Winter 2019-20



 News & Views newsletter 

News & Views - branch newsletter

Winter 2019-20

We had a very busy 2019 but, unfortunately, 2020 has not started well.  Due to the outbreak of Coronavirus, and following government guidelines, it has been decided to cancel the April and May meetings.  Members will be informed, in due course,  whether the June meeting will take place.  Keith is hoping to re-book the April and May speakers for other dates and, again, will let members know.





As a wedding was taking place at the Church when we arrived, we had to wait until the party had dispersed before we could enter, so were slightly delayed in starting our tour. We were welcomed by our host and guide, Viv Kelly, before he commenced his talk.


This was a most informative “walk through history”. Viv made reference to the Romans who had a settlement some two miles from the Church, the progression of Christianity in Wales and Cornwall and also how the Celtic saints flourished in the area with links to Brittany in France.


It is said that St Illtud came to Llantwit Major in about AD 500 and founded a school like the Romans had in previous centuries. In 1066 following the battle of Hastings, the Normans invaded Wales through Gloucester in about 1093. The Vale of Glamorgan was annexed by Robert Fitzhamon around 1090-1093 and supported by twelve knights and around 5000 troops [probably an exaggeration ]. The campaign was mounted from Fitzhamon’s base at Cardiff Castle.

Churches which had previously been of a Celtic influence were then changed to a more Catholic influence. Viv told us that “Clas” Churches were set up and run by a community of clergy, Wikipedia advises…

A clas (Welsh pl. clasau) was a native Christian church in early medieval Wales. Unlike later Normanmonasteries, which were made up of a main religious building supported by several smaller buildings, such as cloisters and kitchens, a clas was normally a single building]. The building was run by a community of clergy and headed by an abod. Clasau were autonomous and were administered locally.[1]

Following the Norman invasion of Wales in the late 11th century, many of the clasau of South Wales became dependencies of religious houses in England. This resulted in several sites becoming part of the Benedictineor Augustinian orders, or built upon in the following centuries by Norman churches.

Viv then pointed out the East window of the Church and four figures at the top, the one in green was thought to be St Patrick of Ireland, one depicted St David of Wales, another St Illtud and the figure in red Samson, who was an early person of significance in this part of Wales.


As we walked down the Church towards the entrance where we had come in, Viv showed us the only Norman part of the Church still remaining, the doorway and arch. We continued to what is now referred to as “the Galilee chapel” where originally the clergy would have robed and communion wine etc would have been stored.


This was originally derelict and with much of the church stone littering the area it was felt something needed to be done, so a Lottery grant was applied for (£300K). Eventually following a visit by Lottery staff a grant of £600K was approved and work then began to refurbish the area. An Ossuary was then discovered under the floor with many skeletal remains found, so this had to be resolved before work could be completed. Of the three, ninth or tenth century stones in the picture above, the one on the left is dedicated to Samson’s son, on the reverse to Royal Samson, the centre Howell stone is the oldest and dates to about 846 and refers to a King, the stone on the right refers to Samson the Abbott.


Viv stated that early Churches back in the 8th century were obviously built of wood, wattle and daub and it was not until sometime later that they were built in stone (lias stone, this stone cannot be carved).


At the millennium the Church celebrated being the oldest and longest in the area providing Christian worship.


Unfortunately, again one of the Church paintings depicting St Christopher, was not possible to photograph due to the poor light. There is another wall mural celebrating the new reign of King James 1 of Scotland & England, but those who created the painting incorrectly noted the start date which reads 1604, however James I reigned from 24 Mar 1603 to 27 Mar 1625.





 We were greeted by our guide, Mr Ian Fell, on arrival at St Cadoc’s Church in Llancarfan, South Wales, on a warm Saturday morning and then offered tea, coffee and biscuits. Due to our Chairman and one or two others missing from the party we were asked to take a seat, and then Gareth, one of the local visitors, gave us a short talk on his new book on one of Wales’s more prominent Historians from past times.



