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From Iron Age helmet to ‘The Great Bible’

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Dover Castle

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.

His first case involved the finding of an early Anglo-Saxon grave in a probably densely populated funerary landscape. The problem involved the metal detectorist’s lack of experience and his impatience to collect as many artefacts as possible without knowing how to do this properly. So even though he recovered part of a copper-alloy hanging bowl (late sixth/early seventh-century British manufacture), a sword, shield boss and spear head, and pottery, by digging just for these objects he disturbed the sequences, damaged some items and ‘lost’ material that might, for example, have yielded environmental evidence. Moreover, it now means it is only possible to reconstruct the grave vaguely rather than having a detailed appraisal of these artefacts within the context of the burial. Nevertheless since the detectorist’s second exploration of the site, archaeologists from Canterbury Archaeological Trust have been able to undertake a brief excavation with help from the detectorist, who now understands what he should have done and that he should have waited rather than going it alone. Among the interesting features found during the Trust’s excavation was a late Iron Age/early Roman ditch – indicative of early field systems, hearths and pottery, the ditch cut by the later Anglo-Saxon grave. Such findings Andrew believes points to the presence of more Anglo-Saxon graves in the area but to date no further excavations have taken place.

Andrew’s second case study involved the finding of a late Iron Age/early Roman unguent jar, manufactured in third-century Gaul, by a French metal detectorist while he was on holiday in east Kent. This beautiful little copper-alloy jar has classical scenes and the whole is only slightly damaged, probably primarily by ploughing. As a find in the British Isles it is unique, and its presence suggests that it was used in some way in the funerary rituals that would have taken place for this high status individual. Unfortunately the exact location of this jar when it was found remains somewhat hazy, because, even the finder showed Andrew a point on a map, in Andrew’s experience such pin-pointing is frequently inaccurate. Fortunately having brought his ‘find’ into the Trust he was happy for it to remain in Canterbury – he had been hoping for a financial reward – and it can now be seen at the Roman Museum in Butchery Lane. If you haven’t seen it and you are local to Canterbury it is well worth a visit. Andrew would like to explore the area further because it is unlikely to be an isolated burial, especially as there are vague references in the early-nineteenth-century literature that mention a Roman burial in the area. However, it makes little sense to trust the dot on the map and even though non-evasive archaeological work could be conducted across the field, Andrew feels the best approach would be to work with the Frenchman. So this could be a long-term project.

In his third case study involving metal detectorists, Andrew demonstrated the value to archaeology of their work, highlighting an exemplary case where a local, highly-experienced detectorist both worked responsibly in the field and alerted Andrew at an early stage. Having received a phone call that the detectorist had found a late Iron Age helmet, and, even more specifically that it was of the form known as Collus Mannheim, Andrew was naturally excited when he saw the object itself. Although the detectorist had excavated it from its resting place, he had done this with great care, as shown by the copper staining of the soil when the site was re-excavated by members of the Trust and Keith Parfitt’s volunteer Dover Group, with the detectorist. Moreover he had left a bag of lead weights in the hole he had made so that the position could easily be found again by the archaeologists. Such helmets are exceedingly rare and this artefact made the national press, as well as exciting experts from the British Museum. The Gallic helmet had been buried upside-down and with it was a spike and British-manufactured brooch, as well as some human bone. It had been employed as a cremation urn for a young woman – its final use. Although whether it had initially seen service in the Gallic Wars and on which side will remain pure guess work. From the beginning it was clear that there is some decorative beading work around the rim of the helmet, and more recent study has revealed further elaborate patterns of this same type of work. A truly remarkable and fantastic find that leaves the tantalising question: is this an isolated case or part of a cemetery of a local settlement?

Andrew also discussed the Trust’s major excavations in the Augustine House area, the final sector of which is still taking place. He concentrated on a collection of 20 Roman burials in the area behind Augustine House that seems to have been a discrete cemetery. I’ll only mention a couple of points briefly because it is likely Paul Bennett, the Trust’s Director, will feature these excavations in his annual talk about the Trust’s work on Saturday 27 February. This lecture will take place at Old Sessions House, Canterbury Christ Church at 6pm and anyone who is interested is welcome to attend. But returning to Andrew’s talk, interestingly this group of graves was extremely deep, they have been dated to the late third/early fourth century, included the use of coffins and the graves contained a variety of objects. Such artefacts included pottery vessels and a wooden box with a brooch and other objects.

Finally, I should like to mention that this week I spent an enjoyable day in the Canterbury Cathedral Library. That in itself is not unusual, it is a great place to study what is a fascinating collection of books for a medievalist/early modern historian, but Monday marked the annual visit of students who are studying Early Drama for their English Literature degree. Early Drama in this context means drama from the tenth century through to the arrival of the commercial theatre in Elizabethan England, and we have now reached plays performed during the Reformation. In order to provide a cultural context for students, so that they can understand what playwrights as well as audiences would have read, discussed and argued over in houses, taverns and churches, we looked at a range of books, under the watchful eye of Karen Brayshaw, the Cathedral Librarian. This opportunity to examine and investigate such printed books from the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries is a fantastic opportunity and the students who came relished the experience. Amongst the books they looked at were ‘The Great Bible’, with its “cool” frontispiece where it is Henry VIII who dispenses God’s Word to his people, and the ‘Geneva Bible’, comparing, for example, the far greater level of biblical commentary in the margins of the latter in order to aid its readers. Students also saw how the section on St Thomas of Canterbury had been almost totally erased from a late-fifteenth-century copy of Wynkyn de Worde’s The Golden Legend (in other surviving copies the text and image have been slashed with a knife, the copy at Aberdeen University Library survives intact), an indication of the strength of feeling religion can arouse. Contemporary history and geography books, as well as prayers books from the times of Henry VIII’s children, were also investigated by the students, and another book that was also seen as ‘cool’ was the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum – and rightly so! I believe ‘The Great Bible’ will be on show for those who have bought tickets for Karen Brayshaw’s guided tours of the Cathedral Library as part of the Medieval Canterbury Weekend because it marks a fitting closure to the Middle Ages.

