Centre for Kent History and Heritage

Exploring material culture in the past at Canterbury and Dover


Exploring material culture in the past at Canterbury and Dover

I’ll feature the lectures given by the three scholars called Chris at the Medieval Canterbury Weekend 2024 in a minute, but I thought I would mention here that the Annual Becket Lecture for 2024 has now been set up. Professor Elisabeth van Houts from the University of Cambridge will be coming to speak on Tuesday 14 May at 6pm on ‘Empress Matilda (d. 1167) and Archbishops in Twelfth-Century Germany, France and England’. This free, open lecture will be, I hope, in The Michael Berry Lecture Theatre and more details will be in the blog once this is confirmed. Please do keep this date because I’m sure it will be a fascinating lecture.

Yesterday saw Dr Diane Heath at Kent College where she led two sessions for Year 8 students on the medieval dragon as part of the Chinese New Year celebrations. As well as hearing about the dragon and stories surrounding these creatures, the students designed maps showing the dragon’s environment and the places and spaces such animals liked to inhabit. Other art and craft work that the students took on was designing and creating concertina cards portraying dragons. Indeed, you might say this is hugely topical considering a new species of pterosaur has recently been discovered in the fossil record on the Isle of Skye. This flying reptile from the Middle Jurassic period, as the Natural History Museum has reported, would have had a wingspan of 1.6 metres and if you want to learn more about this ‘real’ dragon, please see: https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/news/2024/february/new-pterosaur-skye-reveals-hidden-diversity-middle-jurassic.html

One of the students at Kent College

Just to say, Diane and Dr Pip Gregory will be back finishing off the ‘Green Dragon’ in the Franciscan Gardens shortly, that is once we have a few dry days again, but at least the sedum does not need watering this week!!

Coming back to the Medieval Canterbury Weekend between the evening of Friday 26 April and the afternoon of Sunday 28 April, details at https://ckhh.org.uk/mcw or at canterbury.ac.uk/medieval-canterbury  I am absolutely delighted that I was able to book Professor Chris Briggs and Dr Chris King for the Saturday afternoon and Professor Chris Woolgar for Sunday morning. Moreover, there is a thread running through their chosen topics of the medieval household – what did such houses look like, what were the goods within them and what may such households have been like to experience first-hand as living spaces. By using a range of evidence, our great speakers will explore households from the standpoint of those belonging to various social backgrounds, as well as differences and similarities between town and country. There are some parallels with Professor Catherine Richardson’s brilliant presentation which was the opening lecture at Tudors and Stuarts last April, and this time there are three bites of the cherry! For Chris Briggs will discuss what we know about the material possessions of some Kentish men who were hanged as traitors following their participation in the uprisings of 1450-51 (Cade’s rebellion). From the records of the rebels’ goods and chattels forfeited to the crown following their executions, Chris investigates the material world and living standards of England’s lower orders during the later Middle Ages.

Another of the Year 8 students at Kent College

Then for those who heard Chris King two years ago, you know you will be in for a treat again because this time he envisages the medieval urban household as a complex web of social and material connections, in which identities and relationships were forged through lived bodily experience. As an architectural historian, he will bring together evidence from architecture, material culture and documentary sources to explore the sensory qualities of medieval homes. For as he says, urban dwellings created networks of spaces, objects and socially embedded practices and performances, and in turn these encoded a range of ideas about status, and gender, work and leisure, privacy and comfort, health, and religious meaning for medieval townspeople, which he will discuss with the audience to offer an archaeology of lived experience – a treat indeed!

For those wanting to hear Chris Woolgar, you will have the chance on Sunday morning when he examines the proliferation of goods to be found in the houses of merchants and other prosperous individuals by 1500, which was a far cry from the way households had been furnished three centuries earlier both in terms of the diversity and number of material possessions. Furthermore, by looking at the new ways the study of this world of things is being reshaped by new approaches to the historical record, historians are enhancing understanding of the objects themselves and their connections to medieval people. In this presentation, Chris will demonstrate such new ideas and how they offer us fresh perspectives on mentalities and daily lives amidst this growing material world, from textiles, clothing and furnishings, to cherished drinking vessels – another gem!

One of the Becket Miracle Windows

I hope this has wetted your appetite to explore these and other presentations on the MCW24 schedule and we hope you will come and join us in April at Canterbury. You will be warmly welcomed by our welcome team of student volunteers, so here again is the link: https://ckhh.org.uk/mcw and remember, Craig with the CCCU Bookstall will be at the Weekend too.

Returning to other events that have taken place this week, the Kent History Postgraduates had their monthly online catch-up meeting. Then in a fortnight it will be Jane’s presentation on Leigh. Dr Lily Hawker-Yates had hoped to join us, she now works for MOLA having finished her doctorate at CCCU several years ago, but it was not to be. As well as Lily, another among our Kent History Postgraduate alumni is Dr Dean Irwin, and Dean will be speaking at the MCW24: https://ckhh.org.uk/mcw/details/jews-and-christians-living-together-in-medieval-kent

Quite a few of the Kent History Postgraduates are getting close to submission which is very exciting to watch how these research projects are coming to fruition. However, I do appreciate for the postgraduates involved it can be a fraught time getting everything written up, getting the bibliography finished, ensuring all the footnotes are in place correctly and seeing to maps and other things for the appendix. Several of the archaeologists among the Kent History Postgraduates are at a similar stage, and this applies to interdisciplinary students such as Alison Norton too. Some may recognise her name because she also will be speaking on the Saturday morning at MCW24: https://ckhh.org.uk/mcw/details/understanding-how-landscapes-influenced-castle-siting-decisions

Dover Castle in the landscape

I’m also very grateful to Dean and Ali for agreeing to help with chairing other speakers and I’m equally grateful to members of the Humanities lecturing staff and from Security at CCCU for being willing to help with various events during the Weekend. Similarly, Louise Mallon’s team in Hospitality will also be at the Atrium café at Augustine House over the Weekend which is excellent news.

Now as they say for something completely different, well not completely because it is a medieval event. For as well as our free Aphra Behn project events on ‘Inspirational Women Writers in Kent’ on the first and second Saturdays in March at Canterbury: https://ckhh.org.uk/events/details/inspirational-kent-women-writers and ‘Migrants, Merchants and Mariners in the Kentish Cinque Ports, c.1400-c.1600’ as part of the Kent’s Maritime Communities project with the University of Southampton: https://ckhh.org.uk/events/details/migrants-merchants-and-mariners-in-the-kentish-cinque-ports-1400-1600 on Saturday 23 March at Dover Museum (thanks to Jon Iveson and Martin Crowther), which is also free but needs to be booked to avoid disappointment, I have been asked to mention ‘Destruction in the Cathedral: a study day to mark the arrival of the Thomas Johnson’s ‘Quire of Canterbury Cathedral’ which is due to take place on Monday 11 March in Canterbury Cathedral. The full programme has not yet been released but among the speakers are Professors Rachel Koopmans, Kenneth Fincham and Jackie Eales. The cost for this is £30 per head to include lunch and if of interest, please email the Cathedral Archives at archives@canterbury-cathedral.org to book a place. Then keeping with archives, I’ll be at the Kent History and Library Centre at Maidstone on Monday 25 March to give the afternoon talk to members of the Confederation of the Cinque Ports, an event first discussed in 2020!

Faversham’s common horn

Not that that is everything involving CKHH either this week and in the near future, but hopefully gives a flavour of what we are and will be doing over the next few months.

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