Summer 2019



 News & Views newsletter 

News & Views - branch newsletter

Summer 2019

We have had quite an action packed year so far, including our Study Day on 1st June.  Many of our members have also been on enlightening field trips and have contributed very interesting articles, some of which I am going to have to leave until the next edition of News & Views.  Thank you everyone for all your efforts. As the Study Day was the main event, I will start with David Judd’s excellent review.




In the last few months the committee and sub-committee volunteers of the Gloucester branch of the Richard III society have worked tirelessly to bring all the threads together to organise a Study day at Leckhampton Church and hall. The weather forecast for the day was promising with temperatures of up to 24 degrees and it was hoped this would make the day even more special. At 10:30 am our Chairman Keith Stenner, welcomed everyone to the Study day and advised those present on some of the admin issues regarding emergency evacuation, toilets, mobile phones and catering for the day. He then introduced our first speaker Dr Dan Spencer.

Dr Dan Spencer

Due to travel arrangement problems, our first speaker Professor Anne Curry PhD MA BA was a little delayed, so Dr Dan Spencer stepped into the breech and gave his Presentation on “Artillery in the Wars of the Roses”. 

Dr Spencer’s presentation was most interesting as well as thorough, covering the introduction of guns and bombards in the 14th century. They were more widely utilised in the Hundred Years Wars in France, not only in the defensive role, but also the offensive role. He made reference to the Battle of Castillon on 17 July 1453 where the French inflicted heavy losses on the English army as they had used guns as part of strongly defended field fortifications. He went on to outline the different types of guns ranging from great big Siege guns or Bombards and how they were transported around the Country to Field guns or cart guns, Culverins or Serpentines, these were long thin guns and were introduced in the mid 15th century and much more accurate than Bombards. 

Dr Spencer described some details on the hand guns which were around in the 1450’s, these were prototype muskets, and were utilised during some of the battles in the period of the Wars of the Roses, they were also to be found in the Calais garrison and on board ships and in sieges. Some of these guns and cannons were used at the siege at the Tower of London (1460) the battle of Northampton (July 1460) and at the siege of Bamburgh Castle in 1464. Dr Spencer explained how the guns, bombards and field guns were manufactured, originally of wrought iron but later from bronze which provided much more structural integrity. Ammunition or gun stones were crafted by masons who chiselled stone into round balls, iron ones were used as well from about 1480 and were cast using iron. The audience learned how gunpowder (Potassium Nitrate/Saltpeter obtained from India), Sulphur (imported from Italy) and Charcoal were obtained and mixed to produce the end result.  Some of the guns were either muzzle loaded or breech loaded improving their effectiveness in battle. Accidents did happen and some guns did misfire or explode resulting in people being killed or seriously injured. 

A few questions were asked at the end of his Presentation by members of the audience. The Chairman thanked Dr Spencer for his very informative talk and we then broke for tea and coffee.

Professor Anne Curry

Afterwards, Professor Anne Curry began her Presentation on “Armies of the Wars of the Roses”. She was pleased to tell the audience that a further 16,000 soldiers names were to be added to the Medieval Soldier database later this year following further research (  She also mentioned that of the 1000’s of soldiers and men who fought at Bosworth in August 1485, only about 350 had been identified from Wills and records to date. 

Accountants of Medieval England had to be thanked for producing the records of men, equipment and monies paid by the Exchequer. These records are now held at The National Archives and were researched by Reading & Southampton Universities in a project which ran from 2006 to 2009, to create the database. Professor Curry then went on to give an account of how the King’s army was raised by calling on his Gentry and Nobles of the land to enlist men for war, sometimes through what was termed “Commissions of Array”.  Occasionally there was movement between those retinues raised to make up numbers if there was a shortfall in the ranks of the Men at Arms or in the Archers ranks. Often the Military community was divided due to Lords and Nobles not being loyal to the King’s cause. Professor Curry explained that sometimes even the Gentry changed sides from Yorkist to Lancastrian and back again taking their retinue with them to support the other side. One example of several mentioned by Professor Curry was that of John Lord Wenlock who was a Lancastrian in 1459, then changed sides and became a Yorkist, who was made a Peer in 1461, was Yorkist at Calais in the 1460’s and was killed at Tewkesbury in 1471. Others mentioned included Sir Richard Woodville (Lord Rivers), Andrew Trollope, and William Neville, (Lord Fauconberg).

