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.


Tuesday, 27 October 2020

The Gloucester Whitefriars


Redevelopment work in Gloucester has enable archaeologists to identify the site of the medieval Carmelite friary. This is reported in an article on the website of the Smithsonian Magazine which can be read at Long-Lost Medieval Monastery Discovered Beneath Parking Garage in England and which has a useful link at British History online to the Victoria County History account of the friary. There is also a report in the Daily Express, which can be seen at Archaeology discovery: 'Long-lost' medieval monastery find ‘exposes forgotten history’


The R rate revisited


One consequence of coronavirus is that since March we have all - all of us - become instant experts in virology. Frankly looking at the range of professional opinion anybody seems able to hold forth on some aspect of the matter with a reasonable likelihood of being right and of being listened to.

In this media maelstrom it is quite comforting to escape as a historian to the emotional tranquility of pandemics of the distant past, and notably the Black Death of 1348-50 and the London Plague of 1665. Doing so puts the present situation in context and makes one respect or admire the relative stoicism of past eras.

The MailOnline has an article drawing upon recent research looking at the spread of disease in those two terrible visitations. It is a measure of how London has grown and become congested that the plague spread, it is calculated, four times as quickly in 1665 as it had just over three centuries earlier. The article can be seen at Plague spread FOUR TIMES faster in London in 1665 than in 1348

The 1665 Plague year has a particular interest for me as some of my ancestors were definitely caught up in it when it spread to Eyam in Derbyshire, and where the village famously quarantined itself.


Travellers to Northumbria in its golden age


Analysis of skeletons found at Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland has indicated that people were drawn to the site in the golden age of the Northumbrian kingdom, the period from the earlier seventh to early eighth century that coincides with the lives of Saints such as Aidan, Benedict Biscop, Wilfrid and Bede. 

The examination of the bones indicates the nature of cultural and trading links across the British Isles and to the Mediterranean. The evidence is outlined in a report from the MailOnline which can be seen at Skeletons buried near Bamburgh Castle were the remains of visitors

An earlier report from the same source details evidence on the rock at Bamburgh of a substantial round house from the end of Roman rule or early Anglian colonisation. It can be viewed at 2,000-year-old Roman roundhouse unearthed at Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh is strikingly situated on the coast, the present castle dating from the twelfth century but well restored in the nineteenth century. As these reports show it occupies a site with a rich pre-conquest history. If you have not been I would urge you to go and to combine it with a visit to Lindisfarne or Holy Island which faces Bamburgh across the open water.


Dealing with evil in the Buckinghamshire countryside


The discovery of ‘Witch marks’ in the ruined and abandoned church at Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire has been featured in two online articles - by the MailOnline at 'Witches' markings' found in church were used to ward off evil spirits and by LiveScience Essentials at Witch-repellent graffiti discovered in ruins of medieval UK church

Buckinghamshire with its folded countryside and hidden valleys, rich but slightly mysterious woodlands and winding routes strikes me as a landscape that holds its secrets, be they historical or matters of belief. Lollardy gained a secure foothold there in the later middle ages, and one can easily imagine folk religion, paganism and witchcraft enduring there - and aided and abetted by Sir Francis Dashwood  and the Hell Fire Club at West Wycombe.

Talking of evil in the Chilterns regular readers will not be surprised that the Clever Boy is totally opposed to the HS2 project. It is this behemoth which will destroy the remains of the old church at Stoke Mandeville and much more besides. If we seek to improve our railways system then reconstruct existing lines or rebuild casualties of the Beeching axe - but please, not with the hideous apparatus of overhead electrification. HS2 however, is wantonly destructive and an example of the posturing political virility of Cameron, Johnson and their ilk. It is already way over budget - a surprise that - and one might hope that paying for the coronavirus might kill it off. Just so a few fat cats from Birmingham and Manchester can cut twenty minutes off their journey the scheme is doing irreparable harm along its route. There are a series of linked articles about its environmental impact from the BBC News website at HS2: Moving ancient woodland habitat for rail line flawed, ecologists say


The church of St. Mary was built around 1070, following the Norman Conquest, and experts believe it was the first private church belonging to the lord of the manor at the time (pictured is a virtual reconstruction of the church)
The church of St. Mary Stoke Mandeville was built around 1070, following the Norman Conquest, and it is suggested it was firstly the private church belonging to the lord of the manor. This is a reconstruction of the church before it was abandoned in the nineteenth century. 
Image: Daily Mail/ HS2


Exhibition about Ulster King of Arms and his Office


The College of Arms Newsletter which presented itself in my inbox yesterday morning has a piece about an exhibition in Dublin Castle, which looks from the official website to be extremely interesting:

Splendour and Scandal: The Office of Arms at Dublin Castle :
This exhibition in the State Apartment Galleries at Dublin Castle is dedicated to the history of the office of Ulster King of Arms, heraldic authority for the island of Ireland. This office, one of the oldest of the state offices, was also one of the last to be handed over by the British Crown to the Irish State, in 1943. The jurisdiction of Ulster King of Arms over Northern Ireland was at that time transferred to Norroy and Ulster King of Arms at the College of Arms. The exhibition, which can be viewed online here includes a portrait lent by the College of Arms of Sir Nevile Wilkinson, the last Ulster King of Arms, who was appointed in 1908 and served until his death in 1940.

