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.
In many ways, both events I’m talking about this week can be seen as a legacy of the Medieval Canterbury Weekend. The first took place in St Martin’s Priory, the university’s very splendid building behind St Martin’s church that used to be a gentry-style residence.
First of all this week I should like to thank those who have been in touch about when the Tudors and Stuarts History Weekend details will be up on the Centre’s webpages.
July is major month for academic conferences and, as I mentioned last week, several members of the Centre were at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds a couple of weeks ago. Next week it will be Harlaxton where the topic this year is ‘The Noble Household’ and among the speakers will be Professor Louise Wilkinson, while this week at the University of Kent the Schools of Architecture and English had a conference on ‘Writing Buildings’.
Keeping with the idea of excitement at conferences among participants – speakers and audience, yesterday I was at the Centre’s ‘Richborough through the Ages’ conference, hence the photo above. Perhaps one of the major differences between last week and this was that the MEMS conference at Kent University was by definition to a great degree inward looking as far as the university community is concerned – it was by academics at various stages in their careers for an audience that was roughly comparable.
I thought I would start with an apology for not writing the blog last week but I was somewhat busy and time just disappeared as it is inclined to do. Anyway I’m now back having resurfaced after the Medieval Canterbury Weekend, but even so I’m going to keep it short because when you are thinking about whether the microphone is working properly or whether you have got out enough programmes you don’t really take in what the lecturer is saying, even if you are chairing the session. So if you were hoping for a summary of the various talks I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint you.
I thought I would keep it short this week, not least because I’m pretty busy doing things for the Medieval Canterbury Weekend. Just in case you have missed this the box office at www.canterbury.ac.uk/medieval-canterbury in terms of ticket sales will close this Friday, but tickets will be available to buy at Old Sessions, Canterbury Christ Church on Saturday 2 April (cash payments only) and at the Cathedral Lodge, the Precincts on Sunday 3 April (same arrangements). So please if you are interested do come along. There are lots of fascinating talks, and just considering those under ‘Books and Manuscripts’, there will be two great lectures on Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts. Firstly on Friday evening Richard Gameson will consider the fabulous St Augustine’s Gospels, seen by contemporaries as relics in their own right, and then on Saturday morning Michelle Brown will look more broadly at the manuscripts and documents produced in Anglo-Saxon Canterbury at two of the most important scriptoria in the land. Sunday will bring us forward in time to the ‘Age of Chaucer’ and Peter Brown’s entertaining assessment of what was being produced by way of texts by Chaucer’s contemporaries – another treat.
I have also heard from Martin Watts, who tells me that tickets for his ‘Richborough through the Ages’ are selling. This one-day conference on Saturday 25 June promises to be a great day. Now as a medievalist I am particularly interested to hear what Ges Moody has to say about the area as a contested landscape and Paul Dalton’s assessment of Richborough’s medieval context also looks to be in my area. However I’m sure the modern history lectures will be exciting too, and as an ex-dairy farmer I’ll be interested to hear what John Bulaitis has to say about G.C Solley of King’s End Farm, whose activities in the early 20th century extended well beyond farming!
I’m also thinking about the autumn, when hopefully the first recipient of an award from the Ian Coulson Memorial Postgraduate fund will be embarking on his/her new research project towards a higher degree on a Kentish history topic at Canterbury Christ Church. At the moment I’m looking at a one-day conference on ‘Early Medieval Kent’ on 10 September, and possibly towards another joint lecture with Brook Agricultural Museum, the Nightingale Memorial Lecture. Last year we were treated to a brilliant talk by Canterbury Christ Church’s own John Bulaitis on the ‘tithe wars’ in early 1930s Kent, a lecture that is still discussed in glowing terms. Indeed it was one of the topics raised at a meeting of the Trustees of the Brook Museum yesterday, and hopefully the next lecture will be equally successful. I have an idea for a potential speaker but before I reveal anything more I want to talk to a few key people. However I am really excited about the prospect, so do watch this space.
