It really will be a short blog this week because it is in some ways a slight breather before a very hectic time next week that has several meetings, two conferences and a workshop. Nevertheless, this week has seen Dr Diane Heath and her co-producers getting to the final stages on their ‘Medieval Animal Magic’ booklet for primary schools, while Professor Louise Wilkinson has been busy working at The National Archives and giving papers, as well as attending Exam Boards – it is that time of year!
Before I come to the Nightingale Lecture, I just thought I would pass on several news items, and perhaps from the Centre’s perspective the most exciting is that the Tudors and Stuarts 2019 History Weekend webpages are now live thanks to Matthew Crockatt and Ruth Duckworth at the box office. Tickets can be booked from Monday 1 October and the short web address is https://www.canterbury.ac.uk/tudors-stuarts there is also a link on the Centre’s home page under ‘History Weekends’ and if you have any problems, please do contact Ruth at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01227 782994 (office hours Monday to Thursday). I hope that you like what you see in terms of choice as you build your pick-and-mix package.
This week I thought I would start with Paula the Polar Bear’s visit to Canterbury Cathedral precincts on Wednesday. She only visited her adoring public for short periods due to the warm weather – Canterbury is hardly the Arctic even with global warming and deep ice sheets melting to the north of Greenland.
This week has been more a matter of meetings and looking forward to future events rather than events themselves. Included in the latter is most definitely the last of the ‘Young Medievalists’ Corner’ activity days on Saturday 21 July at 12 Market Place, Faversham. If you are in the area, please do drop in between 10am and 4pm, it is free to explore the ‘Medieval Faversham’ exhibition and to take part in the activities organised by Dr Diane Heath and Harriet Kersey.
This will be the last blog before the rescheduled Becket Lecture, consequently I thought I would start by sending out a final reminder that it will take place in The Michael Berry Lecture Theatre, Old Sessions House, on Tuesday 6 March at 6pm. Dr Marie-Pierre Gelin will be the lecturer this year and her chosen topic is ‘Thomas Becket and his Predecessors at Canterbury’. Everyone is most welcome, so please come along and bring your friends.
This week has brought the start of the academic year, I hope the final touches to the Medieval Canterbury Weekend 2018 webpages so that they can go live next week and the Nightingale Lecture. This year was the sixth and the third to be held jointly by the Centre and the Agricultural Museum, Brook at Canterbury Christ Church.
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.
Having had a meeting today with Drs Martin Watts and John Bulaitis regarding the feasibility of putting on a one-day conference on the development of Richborough, especially its role as a gateway both into and out of Kent, and England, to/from continental Europe, I thought I would pass on the news to readers. Martin and John’s primary interest in the place rests on its 20th-century history, and both are keen to provide lectures from their recent research findings. As a consequence it is envisaged at this planning stage that the talks in the afternoon will feature episodes from the port’s Great War and subsequent history, while the morning will focus on its Roman, Anglo-Saxon and medieval past. In addition to lectures from staff at Canterbury Christ Church, the intention is to involve experts from east Kent, particularly field archaeologists from the region who have first-hand knowledge of the area. More on this anon as things develop, but a provisional date for this conference is late May or early June in 2016.