Following the arrival of our Chairman, Ian then began his talk on St Cadoc, Llancarfan Church and its wall paintings.

Ian stated that it was not the Victorians who discovered the paintings but people working in the Church in about 2007/2008 following the discovery of rot in one of the Church roof supports. The wall paintings had been covered over following a decree from Edward VI during his reign (28 Jan 1547 – 6 Jul 1553) and successive Church decoration had added further layers of lime wash totalling 27 layers. A red line had been uncovered and further investigation by a conserver uncovered a Princess being offered to the dragon. No exact date has been advised when the paintings were created but, from clothing and pictorial evidence, it is thought that they may date back to about 1485. This would tie in with established history with the exiled Henry Tudor, aka Henry VII landing at Milford Haven in West Wales and meeting Richard III at Bosworth. Curious to note that both sides at the Battle of Bosworth displayed banners depicting St George. Discussion followed on possible connections to these historical figures with the wall paintings. Certainly the armour on St George dates to an earlier period of history, possibly 14th Century. Ian did point out that both the Princess being fed to the dragon and the Queen in the Castle, pictured below, were wearing crosses, indicating they had been converted to Christianity.


Two Coats of Arms depicted either side of St George and the Dragon relate to the Bawdrip family of Penmark (originally of Somerset) and the Raglan family (originally Herbert family from Raglan who took on the surname Raglan). These families may well have been local influential people at the time or may have donated money to the Church to have the paintings undertaken as a way to celebrate the union between the two families. Ian stated that St George is a recognised saint not only here in England but across many parts of Europe, including Aragon, Catalonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Portugal, Germany, Greece and Palestine.

(Note St Georges day or England’s national day is usually celebrated on or around the 23 April each year).

Ian mentioned that in about 1507 a great tournament took place at Carew Castle in West Wales over five days to remember St George and this was probably one of the last great medieval tournaments staged in Britain. Men from local powerful dynasties would have attended this event, such as Sir Jenkin Mansell and Sir William Herbert. A prominent chronicler of the time wrote “men most of them of good rank and quality ………spectators of these rare solemnities, never before known in these parts.”


Sadly, during various Church improvements and damp proofing some of the wall paintings have been damaged beyond repair, but every effort is being made to retain what has been discovered so far.

The mysterious figure on the wall above who was being led away by Death of a Danse Macabre figure, we thought could depict Richard III being taken following the Battle of Bosworth. George and the Dragon could represent Henry VII, this was discussed by Ian and various members of the audience.

Ian then got us to move to the corner of the Church to view the paintings depicting the “Seven Deadly Sins” of Lust, Sloth, Avarice/Greed, Pride, Anger/Wrath, Gluttony and Envy. All these paintings are linked together by the dragon.


Further round the wall were paintings depicting “Acts of Mercy” including attending to the sick and infirm, clothing of the naked, and feeding the hungry, starving and poor. Sadly, the lighting in this part of the Church was not good enough to take photographs.


The paintings would have been referred to by the parish priest or vicar when giving a sermon to his congregation pointing out human failings and ways in which people could guarantee a way into heaven rather than hell by not succumbing to evil influences.


Ian also pointed out the stone carvings on the walls, some with their tongues poking out.


To finish up he took us to another corner of the Church to see the Reredos. It is not known how they came to be in the Church, but they are certainly quite resplendent and the niches underneath would probably have had figures of saints or religious emblems in them.









On arrival and after parking in the park, I registered at reception and took my seat in the room designated for the day’s presentations. After dispensing with admin, toilets, lunch arrangements, coffee, tea etc, Phil Steele introduced Harvey Watson, (Editor of the Battlefield magazine), who was to give a talk on the reasons behind the “Cousins War” and events leading up to the Battle of Edgecote.


