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, 13 November 2014

The Canterbury and York Society

Yesterday afternoon I attended the AGM and Annual lecture of the Canterbury and York Society which was held in Oriel. The Society, fouinded in 1904, exists to publish the texts of medieval episcopal registers and related material, and has produced over a hundred such volumes. They have contributed very significantly to our knowledge of the later medieval church, and their subscription and publication rates are very reasonable indeed for what is on offer. Their website can be seen at Canterbury and York Society.

It was a pleasure to put faces to the names of academics whose work I have used in the past and to correspondents on the Medieval Religion Discussuion Group over afternoon tea beforehand - though holding an academic conversation whilst juggling a cup of tea and applying jam and cream to a scone is a delicate art... There were also friends from Oxford there and it was also good to catch up with them.

Following the AGM we had a fascinating lecture by Dr David Robinson, formerly County Archivist in Surrey, who has worked extensively on the Register of Archbishop Melton of York (1317-40), on "Ordination Lists: A Key to the Medieval Clergy?"

In it he drew out evidence from the first half of the fourteenth century as to the numbers involved, how they approached the diocesan to receive Orders, their possible family background, possible education and where they served and were supported, often in their home areas. At this period, with surnames still only in the process of becoming established a place name may well indicate their actual place of origin. Dr Robinson suggested establishing a database for such material and the potentially fruitful possibilities for mapping apparent birthplaces and the parishes that the clergy served.

This was a stimulating lecture, and one which struck me as conveying the normality of the means whereby young men progressed into the Church - it was, it seemed to me, what, when you thought about it, would indeed have happened.

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