Professor Curry told the audience that at some of the battles or short campaigns, foreign mercenaries were used, this might include Gascons, Germans, or even French soldiers. During the period of the Wars of the Roses, veteran soldiers from the Hundred Years War in France served in the Wars of the Roses. Some of the English Gentry who served in the King’s army also did so until quite late in life as in the case of Thomas Erphingham, Laurence Rainsford, John Wenlock (born circa 1390 died 1471 Tewkesbury) and Oliver Athurton who undertook long Military careers. Professor Curry went on to provide details of the ratio in Henry V’s campaign to France 1415 of Archers to Men at Arms which was one Man at Arms to every three Archers. In 1475 this had changed to one Man at Arms to eight Archers with many of the soldiers on what was termed as a “Retainer” to fight in other wars in the King’s cause. Some of the sources referred to by Professor Curry included the Will of Thomas Long of Ashwelthorpe dated 16 August 1485, the Stonor Letters, the Coventry Leet Book of 1455, Coventry Leet Book of 1470 advising costs, and the Bridport Muster of 1457. 

At the end of her Presentation a few members of the audience asked questions on Professor Curry’s talk. 

Our Chairman Keith Stenner then thanked Professor Curry for her very illuminating Presentation and we then all adjourned for lunch to begin the second part of the day at 2pm.


Professor Helen Nicholson

Following lunch the Chairman welcomed everyone back and then introduced Professor Helen J Nicholson who gave a Presentation on “Women connected with the Knights Templar and Hospitaller”.

The Knights Templar and Hospitaller were formed and took a vow of chastity where they were not allowed sex with anyone. The Orders of the Knights Templar and Hospitaller began in Jerusalem in about 1060 or 1070 and its purpose was to look after Pilgrims who were on pilgrimage or crusade to visit Christs tomb. Women who involved themselves with the Knights Templar and Hospitaller wore black with white headdress.

It was thought at the time that having women in the Order would lead men to the Devil and was not a good idea. Houses of Military Orders were established in Italy, Spain, France, Germany and with some in England where women lived. Male priests would conduct Mass and the women were employed as servants, milking cows, admin duties or washing and laundry, or on light duties, or even as an Anchoress, giving her entire life over to God and living alone in a room or small chapel until her death. Women in these Orders did not fight and if they took part in a Crusade were only there to offer prayers. At the Abbey of Sigena in the Kingdom of Aragon women and men could be found together, but the women were living in secure rooms where men could not easily get in. A Templars Nunnery was located at Muhlen but this was abolished in about 1320. A Hospitallers Commandery and Nunnery were established in Buckland, Somerset in about 1185. A Hospitaller house was founded in Aconbury, Hereford by a Noblewoman and in the early days it was argued who should appoint the Prioress, the Pope in Rome or the Order, in the end it was turned into an Augustinian House as no agreement could be reached.

Professor Nicholson stated that in about 1633 it was found that no Hospitaller women had been granted saintly status, so several were named. It was also thought that widows sometimes joined a Holy Order or religious house as a way of ensuring they had a roof over their heads, food and some comfort in life after the death of a husband.

At the end of her Presentation Professor Nicholson took a few questions before our Chairman introduced our final speaker, Kevin Goodman, who gave a very lively and entertaining talk on “Surgical Treatment of the Wounded”.

Kevin Goodman

Kevin Goodman with some medieval medical implements

Kevin was keen to promptly dispel the myths and stereotypes surrounding Barber Surgeons depicted in films and pictures with blood soaked aprons, a severed limb in one hand and a saw in another, as more is now known about medieval medical matters than Archers and Archery. Kevin displayed a list of recognised surgical books and physicians between 12th century and the 17th century. Surgeons, Physicians and Barbers usually undertook a seven year training course before being allowed to undertake operations. He went on to say that if a Barber, Surgeon or Physician undertook an operation which resulted in the patient dying, this would be bad for business and they could end up in Court for neglect. He reminded everyone that in the Dark ages or medieval times your “Humours” played a key role in whether you were healthy or ill. There were four humours namely blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile. If these were in balance you were healthy, if they were not then you would be ill, so it was important to eat the right foods, have a good diet, get plenty of sleep and remain well. Medieval Kings (Henry III, Henry V, Edward IV and Richard III) always ensured that if they were raising an army for war that physicians and surgeons were included as part of the make up of the army.