The Battle of Edgecote – An Introduction, 26 July 1469


Harvey started off by clarifying that this was not, what is now known as the “Wars of the Roses” but what was “The Cousins War” between various members of the warring factions of the Royal family and nobility. Shakespeare’s portrayal of the House of York and Lancaster picking roses in a garden was pure fabrication. He also pointed out that from the first battle at St Albans on 22 May 1455 to the battle of Stoke on 16 June 1487, a matter of 32 years, only a few major battles took place during this period. Harvey then displayed a medieval Royal family tree of Edward III on the screen to point out how the war between the cousins came to be, commencing with the Black Prince, Richard II, Henry IV, John of Gaunt, Henry V, down to Henry VI and Edward IV. Then came the in-fighting between Warwick the Kingmaker, Edward IV and the Duke of Somerset over the loss of much of France to the French, as well as Edward’s secret marriage to Elizabeth Wydeville in 1464 which irked Warwick. Mention was also made of the battle of Towton on 29 March 1461 which was probably the biggest and bloodiest battle of the period. Various rebellions were also taking place at the time including one in 1469 in the North of England under Robin of Holderness and Robin of Redesdale. Who these men were has never been fully established but they marched South.


With Edward IV in the North trying to cover any return made by Warwick from France and then linking up with the rebels, it was left to other commanders in the South to defend London and support the King’s cause. What is known is that William Herbert (1st Earl of Pembroke) with his foot soldiers and the Earl of Devon and his archers who were supporting the King, met up in Banbury. They had a big falling out over accommodation, so the Earl of Devon left taking his archers with him, leaving the Earl of Pembroke and his men very exposed. It may have been that the Earl of Pembroke and Devon fell out over who was to take charge of the Royal army. Harvey reminded us of the importance of archers in this period with regular training on a Sunday at the butts. Harvey mentioned that plate armour would have only been worn by rich wealthy noblemen at the time and common soldiers would have had little or no protective clothing. Following the battle at Edgecote William and Richard Herbert were taken to the Eleanor cross in Northampton and executed by the rebel force leaders. For the Herbert’s and the Welsh this battle was a disaster. William Herbert was buried at Tintern Abbey, Edward IV was captured by Warwick the Kingmaker, so he had both Edward IV and Henry VI imprisoned in the tower.


To conclude his presentation, Harvey Watson stated that Edward Hall’s account of the battle was written approximately 70 years after the event and could not be relied upon, and the exact location of the battle is still not accurately known. What is known from accounts and chronicles is that Trafford bridge and a tributary of the Cherwell were mentioned which helps in identifying where the battlefield could have been. The long term consequence from the battle of Edgecote was that 16 years later the Welsh rejoiced when Henry Tudor (Henry VII) took the throne from Richard III, the last Plantagenet King.


To finish up Harvey then put it to the audience  whether the Newport Ship ( discovered in 2002, thought to have been owned by Warwick the Kingmaker, could actually have been owned by William Herbert, as Newport in South Wales would have been part of his estate as the Earl of Pembroke.  Trees used to construct the ship were felled in about 1449 in the Basque Country, between modern Spain and France, where it was probably built. It was brought to Newport for repairs or refit in about 1469, (Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick KG, 22 November 1428 – 14 April 1471).



The Woodvilles and the War


Following a short break, Phil Steele introduced Mike Ingram who is Chair of the Northamptonshire Battlefields Society, an author of books on the Battles of Northampton and Bosworth, and a frequent speaker on Northamptonshire’s history. Mike recently gave a Presentation to our group back in May 2019 on the Wars of the Roses and sources little referenced by other people. His talk covered the background to the Earl of Warwick’s rebellion and the tensions between him, as the most powerful noble in the realm, and Edward IV’s wife Elizabeth Wydeville and her family, who were commonly believed to have led to the uprising.  Mike went on to tell us, that many of the Wydeville children married into established families of the period including the Stanley family. These marriages catapulted the Wydeville family to the forefront of power in Edward IV’s reign creating jealousy among other notable families of the time. Edward IV had met Elizabeth Wydeville at Grafton Regis in Northampton and secretly married her in a ceremony on 1 May 1464. Their marriage was officially announced at Reading in September 1464, which created tension between Edward and Warwick the Kingmaker, resulting in Warwick changing sides and supporting the Lancastrian cause rather than the Yorkist one. A very interesting and informative presentation given by Mike.