Michael Hicks at the Medieval Canterbury Weekend

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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.

So, firstly, the organising committee for the Medieval Canterbury Weekend is delighted to announce that Professor Michael Hicks has joined as a lecturer for Sunday 3 April. He is replacing Dr David Grummitt, who has unfortunately had to pull-out of the Weekend, and thus Michael Hicks’ lecture will begin at 11am and will be in the Kentish Barn, part of Canterbury Cathedral Lodge within the precincts. As some of you will already know, Professor Hicks is an expert on the Wars of the Roses and a very distinguished scholar of late medieval England. As the author of numerous books and articles, and a well-respected speaker on the tumultuous years of the later fifteenth century, he has an unrivalled knowledge of the major personalities of the time. Consequently we are very fortunate that he is going to be speaking on the kings (and queens) who ruled, it must be said, often quite disastrously during the Wars of the Roses, giving us his considerable insights into how and why this occurred. This will fit very nicely into the programme because one of the following lectures is Dr David Starkey’s assessment of Henry VII, the first of the Tudor kings.

Keeping with the medieval theme, it is great to be able to mention that Dr Diane Heath has published an article in the February edition of History Today on emotional responses to pilgrim tokens, as witnessed by the sewing in of such tokens into books of hours (she focuses on such a book in Canterbury Cathedral Library). Having recently successfully completed her doctorate at the University of Kent on the meanings and uses of the medieval bestiary in monastic culture, she is developing her analysis to explore emotional responses in medieval piety, hence her foray into the use of pilgrim tokens. She was also busy this week giving a talk to the Whitstable local history society on various aspects of her research, especially the complex meanings attached to particular animals and how these were intended in the Middle Ages to aid the study, through memory, of theological truths. Diane is also heavily involved in the organisation of the Medieval Canterbury Weekend, which is now less than two months away.

Dr Martin Watts’ activities have already been mentioned, but he is also involved in organising a one-day conference on ‘Richborough through the Ages’ that will take place on Saturday 25 June, and, as well as featuring Canterbury Christ Church staff: Martin, Drs Paul Dalton, John Bulaitis and Lesley Hardy, will include speakers probably known to readers, such as Keith Parfitt of Canterbury Archaeological Trust and Ges Moody of the Trust for Thanet Archaeology. It promises to be a fascinating day and although covering a very broad timescale, is likely to bring forward common themes as we move through the day. Full details will be available shortly and I’ll let you know when they come out.

Finally, I thought I would return to the Middles Ages and some interesting cases from the city’s courts, the records of which are now cared for by Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Library on behalf of the City Council. I’ll leave aside the bear and ape, and the activities of Alice and the Austin Friars for another occasion, and instead link to two of the lectures that will feature at the Medieval Canterbury Weekend, that is ‘public nuisance’ and perceived ‘abuses of the written (in this case printed’ word’. So to begin with Professor Carole Rawcliffe’s topic of public nuisance, among those brought before the city’s courts in the early sixteenth century was one Joan Ward who lived in Duck Lane, and, as well as being indicted as a common scold, she was presented for polluting the common well through her washing of ‘filthy vessels and clothes’ and tipping the foul water back into the well. Nor was she alone in such nasty activities because John Noble, a local cobbler, was up before the courts for emptying filthy chamber bowls [pots] in day time into the king’s street, something he had done ‘diverse times’ – obviously a charming individual! Such activities can be seen as the spice of life, and Professor Rawcliffe will, I am sure, present a lively talk on such cases and how various authorities sought to combat the more unpleasant activities of the locals.

Professor Peter Brown’s assessment of the uses and abuses of literature during the age of Chaucer will be less graphic in terms of such activities. However such abuses were perceived by contemporaries as even more serious for the commonweal (community) than John Elys allowing (perhaps directing) his servants to sweep the dust from his house into the street; or those contracted to carry waste, including tubs of stinking blood, from the butchery to the suburbs at night, but who instead had been doing it during the day. Indeed, the power of the word was well understood by contemporaries, hence the furore over the pinning of an anti-Lancastrian ballad to the Westgate in early June 1460, not least because this was a time of heighten political turmoil, as I am sure Michael Hicks will also highlight in his lecture. But such an understanding continued well beyond Chaucer’s time and it is worth mentioning that during a further period of turmoil in Henry VIII’s reign, albeit this can be seen as religious as much as political, the Canterbury city authorities sought to clamp down on the activities of a printer living in St Paul’s parish because he had been printing and selling ‘divers and sondry books to divers rude and unlearned people which books be deemed to be in many sentencys clearly against the faith of true Christian men’. At such a point I shall stop, but I thought I would just let you know that the written/printed word, in the form of Early Medieval Kent, 800–1220, is now back with Boydell. The corrected proofs were posted on Wednesday so I’m hopeful it is on track for a mid-summer publication.

Medieval Canterbury and Northampton

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Note the outline of the great medieval archiepiscopal palace

This week I have returned to the Middle Ages, not least because it is the Becket Lecture tomorrow evening, beginning at 6pm, wine from 5.30. The lecture will be in Old Sessions, Canterbury, and will be delivered by Dr Rachel Koopmans, an expert on the stained glass windows of Canterbury Cathedral, and she will be focusing on the modern, as well as the medieval stained glass windows, showing miracle narratives of St Thomas, as collected by the early shrine keepers William and Benedict. I am sure this will be a truly fascinating talk with some beautiful slides, but unfortunately as readers of the blog may remember from last week I teach until 6pm at the University of Kent and thus will miss her lecture – flying is not an option.

