NEWS & VIEWS
Magazine of the Gloucester Branch of The Richard III SOCIETY
First of all, I must apologise for not getting News & Views out in September due to various family problems. Once again, I have received plenty of articles so I would like to thank everyone who has submitted items. However, I can always try and make room for more so all those budding writers out there, please do not hesitate to let me have your contributions.
Medieval Pilgrimage - Study Day with Tim Porter
In August we had another excellent and informative study day with Tim Porter. Both Liz Clarridge and I took notes so I have formulated this report by amalgamating our notes. In medieval times, pilgrimage was a very personal act and cut across all people and classes. In fact over-lords were obliged to let their bondsmen go on such pilgrimages. Because of the extent of the subject, Tim concentrated on three important sites of pilgrimage; Bury St. Edmunds, Canterbury and Walsingham.
Bury St. Edmunds
In the early middle ages, St. Edmund was regarded as the English patron saint. Edmund was a real person. He was the last King of the East Angles and was killed by the Vikings in 869. There are no local chronicles of that time telling his story although it was well recorded in other parts of the country, but the local priests were duty bound to tell people about him. The siege by the Vikings went on for years and in 865 men from the Viking ships formed a land based army. Edmund made peace with them and they went off to conquer other people. However, they later returned and this time, Edmund was killed.
During the reign of Athelstan, the cult of St. Edmund developed and by 895, coins were being struck mentioning Edmund as saint. Was it possible that Viking rulers had, by then, become Christians? At about the same time, Edmund’s remains were in a shrine at the Monastery in Bury St. Edmund’s, which later became an Abbey. About 100 years later, the first account of Edmund’s death, “The Passion and Death of St. Edmund”, was written by Abbo, a Benedictine monk at nearby Ramsey. He got the story from Archbishop Dunstan, who got it from a soldier who was at the battle in which Edmund got killed. He said that Edmund had been offered a choice – either to be allowed to rule as a puppet king or else be martyred. Edmund said that he would rather die. He was tied to a tree and shot with arrows. The Vikings chopped off his head and threw it away. When Edmund’s followers searched for the body, they found a wolf guarding it. However, when they buried the body, they found that the head had miraculously re-joined the body!
After the Vikings, the Danes invaded, defeating Ethelred the Unready. The Danish Canute became king, after the sudden death of his father, King Sweyn. Canute was followed by two of his sons, then Edward the Confessor came to the throne. By this time, Bury St. Edmunds had become the leading Abbey, with a Norman Abbot, some Normans having arrived in Britain before the Conquest. By this time, stories of St. Edmund abounded, one in particular being the account of how King Sweyn had died i.e. Edmund had got out of his tomb and struck Sweyn down! It was soon after this that Edmund was regarded as a saint. In 1200, King John lost a lot of his lands and in 1215 the Magna Carta was drawn up. John didn’t adhere to the terms thereof so the barons invited aid from France. John died during the ensuing battle leaving his young son, Henry, as King. Henry ruled through the barons, who managed to get the Magna Carta in place again and the battle ended in 1217. The Church of St. Sernin in Toulouse said they had St. Edmund’s relics, claiming they took them during the battle but despite this, people still made pilgrimages to Bury. In 1910, as a gesture of entente cordiale, Toulouse offered some of the relics back! The Duke of Norfolk said he would have some – and they are still, allegedly, in Arundell Castle!
There are many images of St. Edmund, mainly in Norfolk and Suffolk but also further afield, including Tewkesbury Abbey, and Tim showed slides of quite a lot. There is also a coin of the time in the Ashmolean Museum.
