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.


Thursday, 12 August 2010

Walking round mid-Tudor Oxford

I spent part of the afternoon showing a visiting American academic around sites associated with his interests in the history of the Church in the mid-Tudor period. These included the church of St Michael and the Northgate, which has a door from the Bocado prison where the Protestant bishops were held, and adjoins the site of their incarceration. We spent some time reflecting on what changes the church would have gone through in the period - all very much Eamon Duffy type stuff - and that looking at the church today Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley might wonder what had gone wrong with their project. St Michael's is a BCP parish to a great extent, but its furnishings are not of the stark simplicity that is implicit in the Edwardian changes. Indeed it still preserves an interesting example of a 'Lily Cross' like that in St Helen's Abingdon and in the mural at Godshill in the Isle of Wight.

We then went on to look for the remains - none really - of Broadgates Hall, which since 1624 has formed Pembroke College, and then to look at St Mary's, scene of the trial and degradation of the Protestant bishops. Again we speculated on the impact of the reformation on the fabric and furnishings. We concluded by looking at the remains of the gateway of St Mary's College, the house of studies for the Augustinian Canons, whose site included Brasenose's Frewin Hall annexe and part of the site of the Oxford Union. It was there that Erasmus stayed on his visits to Oxford. It's a wonder someone at the Union has not tried to claim him as a member. Come to think of it, they probably have.

It is genuine intellectual pleasure to do a walk like that - pleasurable and mentally stimulating. An occasion to try out some of my own ideas and see how they sounded when expounded to a willing victim, and to glean ideas from him. It's what being an Oxford historian is supposed to be about.

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