Consequently I thought I would draw your attention to another medieval lecture that took place in Canterbury this week. I have just returned from a Friends of Canterbury Archaeological Trust [FCAT] lecture, also held at Christ Church. The speaker was Dr John Williams, the recently retired KCC County Archaeologist who now lives in Canterbury. As a result he has been researching thirteenth-century Canterbury to provide a comparison to his earlier detailed and extensive study of medieval Northampton, which he undertook while working for the Northampton Development Corporation (Northampton being one of the third generation ‘new towns’).

Apart for his local residence, the other reason he was drawn to study Canterbury for this period is his interdisciplinary interests, because in many ways the thirteenth century can be seen as the watershed from predominantly archaeological evidence to the beginnings of the much greater production (and survival) of documentary sources – something that Michael Clanchy highlighted in his ground-breaking book From Memory to Written Record. Dr Williams has to some degree followed in William Urry’s footsteps and has been exploring the rich archival sources for Canterbury and several of its ecclesiastical institutions in the Canterbury Cathedral archives, notably those records that belonged to Christ Church Priory. Indeed, Dr Koopmans is another researcher who has spent, and will again be spending a considerable time in the archives this term, and, as it happens, they were at adjacent desks when I visited Jackie Davidson, one of the archivists there yesterday. This is hardly surprising because the medieval archives are exceptionally good, helped in part by the number of church establishments, but the civic archive is also extremely rich.

However, because John Williams had used The National Archives extensively when he was researching Northampton, he knows the archives at Kew very well and thus has been able to locate such materials as thirteenth-century Canterbury bailiffs’ accounts that have allowed him to open up new areas of enquiry. As he stressed this evening, the lecture should be seen as work in progress. Nevertheless, he was able to give his audience some fascinating material and ideas about the two towns and why they had developed very differently: Northampton having started as a relatively small town in the national rankings, risen steeply to a position of only being surpassed by London, and then dropping back to a more moderate kind of place; whereas Canterbury had stayed among the ‘great towns’ throughout the Middle Ages, but within the lower half or thereabouts.

There is not space in the blog to do justice to the wide-ranging topics Dr Williams covered, so I’ll select just a couple to give you a flavour of his rich talk. And although I will mention Northampton, the main thrust will be on Canterbury. Thinking about urban space, it was interesting to learn that by the thirteenth century Northampton had expanded considerably from a much smaller area than Canterbury to cover about 100 hectares, whereas in comparison Canterbury had been and remained about 48 hectares. Yet comparing Canterbury’s 22 churches, albeit some like St Helen’s were very short-lived, Northampton only had ten. Such an apparent discrepancy between town size and number of parish churches can be seen elsewhere and the reasons behind these differences remains a fascinating question. As John noted, a large number of Canterbury’s churches were along the highway between Westgate and Newingate (St George’s Gate), which was also one of the few thoroughfares that the civic authorities petitioned Edward IV about in 1478 when they sought a paving charter.

Even though there were several religious houses in and around Northampton, including two Cluniac establishments, one for men the other for women, and an Augustinian abbey, where the town did have the edge over Canterbury was in terms of the friaries there. Just as Canterbury had houses of Franciscans, Dominicans, and, from the early fourteenth century, Austin friars, Northampton had these and also a Carmelite house. Nonetheless, with Canterbury’s hospitals, as well as its two great Benedictine houses, a Benedictine nunnery at St Sepulchre’s and the Augustinian canons at St Gregory’s from the twelfth century, the total number of religious in Canterbury must have well exceeded those in Northampton. Such institutional stability may have greatly contributed to the city’s national position, as also may the presence of the internationally important shrine of St Thomas, which presumably greatly aided the local economy through the need to supply accommodation, food, drink, horse hire and other commodities to the many pilgrims and travellers.

Yet, as the extensive history of conflicts among the various ‘parties’ in Canterbury may suggest, the dominance of the Church in the city spatially, and thus in terms of jurisdiction, may have played a part in the limited autonomy the city had achieved by the thirteenth century. Whereas Northampton had acquired responsibility for the fee farm by the end of the twelfth century and a mayoralty in 1215, Canterbury only gained control of the fee farm in 1234 and the two elected bailiffs, as royal officials, remained the senior civic officers until Canterbury was able to gain its first mayor following the acquisition of a royal charter in 1448. Also interesting, Northampton had a custumal in the late twelfth century but Canterbury did not, nor has John Williams found any reference to the customs of Canterbury in the thirteenth-century Eyre Rolls he has studied, unlike Northampton where such references are to be found.

Thus, as I hope you can see, his audience was treated to a fascinating exploration of two very different urban communities. I know some members of the audience tonight will be back again tomorrow to learn more about Canterbury’s past, and John Williams will be taking his analysis to Northampton, as part of the celebration to mark the location of what almost became England’s third university in the High Middle Ages. For if Henry III had not suppressed the embryonic university at Northampton in 1264, we would be talking about Oxford, Cambridge AND Northampton, Canterbury being in this respect a long way behind.

Restoration Canterbury and Tunbridge Wells

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Church of King Charles the Martyr, Tunbridge Wells

(familypedia.wiki.com)

Normally I would not associate January with a great crop of lectures, but this January has been exceptional. Indeed there have been so many that last night brought the Anselm Lecture at the University of Kent, given by Professor Sandy Heslop on St Anselm’s ‘Glorious Choir’, a marvellous blend of sculpture, painting and stained glass, and the Canterbury branch lecture of the Historical Association at Canterbury Cathedral Archives & Library on Restoration Canterbury, given by Dr Doreen Rosman. Initially I had intended to go to the Anselm Lecture to hear Professor Heslop, an expert on medieval art and architecture, because I am interested in his analysis of Anselm’s strategies concerning the bringing together of words and images.

