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.

Sunday 14 April 2024

Medieval elite horses in Westminster

Analysis of a substantial number of medieval equine skeletons found in what was clearly a recognised burial place for the animals in Westminster has indicated something of the range of horses that were available and that they came from a variety of breeds. It also suggests that it was very definitely a case of ‘different horses for different courses’ when it came to their use.

The site is on Elverton Street which lies close to the site of the medieval Palace of Westminster and may well therefore indicate the ownership of the animals. It is clear that some at least of the horses were definitely from the equine elite.

Of the more than seventy horses on the site teeth from fifteen were studied and at least seven shown to have come from Scandinavia or the western Alps. Some of the horses were dated to the period 1425-1517, but others could be earlier or later.

New Scientist has a article about the research at Medieval horses buried in London had far-flung origins

There is perhaps more detail from a historian’s point of view in an article about the cemetary from Medieval Histories at What warhorse would you shop for if you were a Medieval knight?

This article suggests a likely source for some of the horses being the Cistercian abbey stud at Esrum in north Zeeland in Denmark. This had a long tradition of breeding quality horses, and which still survives today as the Frederiksborger.

I wrote in 2022 about recent research into the size of English cavalry horses in the period 300 to 1650, and urged interested readers to look at the original report rather than the more journalistic digest. My post and the related links can be found at The size of English medieval warhorses

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