Kevin was also keen to point out that Barbers, Physicians and Surgeons had to keep their medical tools and implements clean as they had a hate for Miasma (an aura or bad feeling). He also mentioned the medicinal healing powers and anti-bacterial agent of honey used during the period. To finish, Kevin told the story of how John Bradmore, who was a competent surgeon of the time, removed an arrow head which had become lodged in Henry IV’s sons face, (soon to be Henry V), at Kenilworth, by using a special metal tool to extract the arrow head from his skull following the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403. To demonstrate how it was done he asked for a member of the audience to come to the front and he would show the technique, this he did and then advised that this would have then resulted in Henry V suffering a mood change as well as having a battle scar on the left side of his face needing to be heavily bandaged until the wound healed.

Following his Presentation and a few questions, our Chairman thanked Kevin for his most enlightening talk and went on to thank everyone for coming to the Study day. He also invited feedback from the audience on how they felt the day had gone. The general consensus was that it had been an overwhelming success. 


Fotheringay Church

On May 25, The Friends of Fotheringhay Church hosted an evening of medieval music, ‘Plantagenet Echoes’, to celebrate the completion of a £1.7M project to restore the church. Richard III Society members were invited to this event, which was hosted by Lady Victoria Leatham as President of the Friends and attended by our Chair Dr Phil Stone and HRH The Duke of Gloucester, as Patron of both the Friends and our own Society. Unable to resist a Plantagenet expedition, Cynthia and Lyn took up the offer as part of a few fabulous days exploring a beautiful area rich in medieval interest. 

Lady Victoria told the audience that, prior to the start of the restoration work in 2016, the church had reached the tipping point of becoming unsafe. Replete with a new altar cloth embroidered by Jane Drummond with many Ricardian emblems which had been commissioned to celebrate the restoration, the church was in fine fettle. 

The music was both delightful and divine, and as the title suggests echoed the music of Plantagenet times. It was written during Tudor reigns, starting with Richard Davy through to the sublime William Byrd, who flourished under Elizabeth I and James I. An earlier expedition to a medieval music event in Leicester in February 2013 revealed that the Tudors had expunged almost all English music from record, as they did with so many documents, so that to hear music contemporaneous to the Plantagenets enjoyed one has to listen to continental sources especially from the Burgundian court.  Commentary by Dr David Starkey (introduced by Lady Victoria as likely to be ‘pungent’) explained that the liturgical music of the early Tudor period had been in grave danger of being expunged entirely by Edward VI’s strict Protestant reformation much as Plantagenet music had been by the propaganda machine of Henry VII and Henry VIII. 

The choral music was artfully delivered by the Alamire Scholars of Cambridge under the direction of David Skinner. We were also treated to extraordinary organ music performed by James Parsons on the “Wingfield’ early English organ, built in 2001 to replicate a soundboard found in a rural Suffolk church and believed to provide a more authentic early music sound than those we hear today. It’s quite compact (and beautifully painted in red, green and gold) with open pipes producing an unusual sound to modern ears, ‘high pitched and crystalline’. The keys are tiny and it requires an assistant to alternately lift two wedge bellows as it is played.

The concert was the centre-point of a few magnificent days touring the perfectly lovely and quintessentially English countryside where Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Rutland, Huntingdonshire and Lincolnshire meet. 

Ricardian Leicester

With some trepidation we started our tour by visiting the post-dig Ricardian sites in Leicester as the superb Case restaurant, which we discovered when we visited the dig in September 2012, beckoned. The Visitor Centre proved very interesting, in the arrangement of the exhibits and the layout. The additions to the original school building on the site are minimal, largely glass, and both attractive and practical, bringing in lots of soft natural light. The grave itself is beneath a small glass extension, with a glass floor over the grave; the design allows both a really good look whilst remaining suitably respectful and, well, grave.  

The cathedral lacks the grandeur of York or Westminster (the latter of which is greatly diminished due to the severe congestion, imho), but is intimate and welcoming. The ceiling beams are painted in red, green and gold, hinting at the simple vibrancy of medieval decoration. On display is the famous embroidered pall that clothed the coffin and the crown commissioned by the late great John Ashdown-Hill. More importantly, the tomb is situated very centrally in the cathedral but within a screened area, both suitably prominent and allowing private and contemplative observance. We remain divided over the design of the tomb, but both left feeling relieved that our Richard has indeed been laid to rest in dignified surroundings. It’s clear that Leicester (at least this section of the city) has benefited from civic improvements funded by the increased tourism. On a purely practical note, the Park & Ride service 203 from Enderby delivered us nearly to the doorstep of this Ricardian cluster. 