However, earlier in the afternoon at four I had had to be both in Darwin College, finishing teaching a seminar on ‘Towns and Townspeople in Medieval England’ and at the other end of the campus at the University of Kent in Keynes College to start a seminar on ‘Early Drama’. So having sprinted across campus once yesterday, I decided doing it again at or just after six to arrive late at the Anselm Lecture was a step too far. Consequently I decided to go for the more leisurely time of seven at the archives to hear Dr Rosman. While I am sure Sandy Heslop’s talk was fascinating, I certainly was not disappointed by going to hear Doreen Rosman. Moreover, as you will see below, in terms of time period attending Dr Rosman’s lecture made more sense because it means I can keep to the late seventeenth century.

Doreen’s talk was a tour de force concerning how one can use the locality to explore important political and social events that affected the whole country. As she said, Canterbury was not so much an exceptional place during this period, but that what was played out among the citizens and the civic authorities can provide insights into the wider picture. Furthermore, being able to make use of the extensive and varied primary sources for this period, especially those housed in the cathedral archives, some of which were on display last night, enhanced her analysis and allowed her audience to appreciate just how fortunate researchers are to have such resources locally. Indeed, Dr Rosman was able to highlight the valuable role played by earlier historians and those who had treasured the city’s records. As she said, the extensive notebooks compiled by Alderman Bunce, whose imposing portrait hangs in the archives, are a valuable starting point because he transcribed and collected together information that he thought was important in the civic archive. Dr Rosman also noted the value of the work of William Somner, the seventeenth-century Canterbury historian and antiquarian, who published his Antiquities of Canterbury for a second time in 1660 to mark the arrival of Charles II as the restored monarch. His first edition had been dedicated to Archbishop Laud in 1640, which was not a good time for such a dedication!

Dr Rosman provided a clear and comprehensive case study of Canterbury society during the reigns of Charles II and his Catholic brother James II. She looked at a range of issues but as you might expect she gave particular emphasis to the composition and attitudes of successive civic authorities – the mayor, aldermen and common councillors; and also to the strength, personnel and activities of various dissenting congregations, including the Quakers. As she said, Canterbury is very fortunate to have a detailed register, beginning in 1645, produced by one of these early independent congregations, and this register was one of the documents on display last night. Among the topics associated with these religious groups that Dr Rosman covered was the level of persecution many suffered at the hands of the local and regional authorities. Indeed the Quakers’ sufferings are recorded in ‘books of sufferings’, detailing issues such as imprisonment and the breaking up of their meetings. As she noted, they were especially targeted by officialdom because of their refusal to swear oaths (of allegiance etc), at a time when such swearing was seen as an essential part of English society.

A further important point that Dr Rosman stressed was that Canterbury, particularly during the early 1680s, as far as she can see was not ruled by those from among the dissenters; that is the city government comprised men who held a variety of opinions and no one group held sway. Moreover, she thinks the evidence points on the whole to policies of ‘live and let live’ in that the senior civic and church authorities in the city and at the cathedral realised that for these to function successfully toleration rather than persecution was a far better approach. To a degree this is at odds with some within the historiography, who appear to have been heavily influenced by the vitriolic letters of contemporaries, such as William, later Sir William, Rooke, who had a particular political (and religious) agenda and who saw ‘fanatics’ at every turn. Dr Rosman’s careful analysis has led her to believe that Rooke’s comments were unjustified and could not have been substantiated at the time in Canterbury if the Secretary of State had cared to investigate further.

These are just a few of the issues raised by Dr Rosman in what was a fascinating lecture, punctuated by moments of humour and allusions to topical concerns, such as how do you absorb large numbers of religious refugees, an issue in 1684 as it is today. As one might expect, Professor Jackie Eales, who has studied Canterbury’s history earlier in the seventeenth century, asked the first question; and another staff member of the Centre, Professor Louise Wilkinson, very ably introduced and chaired the session.

So briefly to come to my other Restoration topic, I thought I would alert readers of the blog to the Kent Archaeological Society’s churches committee study day that will take place on Saturday 15 October 2016. This will take place at Tunbridge Wells and is the fourth such study day to chart specific periods in the history of the parish church (in Kent). Previous occasions have explored medieval parish life (St Leonard’s, Hythe), living through the Reformation (St Dunstan’s, Canterbury), and the mid-nineteenth-century Oxford Movement and its legacy (Holy Trinity, Folkestone). The one this coming October will focus on the Restoration Church and the Parish, and will take place at the very interesting parish church dedicated to King Charles the Martyr (see above). As well as being a very unusual dedicated, it is extremely interesting, bringing as it does contemporary perceptions about martyrdom, associations to Christ and cult status. Among the lecturers will be Rebecca Warren, who is researching the Cromwellian Church and its ministry for her doctorate at the University of Kent. Moreover, the church archives, now held at the Kent History Library Centre in Maidstone, contain a number of seventeenth-century documents relating to the building of the church, which means that the afternoon workshops will offer opportunities to explore documentary sources as well as the church building itself. Thus at both ends of the county members of the Centre are involved in researching and disseminating ideas about this important period in Kent’s and England’s history, as well as demonstrating how universities and other organisations can work together to provide opportunities for people to investigate their own history and heritage.

