Yesterday marked a watershed in History at Canterbury Christ Church, as well as in the Centre, because Dr Stephen Hipkin finished teaching at CCCU having opted for early retirement.
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.