Peterborough Cathedral

Lyn and I also visited Peterborough Cathedral, which was beautiful, with a very rare ceiling of painted oak. Katherine of Aragon lies buried here, though her tomb was destroyed during the Civil War and has since been replaced by memorial slab. Mary Queen of Scots had been buried here until moved by James I to Westminster.  There is a fascinating series of six recumbent effigies of abbots, which are the best series of Benedictine memorials in the country. Four are 13th century and one 12th century. Lyn especially loved the Alwalton marble, also on the base of a pillar at the entrance and used for the font - a wonderful rich dark brown.

Peterborough cathedral had the oldest working clock mechanism in the world until 1950 when it was replaced. The striking train used within the main wood frame is thought to date back to 1350-1450. The first mention of it in cathedral records is in 1452 to ‘Richard the Clocksmith’. The pendulum was added in 1686 and January 31st 1687 John Watts was paid “£7 for repairing ad turning ye clock into a pendulum and to have 20s more of it if approved of”.  This was only a couple of years after Galileo found that a pendulum gave a regular beat. 

The cathedral also possesses a Hedda Stone. This wonderful carving of the Mercian school, decorated with 12 figures, Jesus, Mary and other saints dates to around 800. It is the only surviving find from the original Saxon monastery that was destroyed by the Vikings in 870.

The cathedral also boasts a lovely coffee shop, from the terrace of which one can enjoy the peaceful cathedral precinct and a view of the magnificent west front. The cathedral close is entered from the massive market square of Peterborough, and though the shops looked very ordinary, the shopping area itself was tree lined and had a very nice ambiance. 

We also visited Burghley House, which was suitably impressive.  We were struck by the unusual tastefulness of its rich decorative objects, such as some beautiful, rather than over ornate, embroidered bedspreads and hangings and a carved marble mantlepiece, as the wealth of Grand Master paintings (Burghley boasts a fine collection of Kneller portraits) and the ostentation of the ceiling murals by Verrio.

On the way home, we lunched Thameside at the Trout Inn (of Morse fame) and drove past the very evocative ruin of Godstow Nunnery, burial site of Rosamunde Clifford of ‘Fair Rosamunde’ fame. 

Next stop: Barnard Castle (and beyond) for the Northern Dales Group bi-annual conference on 5th October. 

Cynthia Spencer & Lyn Sargent 

May 2019 




William Marshall Tomb – Temple Church

A few members from the Gloucester branch of the Richard III society attended Usk on Saturday 13 April 2019 for a Presentation on William Marshall (born about 1146 or 1147, possibly Marlborough Castle and died on 14 May 1219 in Caversham, near Reading). The following groups were represented at the Presentation, the Mortimer History group, the Antiquarian Society, Friends of Usk Castle and of course the Gloucester branch of the Richard III Society. 

Just after 10 am the President of Usk Castle Friends, Mr Jeremy Knight, welcomed everyone to the Presentation. He gave a brief insight into the life and times of William Marshall, who was a Castle builder, was clever, charismatic and a generous man. The President compared William Marshall to something between Robin Hood and Reggie Kray. While on his death bed William requested his money chest be bought forward, the clergy present thought the monies would be put towards prayers for William to ease his way into heaven, but the money was actually so William could pay his Knights to obtain robes for themselves. 

Elizabeth Chadwick

The first speaker, Elizabeth Chadwick was then introduced to give her Presentation entitled “Stuffing the suitcase – An extraordinary Life”. She went on to say what an action-packed life William Marshall must have had, that he was an icon of his time, but also had a darker side to him. One of his sons had written a poem, a “histoire” in the form of a story consisting of approximately 20,000 lines soon after his death, giving details of his life and exploits. 

During the power struggle in Stephen & Matilda’s reign, William Marshall as a young boy had been held hostage in a gabion over the Castle wall by King Stephen, to test William’s fathers loyalty. Williams father’s response to the King was that “he had hammers and anvils enough to produce more sons”. William’s charm and charisma as a young boy saved him. Later in his life as a young man, he moved to Normandy to be educated at Tancarville Castle and was knighted at the age of 21.

