For the last four days, History and the Centre at Canterbury Christ Church has hosted the Gender and Medieval Studies conference under the overarching theme of ‘Gender, places, spaces, thresholds’. Dr Diane Heath, the organiser, has been brilliant and the appreciative audience has been treated to a veritable feast. Live tweeting is now the name of the game and if you want to get a flavour of what has been happening, please tap into #GMSPlaces
So what is there to look forward to from the Centre in the first half of 2017? The flagship event will be the ‘Tudors and Stuarts History Weekend’ between Friday 31 March and Sunday 2 April, which primarily will take place in Old Sessions House, part of the University’s Canterbury campus.
I thought that this week and next would follow the example of the Roman god Janus and look back this week and forward next week into 2017. Consequently, the blog today will offer a brief summary of events organised or involving the Centre during 2016 to provide a flavour of the types of activities various members undertook under the Centre’s head, Professor Jackie Eales.
It is always interesting to hear what various members of the School of Humanities are doing in terms of Kent History and Heritage and I happened to see both Dr Lesley Hardy and Dr Mike Bintley recently who said their joint project on ‘Finding Eanswithe’ is coming on well. This means they will be putting in a Heritage Lottery funding bid very soon. I’ll let you know how this progresses during 2017. I also saw Professor Louise Wilkinson, who told me she had recently been to a meeting of the organising committee of the ‘Medieval Pageant’ in Canterbury. As readers of the blog may remember, the inaugural pageant back in the summer had been very successful. Consequently, it is proposed that in 2017 the pageant will take place over two days and the procession will be on the Saturday at a slightly later time to allow more people to be involved. This sounds very sensible and hopefully should draw in an even larger audience. Canterbury Christ Church will again organise activities at Canterbury castle and Louise is beginning to think what would be appropriate in terms of a royal Norman castle. Again, I’ll let you know how this progresses.
These are not the only people I have seen this week and yesterday I managed – just – to attend two lectures, the first at the University of Kent, the second at Christ Church. Professor Robert Tittler was the speaker at Kent. He is a Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus at Concordia University, Montreal, and has written extensively on early modern English painting and painters including The Face of the City: Civic Portraiture and Civic Identity in Early Modern England (2007) and Portraits, Painters, and Publics in Provincial England, 1540-1640 (2012). I have met him a couple of times before and always enjoyed his work, and yesterday was no exception.
I do not have sufficient space to give a detailed evaluation of his paper, but I think it is worth noting a couple of particularly interesting features that relate to his case study of John Kaye of Woodsome in Yorkshire. As Robert noted, the idea of portraiture in Elizabethan England underwent a number of cultural changes at this time in terms of self-fashioning using heraldry, genealogy, gesture, biblical references, and accoutrements. Moreover, the interplay of text of image was similarly viewed as important, and having studied Anne Clifford’s ‘Great Books of Record’, as well as her ‘Great Picture’, it is clear that such ideas continued to have currency into the seventeenth century. But to return to John Kaye, his portrait panels (dated 1567/8) demonstrate how portraiture was being used by those below the nobility who aspired to at least break into this privileged sector of society. Although relatively crude in terms of execution, the four panels, two for John and two for his wife Dorothy, use several interesting features such as rhyming couplets in the inscriptions to portray what he believed were the attributes of a gentleman and those of an ‘honest’ wife – hospitality, moderation, loyalty and piety. In addition, there are lists of their kin and friends, thereby placing the family within respectable Yorkshire society at a time when men like John were becoming more visible as JPs and other local government officials. Thus, the interplay between author and audience for such portraits in the public space of the hall rather than the more intimate space of the parlour or chamber offers insights into John’s (and Dorothy’s) expression of their place in society on the eve of the Northern Rising. Such ideas are extremely interesting but, unfortunately, I was unable to stay for the questions.