Gatehouse of Abbey, Bury St. Edmunds Remains of Abbey at Bury St. Edmunds
The Venerable Bede said that when Pope Gregory first visited Canterbury in 597, he allegedly saw some beautiful children who were angels. Later, the Pope sent his missionary, Augustine, to set up his base in Canterbury, where he became the first Archbishop of Canterbury. About 15 Archbishops of Canterbury became saints so there were lots of shrines. St. Dunstan, the greatest archbishop ever, died there in 988. He was Abbot of Glastonbury and introduced Benedictine Law. He is patron saint of a lot of things; he did metal-work and was a musician and he devised the coronation ritual. St. Alphage, who died in 1012, had been a monk at Deerhurst, Gloucestershire. He was murdered by the Danes but pilgrimage to his shrine was promoted by King Canute. St. Anselm, who was an Italian, was Archbishop after the Norman Conquest and disputed authority with the Crown. He did die of natural causes. Then, of course, Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170 by some “helpful” friends of Henry II with whom Becket had had a dispute.
However, Canterbury suffered a great deal of destruction in it’s history, including a fire in 1200 when it had to be re-built and after the Reformation, Canterbury suffered harsh treatment and many shrines were destroyed. At the re-building in 1200, new stained glass windows were installed, many showing scenes of earlier miracles.
The monks at the Abbey allegedly had a phial of Becket’s blood which they mixed with water and bathed sick people. Tim told us tales of miraculous healing, including a couple of men from Gloucestershire.
The religious site at Walsingham has a different origin to Bury St. Edmunds and Canterbury. Here a noblewoman named Richeldas had a dream about the Virgin Mary, in which Mary led Richeldas, in spirit, to Nazareth. One night, after a fall of dew, Richeldas noticed two dry patches on the ground. Seeing this as some sort of miracle, Richeldas built a house on one of the dry patches but this house kept falling down. Richeldis kept praying and eventually the house re-built itself on the second dry patch. As very few people could ever get to Nazareth they came to Walsingham and in Elizabethan times, there was a song about going to Walsingham in which it is referred to as “The Holy Land”. In 1150 an Augustinian Priory, of which only ruins exist, was built at Walsingham. As Walsingham was not far from the coast, pilgrims came by sea as well as land – from Blakeney, Clay and King’s Lynn.
Walsingham was patronised by royalty and in the 14th Century a Franciscan Priory was built on the road into the village and a shrine was built in the Augustinian Priory.
Margaret Lewis & Liz Clarridge
Home Thoughts from Hastings
No, not any revelations from William Hastings but the town on the East Sussex coast forever linked to a certain William the Conqueror. In fact the whole area is known as 1066 Country and, far from being a defeat for Anglo Saxon England, it is feted as a fine historical victory? The whole of Sussex and Kent is scattered with fine Anglo-Norman Castles; Scotney, Bodiam, Arundel et al. Numerous Abbeys and Priories plus the stately Manors of the great and the good such as Winston Churchill, Rudyard Kipling and General Wolfe are all for the visiting. How distant ‘Middle’ England seems to be, writing postcards to addresses in Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire reminds me of just how far removed we are. Feel somehow we aren’t in England, but then I realised that we are on the edge, facing France, our backs to England and the UK. Despite the wealth of motorways and a powerful 2litre car, it still takes up to 7 hours to reach Shropshire, with barely a comfort break. Couldn’t help but dwell on how far an Anglo Saxon could yomp in the same time and what a remarkable dash Harold and his troops made from Yorkshire – no hold ups on the Dartford Crossing then!
Ricardian and Plantagenet History not too thick on the ground here but we discovered a local phenomena known as ‘The Medieval Churches of Romney Marsh’, a total of 14 churches are scattered on this wide area of uncommon flat land that straddles the East Sussex/ Kent borders. I shall describe a few.
St Thomas a Becket, Romney Marsh Lydd Church
It resembles in look and feel like part of the Fenland, only glimpses of the High Weald and coastal hills at Rye dispel the illusion. The winds gust and blast over the dikes and grazing lambs and, with a faint outline over the watery horizon of a distant continent, one is reminded of this very southern coast. Many of the Churches are quite hidden and in some cases remote from their original settlements. One of the most iconic being the church of St Thomas a Becket, standing forlornly in the middle of the archetypal landscape. It has been used twice as a location for Great Expectations and something else called Parade’s End ( vaguely recall this). The interior has an 18thc air with white pews and, while some of the beams belong to the original medieval church, it is the location which is outstanding. This picture was taken with a telescopic lens, I can’t imagine what congregation traipses up the bridleway to evensong in the depths of winter. But I can imagine Magwitch!