Ian Coulson and William Urry

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Commemoration of Archbishop Sudbury on Christmas Day

Photo: Christopher Robinson (copyright Dean and Chapter, Canterbury Cathedral)

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. The first concerns the Medieval Canterbury Weekend. As many of you will know by now this is going to be a major occasion for the Centre in April. However the organising committee wanted to offer a legacy – just as those who organised the London Olympic Games in 2012 intended. Ours is more modest but hopefully achievable and it has a number of strands. Firstly, as part of the Weekend there will be a postgraduate competition for medieval students from British universities to showcase their work in terms of how they can make their research accessible to the general public. There will be two cash prizes, one judged by people attending the Weekend, the other by a panel of academics. It is hoped that entries will also be displayed digitally on the Centre’s website – legacy. The next strand involves revenue after expenses, of which half will go to help the iconic medieval buildings that are the subject of the Weekend’s guided walks – more legacy. The third strand is the one that personally I feel is exceedingly important because it will help some of the next generation of historians who wish to work on topics relating to Kent. The other half of the Weekend’s ‘profits’ will be used to fund the Ian Coulson Memorial Postgraduate Scholarship. For those of you who didn’t know Ian and his tireless work on behalf of education – making accessible the history of Kent, and also further afield to schoolchildren, adults, indeed anyone, I would suggest that you look back a few weeks on this blog and also see Ian Dawson’s webpage: ‘Ian Coulson: In Memoriam’ www.thinkinghistory.co.uk to give you an idea why I think this is so valuable with regard to legacy.

My second point of commemoration involves William Urry. I never met him but I often use his published works, especially his magnum opus, his study of Canterbury under the Angevin Kings. Not that the medieval period was his only interest, he was also particularly interested in Christopher Marlowe and Canterbury’s influence on this great sixteenth-century playwright, but the Angevins and St Thomas Becket really caught his imagination. Moreover he produced numerous pamphlets and articles, and gave lectures and guided walks covering a wide range of topics relating to Canterbury’s history up until his death in 1981, even though during the last twenty years of his life he suffered considerable ill health. And he was not only an extremely scholarly (and readable) historian because he had worked for several decades after the Second World War as the archivist and librarian for both the city of Canterbury and its cathedral. Consequently he was heavily involved in the restoration, reordering and recataloguing of the cathedral archives and library following damage sustained during the War, as well as earlier flood damage. Much of this Herculean task he performed himself, but it did mean that his knowledge of the archives and its contents was second-to-none. For he could populate eleventh and sixteenth-century Canterbury, in particular, knowing the places of business and the residences of many of the city’s citizens, and those of their neighbours.

To commemorate such an important member of the Canterbury community, and also that of Oxford where he moved in 1969 as a Visiting Fellow and Reader, the William Urry Memorial Lectures were initiated after his death. At first these lectures were given annually, alternating between Canterbury and Oxford, and given by such distinguished scholars as Sir Richard Southern and Frank Barlow; and more latterly Nicholas Vincent, who will be giving a talk at the Medieval Canterbury Weekend on Becket’s head and the medieval cult of relics – a fascinating topic. However after several years, like many such lecture series, this one fell into abeyance and the remaining funds were passed to Canterbury Archaeological Society, as it then was, to use as the committee saw fit.

This year Canterbury Historical and Archaeological Society [CHAS] ie CAS’s successor has revitalised the William Urry Memorial Lecture, albeit more modestly, and the first of the new series was given by Dr Toby Huitson a couple of days ago. As Lawrence Lyle, an accomplished historian in his own right, explained in his brief resume of William Urry’s life, Toby was a fitting choice because he too is working at the Canterbury Cathedral archives, as well as researching aspects of medieval history, including examples from Kent. For his lecture, Toby had chosen to recount the various stages that he had gone through from the successful completion of his doctoral thesis in 2010, when he graduated from the University of Kent and also received the Hasted prize given by Kent Archaeological Society – another commemoration, to the publication of his book Stairway to Heaven, that examines the upper spaces of medieval cathedrals, churches and other buildings.

Although there is not space here to provide a summary of his lecture, I’ll just mention that firstly Toby described a few of the upper spaces that had particularly interested him: such as the relationship between the layout of the triforium at Canterbury Cathedral and St Leonard’s church at Hythe, the timber gallery, and the narrowness of the wall passages and stairs at Boxgrove Priory over the county boundary in West Sussex, and in Germany the arrangement of the early Gothic choir at Aachen Cathedral. Perhaps the most memorable image Toby showed was the upper passage above the chancel at Hythe lit by wax candles, an archaeological experimental reconstruction that illuminated (apologies for the pun) why uplighting may have been valued in the way it highlighted the moulding of the pillar capitals. If you want to know more about these fascinating architectural spaces, I recommend that you read Toby’s book – available from all good booksellers as it is often said.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a brief mention of a commemoration that may not have worked in the short term. Archbishop Simon Sudbury’s tomb, as I have mentioned before, is in Canterbury Cathedral, and I’m pretty sure the prior and senior monks in 1381 were keen to try to establish a new cult there. For many today, this system of belief is not seen as applicable but again as a medievalist I find such ideas can reveal much about medieval society. Consequently, as I explored in an essay in Monuments and Monumentality, edited by Michael Penman (Donington, 2013), the chronicler Thomas Walsingham of St Alban’s Abbey was keen to demonstrate that the archbishop had ‘died a death worth a martyr’s crown’ and that he too was capable, with divine assistance, of performing posthumous miracles. It is perhaps worth remembering that St Alban’s Abbey was also a major target of the rebels! Nevertheless, the prior and his brethren seem to have had limited success, as some of you may remember from a post about a year ago, but commemoration of the archbishop was revitalised at some point, possibly in the nineteenth century, and as I have shown again above the Christmas roses are a valued part of the link between cathedral and city – a good place to end.

