Canterbury, the Centre and knitting
Now that the Canterbury Christ Church campus is almost deserted, the students having finished last Friday and only a few stalwarts in the School still working in their offices today, it seems a good time to bring you up to date with the thinking of members within the Centre about future plans. As you might expect these are quite diverse and range from Dr Lesley Hardy’s desire to concentrate on Public History to Dr John Bulaitis’ proposal to hold a conference in 2017 on ‘Tithe through Time’, a subject that he feels has considerable merit as a means of understanding social tensions in the countryside from medieval to modern times. Not that Kent was the only county where such disputes have been much in evidence over the centuries, but Kent has been a definite hotbed, as Dr Paul Simpson has shown for the late medieval and sixteenth centuries and John, himself, for the modern period and especially the 1930s. However it is intended that this conference will be more wide-ranging geographically than just Kent, bringing in people who can discuss tithe in the West Country, East Anglia and Wales, through the ties with Methodism.
As I have reported before, John is involved in the community archaeological project in Shepherdswell where he lives. The group has done some surveying of the area as well as digging and members have so far unearthed Anglo-Saxon personal decorative items, an Iron Age ditched enclosure, and perhaps the most exciting, a ‘very big post hole’ containing ‘Iron Age’ pottery. The group intends to do more work on the site under the guidance of a trained archaeologists, and in collaboration with Keith Parfitt, of Canterbury Archaeological Trust, and the volunteer Dover team.
Such a project is one of several across the county under experienced, trained archaeologists who are passionately interested in their part of Kent, as well as wishing to see it within the bigger picture across the county and also nationally and sometimes internationally. For example, I’m here thinking of the Anglo-Saxon people that Dr Andrew Richardson has described on either side of the North Sea in the fifth century onwards, for whom jewellery types can be used as markers, denoting trade and other links over considerable differences. For more on this I would suggest Andrew’s essay in Early Medieval Kent, 800-1220 which will be available next summer – a long awaited volume!
Other matters that came up at the Centre’s strategy meeting were ideas about inter-active digital mapping of the county’s history – the chance to click on a particular place on a route, for example, to find out about the particular places pilgrims or other travellers visited between Dover and Canterbury or through Maidstone to Canterbury by way of the Holy Rood at Boxley, the monks there apparently cashing on the pilgrims’ devotions, in addition to the spiritual benefits that were on offer. Dr Elizabeth Eastlake of the University of Winchester has worked extensively on the house’s economy and how it managed its estates, including its Romney marshlands.
Stronger links between Quex Park and members of the Centre was also seen as a good idea. This has been led by Dr Sara Wolfson so far, but others likely to become more involved in the near future are Drs Diane Heath and Lesley Hardy. However if there are sources from the English Civil War period Professor Jackie Eales may investigate further. Moreover, there may be opportunities for postgraduates to work on the archives at Quex Park, and a further possibility mooted was work experience for students as part of Christ Church’s commitment to enhancing student employability.
Shakespeare 400 will be with us in 2016, and this is likely to involve staff from the Centre, both as individuals responding and working with outside groups such as the BBC, but also as an initiative particularly through English and Dr Claire Bartram. This is likely to focus on Canterbury and Dover. However the Records of Early English Drama (REED) indicate that playing companies in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries did visit several Kentish towns, often playing before the mayor and his brethren, these events recorded as a consequence of the food and drink purchased, in addition to other costs. Drama in Kent has a very long history and hopefully it will not be too long before the records from the diocese of Rochester are also published to complement those for Canterbury. Dr James Gibson worked on both projects, and hopefully he and I will be publishing an article on the New Romney Passion Play next year in an edited collection on medieval drama.
I have mentioned Dr Martin Watts’ various projects before, whether it is the First World War port of Richborough or his work on Whitstable Maritime, and he and I are also putting together a preliminary proposal regarding a taught Masters degree on Kentish History. We are making good progress on this and hopefully the draft will be ready to be passed on to Professor Eales, as one of the directors of the Centre, in January. We envisage that as well as appealing to perhaps more mature students, it may attract third-year undergraduates from Christ Church who can see the benefit of staying on for an extra year to acquire greater research skills, other transferrable skills, and the opportunity to investigate the rich archival resources from Kent.
Finally, I just thought I would take you back into the Canterbury city court records that I touched on a few weeks ago because I have been in the Canterbury Cathedral Archives & Library again this week. I’m still mainly looking for evidence of women as independent workers, like Margery Amet who as a sole merchant of Canterbury found herself before the courts accused by John Hamon of being in debt to him. In this case there are no further details but in others the common clerk was more expansive. For example, in what was said to involve a violent assault and the stealing of personal property in St George’s parish and Newingate ward, Joan Coke was accused by John Foster of taking a mazer (large drinking cup) that was decorated with silver and silvergilt and was valued at 26s8d. In other cases the widow was expected to administer matters relating to her deceased husband’s goods, as happened when Cornelius Wilmynson brought an action for debt against Margaret Jonson, her late husband having died intestate. It was not always much better if the husband had made a will before dying, however the widow might at least have the support of her fellow executors. As in the case of Agnes who was joined by Dom. Thomas Halywell when they sued Nicholas Shaldwich over payment relating to a transaction by William Faunt, her late spouse, over 60 ‘buns’ (type of barrel) of single and double beer; and Agnes and Thomas were also aided by her new husband Edward Bolney. And finally, even though it does not relate to women, I found another debt case from the same year (1489/90) that involves items I have never met before: ‘6 knyttyng nedils’ and ‘yearn’, which I’m assuming was used for the making of hose. If anyone knows anything about the early history of such items I would be interested to hear.