This time next week the Tudors and Stuarts Weekend will be just about to start, which means there will be quite a lot to do next week – all those things that can only be done just beforehand – consequently this may be the last post until after it is all over.
Next week is the ‘Gender, Places, Spaces, and Thresholds’ conference that Dr Diane Heath is running for the Centre at Canterbury Christ Church – for details see: http://www.canterbury.ac.uk/arts-and-humanities/research-kent-history-and-archaeology/crkha-latest-projects/place-space-and-liminalities.aspx but I thought I would also draw your attention to the Eleventh Annual Thomas Becket Lecture. Details of Dr Paul Webster’s lecture are now available at: http://www.canterbury.ac.uk/arts-and-humanities/events/arts-and-humanities/ckhh/eleventh-annual-thomas-becket-lecture.aspx and it promises to be a very special occasion because Paul is a well-known expert in the early cult of Becket studies.
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.
For those of you who were not at Paul Bennett’s inaugural professorial lecture last Tuesday, I thought I would let you know that Professor Louise Wilkinson is joining Jackie Eales as head of the newly relaunched Centre for Kent History and Heritage.
The relaunch of the Centre for Kent History and Heritage is now just over a fortnight away and it will be great to hear Paul Bennett’s inaugural professorial lecture entitled ‘From Benghazi to Canterbury: an Archaeologist’s Tale’ on Tuesday 6 December. In case you have missed seeing information on this, it will take place at Old Sessions House on the Canterbury Christ Church campus at 6pm, with a wine reception from 5.30. Do please come along to this free lecture. As a further notice, tickets are continuing to sell well for the Centre’s Tudors and Stuarts History Weekend from Friday 31 March to Sunday 2 April 2017. Any surplus after expenses will go towards the Ian Coulson Memorial Postgraduate Prize fund that will help those wishing to study Kent history topics at Christ Church. This is a valuable venture and it is great to be working with the Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Library again, and to have extended this to the city’s Beaney: House of Art and Knowledge. Details of the various talks and other events during the Weekend are available through the website or by contacting the Christ Church box office. Similarly tickets can be purchased through the website: http://www.canterbury.ac.uk/tudors-stuarts or by contacting Ruth Duckworth at the box office: firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning 01227 782994 (Monday to Thursday, office hours).
Keeping with this theme of collaboration in the fields of history and heritage, whether between Canterbury Cathedral and the universities or between the universities themselves, this week I shall focus on three events that took place yesterday. The first involved the visit by Professor Tim Ingold from the University of Aberdeen who has spent two days in Canterbury as part of the ‘Material Web’ project in the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Kent. Tim Ingold is a social anthropologist who has written extensively on materiality but his primary focus in a series of lectures, workshops and visits at Canterbury has been buildings, books and boxes (or cabinets of curiosities). Having missed several of these sessions, I joined those from Kent with Tim in the cathedral archives to explore the Bargrave cabinets of curiosities and then several manuscripts and printed books. Unlike the cabinets that belonged to members of the aristocracy, the 17th-century Bargrave collections contain such items as glass eyes, a desiccated chameleon, a Frenchman’s finger and what appear to be seal bags. Just how these cabinets were used remains a moot point. However, one wonders whether they offered talking points after dinner, the host and his peers gathering around to consider the wonders of nature and how man, as God’s creature, sought to work with the attributes of the natural world to produce things of interest and beauty.
These cabinets also contain collections of coins and there is a remarkable manuscript in the cathedral archives, known as the Birch manuscript from its likely creator, which contains pages and pages of illustrations of ancient and other coins. Birch seems to have fascinated by a wide range of things because his book is full of drawings, many he coloured and among the subjects he selected are animals, including fabulous beasts, heraldry and monarchs. Although his is not the only hand in the manuscript, much of the book was seemingly completed in the later decades of Elizabeth I’s reign, and, even though, this is not a cabinet of curiosities one wonders if the driving force behind its creation is not dissimilar. This fascination with travel, the exotic, the other, but also that which can be mapped, contained spatially, measured and quantified is a fascinating cultural phenomenon of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Maps similarly display these complex ideas through the ways people from different cultures were drawn in the borders that increasingly adorn such display items, and keeping with material culture, the dragon beam at the corner house in Palace Street from the mid 17th century seems to similarly express European unease, but also containment.
House in Palace Street
The idea of tension within society is also applicable for my next event. In the early afternoon, I joined Dr Ben Marsh and Dr Philip Slavin at the University of Kent for Ben’s second session of the People’s History of Kent initiative. Ben is seeking to introduce Year 12 students to the study of ‘ordinary’ people through a wide range of evidence and to give them a taster of the type of research undertaken at universities. Consequently, the previous session had been at the Kent Library and History Centre at Maidstone and yesterday’s session introduced the students, and two members of the U3A, to three academics. I missed most of the first speaker but the form of evidence presented was oral history. However, I did hear Philip as he discussed what we know about peasant society in the 14th century. Philip is especially interested in crises, which meant that he focused on the Great Famine, the Black Death and the Peasants’ Revolt. In response to the questions posed, he noted that the sources, although abundant for Kent and England more broadly, in the form of manorial court rolls, are extremely difficult to work on being in highly abbreviated Latin. Philip has been to many archives and thus has an exceedingly large collection of digital photos of these court rolls, but for students that language barrier, as well as the problems of palaeography, are probably insurmountable because only a tiny amount of this material has been made available in source books and similar publications.