Chaucer’s Pilgrims and the Becket Lecture

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Canterbury city’s late medieval seal (from Pedrick’s Borough Seals)

Earlier this week I was pleasantly surprised to see Dr Ryan Perry (University of Kent) on the BBC regional news talking about William Caxton’s printed version of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and why he would have chosen that book rather than a religious treatise to print when he first set up his print shop in London. As Ryan explained, Caxton was an astute business man who knew a ‘best-seller’ when he saw one, and this link between Becket and Canterbury, and Chaucer is still very much in place today, as it was in the late Middle Ages. Ryan was filmed standing inside the ‘Canterbury Tales’ experience in St Margaret’s Street, but this is far from the only location the TV producer could have chosen.

Even though ‘The Cheker of the Hope’ is long gone they could have filmed by the stone lion that still decorates the dragon post on the corner of the High Street and Mercery Lane, or at one of the other ‘inns’ where Chaucer’s and other medieval pilgrims presumably would have stayed on the High Street, in the Burgate, around the Bullstake (now the Buttermarket), or in ‘Westgatestrete’ (site of ‘The Cornysh Chogh’), to name just the main locations. Alternately, the film crew might have gone to the city’s museum in Stour Street, if it had been open, in the old Poor Priests’ Hospital where Ryan could have shown off the matrix of the city’s late medieval seal with its representation of Becket’s murder; or looking at the seal itself in the cathedral archives, as it appears attached to a 14th-century document belonging to the Dean & Chapter, Christ Church Priory’s successors; or in Canterbury Cathedral Library where the majority of the entry about St Thomas of Kent was likely cut out in the mid-16th century from The Golden Legend, printed by Caxton’s successor Wynkyn de Worde in 1493. Finally, the BBC’s production team could have filmed Ryan in the cathedral itself, and again there are several choices – from the Martyrdom to the Corona to the site of the great shrine, now marked by the chandelier which presumably initially held the cover that was lowered over the shrine at specific times in the annual cycle of commemoration of the saint after 1220 – but perhaps more than all these places, Ryan could have stood below one of the Becket windows.

As I’m sure you know most of these beautiful windows portray scenes relating to the ‘miracles’ by St Thomas recorded by Benedict and William in the aftermath of Becket’s death. Thus the original windows pre-date Chaucer’s pilgrims by about two centuries. Nonetheless, even though Chaucer never actually got his pilgrims to Canterbury and the shrine, an enterprising author, perhaps one of the Canterbury monks, remedied that PR defect and, as I have said before, recounted their visit to the shrine, which included looking at the great stained glass windows. Being good tourists as well as pilgrims, some of them also toured the city to observe the sights, as well as partaking of refreshment and other hospitality at ‘The Cheker’. And it is these two strands: writers and writings of late medieval Canterbury, and the Becket stained glass that I want to feature this week.

Working chronologically, both in terms of subject matter and when these events will take place, I first want to mention the Tenth Becket Lecture that will take place at Canterbury Christ Church University on Thursday 28 January at 6pm (drinks available from 5.30pm). As in the last few years the lecture will take place in Old Sessions House in the large lecture theatre and this year it is to be given by Dr Rachel Koopmans, Associate Professor of History at York University in Toronto, Canada and an Associate Fellow of Toronto’s Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies. Some of you may know Dr Koopmans because she gave a lecture at Canterbury Cathedral Archives & Library last year to a packed house on the Ancestor windows, but this time she will be turning her attention to the Becket ‘miracle windows’. Her chosen topic is an assessment not just of the medieval representations of the miracle-working saint but also the replacement with modern glass as a result of the actions of iconoclasts, especially men such as ‘Blue Dick’ Culmer during the Civil War period. As Rachel will explain both sets of glass are important (medieval and modern) for they can tell us about technical details, but, just as important, social, religious and cultural aspects of the society in which they were constructed and viewed – the bringing together of producers and consumers, and their continuing engagement with the legacy of this long-ago murdered archbishop. I’m sure this will be a fascinating lecture and Rachel is the obvious scholar to give it, not least because she is currently working on a new catalogue and study of the Thomas Becket ‘miracle windows’ at Canterbury. Moreover, she recently published a highly acclaimed book on medieval collections of miracle stories, so Canterbury is fortunate to have her.

The other strand I’ll just mention very briefly at this stage is Professor Peter Brown’s lecture for the Medieval Canterbury Weekend that will explore several texts in English, including one on sin and salvation that a monk from St Augustine’s Abbey translated into Kentish dialect in the mid-14th century. Another he will cover is the text noted above – the enterprising continuation of Chaucer’s most famous work. As Peter will explain, we also know the cathedral monks were reading poems by Thomas Hoccleve, as well as Chaucer, and one of those linked to Hoccleve still survives in Canterbury Cathedral Archives and is one of only two extant copies. So if you have not looked at the details for the Medieval Canterbury Weekend, 1–3 April 2016 [www.canterbury.ac.uk/medieval-canterbury], I would recommend you do so because there are also other talks about relics, pilgrims and pilgrimage, and much, much more.

Becket, Pilgrims and Canterbury

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A ‘medieval pilgrim’, several ‘peasants’ and townspeople, and the ‘Black Prince’ attend Evensong

About this time last year I was musing about Archbishop Sudbury and the subject of commemoration, a fitting topic for the last week in December. This year I’m going to start with another murdered archbishop because today, of course, is the anniversary of Thomas Becket’s martyrdom in his own cathedral in 1170. Although I did not attend Evensong this evening when those events will have been remembered through an embellishment to the service that involves the archbishop leading the congregation to the Martyrdom, while the lay clerks continue Vespers in the quire. The events at the Martyrdom having been retold to the lay onlookers, the archbishop takes the congregation down to the crypt, where Thomas’ mangled body was similarly taken, the choir, as the monks, joining the assembled masses in the crypt for the remainder of the service. Much of this movement is undertaken by candlelight, greatly enhancing the atmosphere of this most evocative of services.