Lydd (above) boasts the finest of the churches in size and presence, it is actually known as the Cathedral of the Marsh. Its length is 200ft and the steeple amongst the tallest of any at an impressive 132ft. Much of the stone used in the construction is believed to have come from Caen. What a contrast in style to the other Marsh churches. Inside is quite simple, nothing to write home about so to speak, but we were serenaded by the local organist. What better way to savour the peace and tranquillity of this magnificent church.
The unusually named St Eanswith in the village of Brenzett is one of the smaller churches on the Marsh, and despite a village location, one of the hardest to spot. Eanswith, daughter of Eabald, King of Kent founded the first nunnery in England, the Benedictine Abbey of Folkestone. Why? Well in true 7thC fashion she rejected the advances of a Pagan Prince and devoted herself to God until her death in 640AD. She was very much in the forefront of the Christian conversion in Saxon England, Augustine himself had only arrived in Kent less than 50 years earlier (597).
St Eanswith, Brenzett St Augustine's, Brookland
The last church I shall describe here was, I think, my favourite and dedicated to St Augustine. It lies prominently in the village of Brookland, itself on the main A259 that links the south coast with Folkestone. The detached bell tower is quite remarkable, difficult to tell from the photo but it is said to be constructed from the timbers of local wrecks. Inside there is a Medieval Wall Painting depicting the murder of Thomas a Becket- much more visible than it appears here on the photograph.
So, why so many churches? The Marsh has never been widely populated, more home to sheep and smugglers, neither of whom one would expect to swell the congregation. According to my guide, one theory is that the wealthy monks of Canterbury who owned much of the Marsh felt they had a duty to build churches for the glory of God. Another plausible explanation, and one not unique to this area, is the fact that the local merchants, wealthy from the flourishing wool trade, felt the need to sponsor the great churches of Lydd, Ivychurch and Newchurch. Though these are very modest in comparison to the more familiar Cotswold churches.
One can sit at home and ‘google’ anything these days but nothing beats the atmosphere of bricks and mortar, the feel of the sun, the sounds of nature and the generally fabulous cafes that accompany many of our great buildings, whether ruins or working churches. Despite choked motorways and archaic clogged ‘A’ roads, the counties of Sussex and Kent have a rich and fascinating heritage and not just somewhere to drive through on route to the Tunnel. Come on down but don’t forget your National Trust/English Heritage cards.
Tewkesbury Medieval Fayre and Battle Re-enactment - 13th July 2014
It was a bright and warm Sunday for our turn at the Medieval Fayre. We were in a tent next to the Mortimer Society and opposite the Gloucestershire Guild of Weavers and Dyers. The weavers were busy with their demonstrations and the information from the Mortimer Society was very interesting.
Outside it was the usual Aladdin’s Cave of things you really must have. There were costumes of all descriptions, weapons galore, armour and plenty of food and drink outlets. This year’s “must have” seemed to be a “bottle of oil” which you used to oil metal objects like axes and other lethal looking weapons.
Whilst waiting for the event to open, there was an announcement that the Captains’ Meeting would be in the beer tent. Keith, Liz and Angela had organised our stall so I ventured into the beer tent to see what was going on. The detail involved in organising the re-enactment is amazing. Incidents from Saturday’s battle were discussed. There were warnings about not tripping up opponents and not picking on the principals who “go down” in the battle. In order to get everyone onto the battlefield, there was a strict order of mustering. Those wearing sharp knives as part of their costume were not to wear them on the battlefield in case they fell over and hurt themselves!
Then it was announced that the King had been injured on Saturday so a new King was introduced. Apparently, he was a smaller built man so the armour would need adjusting. Some wit asked “Did that mean the Lancastrians had won on a technicality?”! Needless to say, there was much laughter. There is certainly more to this re-enactment that I realised. Health and safety is taken very seriously and they do their best to keep participants and the public safe. Oh yes – they kept talking about mops. I couldn’t quite see what mops had to do with the battle. Were they weapons? How big were they? Did Richard have one? It turned out that they were “Members of the Public” – good job I didn’t ask anyone!