Sir Arthur Vicars was Ulster King of Arms 1893–1908.
Image: Wikipedia 

File:Dublin Castle, Bedford tower, South view 20150807 1.jpg

The Bedford Tower in Dublin Castle
Built in 1761 it housed the office of Ulster King of Arms from 1903 until 1943. It was from here that the Irish Crown Jewels were stolen in July 1907.

Image: Wikimedia

There is an introduction to the history of the office of Ulster King of Arms at Norroy and Ulster King of Arms and an introduction to the intriguing story of the 1907 theft at Irish Crown Jewels


Saturday, 24 October 2020

Remembering Fr Jerome Bertram


Yesterday was the first anniversary of the death of Fr Jerome Bertram C.O., one of the founding Fathers of the Oxford Oratory. For such an Oxonian figure to depart on the Feast of St Frideswide and in the days following the canonisation of St John Henry Newman there was an elegance to his demise that would have, I suspect, have appealed to him. Today being ferial was set aside by the Oratory as his year-mind and all the Masses were requiems for him. I attended the 6pm celebration and the numbers attending were considerably more than has been usual on weekdays in recent months, a tribute in itself to Fr Jerome.

The other month I posted about him, and thought I would link to it again at The Monuments Man


I have also come across a post from last year by The Rad Trad which is a tribute to Fr Jerome and can be seen at Jerome Bertram, CO (RIP)


Fr Jerome is someone one is very conscious of missing and for whom one is very thankful for having known and been influenced by.

May he rest in peace


The Third Partition of Poland


Today is the 225th anniversary of the Third Partition of Poland in 1795.

There is an online account of the events at Third Partition of Poland

The causes and consequences of the three partitions are complex and fraught with hubris and failings, with national rivalries, aspirations and delusions, and with misunderstood history and historical narratives. Partition did not resolve them, nor did the resurrection of Poland in 1919-20. It is a history more people should reflect upon than I suspect do.

Partitions of Poland.png
Aftermath of the Third Partition of the Commonwealth, with the disappearance of sovereign Poland and Lithuania.

Image: Wikipedia 


Pope Pius XI on the Dominion of Christ


The latest FSSP Minute Missive has returned to the question of authority in church and state. Earlier this month they had a post on this subject which I reproduced and commented on in The Matter of Authority

The article distributed online yesterday is a series of quotations from Pope Pius XI’s Quas Primas of 1925. I have left the FSSP emphases unchanged. In our current cultural  - and seemingly unending - malaise it is food for thought, for prayer and for appropriate action:

All Men Are Under the Dominion of Christ

An excerpt from Quas Primas:Encyclical of Pope Pius XI on the Feast of Christ the King

It would be a grave error, on the other hand, to say that Christ has no authority whatever in civil affairs, since, by virtue of the absolute empire over all creatures committed to Him by the Father, all things are in His power

Nevertheless, during His life on earth He refrained from the exercise of such authority, and although He Himself disdained to possess or to care for earthly goods, He did not, nor does He today, interfere with those who possess them. Non eripit mortalia qui regna dat caelestia.

Thus the empire of our Redeemer embraces all menTo use the words of our immortal predecessor, Pope Leo XIII: 

“His empire includes not only Catholic nations, not only baptized persons who, though of right belonging to the Church, have been led astray by error, or have been cut off from her by schism, but also all those who are outside the Christian faith; so that truly the whole of mankind is subject to the power of Jesus Christ.”

Nor is there any difference in this matter between the individual and the family or the State; for all men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ

In Him is the salvation of the individual, in Him is the salvation of society. 

“Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved.”

He is the author of happiness and true prosperity for every man and for every nation

“For a nation is happy when its citizens are happy. What else is a nation but a number of men living in concord?” 

If, therefore, the rulers of nations wish to preserve their authority, to promote and increase the prosperity of their countries, they will not neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ

What we said at the beginning of Our Pontificate concerning the decline of public authority, and the lack of respect for the same, is equally true at the present day. 

“With God and Jesus Christ,” we said, “excluded from political life, with authority derived not from God but from man, the very basis of that authority has been taken away, because the chief reason of the distinction between ruler and subject has been eliminated. The result is that human society is tottering to its fall, because it has no longer a secure and solid foundation.” 

Given at St. Peter’s, Rome, on the eleventh day of the month of December, in the Holy Year 1925, the fourth of our Pontificate.