Magazine of the Gloucester Branch of The Richard III SOCIETY
Despite all the ups and downs of 2013, this proved to be a very exciting year for Ricardians, when, after great anticipation, the bones of Richard III were found in the car park in Leicester. 2014 has promised to be just as exciting and although Keith has faithfully kept us informed, we are still waiting with bated breath to know when and where Richard will be buried and what form the tomb will finally take. Meanwhile, we are all hoping to be able to see the reconstructed “head” at the Gloucester Guildhall and to hopefully take part in some of the celebratory events. Added to this, is the hope that the wooden horses “Victor” and “Vanquished” will eventually appear on the roundabout at Tewkesbury! (That is, of course, providing the roundabout has not been washed away!)
In 2013, we had some interesting speakers at our local meetings, not least the day workshop with Tim Porter, on which I’ve included a report. We ended the year with a very nice lunch; a report by Sylvia follows later.
Workshop with Tim Porter on Medieval Arts and Crafts
Tim can always be relied on to entertain and his workshop in September was on Medieval Arts and Crafts didn’t disappoint.
In the first session of the morning, Tim gave us an over-view of the style of arts and crafts used in medieval times, including music, illuminated books, embroideries, the use of alabaster, roof bosses, wall paintings and stained glass, showing slides illustrating the various methods used. Tim showed an impressive slide of a roof boss in Norwich Cathedral showing Jesus ascending into Heaven which draws the eyes both to the individual viewpoint looking up and that of Jesus looking down. Tim mentioned other Churches which have roof bosses worthy of note e.g. Tintern, Queen Camel (Somerset) and Yetminster (Dorset). We discussed illuminated text and Tim showed us some slides of beautiful manuscripts. However, as Tim pointed out, soon printing would overtake manuscripts but, of course, this would prove to be more expensive than manuscripts. One case in point was Thomas Mallory’s Morte de Arthur, which was printed in 1485.
After the coffee break, Tim concentrated on the use of alabaster. At this time, the craze for Purbeck marble was on the decline. Alabaster was formed by compacted gypsum and sources for this commodity in the Middle Ages were mostly in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire. Gypsum was easily transported to other parts of the country by river and some was exported abroad. The main use for alabaster was for tombs. Tim showed slides of some very elaborate tombs; some examples were Edward II’s tomb in Gloucester Cathedral, Fitzherbert tombs at Norbury, Near Ashbourne, Gascoyne and Redmond tombs at Harewood House, Yorkshire, many Herbert tombs at Abergavenny and, of course, the tomb of Alice Chaucer at Ewelme.
After lunch, we concentrated on stained glass. The peak of English glass was in the 15th century, where silver staining was often used. This produced a yellow glow to the glass. Tim cited many examples of places one can see exceptional stained glass including Mildenhall, South Newington, Edgeworth, St. Neot, Cornwall, Cartmel Priory and not least, Beverley Minster and Fairford Church. Of particular interest to Ricardians would be Oddingley Church, Near Droitwich, showing the Neville Arms, which was part of the estate of Richard Duke of York. There is stained glass in the Beauchamp Chapel at Warwick and in the Parish Church of Bledington, Oxfordshire,where John Mallin, the Chaplain to Henry VI, a very wealthy man, paid for the windows, which include Yorkist signs.
Our last session of the day focused on music. England, at this time, was in the forefront of new music. Previous to the 15th century, music had mostly been reserved for Monasteries. Although nuns did sing, they were mostly side-lined by the monks. However, in the 15th Century, with the coming of printing, and English texts, more and more singing was heard outside of monasteries. At first, wealthy families had their own chantry chapels with their own priest and later collegiate Churches emerged where the singing of Masses for the souls of the wealthy families took place. At this time, too, new composers came on the scene – some notable ones being John Plummer who, circa 1450, composed the motet “Anna Marta” (Mother of Mary), later Walter Lambe who composed ”Salve Regina” and William Cornish who wrote “Woefully Arrayed”. Another prominent composer was Robert Fairfax (circa 1450-1520) who came from Lincolnshire and who appears in the records as a member of the Chapel Royal. He accompanied the Monarch wherever he went. He also worked at St. Albans, where he wrote music for Elizabeth of York when she visited the Abbey. He wrote a motet about the life of Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist, alluding to Elizabeth of York’s lineage.
Altogether this was a very enjoyable day and we look forward to Tim visiting us again later in the year.
Puxton Church, Near Congresbury, North Somerset
Recently, when my elder daughter and son-in-law came to stay, I tool them on a mystery tour. They were driven down muddy lanes over-looking semi-flooded meadows until finally we reached a group of houses and older cottages and saw some trees partially hiding the tower of a small Church, which was the object of the expedition, built about 700 hundred years ago.
As we entered the Churchyard we were amazed to see that the tower was leaning in a worrying manner – about three feet out from the base! We entered the interior through the porch, dated 1557, and saw the damp, ramshackle Church, which is unrestored and unadorned. Facing the altar, the pews on the right are dark brown and neglected, about four or five feet high, with doors, and some seemed like little rooms, which benches around the interior. Those on the left, according to the guide, are 14th Century and are conventionally shaped but they appeared to us to be almost knocked together, being quite plain apart from a simple row of carving on the back.
Ancient Pews in Puxton Church
The font, which is 12th Century, is very simple and bold. The leaning tower contains bells with medieval inscriptions and the roof is unusual with random beams of all shapes and sizes. To cheer ourselves up – and the Church – we sang a hymn and read a lesson! The Church is rarely used apart from services held during festivals such as Harvest, Christmas and Easter.
