Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding.

I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop...
It was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Distrusting the National Trust

The Special Correspondent has forwarded me these two links to posts on Art History News about the latest idiocies that appear to be taking hold over policy makers at the National Trust. The posts can be read at


Whatever its cause - fashion, middle-class cultural guilt, political correctness or simple old-fashioned stupidity - such ideas do no credit to the Trust, and offer no incentive to join it, or even visit it's very fine properties.

Fire in Oxford

My life, and that of many other Oxonians was slightly disturbed this evening by the fire at the Randolph Hotel at teatime. With fortunately no serious injuries the presence of fire engines and other emergency services required road and pavement closures, and for me required a detour on the way to Mass. 

I had seen the smoke belching and billowing from the roof as I walked along Cornmarket and again as I crossed Beaumont Street, where you could smell the fire, reminiscent of an autumn bonfire.

For the record the BBC News report about the fire can be seen at Oxford's five-star Randolph Hotel hit by fire.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The burning of Robert Ferrar

March 30th was the 460th anniversary of the burning at the stake in Carmarthen market place of Robert Ferrar, the Edwardian Bishop of St David's, in 1555. I missed the precise anniversary as it fell in Holy Week.

A posthumous portrait of Robert Ferrar c.1504-1555

Image: tudorplace.org
My interest in Ferrar arises from the fact that he was the last Prior of Nostell in my home area, and as I am writing this in the Oxford Union I am virtually on the site of St Mary's College where he would have studied as an Augustinian canon - St Mary's was their house of study in Oxford. Ferrar's career as a bishop in Wales was troubled - he clearly became entangledin the internecine politics of the chapter and diocese at St Davids in his early years in the diocese under King Edward VI, and ended up being detained in London. His marriage led to his deposition under Queen Mary, his death a result of his views on Transubstantiation.

There is an online introduction to his life at Robert Ferrar and there is another from the website Tudor Place here.

John Foxe's account of Ferrar, citing original texts (something Foxe was very good at doing) in the Book of Martyrs  can be read at Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 276. ROBERT FERRAR

There is a short note about him from John Cannon's Oxford Companion to British History which can be read here.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry about him is the most detailed and modern academic account. It is by Glanmor Williams and can be read here.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

A day in the City of London

Yesterday I joined other members of Oxford University Heraldry Society on a visit to London.

I took the train to Paddington, and was struck once again on the journey by the ugliness of electrification - it does nothing at all for the landscape. The third rail method is far more desirable on visual grounds.

Having got that off my chest, back to the day in London. We met at All Hallows-by-the-Tower (sometimes known in the past as All Hallows Barking because the advowson belonged to the Essex abbey)


All Hallows-by-the-Tower

Image: lqg.org.uk

It is one of eight City churches that survived the Great Fire of 1666, but it was bombed in the Second World War and subsequently restored in that somewhat peculiar way that was adopted for many of the City churches in that instead of reconstructing the church as it had been the architects were given something of a free hand and allowed in part to produce an adaptation of the previous work. The spire is, for example, a post WWII addition - and works well. I am less sure about the design of the east window. Nevertheless it is a handsome building, rich in historic associations.

It is claimed as the oldest church in London, and in the crypt, is a pavement of Roman date from the second century:

Roman pavement in the crypt


The crypt has a fascinating display of Roman and Anglo-Saxon remains from the site and others in the City as well as a model of Roman London.


At the west end is the oldest surviving piece of church building in London, a Saxon arch dated to about 675 or possibly a bit later. Built of stone and Roman tiles it is an impressive link to the early history of Christian London.

Richard II altar in the crypt

An altar in the crypt from the Holy Land from the Crusader era

Under the patronage of King Edward I it became a noted Marian shrine, and particularly enjoyed the patronage of the Yorkist kings, and was rebuilt in the reign of King Edward IV, and hence the style adopted for the modern rebuilding.

Evyngar memorial brass, 1533

Evyngar brass 1533


Being close to the site of the scaffold on Tower Hill it was occasionally the burial place of victims of the headsman, including, briefly, St John Fisher and until his removal to Oxford at the Restoration of Archbishop William Laud. It has strong American associations being the place of baptism of William
Penn and where John Quincy Adams was married whilst serving as US Ambassador to the Court of St James.

The Grinling Gibbons font cover

 The font cover by Grinling Gibbons


The modern stained glass is rich in armorials - hence our visit from the  OU Heraldry Society.

There is more about the church and its history at the online article All Hallows-by-the-Tower

A short taxi ride took us to Armoury House, the home of the Honourable Artillery Company. Their website can be seen at Honourable Artillery Company and there is another history and account of them at  Honourable Artillery Company

They are the oldest Regiment in the British Army, originating as Guild of St George, and apparently drawing upon earlier antecedents, chartered by King Henry VIII in August 1537. Because of their similar date of foundation they maintain fraternal links with the Papal Swiss Guard.
In addition to being a Territorial or Reserve Regiment and a force of Special Constable sin the City of London they also maintain the ceremonial Company of Pikemen and Musketeers, established in 1925  who parade in seventeenth century style armour and uniform on appropriate occasions and a Light Cavalry who fire gun salutes at the Tower of London.

HAC shortarms crest.gif

Crest and Motto of the Honourable Artillery Company

Image: Wikipedia

We lunched in the Long Room, part of the oldest part of the complex and built in 1735. After lunch we toured other rooms and the museum and some of us were shown the armoury with the Pikemen and Musketeers armour hanging up ready for their next appearance.

