I’m going to start this week with some news. Many of you will know Paul Bennett or have read about him in various blogs over the last couple of years, and will know, therefore, that he is the Director of Canterbury Archaeological Trust and also a Visiting Professor in the Centre for Kent History and Heritage, Canterbury Christ Church University.
This week I have been to two meetings among other things, and, although they may seem very different, they actually have common themes such as the value of bringing archaeology and documentary research together, as well as the importance of studying the lives of people in the past who were not royalty or aristocrats, but who made up the bulk of society.
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.
Firstly, thank you to everyone who has been in contact with Ruth Duckworth using the email@example.com email address to register their interest in the Tudors and Stuarts History Weekend next April, the website is almost complete. I know I said that a couple of weeks ago but we then ran into a couple of issues. However, these have been almost completely resolved and things are moving on towards completion. Consequently, I am hopeful that we will indeed be up and running within the next ten days and as soon as we are I shall post the news. Moreover, Ruth and her colleague will also be in touch to give you the good news if you have given us your email address. More good news, Dr David Starkey will again be giving a lecture at the Weekend, and next year it will be on the afternoon of Saturday 1 April. I shall not reveal the title at this stage, but just say it is topical.
Another date that I would suggest that you reserve if you live in or around Canterbury is the evening of Tuesday 6 December, because this will mark the relaunch of the Centre that will be moving from its ‘home’ in the School of Humanities to a new ‘home’ in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. To highlight this event the Centre’s new Visiting Professor Paul Bennett will be giving an open lecture. As many of you will know, Paul Bennett is the Director of Canterbury Archaeological Trust. He is an expert on the history of Canterbury, and an authority on Libya’s classical past. In terms of the Centre, Professor Jackie Eales will remain as one of the heads but Dr Stephen Hipkin will be stepping aside and Professor Louise Wilkinson will be joining Jackie. This will have the merit, among other things, of giving the Centre direction from both a medievalist and an early modernist. Furthermore, it will then come within the orbit of the Dean of the Faculty and some of you will remember him from the blog last week – reports on the medieval buildings of Canterbury and the Ian Coulson Prize winners at the Nightingale Lecture.
A further date I would recommend you reserve is Saturday 12 November for the joint Centre and Kent Archaeological Society ‘Place Names and Family Names’ conference. This will feature the expert on Kentish place names Dr Paul Cullen of the University of the West of England. Some of you may have seen Paul’s work in the final chapter of Early Medieval Kent, 800-1220 where you can explore a large sample of place name elements to be found in the place names of Kent. Paul will be giving two of the lectures, including one on field names, a very interesting topic. Paul will be joined by Dr Michael Bintley from Canterbury Christ Church, an expert on Old English literature, and Elizabeth Finn, an archivist at the Kent History and Library Centre at Maidstone. Elizabeth Finn is working on a project to locate all the medieval manorial records for Kent and she will discuss the various place names she has discovered during her research.
Others among the Centre have also been busy and Professor Wilkinson has recently been at conferences in Dublin and Gloucester. The latter was at the cathedral and while there, she had a chance to look at some of their medieval documents. What particularly took her attention was Gloucester Abbey’s medieval charter collection (the abbey church became Gloucester Cathedral in 1541, the area previously being within the see of Worcester) that has been preserved in a series of scrapbooks. However, this is not as detrimental as it sounds as the charters were carefully fixed into these bound volumes and the seals have been protected by cutting out blocks within the pages. As a result, there is plenty of room for the seals and the charters are in a beautiful monkish hand. Among those produced for women as grantors to the abbey was one that involved beehives and there is a little drawing of a beehive at the start of the charter – a lovely touch.
Centre members have not only been giving lectures but they have been attending papers too. Like Dr David Grummitt, the Head of the School of Humanities, I was in the audience on Wednesday when Professor Steven Gunn gave the first History Research lecture at the University of Kent. Professor Gunn is the joint head of an ESRC-funded project to look at coroners’ inquests produced across England in the sixteenth century. In total, there are 9000 inquests and the various details are being recorded on an Excel spreadsheet to produce a searchable database. Professor Barbara Hanawalt completed a similar project on medieval inquests several decades ago but the difficulty in that case was that such coroners’ records only survive for a few Midland counties. Professor Gunn has a far larger topographical coverage because, even though some counties may be under represented, the only counties without these returns are Durham, Lancashire and Cheshire – such areas were governed differently. The London records are not complete either.
I do not have space to give you more than a couple of examples but Professor Gunn provided a whole host of examples that illustrated, among other things, the dangers women faced collecting water, whether from wells or rivers, and the likelihood of carts over turning and crushing or otherwise fatally injuring either the driver or passers-by. Two of the Canterbury examples from 1519 and 1524 involved such cart accidents, the victims being Martin Hilles of St Dunstan’s and a three-year old girl called Alice Sigemond. Another Canterbury victim was Henry Byngham, esquire, who died in the fire at the archbishop’s palace in 1543. For those from the west of the county, it is perhaps worth recounting the fate of John William, the servant of David Wyllard of Hadlow, who died as the result of an accident at a blast furnace. Such colourful examples are very seductive and if you want more of these, Professor Gunn mentioned that he has written several articles for the BBC History Magazine. However, there remain methodological issues surrounding what is still a relatively small number of cases in terms of the overall population over a century, as well as concerns whether these provide evidence of the norm or the abnormal. But I’ll leave you to consider this and instead hope to be able to give you definitive news regarding the Tudors and Stuarts History Weekend next week.
Progress on the Tudors and Stuarts History Weekend website continues but is not quite finished. Consequently, this week I am going to concentrate on a fascinating lecture I heard last night by Keith Parfitt of Canterbury Archaeological Trust.
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’.
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.
This week has seen more activity regarding publicity and arrangements for the Medieval Canterbury Weekend. In addition Dr Martin Watts has been finalising details for the one-day conference on ‘Richborough through the Ages’ and we will be start promoting the conference very shortly. However, having reported on both of these last week, I am going instead to turn my attention to the Canterbury Historical and Archaeological Society’s February lecture that was given by Dr Andrew Richardson of Canterbury Archaeological Trust. Andrew Richardson is an expert on Anglo-Saxon material culture and is one of the contributors to Early Medieval Kent, 800–1220, but his topic on Wednesday evening at Canterbury Christ Church was ‘Vessels of the dead: funerary archaeology in Canterbury and District, 2012–15’. He used a series of case studies to discuss the problems and value of the work of metal detectorists over the last few years in east Kent.
In contrast to the previous fortnight, this week has been much quieter with regard to history lectures open to the public, except for Dr Martin Watts’ talk at St Peter’s Methodist Church on Thursday evening. This was organised by the Canterbury Festival as a marker that 2016 is an important anniversary for the Battle of the Somme. Martin focused to a large degree on the casualties suffered by, among other regiments, the Buffs and the West Kents, as well as drawing out the implications of the battle in terms of what was learnt by both those in high command and across society – a time of lost innocence regarding modern warfare. Others involved with the Centre have also been busy, and I thought I would report a few exciting items before offering a few snippets from the archives because I have missed being able to get on with my own research into the businesswomen of late medieval Canterbury.