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.


Monday, 29 November 2021

The Gloucester Ku Klux Klan …


Over dinner last night a friend told me a story that he had no reason to doubt.

Some years ago a concerned citizen of Gloucester contacted the police there to say that they had seen a group of white caped and hooded men in the city whom they took to be members of the Ku Klux Klan. 

Mr Plod investigated. Mt Plod investigated thoroughly.

He was able to ascertain that this was not the Gloucester KKK, but in fact the white robed monks of Prinknash Abbey arriving for Evensong in Gloucester Cathedral ……


Sunday, 28 November 2021

Advent - four weeks or five?


Today is Advent Sunday, the beginning of the time of preparation and anticipation for Christmas that combines both looking at Christ’s coming in the past in time and space and also looking at his future coming when time and space as we know them shall be swept away.

Advent combines solemnity - or indeed spiritual sobriety ( the physical version is scarce these days in this season ) - with expectant joy. Often described as one of the Church’s hidden treasures it sometimes, depending upon the calendar, seems rushed and too short for proper preparation ( and all the more so in the flurry of modern shopping and suchlike )

The New Liturgical Movement recently had an interesting and carefully researched article by Gregory DiPippo about how Adent was originally longer in the West, as it still is in the East, being five rather than four weeks until the time of St Gregory the Great.

The article can be read at The Five Week Advent



The Jacobite Kennington Martyrs


Today. November 28th, is the 275th anniversary of the last of the three sets of executions of Jacobite officers at Kennington in London. Other executions of more rank and file participants in the Rising took place at York, Carlisle and Penrith.

The 1745 Association has been meeting online via Zoom with a series of monthly talks which are then uploaded to YouTube. Last month we had an excellent talk by Steven Robb about the fate of the men who were tried in London and who went to the gallows at Kennington. Of note in the illustrations were several anti-Jacobite prints of considerable elegance and remarkable ingenuity of imagination.

The video of the talk can be seen at The Kennington Martyrs

The remains of most of the men were interred at St George’s Gardens in the King’s Cross area and there is a video of the Association’s annual commemoration event there this year at St George's Gardens Commemoration August 2021

The head of Col. Francis Towneley was rescued from Temple Bar and eventually found its way to the family vault in Burnley church. I posted about his posthumous fate last year in 

A video of the Rutland Roman villa


In my last post I wrote about and linked to the reports about the discovery of an important Roman villa site in Rutland in A Roman villa in Rutland

This has now been followed by the release online of a video which includes interviews with the farmer who discovered it and with the archaeologists who worked on the site. It also includes film of the mosaic floor with its images derived from the Iliad which has in particular attracted the attention of both experts and of the media.



Thursday, 25 November 2021

A Roman villa in Rutland


The BBC News website has a report today which alerted me to the discovery of the site of what was clearly a substantial and cultured Roman villa in Rutland. It is thought to date from the third or fourth century.

What especially marks it out is that one room has a floor mosaic design indicating the literary tastes of the owners. The sizeable floor depicts the battle between Achilles and Hector from Homer’s Iliad. As a subject it is a unique discovery in this country and the mosaic is being hailed as the most important to be uncovered in a century.

The remains were initially discovered after distinctive pottery showed up in a field and initial excavation led to the villa site. Further examination of the clearly extensive site will continue next year and plans are being worked upon to present the site, which has now been scheduled, to the public.

Once again this is a case of a significant and spectacular archaeological site being found with, apparently, no previous indication of its existence.


In addition I found that The Art Newspaper has a somewhat more detailed account of the site, including the evidence for the abandonment of the villa, and that can be read at Magnificent Roman mosaic discovered in a farmer's field is 'UK's most exciting find of its kind in a century'

Monday, 22 November 2021

Men’s fashion style 1000 -1500


In my last post I linked to a piece by the Welsh Viking about the Sutton Hoo helmet. I came across that from looking at another post by him about the development of men’s fashion in western Europe between the years 1000 and 1500.  I think that is also worth sharing as a useful guide to men’s attire in the period and with that to the continuities as well as the innovations over those centuries. 

He pitches it particularly, but by no means exclusively, at his fellow re-enactors, As a result the practicalities are brought out about both the making as well as the styling of clothing. He has some good illustrations - though perhaps some deserve to stay on screen a bit longer - and one certainly gets a sense of how fashion developed, particularly in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It is all presented in a rather jaunty way, bringing out his own stylistic preferences.



Sunday, 21 November 2021

The Sutton Hoo Helmet - a reinterpretation


I came upon a video by The Welsh Viking - who was new to me but has produced a range of such things, especially in connection with re-enactment clothing as well as being a graduate student in archaeology - which looks at the latest theory about the iconography and significance of the Sutton Hoo helmet.

He bases his account on a recent research paper which argues the imagery of Odin/Wotan/Grim on the decoration of the helmet and its overall design is highly suggestive of ritual use and the function of the wearer - let us assume it was a King of East Anglia - as a temporal representative of the pagan God. As he also points out Odin is a constant theme in the decoration of the finds from the Sutton Hoo ship. He case for such an interpretation seems impressive.

The video, with links to the academic articles he cites, can be seen at Is the Sutton Hoo Helmet from "The Dig" Really an Odin Mask?


Saturday, 20 November 2021

The reredos of All Souls College


Christopher Howse writes with his usual elegant perception about the reredos of the chapel of All Souls College in his regular Sacred Mysteries column in the Daily Telegraph. His article is based on a new book about the towering statue-filled reredos which dates in its origin to the founding of the college by Archbishop Henry Chichele in the 1430s. Howse links this to the dedication of the college and to All Soulstide, but then opens up the story of its restoration in the 1870s - as he points out a typical story of Fellows feuding.

The design of the reredos, as is so much else in All Souls, is derived from New College, and the same ideas were also copied at Magdalen by Bishop Waynefleet.

All Souls chapel also houses two wonderful original fifteenth century statues of King Henry VI and Archbishop Chichele from the High Street exterior. Like the reredos they were once painted and unlike its figures have survived the centuries, and were brought indoors in the early twentieth century. Unfortunately their replacements are very inferior copies indeed.