Having finished our tout i walked with another OUHS member back into the City. I had thought of exploring places I had not visited hitherto and he kindly guided me, the country mouse, so to speak. Working our way past the Bank of England, Royal Exchange and Mansion House we went through the impressive Victorian survival of Leadenhall Market to look at the remains of the church of
All Saints or All Hallows Staining. The parish was amalgamated with St Olave Hart Street and the church other than the medieval tower demolished in 1870.

File:City parish churches, All Hallows Staining (remains of) - geograph.org.uk - 559736.jpg

All Hallows Staining

Image: Wikimedia Commons 

The suffix means that the church was built of stone and is apparently a record of the time when other churches with the same dedication were still constructed of timber. There is a history of the church at All Hallows Staining , and there is another one here.


 The church in 1831

Image: ashrare.com 

My friend then took me on to St Olave Hart Street

File:St Olave's Church, Hart Street - City Of London..jpg

The tower of St Olave Hart Street

Image: Wikimedia commons

The is another of the medieval churches that survived the Great Fire, but not the aerial bombardment of 1941. The church of the Clothworkers it has been handsomely, and not too drastically restored. It contains the grave and monument of Samuel Pepys, whose burial took place there in 1703. The striking gateway through which he and Mrs Pepys went to church dates from 1658 and leads into Seething Lane where the Pepys' lived.

As the only surviving church in London dedicated to the patron saint of Norway King Haakon VII laid one of the foundation stones of the rebuilding, and this forms part of the low screen separating the chancel from the nave.

There is an illustrated account of this delightful church with links at St Olave Hart Street and there are more pictures of details and features here.

Before I got the tube back to Paddington from Tower Hill I looked at the subsantial piece of Roman city wall that stands by the entrance to the station, complete with a statue of the Emperor Trajan. This has endured for upwards of nineteen centuries close to the heart of the City - an amazing survival and one that has witnessed so much of the history of London and of England. 

Emporer Trajan and the Old Roman Wall, Tower Hill, London, England

The Emperor Trajan and London Wall


Saturday, 11 April 2015

Images of the Resurrection

Following on from my use of paintings by Piero della Francesca in Christ is Risen! Alleluia! and Raffaellino del Gabo in Easter in Oxford   this week two further images of the Resurrection in the Easter edition of the Catholic Herald caught my eye. Both use the same concept as the first two of Christ stepping or arising out of a table tomb.

Andrea Mantegna(c.1431-1506) produced his painting in 1457-59 as a commission as part of an altarpiece for the abbey of San Zeno in Verona, where the main part remains, with portions in Paris and Tours.

Andrea Mantegna Resurrection

Andrea Mantegna The Resurrection 1457-59


  produces a dynamic depiction of the event, but his historicism is evident - he was an assiduous reseacher for the architecvturala nd other features of his paintings. His depiction is slightly earlier than Piero, by about five years.

I am inclined to add that Mantegna's palette seems so often to suggest the menacing light as a thunder storm approaches - the effect is awesome, but not always very comfortable.


Pinturicchio - Bernardo di Betto 1454-1513
In the Borgia apartments of the Vatican, painted for Pope Alexander VI in 1492-1494.

Image; ganino.com

Bernardo di Betto, knoewn as Pinturicchio (1454-1513) was commissioned by Pope Alexander VI to decorate what are now known as the Borgia Apartments in 1492-4. As the link explains recent cleaning of Pinturicchio's fresco "The Resurrection" has revealed a scene which is believed to be the earliest known European depiction of Native Americans, 

This splendid image lacks the physicality of Piero or Mantegna, but is wonderfully joyous and positive. Perhaps best known for the portrait of Pope Alexander VI, who looks very much of the flesh indeed, its rendering of the Resurrection itself does, maybe, make that event perhaps too etherial, too lacking in the gritty realism of Mantegna or Piero.

Friday, 10 April 2015

More on the reburial of King Richard III

Whilst we are on the subject of the reburial of King Richard III the Special Correspondent, who has a knack of getting everywhere, received one of the balloted seats for the service in Leicester Cathedral.

He has forwarded to me this tweet about the day from King Richard III (clearly he is in a grave with all mod cons) (@KRIIILeicester)26/03/2015 9:50 am Guests starting to arrive #richardreburied pic.twitter.com/fVtz5zMp0s

He also sent me this link to an article in the New York Times about the events in Leicester, giving an external observer's view of the ceremonies, and which can be read here.

Finally he has sent me this link about the reinterment which can be viewed here.

Requiem Mass for King Richard III in York

Whilst researching the Easter liturgies of the Oratorians in York for a previous post I found the following piece, which I thought I would copy and paste, about their recent commemoration of King Richard III:


There were good numbers of people in St Wilfrid's for the Requiem Mass for King Richard III celebrated by the Rt Rev. Terence Drainey, Bishop of Middlesbrough, on Thursday, 26th March, the day of the reburial of the King's remains in Leicester Cathedral.

The choir sang the Plainchant Requiem Mass very beautifully, words that the King himself would have known and sung. It was his wish that this Mass should be celebrated for him in York and now that request has been fulfilled.


We borrowed a replica of King Richard's Standard of the White Boar to place on the catafalque where the Bishop said the prayers for the dead at the end of the Mass. Many people brought white roses.
Our bells rang fully muffled before and after Mass. This is a privilege reserved to the death of a monarch, and so is rarely heard.

The sermon preached by Fr Richard can be read here.

There are also some excellent photographs taken by a member of the congregation who has kindly agreed to share them in this post.


Images:Graham Tebby/stwilfridsyork.org