During his first battle encounter William was a little too keen and was advised to hang back but still fought his way to the front, suffering the indignity of having his horse killed from beneath him. He then lost his Knights cloak to fund a new ride for himself. He also placed himself in danger to save Eleanor of Aquitaine who was ambushed on one of her trips. William then became very self-conscious and always made sure he wore his armour before any conflict or expected conflict was due to take place to ensure his own safety. He was even asked to remove his armour one day while at Church. 

He went on to lead a fine life at Court, at Tourneys and jousts, not only in England but also overseas in France and the low Countries.

As a Knight attending Tourneys, though brutal and chivalric, it was a way of

Networking. William eventually became Team Captain and was to become a champion winning a pike (rather than a swan) on a platter at one such event.

William was thought to have had an affair with the young Kings wife, so was banned from Court, but was allowed back when it was proven that he had not.

When the King died of dysentery, William Marshall agreed to take his cloak and lay it at the shrine of the Holy Sepulchre in the Holy land as this was the King’s way of paying homage to God. William was absent from about 1183 to 1186 so this may well have been when he visited the Holy land

William went on to marry Isabel of Striguil or Isabel de Clare of Chepstow in 1189 and they had five sons (William, Richard, Gilbert, Walter and Anselm) and five daughters (Matilda, Isabel, Sibyl, Eve and Joan). See chart below.

William and his family held lands and property across the South of England, Ireland and Wales but also in France which was unheard of as English Knights had to swear allegiance to either England or France and were not allowed to own lands overseas.


William’s wife Isabel owned land and property in Ireland, and he spent much time there ensuring the Estate was administered to.

William remained loyal to King John during his reign, he also witnesses the signing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede on 15 June 1215. 

William’s last battles took place at Lincoln Castle (20 May 1217) and Sandwich (24 August 1217) when he was quite elderly, probably aged about 70. During 1218 he was at the Tower of London and felt unwell so retired to Caversham, near Reading where he died on 14 May 1219.

Unbeknown to his wife he had had a Templar cloak made a year before, which he asked to be brought out while he lay on his death bed. He had also acquired silks while away in the Holy land which he requested be bought out to be draped over his body upon his demise.

Professor Danial Power

The second speaker Professor Daniel Power gave a talk on “Marshall & his family, Wales, England, Ireland & France”, he added that some of his talk might duplicate what Elizabeth had already said. The Marshall family lands and property in Southern Ireland, England (Cumbria), Southern England, Wales and France remained in the family between 1183 and 1245, after this, much of it passed through the female line and out of the family. Isabel de Clare married William Marshall in 1189, Isabel being the grand daughter of the King of Leinster. Of the many Castles, those which can be linked to William are as follows;

William became Regent of England when King John died on 19 October 1216.

Professor Power discussed the family of William and much of what he mentioned can be gleaned from the Pedigree chart included above. He did state though, that the male line died out following the deaths of Walter and Anselm in 1245, Gilbert died as a result of an accident at a tournament. William’s daughters, however, had lucrative marriages.

Bill Zajac

The final speaker who gave a brief talk, was Bill Zajac, entitled “Marshall and Usk Castle”. Bill stated that it was not certain whether it was William Marshall senior, or junior, who were responsible for the build of the tower at Usk Castle. The Castle is actually late 11th century and it is from the year 1130 that the history of the castle can be ascertained for sure. The Keep was built and added to at different times in it’s history and “Strongbow” de Clare had ownership under Henry II. It is thought that the Keep probably had a timber palisade and major earthworks for protection. What is now known as Marshalls Tower can be compared to a Tower at Chepstow. Bill said that he hoped everyone would turn up after lunch so he could take small groups up Marshalls Garrison Tower as well as providing a guided tour of the Castle grounds.

With time running out the President of the Friends of Usk Castle, Mr Jeremy Knight, bought the Presentation and meeting to a conclusion and thanked the speakers for their time and most interesting talks.

Looking Forward

Our next meeting is on 7th September when we will welcome Dr, Rosemary Horrox who will be giving an illustrated talk on Richard III and the Duchy of Lancaster.

Our AGM will take place on 12th October followed by a talk by Keith entitled “Bosworth Field A Battle Lost in 1483?