Today among the congregation were a number in medieval costume (see photo above), who had joined a ‘medieval pilgrim’ from Southampton, according to the ‘Black Prince’ whom I spoke to while he was resting by the Welcome Centre. My informant said the pilgrim had chosen Southampton as his starting point because he had located a medieval pilgrimage account which had begun there, but I did not have time to ask him whether this route had taken him first north to Winchester before, in effect, coming across country along the North Downs. Having visited Holy Cross Hospital near Winchester several years ago, this still magnificent medieval hospital that now functions as a modern almshouse, I’m assuming that he had indeed stopped off there too to receive the pilgrim’s fare of bread and beer (when I went I got a mince pie, so he may have been equally fortunate). Such a stopping off place is highly appropriate because not only can it be seen as the pilgrimage route from St Swithun’s shrine in Winchester to St Thomas’ shrine at Canterbury, but Cardinal Beaufort, the great founder and benefactor of Holy Cross had a rather nice house built for himself in Canterbury Cathedral precincts, the magnificent Meister Omers, now used by the Kings School. Not that Beaufort enjoyed it for long, dying in 1447soon after its completion, but such was the stature of the man, and that he had entered into confraternity at Christ Church in 1433, that the prior at Christ Church almost gave him free rein to have what he wanted, especially as he was footing the bill.

However to return to the topic of commemoration and more specifically looking back at the high points in the Centre’s past year, I’m just going to mention a few. The first is the ‘New Directions since Joan Thirsk’ joint conference (with Kent Archaeological Society) last March, which did commemorate her work on Kent rural society, as well as illustrating the exciting new lines of research taking place among the next generation of scholars. In a packed day an appreciative audience heard from eight speakers covering a wide range of topics from the activities of religious dissenters in the Weald (Dr Lorraine Flisher) to systems of patronage through the use of dedicatory manuscripts among the Protestant gentry (Dr Claire Bartram).

Another topic covered was what tithe disputes can tell us about friction and conflict in the countryside (Dr Paula Simpson), and this theme was discussed again by Dr John Bulaitis at the Nightingale Memorial Lecture, a joint undertaking with the Agricultural Museum, Brook. John’s fascinating lecture focused on events in the early 1930s when Kent was one of the main hotspots in these quite often acrimonious encounters between farmers (tithe payers) and the police and other authorities. As he discussed, such actions by both sides should not be envisaged as some little local difficulty or only of significance to those living in the countryside, for the ramifications of these conflicts were felt nationally – the farmers’ march down London’s Embankment and the links that were established with Moseley’s Black Shirts. As I noted a few weeks ago, John is intending to expand on his work on these disputes and is hoping to have a conference on tithe in 2017 – watch this space.

The role of conflict within the body politic was very much in evidence in several events linked to Magna Carta that involved a number of Canterbury Christ Church staff, although primarily Professor Louise Wilkinson. As one of the three leaders of the funded Magna Carta project, Louise has had a very busy year dashing around the globe giving lectures about the role and importance of Magna Carta to a host of groups and organisations. Closer to home she organised a one-day conference on the implications of Magna Carta in Kent, the large lecture theatre in Old Sessions almost filled to capacity. As well as being joined by Professors David Carpenter and Nicholas Vincent, among her packed programme were others from Christ Church including Richard Eales, who spoke about the charter’s legacy in the later thirteenth century.

However it was not just large gatherings that involved the Centre, Louise and Magna Carta because she was also involved with putting on joint exhibitions with the Canterbury Museums Service and the Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Library, including a family trail. In addition she was also heavily involved in a day of workshops at the cathedral and in the archives, working with a group who were looking at the implications of Magna Carta for disadvantaged groups. By exploring the historical details of Magna Carta and how it has been appealed to by subsequent constituencies, the group was able to construct its own charter, which later formed part of an exhibition at the Beaney.

One topic that has loomed large in the public consciousness, and will do so for several years to come is, of course, the Great War. In addition to his lecture on the St Gregory’s war memorial in November 2014, Dr Martin Watts led a team from History and English Literature to look at the Great War and its legacy through several lectures and workshops last summer. Even though it was a relatively small group of participants, this helped to a degree because it provided opportunities for lots of discussion. Moreover, by encouraging participants to bring objects linked to these themes and asking them to talk about them as part of a more general discussion, Martin was able to engage more of his audience and such was the nature of the day that it was difficult to get people to leave – a sure sign of success!

So what of 2016? Well there is the Medieval Canterbury Weekend to look forward to and this is very much under way with tickets selling well. I’ll also be contacting medieval departments across the country’s universities again to make sure the message has got through about the postgraduate medieval poster competition. Dr Diane Heath has a short article in the online History Today that is talking about pilgrim tokens and also drawing attention to those lectures by Professor Vincent and Dr Diana Webb at the Weekend that will be featuring aspects of pilgrimage. We are hoping to do similar articles and features elsewhere in the run-up to the Weekend. A second medieval event will be the Becket lecture which will, I believe, be given by Dr Rachel Koopmans on Canterbury’s stained glass; while a third will be the publication of Early Medieval Kent, 800–1220, hopefully in the early summer, and this will be marked in some way, although not yet planned. What is further advanced is Martin Watts’ one-day conference on the history of Richborough, which will be in late June. More on that will be posted anon. Thus 2016 looks as though it will be an exciting year for the Centre, and again this sense of looking back into history will be much in evidence, whether it is remembering the appallingly heavy casualties at the Somme or the implications of Harold’s defeat at Hastings.

