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, 25 November 2021

A Roman villa in Rutland


The BBC News website has a report today which alerted me to the discovery of the site of what was clearly a substantial and cultured Roman villa in Rutland. It is thought to date from the third or fourth century.

What especially marks it out is that one room has a floor mosaic design indicating the literary tastes of the owners. The sizeable floor depicts the battle between Achilles and Hector from Homer’s Iliad. As a subject it is a unique discovery in this country and the mosaic is being hailed as the most important to be uncovered in a century.

The remains were initially discovered after distinctive pottery showed up in a field and initial excavation led to the villa site. Further examination of the clearly extensive site will continue next year and plans are being worked upon to present the site, which has now been scheduled, to the public.

Once again this is a case of a significant and spectacular archaeological site being found with, apparently, no previous indication of its existence.


In addition I found that The Art Newspaper has a somewhat more detailed account of the site, including the evidence for the abandonment of the villa, and that can be read at Magnificent Roman mosaic discovered in a farmer's field is 'UK's most exciting find of its kind in a century'

Monday, 22 November 2021

Men’s fashion style 1000 -1500


In my last post I linked to a piece by the Welsh Viking about the Sutton Hoo helmet. I came across that from looking at another post by him about the development of men’s fashion in western Europe between the years 1000 and 1500.  I think that is also worth sharing as a useful guide to men’s attire in the period and with that to the continuities as well as the innovations over those centuries. 

He pitches it particularly, but by no means exclusively, at his fellow re-enactors, As a result the practicalities are brought out about both the making as well as the styling of clothing. He has some good illustrations - though perhaps some deserve to stay on screen a bit longer - and one certainly gets a sense of how fashion developed, particularly in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It is all presented in a rather jaunty way, bringing out his own stylistic preferences.



Sunday, 21 November 2021

The Sutton Hoo Helmet - a reinterpretation


I came upon a video by The Welsh Viking - who was new to me but has produced a range of such things, especially in connection with re-enactment clothing as well as being a graduate student in archaeology - which looks at the latest theory about the iconography and significance of the Sutton Hoo helmet.

He bases his account on a recent research paper which argues the imagery of Odin/Wotan/Grim on the decoration of the helmet and its overall design is highly suggestive of ritual use and the function of the wearer - let us assume it was a King of East Anglia - as a temporal representative of the pagan God. As he also points out Odin is a constant theme in the decoration of the finds from the Sutton Hoo ship. He case for such an interpretation seems impressive.

The video, with links to the academic articles he cites, can be seen at Is the Sutton Hoo Helmet from "The Dig" Really an Odin Mask?


Saturday, 20 November 2021

The reredos of All Souls College


Christopher Howse writes with his usual elegant perception about the reredos of the chapel of All Souls College in his regular Sacred Mysteries column in the Daily Telegraph. His article is based on a new book about the towering statue-filled reredos which dates in its origin to the founding of the college by Archbishop Henry Chichele in the 1430s. Howse links this to the dedication of the college and to All Soulstide, but then opens up the story of its restoration in the 1870s - as he points out a typical story of Fellows feuding.

The design of the reredos, as is so much else in All Souls, is derived from New College, and the same ideas were also copied at Magdalen by Bishop Waynefleet.

All Souls chapel also houses two wonderful original fifteenth century statues of King Henry VI and Archbishop Chichele from the High Street exterior. Like the reredos they were once painted and unlike its figures have survived the centuries, and were brought indoors in the early twentieth century. Unfortunately their replacements are very inferior copies indeed.




Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Bishop Edward King


                     Bishop Edward King
                     Spy cartoon of 1890

                        Image: Wikipedia 

This afternoon  I went to a stimulating talk at Pusey House by Bishop Michael Marshall - sometime of Woolwich - about his new biography of Bishop Edward King (1829-1910), a student at Oriel, Chaplain and the Principal of Cuddesdon, Regius Professor of Pastoral Theology at Christ Church and from 1885 until his death Bishop of Lincoln. I think it could be fair to describe him as the greatest post-reformation holder of the See. To many he is most famous for the Lincoln Judgment of 1890 about Ritualism in the Church of England and for being the first Anglican bishop since 1559 to wear a mitre. His white chasuble can be seen on the present holder of the See at Bishop Edward King’s chasubleWikipedia has an introduction to his life at Edward_King

In his book Edward King: Teacher, Pastor, Bishop, Saint ( Gracewing ) Bishop Marshall sets out his argument that it was Edward King,  through his training of clergy and influence on other theological college principals and his example as a pastoral Bishop of Lincoln, who was the single most influential implementor of the ideals of the Oxford Movement across the whole country rather than to just academic or similar groups.

It is a substantial book and promises much new material on the life of Bishop King, described in 1935 in a sermon in Lincoln Cathedral by Archbishop Lang - whom King had confirmed -  as “the most saintly of men and most human of saints.”


        Bishop King in his last years

          Image: Project Canterbury 

From what he said it is clear that Bishop Marshall is keen - very keen - to promote to the powers that be in the Church of England the vision of pastoral care of clergy and people that was exemplified by Bishop King. It is a vision all Christian denominations can, I think, take to heart and learn from.

I look forward to looking properly at his book snd reading it, touching as it does on not a few  interests and influences in my own life.

This was an excellent, and fortuitous ( possibly), way to mark the feast of St Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln 1186-1200.


Tuesday, 16 November 2021

The martyred Abbot of Glastonbury


Yesterday was the anniversary of the martyrdom of the last Abbot of Glastonbury, Richard Whiting O.S.B. together with two of his monks in 1539. Abbot Richard was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1895. Wikipedia has an introduction to his life and death at Richard Whiting (abbot)

Now some people in Glastonbury have had the idea of petitioning The Queen to grant a posthumous pardon to the Abbot as part of the celebrations to mark the Platinum Jubilee next year.

I was sent the link because I have written before on this blog about Glastonbury - a place I know and revere - and think it worth sharing with others. I signed the petition yesterday. 



Bl. Richard Whiting and companions, Pray for us


Black History?


The website History Debunked has an insightful and thought-provoking video about the modern assertion that there were sub-Saharan Africans living in Roman Britain. This assertion is based on the interpretation of a very few archaeological discoveries. The video, which challenges this interpretation, can be seen at Black people in Roman Britain; the collapse of a modern fairy story

That is not to say that there were never, ever, black Africans in Britannia in almost four centuries of Roman rule. What it does say is than the modern anxiety to find such a presence ignores the real evidence of archaeology and anthropology. Not only does it ignore the detailed evidence but latches on to something to prove or promote a contemporary argument, not an historical fact.

Furthermore I will add that I have known archaeologists who rush to announce a spectacular discovery on an overly hasty identification, only to have to retract it - in one case quite literally the next day.


Friday, 12 November 2021

In the teeth of the evidence


As often happens I chanced unexpectedly upon a short article published on Ancient Origins almost four years ago and which raises some interesting possibilities about calculating the age at death of medieval skeletons, and more especially those of older people, from their teeth. This method yields results that challenges the idea that a reasonable number of people did not reach what we might think of as old age.

The article can be seen here