Details on Mike’s new book on Richard III and the Battle of Bosworth can be found on the link below;


Another of his books on the Battle of Northampton 1460 can be found on the following link;


Another book which may be of interest relating to the Battle of Edgecote is entitled “…Where both the hosts fought…” The Rebellions of 1469 – 1470 and the Battle of Edgecote & Lose-Cote-field, by Philip A Haigh. I hasten to add I have no interest or connection to Mike Ingram or Philip A Haigh regarding these books.



“Words, Weapons & Warfare – The Welsh Bards and the Battle of Banbury”


Following a lovely buffet lunch between 12:00 and 1pm the next speaker was introduced as Professor Ann Parry Owen who is from the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh & Celtic Studies. Ann gave a very illuminating talk about the often overlooked evidences for the battle contained in 15th century Welsh Poetry. Despite one of the armies being predominantly Welsh, Welsh Poetry and Literature is not a subject covered in depth by English studies of the battle. Ann has completed new translations of poems relating to the battle not previously available in English. She recited in Welsh one of the poems she had recently worked on and then read it in English. What a colourful language Welsh is! At the beginning of her presentation she gave some background into how early Welsh poets used to live with their patrons, writing on their lives, family, children, status, love, war, etc. She also said that in early medieval times Welsh would have been spoken not only in Wales but places like Herefordshire, the borders or Marches and even places in Scotland.


She stated that the Welsh had looked to William Herbert as the saviour of Wales as the Country was being oppressed by the English and they wished for freedom from this oppression. His death, with that of his son Richard Herbert at Eleanor’s cross in Northampton following the battle of Edgecote, led the Welsh in a hatred for men of the North of England, especially those of Warwick the Kingmaker. Ann mentioned both Tretower and Raglan castle as having connections to her presentation on poetry so I am including links, and here



“Edgcote and the Art of War”


Following another short break, we then resumed the afternoon session with a talk given by Phil Steele. Phil Steele is a Trustee of the Battlefields Trust as well as being a long term member of the Northamptonshire Battlefields Society. He speaks on a regular basis on matters relating to battles in the County of Northamptonshire. Phil’s talk was quite colourful as he utilised slides of paintings, books, manuscripts and fresco works from Churches as well as tombs to show some of the Coats of Arms used by the leading families involved in the conflict of the time. Heraldry of not only Edward IV but of those supporting him, including the Herbert Arms, the Staffords, the Vaughans, the Morgans and Harvards, and on the opposing side those of Warwick, Conyers, Fitzhugh and Willoughby. Phil made reference to eye-witness accounts, contemporary accounts and biblical influences during his talk and said that sometimes what appeared to be in pictures or paintings could not be relied on as fact. He showed a picture of Edward IV in what appeared to be black armour, his armour was in reality known to have been silver leaf which had turned black. Several slides depicting scenes from medieval battles including Tewkesbury, Agincourt etc showed archers standing behind stakes with mounted horses behind them with spears or lances usually in rows three deep. Some of the pictures showing archers were discussed as they did not appear to be wholly accurate. We were reminded that it was usual for menfolk to practice archery on Sundays at the butts in readiness for war. Phil stated that what we do not see in any of the medieval paintings, fresco’s etc is battle formations, bill men, massed polearms, heaps of dead bodies, deep formations of soldiers or any form of overhead arrow shooting.



