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, 22 September 2020

The Great Sacristy of Westminster Abbey

Last month there were reports about the recent excavation of the site of the medieval Great Sacristy of Westminster Abbey. It was essentially a free standing building which linked the north transept to the north door of the nave. Built in the reign of King Henry III it received an upper floor about 1380. Following the dissolution of the monastery it later became used as housing before its demolition in the 1740s.

Westminster Abbey’s always excellent website has a detailed illustrated report about the history of the building and about the excavations at Rediscovering the Great Sacristy

There are also two online newspaper reports about the excavations, which have taken place in anticipation of the building of a new visitors centre at the Abbey. They can be seen as complementary to each other.

The first is in the Guardian and can be seen at Lost medieval sacristy uncovered at Westminster Abbey

The second is from the MailOnline and includes a reproduction of the plan from the nineteenth century excavation of the site. It can be accessed at ‘Thousands' of dead unearthed at Westminster Abbey medieval sacristy

Both reports include an eighteenth century painting of the abbey from 1735 showing the Great Sacristy building, and which anticipates the addition of spires to the west towers and a possible cupola on the stump for the central tower. Linking in with this is a piece from Westminster Abbey about the exhibition there of the famous Canaletto painting of the Knights of the Bath leaving the Abbey in 1749 and illustrating the newly completed west towers, which were finished in 1745. By this time the Great Sacristy building had disappeared. The article can be seen at Canaletto painting of the Abbey goes on display

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