I thoroughly enjoyed the day. It’s a very popular event and there is plenty to see and do. If you haven’t been yet, give it a try next year – there is bound to be something to interest you.
Here we go! NO-ONE gets past me!
The Evening Before:-
This year, on the Saturday evening, my cousin and I went down to the Abbey to watch the” trial and beheading” of the Lancastrians who had been captured after the battle. We followed a trio of soldiers, with the Sun in Splendour emblazoned on their backs. We stopped them and asked for a photo to which they agreed but for which they demanded payment of a kiss! (Seeing that we are both older ladies, that made our day)!
Three suns of York
We watched as the prisoners were brought out of the Abbey and led to their trial in the Abbey car park. The King and his entourage sat on a balcony at the adjacent old peoples’ flats, from where he tried the prisoners. One by one they were brought before the King to learn their fate. Several were let off, including a Frenchman who was thrown to the ground before us and “beaten up” before he was allowed to go. Eventually it was Somerset’s turn and after a lot of argument from him, he too was sentenced to death.
When everyone had been seen by the King, the whole party proceeded to “The Crescent” which represented the market place. Here we saw the Lancastrians “beheaded” and their heads put on the spikes of the Abbey fence. At last it was Somerset’s turn and – still arguing – he finally hit the deck!
Somerset looking nonchalant. Still looking unperturbed.
It’s your turn next mate!
This must have been a traumatic event for Tewkesbury people to witness in 1471 so it was some relief to know that the next day, in 2014, they were all alive and kicking ready to fight another day!
Report on Ludlow Conference
RICHARD III, LUDLOW AND THE HOUSE OF YORK 4th October 2014 – 9.00am to 4.30pm Ludlow Assembly Rooms
This conference was arranged by The Conservation Trust for St Laurence, Ludlow, with the support of the Ludlow Civic Society and assistance from the Ludlow Historical Research Group, the Mortimer History Society and the Gloucester Branch of the Richard III Society. It brought together some well-known speakers in a series of back to back talks about subjects relative to Richard III, Ludlow and the House of York, and it was very well attended. Following Registration and a Welcome, the first speaker took the floor at 9.30. He was William West of Englyshe Plate Armourie speaking on “Armour and Weapons during the War of the Roses”. The talk was well illustrated with photographs of medieval effigies and the making and fitting of armour. He explained that there were very few examples remaining of English plate armour made in the 15th century and described the research that he and Graham Turner, the artist, had carried out, finding and examining tomb effigies in order to make reproductions. He had brought with him a suit of armour or “harness” that he had made for a client. He passed around pieces of the armour so that we could feel the weight and the flexibility. Apparently it took 30-40 minutes to put on a complete suit of armour and required the help of a squire. More time was then required to “sweat” into it. The next speaker was John Grove of the Mortimer History Society. His subject was “The Mortimer Earls of March and the House of York”. He talked a little about the general history of the Mortimers, and went on to Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March. Married to Joan de Geneville, he formed a relationship whilst in France with Queen Isabella, wife of Edward II. They returned to England and overthrew Edward II, who was imprisoned and finally killed in Berkeley Castle. He acted as Regent during the minority of Isabella’s son, Edward III, and then put him on the throne when he reached an appropriate age. Edward III later imprisoned Roger Mortimer and he was executed.