As a way of providing something more accessible, and to give the students a break from listening to another presentation, I took the opportunity to introduce them to the Prebendaries’ Plot of 1542-3. In particular, what I wanted to do was to give them some of the depositions or witness statements collected by Archbishop Cranmer from across the Canterbury diocese that offer a fascinating snapshot of religious ideas at the level of the parish during this time of change and uncertainty. To give them hopefully enough context for this session, I provided in broad-brush strokes a picture of Henry VIII’s Kent in five points. I then showed how the reformed clerical community at Canterbury Cathedral was split between religious conservatives: ‘Catholics’ and ‘evangelicals: ‘Protestants’, the former seeking Crammer’s downfall but thwarted by the king’s directive that the archbishop should investigate the plot against him. From this position of some contextual information, each of the groups looked at the depositions from one area: Ashford, Maidstone or Faversham to see if they could start to answer a number of research questions. Although time was limited, it was great to see how each group came up with different ideas using the evidence and that they could begin to see how such archival sources can illuminate our understanding of religious, but also economic, political and social factors in the past. As an aside, I will be using these same depositions for my talk at the Tudors and Stuarts History Weekend on ‘Neighbours across the religious divide’.
Christ Church Infirmary
My third event was a presentation by the cathedral’s ‘Canterbury Journey’ team to its university partners regarding where the Heritage Lottery funded project has reached in its own journey to completion in 2021. Having only met a few members of the team before, this was exceedingly useful and it will be interesting to explore how the Centre can become involved in this exciting venture. Several of the aims of the team would appear to have common cause with the Centre, such as the desire to improve physical and intellectual access to heritage, as well as the wish to understand heritage better and to share it with others. Moreover, just as the Centre is seeking to reach several audiences, the cathedral’s team has similarly identified a number of groups such as learners, those traditionally seen as hard to reach, the general public and the local community. The outputs, too, highlight common cause in that the Centre has put on conferences, workshops and exhibitions, and ideas such as master classes, short courses and online resources may be feasible in the future. Certainly Dr Diane Heath, who works for the Centre, would like to draw on the wealth of beast imagery around the cathedral, especially in the crypt, to work with the team to enhance people’s experience of what these creatures meant and how they were deployed by monastic audiences, as well as thinking about them in modern terms.
It is clear that the cathedral team has a bold strategy and an ambitious programme, not least because from now until 2021 each year has one ‘big’ theme, as well as a major programme of restoration and conservation of the fabric from the nave roof and western towers to Christ Church gate. Furthermore, other parts of the project will seek to enhance the welcome centre by providing among other things community and exhibition spaces. Link to these will be attempts to open up the collections, whether this means putting on more displays of artefacts, books and manuscripts, or offering greater opportunities for volunteers or students to gain transferable skills. All of this is admirable with regard to bringing the cathedral and universities together in common cause, and it will be interesting to see how such initiatives develop over the next few years.
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.
Firstly, a couple of notices, and I’ll be giving more information next week about the Centre’s joint conference with Kent Archaeological Society on ‘Place Names and Family Names’. This conference will feature Dr Paul Cullen, probably well known to many of you, and who is a contributor to Early Medieval Kent, 800-1220 (see the blog a few weeks ago). At this point do please make a note of the date: Saturday 12 November, and tickets can be booked at: https://canterbury.ac.uk/arts-and-humanities/events/events-list aspx Secondly, the ‘Tudors and Stuarts History Weekend’ website is now live at http://www.canterbury.ac.uk/tudors-stuarts and do have a look if this sounds interesting. Do please remember if you encounter any difficulties that the box office will not be staffed until Monday morning but will then be open from 10.00 on 01227 782994. However, you can use the email address of firstname.lastname@example.org and again the staff will get back to you on Monday.
This week I want to feature two medieval lectures I heard at Faversham and Canterbury respectively that again highlight the richness of Kent’s medieval heritage and how this is of interest to many within the county. On Tuesday, I joined a crowd of people who packed into the parish church of St Mary of Charity at Faversham to hear Professor Paul Biniski from Cambridge discuss the wall paintings in the north chancel chapel. Professor Biniski’s expertise in art history is well known, and he has worked on the decoration in many of the great cathedrals, including Westminster Abbey and more locally Canterbury Cathedral. He has also studied wall paintings in parish churches, especially those of East Anglian that hold some of the best examples in the country. Consequently, Faversham was exceedingly privileged to have him as a speaker and hopefully his presence will raise the profile of these important paintings. The problem relates to their position because they have been largely hidden by the organ that almost totally fills the chapel. At a result, only one figure can be seen and even he is not very clear. It has been suggested that the organ should be moved again to reveal the paintings, which will also mean that they can be conserved.
