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.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Fr Richard Duffield's Silver Jubilee

Yesterday was the Silver Jubilee of the Ordination to the Priesthood of Fr Richard Duffield Cong.Orat., who now presides over the York Oratory-in-formation.

I have copied this post from the Oratory website


11th July, the feast of St Benedict, was the Silver Jubilee of Fr Richard Duffield's priesthood. Fr Richard was ordained in our church twenty-five years ago by Bishop Terence Brain.
Fr Richard celebrated the six o'clock Mass on the day of his anniversary.




After Mass, there was a celebration in the Parish Centre, when many of our parishioners congratulated Fr Richard:


Fr Richard made a speech:




Images and text: Oxford Oratory

Fr Richard is a York man, and some years ago I realised that he was once the toddler I recalled in his father's wonderful bookshop in the city when as ateenager I went in on book-buying trips with my mother on our regular visits to York. Small world.


Monday, 10 July 2017

Tally sticks

The BBC News online website has an article about medieval tally sticks and similar means of recording money transfers which is of interest to those with a sense of the past, both in terms of the course of the Exchequer and the fate of the old Palace of Westminster. It can be read at

What tally sticks tell us about how money works
Medieval tally sticks illustrate what money really is: a kind of debt that can be traded freely.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Royal Palaces of the Hundred Years War

History Extra has an illustrated article on Royal palaces of the Hundred Years’ War which is of interest and links in with other posts I have written, such as those on the Très Riches Heures of the Duke of Berry and castles such as Vincennes.

The article is introduced as follows: Made famous in popular history by the battle of Agincourt, Joan of Arc and Edward the Black Prince, the Hundred Years' War was an epic conflict between two nations, England and France. As Anthony Emery explains, over the course of the war the balance of architectural power moved from religious to secular domination; the Gothic style of architecture continued to develop and the palace-fortress became the pre-eminent form of a residence. Read the full story here.

I think it does bring out the point that these really were palace-fortresses, and not just stark military establishments, in what was an age of royal and aristocratic luxurious living.

Friday, 7 July 2017

The hidden depths of the medieval church

I found this piece online and thought it might be worth sharing. It is from History Extra and looks at the question  How naughty was the past? The hidden depths of the medieval church

Hidden messages and tongue-in-cheek depictions were widespread throughout medieval churches. But was the medieval world simply rife with satire or did these etchings and carvings hold deeper meanings? Here, Dr Emma J. Wells from the University of York explores seven of the most curious examples… Read the full story here

In my humble opinion, human nature does not change...

Thursday, 6 July 2017


There is an article on the Daily Telegraph online website about the degree of fitness that was required for a medieval jouster, and comparing it with that of modern athletes.

It can be read in two versions at Study reveals jousters are as fit as today's top athletes and at What it takes to be a jouster, the fittest sportsman of them all

It confirms what I have always suspected, that the men who competed in the lists, Kings and princes, aristocrats and knights, were physically very fit indeed. That it was in part training for warfare - just as modern equestrian sports derive from military training in more recent centuries for the cavalry - as indeed was hunting, is true, but, as with the chase, some practitioners were keener and more committed than others, and may well have spent a great deal of time training and keeping physically fit. It was not a hobby you could just indulge in without considerable, and expensive, preparation.

King Henry IV was a noted jouster in the 1390s and McNiven argues in a well-known article which seeks to give an analysis of the King's health, and its decline from fairly soon after his accession, that the King may have suffered from being unable to maintain his customary level of fitness but put on weight and that like some modern athletes suffered health problems as a consequence of his enforced idleness of retirement from physical competition.

It has also been suggested that King Henry VIII's last years were shaped in part by the consequences of injuries he had received  in the lists or conditions which developed as a result of jousting. Robert Hutchinson has written about this in The Last Days of Henry VIII:Conspiracies, Treason, and Heresy at the Court of the Dying Tyrant

That said, of course, both these English Kings came off better that King Henri II of France who died as a result of a joust in 1559. No amount of fitness can prepare you for something like his fate.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Avebury reappraised

The Daily Telegraph has an online report about the latest siscoveries at the great prehistoric site at Avebury in Wiltshire.

Entitled  Avebury stone circle was once a ‘weird’ square, archaeologists find it is one of the greatest marvels of prehistoric Britain, the largest stone circle in Europe and a sacred meeting place for its creators and their successors and appears to be aligned with the stars. Read the full story

Tombstones - quaint and curious

The BBC News online website today has a post about various unusual or noteworthy gravestones.

Some are famous, such as those at Malmesbury and Winchester, but others are less well known - or indeed were unknown to me - and all have interesting, and at times, macabre, stories.

The article, entitled The headstones with unusual stories to tell, and which is illustrated, can be seen here and there are also links at the end to related articles.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Canada 150

Today is the 150th anniversary of the Dominion of Canada coming into being as a self-governing entity under the provisions of the British North America Act of 1867.

Coat of arms of Canada.svg

The Arms of Her Majesty The Queen in Right of Canada

Granted in 1921 and revised in 1957 and 1994

Image: Wikipedia

There is an online account of the history of the arms and their development at Arms of Canada.

Related to them as a symbol of Royal authority in Canada is the Great Seal and there is an illustrated account of that at Great Seal of Canada.



Image: Wikipedia

This illumination is attributed to Paul Limbourg and depicts the Chateau or Palace of Poitiers, parts of which still survive. The chateau belonged to the Duke of Berry who had rebuilt portions of it in the decades preceding the painting.
Harvesting and sheep shearing are taking place in the foreground, plenty abounds - all is beginning to be safely gathered in against the winter. As with the other months in the series the scene is idyllic - almost in the tradition of eighteenth century rustic scenes. Swans glide along the clear waters of the moat, the chateau looks trim and well-cared for, as befitted a residence of the Duke of Berry, whilst the landscape is lush and fertile. Here then is once again a scene of tranquility, rather different from the realities of life in northern and central France in the years 1413-16.

More particularly, in July 1417 King Henry V was completing his plans for his second invasion of France. By the end of the month the English King, his army and fleet were asembled ready for the planned conquest of Normandy.