Tim Tatton-Brown discusses St John’s hospital
The Friends of Canterbury Archaeological Trust lecture at Canterbury Christ Church by Tim Tatton-Brown was a celebration of the Trust’s first decade when Tim was the first Director. Paul Bennett, the current Director, with several members of Trust staff had compiled a PowerPoint for Tim that highlighted the most iconic excavations undertaken during his tenure. They had also found photos of many early CAT staff, including those who has been instrumental in forming the Trust and keeping it going in its early years. Among the early excavations were several investigations in the grounds of Canterbury castle, a particularly contaminated site (heavy metals from the late gas works) but one that yielded some spectacular finds, including the burials of two Roman soldiers with their swords. Tim and his team also worked at St John’s hospital in Northgate, several sites in the cathedral precincts such as Meister Omers, the archbishop’s palace – second only to Westminster Hall, and the almonry buildings with the Norman staircase. Tim and William Urry, the cathedral archivist, worked together on the pavement where Becket’s shrine had been, and by careful observation were able to produce a plan showing its extent and likely form, a remarkable achievement. Equally impressive was Tim’s contribution to the exploration of St Augustine’s Abbey, and in this case he worked on the documents with Mrs Sparks, who has recently retired as the cathedral’s honorary historian. Tim was also keen to record his thanks for all the work of people such as Lawrence and Margery Lyle, who still take a keen interest in CAT’s activities, as well as many others who are no longer around. Thus, he treated his audience to a tour de force that kept everyone’s attention for well over an hour.
Inscription at Browne’s hospital
Although not dealing directly with text and image, Tim’s lecture did feature aspects of material culture, and to finish I thought I would just bring these ideas together in a consideration of an inscription at William Browne’s hospital in Stamford. I’m using this Lincolnshire example because Kent has nothing comparable. In some ways, the use of portraiture (in brass) and his statue above the gateway offer relatively conventional markers of Browne as founder, but it is the activities of his brother-in-law Thomas Stokes, a canon at York, that I think are more interesting. The Latin verse inscription on the wall just inside the hospital’s gateway at the bottom of the stairs to the first-floor audit room [antiquarian scholarship says there was a tradition that this was the work of Thomas Stokes] records the desire that this charitable house shall flourish forevermore. In part, this is a consequence of the prayers its foundation will invoke, presumably by those inside, but potentially also from those outside; that is anyone who reads/hears the inscription. Thus the inscription’s composer sets up a 3-way relationship: author [Thomas], founder [William], beneficiary [almshouse], through the construction and placement of the inscription, the naming of Browne as founder, and the invocation of the almsfolk to commemorate him using the ideas of memory and offering. As a result, Thomas’ primary gift of patronage, placed him alongside his brother-in-law and so at least equally worthy of commemoration, his position reinforced by his activities as the producer of new regulations and his self-appointed role of overseer of the hospital. Such case studies highlight the value of microhistory, an approach that has been used to good effect by many who have studied aspects of Kent’s medieval and early modern history.
This has been an excellent week in terms of lectures and conferences. On Wednesday evening, the second of the Canterbury Historical and Archaeological Society’s winter programme of lectures took place when Dr Doreen Rosman gave a fascinating talk about Elizabeth Barton, the Holy Maid of Kent.
Firstly, very briefly, we are now just over a week away from the joint all-day conference on ‘Names: Kent Places and People’ that will take place in Powell Lecture theatre on Saturday 12 November. There are still tickets available at: http://www.canterbury.ac.uk/arts-and-culture/calendar.aspx or email email@example.com or phone 01227 782994. Another date for those from Canterbury is Tuesday 6 December at 6pm in Old Sessions House when Paul Bennett, the Director of Canterbury Archaeological Trust, will give his audience the story of his life as an archaeologist that will include his work in Libya, Iraq and Canterbury – not to be missed!