“The Source of the Problem”


The final presentation of the day was given by Graham Evans. Graham is Secretary of the Northamptonshire Battlefields Society, he has also recently published the book “The Battle of Edgcote 1469 – Re-evaluating the evidence”. Graham’s talk was very interesting as he had included several charts listing the various sources available including William Worcestre, Stow, Waurin, Croyland, Hall, Hearne, Welsh poets, Polydore Vergil and Speeds map of Danesmoor. Very little is known about the battle of Edgecote and the sources available are patchy and to be treated with caution. Other information included the Coventry Leet book, Paston letters, Warwick’s manifesto and Hearne’s fragment book. He suggested that it was possible to either take a historical look at the events and battle or consider a journalistic approach utilising the evidences available. The size of the individual armies was discussed as some of the figures quoted in the chronicles and reports were obviously grossly exaggerated. To make the point Graham overlaid on a map of the battlefield what each army size would have been, each time exceeding well across the map. Graham showed a map of the central Midlands to explain his views as to which directions each of the armies were approaching Banbury, rather than believe what some misleading historical accounts or chronicles tell us. With roads leading to Coventry, Leicester, Peterborough and London from Northampton, Warwick approached from the South having returned from France, Herbert approached from Wales, Stafford from the South West and the rebel army of Robin of Redesdale from the North, bypassing Edward IV on the way. In Grahams opinion he thought it more reasonable that each army probably consisted of approximately 3,000 to 4,000 men rather than the figures of 60,000 sometimes quoted in records.  A well put together presentation with lots of informative data and much enjoyed.





The House of Beaufort by Nathen Amin

I read this book for the second time to undertake this review, which confirmed my view that Amin has an interesting story to tell, but it is obviously told by a founder member of the Henry VII Society.  It is unusual in telling the story of late fourteenth and fifteenth century English history from the point of view of the one family, which I think was a worthwhile undertaking.

There are, however, quite a few “niggles” about the book in general, including editorial issues.  Amin writes in an approachable style, but I would not expect a serious book to include abbreviations such as “didn’t” or “shouldn’t”, and, in some instances, words are clearly missing, such as “in” or “by”.  The brief family tree is also completely inadequate – at the very least trees showing the Beauforts with their wives and all their offspring, a Royal family descent from Edward III, and a tree of the families descended from Ralph Neville and his two wives Margaret Stafford and Joan Beaufort should have been included, also including their dates. The sources are extensive, but some hardly original, for example the description of Joan of Arc’s death comes directly from Helen Castor’s book on the subject.

I felt that the author was very inclined to make chatty assumptions about his protagonists, eg, on page 33 suggesting that John Beaufort, Thomas Swynford and Henry of Derby (later Henry IV) when meeting at a jousting competition would have “fostered a camaraderie….that endured throughout the remainder of their lives” (why? – they may have actually disliked one another), speculation about whether Henry Beaufort would have felt nervous ascending the episcopal throne, and assuming that Thomas Beaufort’s removal as Admiral of England in 1426 was due to ill health because six months later he became unwell and died (he may have been keeping a low profile and fell from favour at the same time as Cardinal Henry Beaufort).  It would have been better to omit these and other speculations.

Many of Amin’s explanations are good; I particularly appreciated his explanation of the tragic and unnecessary Welsh uprising by Owain Glyndwr being manipulated Lord Grey of Ruthyn, showing not only how local rivalries could prompt uprisings, but how this was a situation multiplied all over England at this time – and which of course was exacerbated during the inept reign of Henry VI.  Amin also gives a good explanation of John of Gaunt’s relationship with Katherine Swynford, its circumstances and outcomes.  Royal bastards were far from uncommon in medieval times, and, if acknowledged, could do very well in life.  The Beauforts were highly unusual in being legitimised, but realistically there could have been no thought that they would ever be in line for the throne.  Amin addresses this issue on Pages 82-83, and clearly thinks that the Act of 1397 should carry more weight than the subsequent amendment.  He is clearly more impressed with the family having royal blood than being legitimised bastards.

