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.

Saturday, 6 August 2022

Re-assessing and re-interpreting Tattershall Castle

Lincolnshire Live has a report about recent work on the dating and construction of that marvellously evocative structure Tattershall Castle. This can be seen at Tattershall Castle could be even older than previously thought

The report is, of course, only a summary and it would be very interesting to read the full study and see what else it adds to our understanding of the castle. 

There is a useful account of the castle from Wikipedia at Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire

Lord Cromwell’s tower at Tattershall Castle

Image: Wikipedia

The National Trust has another useful account of the history of the castle at The history of Tattershall Castle in a nutshell

There are some good photographs of the castle before it was restored and also some of the adjacent collegiate church at The Remarkable Story Of Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire.

The fifteenth century brick Great Tower is basically all that survives beyond foundations and most of this impressive castle. Nevertheless it is a wonderful structure, rescued and restored by Lord Curzon rather over a century ago. The Great Tower is certainly impressive and emanates the life in its echoing rooms the grandeur of aristocratic life in the reign of King Henry VI.

The tower was the work of Ralph Lord Cromwell, Treasurer of England and a significant builder - in addition to the new great tower at Tattershall he also founded and rebuilt the collegiate church there and also his impressive manor house at Wingfield in Derbyshire. In that respect he was rather like the “new men” - the Cecils, Christopher Hatton, the Cavendishs and their like as well as older families like the Talbots a century and more later. In addition building accounts survive for the work offering a detailed insight into the creation of this landmark building. 

Lincolnshire is a county from whence come some of my ancestors, and I first visited Tattershall with my parents when I was about four years old or thereabouts. The period when what survives there was built is one in which I have particular interest as an historian and Tattershall has a particular call on my caffections.

If readers have not visited Tattershall I would strongly urge making time to do so - the castle and church are a wonderful insight inro the age of King Henry VI.

The re-burial of Abbot Whethamstede

A week ago the bones of John Whethamstede, who served twice as Abbot of St Albans from 1420-40 and then again from 1451 until his death in 1465,were reinterred adjacent to the tomb of Humphrey Duke of Gloucester in the Shrine chapel of the former abbey and now cathedral. The BBC News website has an illustrated report on the service at How the mystery of the long lost Abbot was solved

I wrote about the discovery in 2017 of the Abbot’s remains in his destroyed chantry chapel in a 2020 post at Face to face with Abbot John Wheathamstead

That also looks at the facial reconstruction of the Abbot’s features, as does another article from the Herts Advertiser which can be seen at  

Sunday, 31 July 2022

Medieval syphilis

For a while archaeological evidence has been accumulating for the presence of syphilis in medieval society in contradiction of the widely held belief that the disease came to Europe following Columbus’ voyage to the New World in 1492, and first made itself apparent at the siege of Naples a couple of years later.

This evidence is reviewed and other possible evidence included from literary and visual sources in a recent article in The Conversation..  This appears to make a sensible case. It can be read at Manuscripts and art support archaeological evidence that syphilis was in Europe long before explorers could have brought it home from the Americas

I was particularly struck by the author’s suggestion that the death of King Edward IV in 1483 could be attributed to syphilis. I had not seen this idea before, although the cause of that monarch’s seemingly sudden and unexpected demise has attracted speculation for a long time, from a chill that turned to pneumonia, food poisoning and appendicitis. Syphilis would perhaps fit in with what we know of the King’s private life, especially if combined with the well-attested effects of over-indulgence in food and drink, and maybe the argument of his in many ways irrational move against Clarence in 1477-8 fits in with the mental effects of ventral disease. Whether of not this was the cause of his death it does help to carry forward discussion about the events of 1483.

Friday, 29 July 2022

Early Anglo-Saxon bed burials

Live Science has an interesting piece about a project which has analysed an early Anglo-Saxon burial practice, in which the deceased was interred on a specially made bed, and considered the relationship of such a form to similar European examples.

The conclusion is interesting. Not only were the bodies high status, but all the English instances were female. It is argued that these are the burials of high status Christian wives, encouraged to marry pagan Anglo-Saxon kings or nobles to convert them - rathe like Queen Bertha, wife of King Ethelberht of Kent in the 590s. One such burial that receives particular attention is that from Trumpington near Cambridge. Amongst other grave goods that were found with the human remains is a gold cross of the type so often described as Celtic. This is increasingly suspect as an origin for such pieces, and the other evidence adduced for this article points the viewer to the east and the continent rather than the lands of western Britain or their neighbours.

The illustrated article can be seen at Mystery behind medieval 'bed burials' in UK possibly solved

More about the Poole Bay ship

Live Science has a quite lengthy report about the discovery of the wreck in Poole Bay about which I posted in A thirteenth century ship from Poole Bay

This additional article provides more information about the discovery and more interpretation about the boat itself and its cargo. The article can be seen at 13th-century 'Mortar Wreck' is England's oldest-ever preserved sunken ship

Thursday, 28 July 2022

The Chatsworth Parterre revealed

As in several recent years with long dry summers lost landscape features created by past generations have revealed themselves through the patched grass as foundations or as evidence of lost pathways

At Chatsworth the South Lawn has yielded up the details on site of the parterre lad out for the  first Duke of Devonshire in 1699, but turfed over only thirty years later. Drawings exist of the intricate design but now there exists additional physical evidence as to the exact form of the design.

This re-emergence at Chatsworth is set out by the BBC News site at Drone footage reveals hidden 17th Century garden which includes a video with the drone footage about the feature.

The Chatsworth parterre is also discussed in a Mail Online article about several such parch marks indicating lost garden features or foundations. This article looks at new evidence from this summer at Gawthorpe Hall, Mottrsfont Abbey. at Polesden Lacey and Powis Castle. It can be seen at Heatwave reveals historic features at National Trust properties

At Chatsworth there is talk of possibly doing a temporary recreation of the parterre in future years. I think I would be inclined there and at Gawthorpe to see a permanent reconstruction of the former arrangement of paths and planting.

Monday, 25 July 2022

A thirteenth century ship from Poole Bay

PetaPixel has a report about the recent discovery of the remains of a thirteenth century  ship in Poole Bay off the Dorset coast which was discovered in 2020.

The timber for the clinker built vessel was felled in the period 1242-65 which makes these remains an early survival. 

The ship was transporting goods such a ready made grave slabs and mortars which were in transit from Purbeck in Dorset. As a result we can learn not only about maritime trade in the period but also more about the industry on Purbeck fashioning these objects.

Two others, one from the late fifteenth or sixteenth century and another apparently from mid-seventeenth century from off The Needles, have also been identified and listed.

The illustrated article from PetaPixel can be seen at Sunken Medieval Boat is England's Oldest Ever Shipwreck

There is another good account with additional information about all three wrecks from Historic England at Three Exceptionally Rare Shipwrecks Off the Dorset Coast and the Isle of Wight Granted Highest Protection


Tuesday, 19 July 2022

Coins from seventh century Kent

Kent online reports the discovery of four seventh century gold coins and what appear to be lead weights for weighing them in the county and that they have been declared Treasure Trove under the Portable Antiquites scheme. 

The Merovingian origins of at least three of the coins clearly points to cross-Channel contact, either through trading or raiding. The presence of the weights suggests a concern with the absolute value of the gold and its use either in trade or in jewellery or decorative work. 

In these years the See of Canterbury was still a recent creation from the year 597 and Christian Anglo-Saxon culture was developing its own forms and expression.

The illustrated article can be seen at Ancient find declared 'treasure' at inquest