Now that the ‘A’ level results are out and many prospective students know which university they will be heading to in just over a month, I thought I would return to Dr John Bulaitis’ lecture that will take place at the beginning of the new term at Canterbury Christ Church. As those who follow the blog may recall this is a joint event organised by this Research Centre and the Agricultural Museum Brook, and is the Fourth Nightingale Memorial Lecture. Previous speakers included Professor Christopher Dyer, an eminent medieval social historian from the University of Leicester, and it great that this time it will be one of the History lecturers at Christ Church. Dr Bulaitis will be speaking on his current research topic, ‘the tithe wars’ of the early 1930s and his lecture has the intriguing title ‘The Battle of the Ducks’ and other episodes from the ‘Kentish Tithe Wars’, 1930–36’. As I have noted previously, this was a very difficult time for small farmers, and, as today with the problems for dairy farmers that have been much in the news of late, when costs outweigh returns the situation quickly becomes difficult and ultimately unsustainable, cash flow being the killer in many business failures. However farmers today do not have the added burden of having to pay tithes, but this was not the case a century ago and tithe demands in the early 1930s were what broke the proverbial camel’s back. So if you want to come to Dr Bulaitis’ lecture on Friday 2 October, beginning with a wine reception at 19.00, the lecture commencing at 19.30, you are most welcome. It will take place in the main lecture theatre in Old Sessions House. Do come along and bring your friends to this celebration of Kentish history, the new term and what is a fantastic Agricultural Museum at Brook, sited in a magnificent medieval barn and next to a stunning Norman church.
Interestingly the history of tithe disputes in the county is a long one, as Dr Paula Simpson has discovered. Initially she conducted her research on the sixteenth century, not least because the Dissolution of the Monasteries brought a considerable change to the identities of those who held the tithes. The idea behind tithes was to provide a living for the incumbent and to recompense the holder of the advowson for providing the said incumbent, sometimes this was the same person/institution, and to help the parish poor. Across Kent during the Middle Ages a very high proportion of those holding these parish advowsons were churchmen: the archbishop, the bishop of Rochester and the many religious houses, although concentrated primarily in the great, ancient houses at Canterbury, Rochester and Dover. Hence Dr Simpson’s interest because once these monasteries were gone, the advowsons came into lay hands and she wanted to discover what impact this had on the tithe payers, as well as to see how these new tithe farmers operated.
Study day at Brook Barn in 2013 – exploring timber-framing led by Andy Mills
Joint day organised by the Agricultural Museum Brook, Kent Archaeological Society and Canterbury Archaeological Trust
Her doctoral thesis is fascinating, and one of the themes she discusses is the idea of collective memory. She highlights the value placed on the elderly people of the parish, not just the men, and that what they said had been done and said in the past was seen as ‘true’. Consequently they were the custodians of custom, whether it was the way the corn was harvested, the wood was cut or the route taken when the parishioners gathered together with the minister and churchwardens to ‘walk the bounds’. Such an inter-play of past and present, and the importance of tradition was, of course, open to manipulation to a degree, but had to be acceptable and accepted by those involved, something that was sometimes problematic in the changing and often difficult times of the late sixteenth century.
I thought I would end with one of two cases involving the people of Brook in the Tudor period which is taken from Dr Simpson’s thesis. It involves a ditch, which may not sound very exciting but when people dig up the road to create a ditch, it does. The ditch-digger in question was Philip Dence and the case came before the court in 1598. The jury heard that Dence had recently dug a pit across the lane thus disrupting the perambulation route because it was ‘so brod and soe full of water they the said Minister & parishioners could goe no further but returned backe againe’. The main witness was Robert White who had a vested interest in the matter because he had some property title to that part of the lane lying in Brook parish and had sued Dence for trespass before. The court found in favour of White who was awarded costs and damages against Dence.
However the problem of the lane as a boundary continued to exercise the minds of those in Wye, as well as Brook, and in 1691 the Wye churchwardens ordered that a perambulation of the bounds of Wye should be compiled from a copy dated 1674. It has the intriguing section that those walking the bounds should ‘cross the field to a marked stump in the corner of the hedge leading to a pond at the entrance to a lane called Greenfield lane so on the west of the ash on the ditch-side to a gate (the east corner of the field is in controversie between Brook and Wye and therefore not bounded by us)’; quoted by Dr Simpson from N. Morris, The History and Topography of Wye (Canterbury, 1842). Such boundary texts are extremely interesting and can tell us a great deal about contemporary society. As a final point they don’t only exist for parishes but also for town liberties, and, as some of you may remember, several weeks ago the actions of those walking the boundaries featured in the dispute at St Lawrence’s hospital in 1436.