I think that Amin places far too much emphasis on the Beauforts as a family with a single entity and purpose, even going so far as to refer to the “Beaufort-Neville” family.  It is true that the male line had no property or titles of their own and were totally dependent on the king of the time for their livelihoods, which of course led to them being extremely ingratiating and ambitious.  However, he overlooks that those marrying into or out of the family would not necessarily have the same point of view.  All the magnates and lordly families of England were so intermarried that each person had potentially several family allegiances and interests, in addition to personal feuds and resentments.  In fact, if simply pushing Beaufort blood were the issue, Henry and Edmund Beaufort should have been delighted that Edward IV (in direct line descent from Joan Beaufort) took the throne from Henry VI, but of course they were not.  The “Cousins War” is a much more realistic name than “The Wars of the Roses”.

The book, however, tells the story of the Beauforts’ rise well.  It is clear that the four offspring of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford were each in their different way exceptional people.  The lists of acquisitions and grants from the king become somewhat tedious at points, but lead to understanding exactly why their less outstanding offspring became so anxious not to lose their positions at court.  This is particularly clear in the case of Henry Beaufort, his spectacular rise to Bishop and Chancellor before his fall from grace when made Cardinal (of which the Pope’s generous wording was not really his fault) under Henry V.  It provides a good explanation as to why he was prepared to bankroll the state and “push” his nephews under the much more easily manipulated Henry VI – they were extremely fortunate that ‘the Cardinal of England’ had managed to accumulate such riches.  However, Amin is clearly unwilling to agree that there may have been truth in Humphrey of Gloucester’s allegation that Henry was guilty of “greed and nepotism”.


For most of the book, Amin is fairly even-handed in his treatment of Richard of York and Edmund of Somerset’s mutual rivalry and loathing, acknowledging Somerset’s failures in France and the provocations which York faced both in Somerset’s rewards for failure, and his own disregarding and disparaging by the court party.  He suggests that Somerset’s imprisonment in the Tower was at the instigation of Norfolk rather than York.  However, on page 250 this suddenly changes with York’s actions becoming a “conspiracy to seize control of England”.

Amin’s sympathy for the Beaufort cause is clearly exemplified when Henry, the 3rd Duke, seems to be excused his personal lack of success on the battlefield (unless fighting with more experienced and competent commanders such as Oxford, Exeter or Westmorland), being described as “highly competent”, before his opportunistic abandoning of the Lancastrian cause and then subsequent slinking away from Chirk Castle in disguise to betray King Edward IV who had generously befriended him and saved his life, subsequently losing two significant battles.  In fact, one cannot help but wonder whether this generosity and willingness to forgive (a characteristic of both Yorkist kings) was a weakness in a 15th century king.

Likewise, no consideration is given as to whether Edmund Beaufort the 4th Duke, was experienced enough to be given the command of the right wing at the Battle of Tewkesbury, which of course was a disaster.  The book ends abruptly with the aftermath of the battle and the death of Henry VI (where Amin repeats the old myth of Henry VI’s body “bleeding all over the floor of St Paul’s“- a biological impossibility so many hours after death when the heart had long stopped and arteries relaxed.  If he was put to death, it was far more likely to have been by suffocation).

I feel that it would have provided more of a sense of completion if Nathan Amin had added a further chapter briefly describing Henry Tudor’s ascent of the throne and how Beaufort blood has come down to the present royal family through their Stuart forebears and to other current members of the nobility.  However, despite the length of this review and several quibbles, I consider this to be an interesting and worthwhile book, which I mostly enjoyed reading.

Gail Peacock

Christmas Lunch

We had a most enjoyable picnic lunch on the 30th November to celebrate Christmas.  For our Christmas meeting, Alan Morgan, who had given a talk on the real Dick Whittington to our group, in connection with the Pauntley W.I.,  came to us to talk about, Dick Whittington, the  pantomime figure.  His interesting talk was enjoyed by those who attended.  We were especially pleased to welcome Pauntley W.I. who came along to support us and hear Alan again.

The usual Christmas collection, which we have done for many years, instead of exchanging Christmas cards, was initially intended to go to the Half Angel Appeal.  However, as that has reached its target, the Committee is looking at other local charitable institutions where the money will be donated.

Angela Iliff