Years later Richard, 3rd Duke of York, followed a similar path, acting as Regent for the infant Henry VI and again whenever Henry was incapacitated. He told of the struggle for supremacy that continued for some years, during which time the Duke of York was named as the heir to the throne. However, he got tired of waiting and eventually went to war with the Lancastrians and was killed at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460. John pointed out the similarity between the careers of Roger Mortimer and the Duke of York (who through his mother was related to the Mortimers). Both striving to protect the crown from inappropriate monarchs, but finally meeting execution at the hands of the crown. We then had a break for morning coffee before our next speaker, Michael A Hicks (Professor of Medieval History, Head of History, The University of Winchester) spoke about “The War of the Roses and the Yorkist Kings”. He began with the death of Henry V and the accession of his infant son, Henry VI. This, he felt, was where the Wars of the Roses started and he went on to suggest that they continued until the reign of Henry VIII, with his ruthless suppression of the very last Plantagenets and the execution of Margaret de la Pole. There followed a choice of four options: • Clive Richardson (Ludlow Historical Research Group): Medieval Ludlow and the scene of the Battle of Ludford Bridge. • Shaun Ward (Clerk of the Works, St Laurence Church): History and medieval architecture with emphasis on 15th century building. • Hugh Wood (Mortimer History Society): St Laurence Church medieval heraldry (Mortimer/House of York) in stained glass and misericords. • “Meet the Authors” Panel: John Barratt: Battle of Shrewsbury 1403 Matthew Lewis: Loyalty, Honour
The afternoon kicked off with an interesting talk by Philip Schwyzer (Professor of Renaissance Literature, Exeter University). “Shakespeare and the Remains of Richard III”. Professor Schwyzer was already writing his book of the same name, in fact had almost finished it, so the remains referred to were not those of his body. He was talking about the information that Shakespeare would have gathered to embellish his play. With around 107 years between the Battle of Bosworth and the writing of the play, it is perfectly possible that there would have been people around in the playwright’s day, who would remember stories passed down through parents and grandparents who lived during the lifetime Richard III. There is also a tale of “Old Tom Parr of Herefordshire”, who was said to have lived from 1483-1635! In order to portray Richard, Shakespeare would have combined anecdotes from the past with achievements, possessions and items associated with Richard, such as the foundation of The College of Arms, the Royal Guild of Wax Chandlers, his own Prayer Book and the Boar Badge. To add to these there were the spurious rumours about the murder of Henry VI, the murder of the Duke of Clarence and the imprisonment and murder of Edward V and the Duke of York in the Tower of London. This mix, with a malevolent twist, would have pleased the Tudor regime and exonerated the usurpation of the throne by Henry VII. The next item was “Music for the Plantagenet Kings” played by Sebastian and Vicki Field (Ensemble Sine Nomine) and Jessica Bruno (lutenist). This was sublime. John Barrett (Ludlow Historical Research Group) then spoke about “Ludford Bridge Avenged: the Battle of Mortimers Cross 1461 and the Renaissance of Yorkist Ludlow”. He described how, after winning the Battle of Blore Heath in 1459, the Yorkist forces regrouped at Ludford Bridge, just outside Ludlow. However, a large part of the Yorkist army went over to the Lancastrian forces, and the Yorkists retreated to Ludlow, then fled to safety in various locations. In 1460 at the Battle of Wakefield, Richard Duke of York and his second son, Edmund Earl of Rutland were killed. Edward Earl of March was now the head of the House of York, having heard the news when at Shrewsbury or Wigmore. In February 1461 he joined forces with the Earl of Warwick and engaged the Lancastrian Army at
Mortimers Cross, near Leominster. There they were victorious and Edward claimed the throne as Edward VI. He then consolidated his position with a resounding victory at Towton on Palm Sunday in the same year. The day’s proceedings finished with Closing Remarks, followed by afternoon tea. Many thanks are due to the organisers, Rory Chase, Hugh Wood, John Barratt and Carrie Spencer, and many others, for a most illuminating and enjoyable
Footnote: There is an excellent review of Professor Schwyzer’s book on page 147 of The Ricardian 2014 and there are notes on the Conference by Judy Jacobs in the current issue of the Ricardian Recorder.
Spotted by Lyn Sargent whilst on holiday…
A medieval themed display of local hand woven linens in Montefalco, Italy
You will recall in the June edition of News & Views Liz Clarridge told us about the display, commemorating Richard, which her sister, Annie, had made from recycled materials and which was on show at Dawlish Museum. Liz has let me have this photo;
Lyn Sargent’s Grandson in the “Incomplete Works of Shakespeare”: -
Photos of Bury St. Edmunds courtesy of my sister and those of the Tewkesbury Battle Re-enactment courtesy of my cousin.