The land belongs to the Bishop of Bath & Wells and he used to let out the manor to local Lords who probably took part in the “Dolemoor Meeting”. This took place in the Church on the Saturday before Midsummer’s Day and was designed to allocate common land to new owners for one year after the harvest of hay. Portions were measured out by an 18 yard chain which was kept in the Church and which scraped the pillars by accident! When the farmers knew they had been chosen to have the land, everyone trooped out to the Dole area and special signs were marked on apples which were given to the new owners. These new owners had to copy the signs on the turf of their portion. After this, a party was held and a good time was had by all! I wonder if there were any who were not satisfied?
Life must have been pretty hard as the unadorned Church bears witness: floods would surge through the South door (which even today is fixed with a huge wooden bar against the onslaught) and it would gush out through the North door, helped by a deep gutter in the aisle. The box pews must have been a comfort and would have helped to keep out the draughts. Even today there is a freezing atmosphere and the floods which must regularly happen, have left the pews in desperate need of some wax polish. However, a fascinating glimpse of the past and well worth a visit.
William Marshall, Lord of the Welsh Marches, Lord of Striquil, had five sons and some daughters. All the sons died and there was no heir. Isabella married Gilbert de Clare and they had a son called Richard, who, in turn, had a son called Gilbert the Red. He was the great- great- grandson of “Strongbow” another Richard de Clare and from him, he just have inherited his red hair, arms that touched his knees as he stood and his courteous, mild manner. However, all was not as it seemed; Gilbert married Princess Alice of Angeloume but they divorced as she was a dreadful flirt and had a lot of affairs, so the courteous Gilbert murdered one of her lovers! Her ghost is said to haunt one of the towers at Caerphilly Castle. This is where the Clares lived and over the generations many of them added to it. Gilbert married again, happily it appears, and their son Gilbert was born. However, he was only 22 when at Banockburn in 1314 his horse was wounded and Gilbert fell to the ground and was killed. As there were no heirs, chaos followed.
At that time there was a serious country-wide economic depression, with wet weather, two failed harvests and a bad wool trade. Many people died of starvation. In Wales, affairs were especially bad. One Marcher Lord was Bartholomew de Badlesmere, who was kind and considerate and was trying to help but he was replaced by Payn (well-named!) de Turberville who gave the people of Glamorgan and Senghenydd a really rough time. Llywellyn Bren, Lord of Senghenydd, his five sons and his adopted son, set upon Caerphilly Castle where a meeting was taking place in the outer bailey. Llywellyn, helped by a small band, succeeded in breaking in, took Payn de Turberville captive and took over most of the Castle. However, Roger Mortimer re-captured it and took Llywellyn Bren off to London, but on the way they got talking and became friends! The Castle was handed over to the King who, in turn, gave it to Hugh Despenser. Gilbert’s sister, Eleanor, was Hugh’s wife so this was not surprising given the family connection. The building was damaged during the uprising and Despenser – full of grandiose schemes – rebuilt much of it. The ceiling and roof of the Great Hall was built by William Hurley, the Master Builder.
As you enter the Hall, you can imagine how it must have been during medieval times, so dark and expansive with coats of arms behind the big chairs at the high table. (Weddings take place there today). When things were not going so well for Hugh, he managed to hide his gold fortune within the Castle. Later still, it’s commander, William Beaukaire, surrendered but was pardoned and was closely involved in the supposed murder of King Edward II at Berkeley Castle. Edward II made Caerphilly one of his final retreats and one can imagine him sitting in the vast Great Hall, cold and in shock, realising there was no friendly Welsh army to assist him, and his retainers were quickly disappearing.
The Castle was originally constructed on the site of a Monastery built by a hermit called Ffili, son of St. Cerydd, who was saved from the sea by birds. There are birds there in all shapes and sizes, who enjoy swimming around on the surrounding lakes and moats. The local inhabitants are allowed to fish there. Against one of the walls there is a reconstruction of a siege engine and along one of the battlements, there is a wooden walkway where guards would have been able to shoot arrows and spill hot water down on hopeful invaders. In the Eastern gatehouse, in a well-preserved upstairs room, is a touch of comfort – and oven which might have been used for cooking a nice brew of soup for off-duty guards after a chilly spell in the battlements – or for heating something obnoxious to pour down on invaders!
I had a wonderful time seeing the Castle and it would make a grand day out for anyone. Parking is fairly close, although there are steep stairs in the towers but the Great Hall is accessible as are some of the battlements. The Castle is reached by a marvellous drive through wonderful countryside. Restaurants and bars are close by in the town. For pussy-lovers there is a Castle cat, named Eric, who has a carpet-lined hutch outside the gift shop and he allowed me to sketch him.
Caerphilly is the largest castle in Wales and it certainly took it’s part in history, with contacts made with many important individuals throughout the generations.
Dates for your Diary
Saturday 1st March – The Discovery of King Richard III: The Greyfriars Project - Illustrated talk by Dr. Matthew Morris of the University of Leicester
Saturday 5th April – Who were the Ricardians 1484-1487 – Lovell and his cohorts – Talk by Steve David
Sunday 11th May – Field Visit: Berkeley Castle and St. Mary the Virgin Church – conducted tour of the Castle and visit to the Church led by David Judd
Contributions for the next issue of News & Views gratefully received. Margaret Lewis, 22 Pitts Close,
Galmington, Taunton, Somerset TA1 4TP (0l823 279505) or email@example.com
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