Being in Petts Wood on Wednesday, I met Janet Clayton who is working on her doctorate under the supervision of Dr David Grummitt at Canterbury Christ Church. She is researching the history of Scadbury manor through its relations with London. As a leading member of Orpington and District Archaeological Society, she has for several decades been involved in numerous archaeological excavations in and around this moated manor complex. It is a gem of a place and this was my first opportunity to see it. The de Scadbury family as holders of the manor may predate the 1260s but, as Janet said, this is the first reference to them and is an interesting period because it coincides with the baronial wars between Henry III and Simon de Montmort, and the de Montforts had land in the area. Nevertheless, Scadbury is usually associated with the Walsingham family who may have come originally from Little Walsingham in Norfolk. Yet the connection is closer because Thomas Walsingham was an extremely wealthy London vintner and like many of his social group he purchased land, or in this case a manor, in the early fifteenth century. He may have resided in Kent at times, but his London house probably remained his main residence, and he and his wife sought burial in their home parish of St Katherine’s by the Tower. Such London merchants, and in Thomas’s case his son, grandson and great-grandson continued to foster the relationship between town and country; court, London and the provinces, and it such connections and inter-connections that Janet is exploring.
The great hall at Scadbury
Of course, she is not the only history/archaeology postgraduate at Canterbury Christ Church working on a Kent topic, and among the others are Joseph O’Riordan and Jacie-Ann Ryan whom I have mentioned before. Joseph is working on the impact of the Reformation on the people of Canterbury and Jacie-Ann is exploring food history in Kent during the Second World War. However there are others and they include Cheryl Periton who is studying the development of numeracy in early modern society for a doctorate. She is using Faversham as her main case study, not least because the town and church court records are especially rich for this area of Kent. Lily Hawker-Yates will draw on archaeology and history as she examines how people explain the archaeology around them, both in the past and in the present. Using documents within Canterbury Cathedral Archives, such as parish records, she will seek changes in names of local places, which in some cases may reflect growing folk tradition. Another potentially valuable source for such a study are the Kent Hundred Rolls that date from 1274-5 and give information about who held land and what they were doing with it (digging ditches, buildings that may now exist solely as earthworks). Like Joseph, Hannah More has just started working on a Masters and her chosen topic is the suffragette movement in Kent, looking particularly at the differences in the experiences and attitudes of women in two regions of the county, firstly the Medway area, and, as a comparison, the apparently more militant women of east Kent.
Furthermore, several staff members within the School of Humanities are at various stages of putting together project proposals to funding bodies from the Heritage Lottery Fund to the AHRC. Among the former who are looking to develop a more community-based project are Dr Lesley Hardy from History and Dr Mike Bintley from English Literature. I have mentioned their joint proposal before, but I thought I would mention that Mike told me recently that Lesley had been working very hard on the bid with Dr Andrew Richardson of Canterbury Archaeological Trust and that they had or were just about to submit an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund regarding the ‘Finding Easnwithe’ project. This will also involve a particularly active local history and archaeology group from Folkestone and hopefully it will follow in the successful footsteps of ‘A Town Unearthed’, also funded by the Heritage Lottery a few years ago.
At a much earlier stage is a project on early modern Canterbury, which will employ the research skills of those at Canterbury Christ Church and elsewhere. This project is likely to involve Professors Jackie Eales from CCCU and Catherine Richardson from the University of Kent. I’m sure Jackie Eales is well known from her 1641 project on Canterbury, and Catherine has written extensively on material culture in the early modern period. Among her many publications are Everyday Objects and The Routledge Handbook of Material Culture in Early Modern Europe, and, as she and Tara Hamling have noted, ‘Knowing about people’s possessions is crucial to understanding their experience of daily life, the way they saw themselves in relation to their peers and their responses to and interactions with the social, cultural and economic structure and processes which made up the societies in which they lives’. Consequently, it will be interesting to see how all of these projects move forward and I will keep readers of the blog posted on developments.
This has been a quiet week from the perspective of lectures and similar events in or about Canterbury, although, of course, the Canterbury Festival walks on behalf of Canterbury Archaeological Trust have been taking place all week, including my tour of St John’s hospital.