly in the neighbouring pool. Transplanted to another scene, He stalk’d in state o’er Calais-green, With full five hundred geese behind, To his superior care consign’d, Whom readily he would engage To lead in march ten miles a-stage. Thus a decoy he lived and died, The chief of geese, the poulterer’s pride.’
If, like me, you’re always combing around for new bits of information about medieval London, you’ll find this site very interesting and helpful. And delightfully detailed. It knows its onions…well, its old city…and I thoroughly recommend you take a look. And keep it earmarked for future reference.
When it comes to deer and the medieval period, we always think of the poor things being hunted for their venison and everything else. But it seems that they were sometimes kept in the house! Not just a casual break-in as in the image above, but actually being there all the time.
Hard to imagine having a large hart wandering around the home as if it were the mistress’s cat or master’s dog. But it did happen, and here is an amusing anecdote to prove the point:
“….We know from a letter circa 1280….that John of Maidstone paid a visit to Gregory de Rokesle, then mayor of London. With him, he brought some writs from court, which he left on a counter in Gregory’s chamber, presumably for his review, before they were dispatched to Boston and elsewhere. This routine matter was disrupted, however, when a hart (the male red deer), which was in the house, entered the chamber and devoured the writs. The mayor was forced to write to John de Kirkby, the keeper of the chancery rolls, to ask for duplicates….”
I am reminded irresistibly of the (apocryphal?) story of Henry VII’s pet monkey, which was allowed such free rein that it was loathed by courtiers. Henry, as we know, kept a little (black?) book in which he jotted down things people said or he’d heard (or his accounts, depending on where you read the tale). That book was mightily feared. Then, one blessed day, the monkey destroyed the book in a fit of pique. The court changed its opinion of him…but Henry, being Henry, merely started another book….!
My recent endeavours to find out various things about medieval stag hunting have led me anywhere and everywhere, except to the particular facts I’ve been seeking. Typical!
But in the process, I did happen upon this site/, which is very interesting. I am not even vaguely a Londoner, but I do love finding out about our capital’s history…and the history of its near neighbours. The article is informative about the famous if strangely named “isle”, and in turn it led me to another interesting article (from which the above illustration has been taken).
Millwall and the Isle of Dogs go together, so to speak, and the history of both is certainly intertwined. So, to learn more about Millwall, please go here
Of course Shakespearean London is post Ricardian but most of the streets and buildings covered in this interesting article would have been there in Richard’s time.
For anyone visiting London, this article would be an excellent referral point especially for covering the lesser known parts. Starting at St Pauls station, via Bankside, a thoroughfare since the 13th century, ending back at St Pauls, the walk covers much including Borough Market, the church of St Magnus Martyr, where two stones from the original Medieval bridge are still in situ, Eastcheap, the London Stone, close to Cannon Street Station where once Warwick the Kingmaker’s London house, the Erber, stood and St Pauls, rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren after the disastrous Fire of London 1666.
I’ve posted some photos here of places covered on the walk although I’m not sure these are in the book, see below, from which this article is an extract.
After reading Michael Jones‘ book “Bosworth 1485 The Psychology of a Battle”, I have leaned towards his site of the Battle of Bosworth. Since the book was published more evidence has come to light that shows that the battle probably did not take place around Ambion Hill. I have also read John D Austin’s book “MEREVALE and Atherstone”. John lives in the Atherstone area and his book provides lots of local evidence to suggest that the battle may well have been fought in the area.
Michael Jones cites The Crowland Chronicle, one of the earliest sources of the battle, which refers to Richard having camped near to Merevale Abbey ready to meet Tudor’s challenge and names their clash the next day as the Battle of Merevale.
In the Spring 2004 Ricardian Bulletin I came across an article by Lynda M Telford entitled “WarHorses at Bosworth”. Lynda Telford states that thirty years of experience with horses leads her to believe whether Dadlington or Atherstone is the battle site, it cannot have been Ambion Hill. This is due to the cramped area thought to be the battlefield which is quite unsuitable for large numbers of horses.
We have recently fought the second Battle of Bosworth with Ricardians pitted against Hinckley Borough Council which ended with them giving planning consent to Horiba Mira so that they could build an electric car testing site on the battlefield site. Unfortunately, the second battle was lost as was the first, however, it appears to confirm that the battle was fought in the area suggested by Michael Jones.
So, if this is the case it begs the question: where was the Earl of Northumberland during the battle? When it was thought that the battle was fought at Ambion Hill, it was said that Northumberland was posted to rear of Richard as the reserve and that he didn’t become involved in the battle. This was taken to mean that Northumberland deserted Richard too, as did the Stanleys.
I am going to suggest that, given the new site of the battle with Richard to north of Atherstone and Tudor to the south of it, Northumberland was to the south of “Tudor”. What if he was guarding the road to London to ensure that “Tudor” didn’t take off down Watling Street? On page 22 of his book ”Merevale and Atherstone”, John D Austin comments “ Tudor marched Northwards through Wales from Milford Haven hopefully to gather Welsh supporters and then he intended to march south from Shrewsbury, more or less down Watling Street to London. Henry had never fought in a battle before and particularly with his puny forces and lack of experience the last thing he wanted to do was to search out and attack Richard” It makes sense, why would Tudor turn east off Watling St to confront Richard when he could have hopefully carried on marching south to London?
Richard would have realised that the battle would have to be in a place of his choosing and he would have remembered that when he and Edward returned from Burgundy in 1471 and they challenged Warwick at Coventry, they moved off and found that the road to London was unguarded and so they set off immediately and entered London unchallenged. He may well have instructed Northumberland to guard the road and ensure that no one got through. What if his instructions to Northumberland were not to leave the road unguarded in any circumstances?
I have read that it was considered strange that “Tudor” went to Leicester after the battle and not straight to London. I wonder if that was because having turned east to do battle he knew that Northumberland was still guarding the road and Tudor, not being battle hardened at all, couldn’t face an encounter with troops who would have been relatively fresh in comparison with his troops.