This concept of joint conferences and lectures has been actively embraced by the Centre and I believe the Kent Archaeological Society’s Place-Name conference for 2016 will also take place under such a scheme. Again when I know more details I’ll let you know. To a degree keeping with an archaeological theme, it is probably worth mentioning that Canterbury Archaeological Trust’s ‘40 years’ exhibition at The Beaney will be opening at Easter and will be in The Front Room there for about a month. Andrew Richardson of CAT has also been involved as the honorary curator of the KAS in overseeing the cataloguing of the Society’s artefact collection held at Maidstone Museum. In addition, photos of the pieces are going on the Society’s website making a fantastic resource for teachers, students and those having a more general interest in the county’s archaeological heritage.
Finally, it was good to see this evening that the BBC’s regional news programme was actively exploring links between Shakespeare and Kent under the banner of the regional and national aspect of Shakespeare 400. Thus it was excellent to watch Liz Finn at the Kent History Library Centre in Maidstone pointing out entries in Dover’s chamberlains’ accounts relating to early modern players, in this case the theatre company linked to the Bard, the King’s Players, who visited the town on more than one occasion. The camera crew had also been to Dover Museum because we were treated to Jon Iveson pointing out details on William Eldred’s fascinating map of the town dated c.1641. So it was great to see Kent’s history brought to life in this way, and it would be equally fantastic to do the same for Canterbury, although hopefully we will not have to wait until the 2020 anniversary of St Thomas Becket’s Translation.
I decided to leave the blog this week until today because I wanted to highlight a lecture that took place this evening at Canterbury Christ Church. For years Dr Paul Bennett, as Director of Canterbury Archaeological Trust, has been delivering his annual review of the work of the Trust. Indeed, as he said this evening, he has done this for several decades albeit its designation as The Frank Jenkins Memorial Lecture is more recent. The idea of the lecture as a memorial was especially fitting today because Paul began his talk by remembering four highly valued people: Crispin Jarman who had been a Trust employee since 1991 and whose particular expertise had been as a surveyor, including his work on the vast Thanet Earth site; Patrizia Macri who had also lost her battle against cancer and who had been part of the Trust’s team in the early 2000s before successfully completing her PhD in archaeology at Cambridge; Nick Spurrier who had been a key figure in ‘A Town Unearthed’ as the publicity officer of this Folkestone-based community project that had involved both Canterbury Archaeological Trust and Canterbury Christ Church; and perhaps the man who will be most missed, not least because of his involvement in so many projects and organisations. Readers of this blog will have read about Ian Coulson before, but I cannot miss him out because, as Paul showed, he was such a towering presence in so many aspects of history and archaeology in the county, and his untimely death has robbed the Trust, and History at Christ Church of a major friend, partner and inspirational presence.
As a medievalist, I’m very interested in memory, memorials and commemoration (as readers of this blog may have gathered from previous posts!), but even though there are in many ways major cultural differences between the Middle Ages and today, such ideas are still very important. Consequently, I’m going to tell you about two acts of commemoration that are significant from my perspective this week.
Today I’m going to begin at the end and work backwards, and the particular end I’m focusing on is that of a very good friend of the Centre, as he was for many of the historical and archaeological organisations and projects that have taken place in Kent for decades. So today Ian’s family, friends, neighbours and colleagues said farewell to a colossus in education, especially in Kent but not exclusively, whether we are talking about primary school children right the way through to adults of all ages and backgrounds. For Ian Coulson was an inclusive sort of chap who wanted to share his passion for history and archaeology with anyone he came in contact with, and he came in contact with vast numbers as a teacher, an education advisor, including at the highest levels, as a member of several high-profile projects, including the Dover Bronze Age Boat, as the driver of the Kent History Project, and as president of Kent Archaeological Society (KAS), and this list is far from exhaustive.