So what will we see if this happens? As Professor Biniski said, there are three saints who are linked to English national identity: St Edward the Confessor, St Edmund king and martyr and St Thomas of Canterbury. In addition St John the Evangelist, disguised as a pilgrim/beggar, is on the opposite side of the arch to St Edward because the king is said to have given a ring to him as an act of charity. Such an act might recall the division of his cloak by St Martin when he gave half to another beggar at the city gate – see Dover’s medieval town seal. To return to Faversham, as Professor Biniski mentioned, St Edward received particular acclaim in the 13th century because of Henry III’s considerable devotion to this penultimate Anglo-Saxon king of England, known for his wisdom rather than his martial prowess. Henry III’s devotion led him to construct a fantastic shrine to the Confessor in Westminster Abbey and further work at the abbey is similarly some of the best medieval decoration in England from this period. Now, as he was keen to point out, Faversham is not in that league but it is still exceedingly good. Furthermore, the late 13th/early 14th century is known for its especially graceful wall paintings. In terms of the execution of the paintings, I was very interested to hear that the painter of those figures in the chapel had used water-based paint, but Professor Biniski thinks the ones on the octagonal column are probably in oil paint.
As well as the wise king and one of Christ’s companions, the inclusion of St Edmund who met his end trying to defend his kingdom of East Anglia against the Vikings would have been a powerful reminder to those visiting the chapel of other aspects of kingship, including his willingness to sacrifice himself for his people. This sense of sacrifice might also apply to St Thomas of Canterbury in that he was exceedingly popular among the people of Kent, who seem to have seen him as some sort of people’s champion. Paul Biniski thinks there may be a representation of the martyrdom somewhere on the wall, which would be another good reason to move the organ. Moreover, as in some stained glass, there also appears to be a painting of a donor. Robert Dod kneels with a prayer scroll under a very fine canopy and what is especially intriguing is that only two of the saints are mentioned in his prayer, and not St Edward. Thus, it is feasible that there was (or hopefully still is) another donor painting somewhere nearby. With such fascinating insights into these wall paintings, Professor Biniski captivated his audience and Faversham could be moving into a very interesting period of discovery.
My second event took place at the Canterbury branch of the Historical Association where Richard Eales, formerly of the University of Kent and now of Canterbury Christ Church, provided an assessment of the Norman Conquest and its aftermath, with special reference to Kent. Richard drew on a whole range of sources from chronicles (Norman and Anglo-Saxon), charters, archaeology, Domesday Book, and the Bayeux Tapestry. In particular, he used the latter to provide a narrative of events from the last years of King Edward the Confessor through to the arrival of William’s fleet of ships in England, the feasting of the invaders when on shore at the expense of the English peasants and the battle itself. Because I am on a hunt for medieval representations of the pig, I was particularly delighted to see that one poor pig was the victim of the Norman foragers.
Richard then offered an assessment of recent ideas regarding Duke William’s march through Kent via Romney, Dover and Canterbury as he initially took the coastal route on his way towards London, as well as a further force heading to Winchester to collect the royal treasure. He highlighted, using the Domesday Book, those areas that had seemingly suffered most at the hands of this invading army, although, as he said, such evidence is not clear enough to be able to deploy to map the Norman route through Kent with a high level of precision. Nonetheless, he showed that east Kent had experienced considerable destruction during this early period, but, of course, nothing on the scale of William’s ‘harrying of the North’ somewhat later. Yet, as Richard pointed out, resistance to the Normans was regionally or locally based which meant that any chance of success was severely limited. Moreover, the vertical and horizontal internal divisions within English society similarly hampered a concerted response, thereby enhancing William’s position as he set about a major redistribution of English lands.
Landholding in Kent was a major feature of the later section of his lecture and Richard noted the level of church ownership and its continuity from Anglo-Saxon times and into the period of the Norman kings, something that makes Kent different from many other regions. He similarly observed the role of Bishop Odo as a major landholder and how this can be seen as a royal subcontracting arrangement, in some ways not dissimilar to the role the Godwine family played during Edward the Confessor’s reign. Not that this was still the case in 1086 because Odo’s rebellion against his half-brother has led to his exile and his vast estates passing under direct royal control. This and Odo’s subsequent rebellion meant that in broad terms half of the county was held by the Church and much of the rest was in the hands of large numbers of minor baronial families. Being an expert on castles, Richard provided an overview of Kent castles. He noted the role and form of the three royal castles of Rochester, Canterbury and Dover, including Canterbury Archaeological Trust’s recent findings regarding the extremely large extra-mural bailey at Canterbury, and then briefly turned to the mass of castles constructed by Odo’s and Archbishop Lanfranc’s sub-tenants.
Like Professor Biniski, Richard Eales provided a fascinating analysis, which similarly drew a number of questions from his attentive audience. Furthermore, Richard’s talk was especially appropriate considering we are now just a matter of days away from the big anniversary. Thus for medievalists in Kent this has been a good week.
The first week in August is a pretty quiet time at universities generally because the early summer academic conference season is over and doesn’t start up again until the beginning of September.