Ian Coulson and Kent

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Ian Coulson – supporting the KAS study day ay Holy Trinity church, Folkestone

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.

So to return to the end, as a lifelong biker it was only fitting that ‘Ian’s last ride’ should be in the sidecar of a motorbike ridden away from Wye parish church on a grey December afternoon to the sound of clapping and an initially stuttering bike engine – maybe it too didn’t really want to say goodbye. The crowd who stood there applauding was so great that it stopped the traffic for a few minutes in the centre of Wye, again fitting because Ian has been so influential there over several decades, and particularly after Imperial College set out to close Wye College and dismantle this ancient institution, sometimes literally, for all the time he cared about the local community – its people, buildings, heritage and future.

This send-off came as the climax of a special sort-of funeral where the packed church, including those standing at the back, heard from five close friends and/or sometime colleagues who spoke about five of Ian’s passions: basketball, motorbikes, teaching, advising and history, their reflections topped and tailed by the incumbent, Ravi Holy, who brought a lovely touch of Anglican inclusivity to the proceedings, and, of course, he is dead right (please excuse the pun) because the notion of all belonging to a parish and thus coming under the care of the parish is a responsibility Anglicans acquired from their medieval ecclesiastical forebears.

Now for those who are interested in these areas of Ian’s life I would strongly suggest that you look at ‘Ian Coulson: In Memoriam’ www.thinkinghistory.co.uk but here I’m just going to mention the project linked to Canterbury Christ Church that Ian was heavily involved in before the Centre came into being; a foretaste you might say of his desire to bring academic historians, professional archaeologists, members of the general public, and mostly particularly schoolchildren together to work on a shared goal. The HLF-funded project ‘A Town Unearthed’ looked at Folkestone’s past from a very wide range of angles, and, as well as Christ Church (Lesley Hardy and Paul Dalton) and Ian, the other partner was Canterbury Archaeological Trust (Andrew Richardson, Keith Parfitt, Marion Green, Paul Bennett and others). One of the tangible results of this collaboration was the book on the history of Folkestone: Folkestone to 1500: A Town Unearthed, which Ian both edited and provided a chapter on late medieval Folkestone – in exchange for producing a schools pack on Lady Anne Clifford for me, I did some work on a rental and the late medieval wills of Folkestone for him. For those of you who have seen it, it has the Coulson touch – lots of relevant colour photos of objects, reconstructions, landscape features, archaeological sites, and what he also believed were invaluable: maps and plans.

Equally telling are the photos of people – pot washing volunteers, looking into and out of the Folkestone People’s History Centre, and walking across Castle Hill while Ian or another of the project team explained what could be seen and why this mattered in Folkestone’s evolution. This enthusiastic engagement, the teaching of well-researched history, the ability to explain the complex simply without losing either the audience or the subtly of the topic that gave Ian his mastery, and it was a skill he was keen to share with others, whether officially (when he had been a school advisor/inspector) or unofficially. So yes, the Folkestone project produced results in terms of items that could be ticked off, but probably just as importantly it gave locals a stake in their town’s history and heritage, they had been central to the project’s success.

So what of Ian’s other activities? I’ll just very briefly mention two. Although perhaps not the initiator he was most definitely the driving force of the Kent History Project, the idea that KCC would publish ten chronological volumes on the history of the county, and if there was space and time other thematic volumes. Well driving this project was been a far more uphill struggle than Ian must have envisaged at the beginning. However the end is in sight and even though I had really hoped to get the final volume on Early Medieval Kent, 800–1220 out before he died, at least he knew it almost there. Perhaps just as importantly he knew Staplehurst south porch door will be featured on the cover with its 11th-century ironwork of 2-headed snakes, birds, fish …; fitting also because Ian and Liz lived there before moving east. The other activity I want to mention is Ian’s presidency of the KAS. Ian in his early years as president, with the able assistance of Peter Stutchbury and others, began with some difficulty the process of bringing the organisation into the 21st century. Although this was still a work in progress when Ian fell ill, his legacy is already there in, amongst other things, the new look Archaeologia Cantiana. And finally, it is worth recording that this nicest of men was an accomplished cartoonist and a fan of the Oysterband – you cannot ask for more than that in a great friend. Ian, it was privilege to know you.

Canterbury, the Centre and knitting

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The exquisite carving of Archbishop Bourchier’s tomb, Canterbury Cathedral

Now that the Canterbury Christ Church campus is almost deserted, the students having finished last Friday and only a few stalwarts in the School still working in their offices today, it seems a good time to bring you up to date with the thinking of members within the Centre about future plans. As you might expect these are quite diverse and range from Dr Lesley Hardy’s desire to concentrate on Public History to Dr John Bulaitis’ proposal to hold a conference in 2017 on ‘Tithe through Time’, a subject that he feels has considerable merit as a means of understanding social tensions in the countryside from medieval to modern times. Not that Kent was the only county where such disputes have been much in evidence over the centuries, but Kent has been a definite hotbed, as Dr Paul Simpson has shown for the late medieval and sixteenth centuries and John, himself, for the modern period and especially the 1930s. However it is intended that this conference will be more wide-ranging geographically than just Kent, bringing in people who can discuss tithe in the West Country, East Anglia and Wales, through the ties with Methodism.

As I have reported before, John is involved in the community archaeological project in Shepherdswell where he lives. The group has done some surveying of the area as well as digging and members have so far unearthed Anglo-Saxon personal decorative items, an Iron Age ditched enclosure, and perhaps the most exciting, a ‘very big post hole’ containing ‘Iron Age’ pottery. The group intends to do more work on the site under the guidance of a trained archaeologists, and in collaboration with Keith Parfitt, of Canterbury Archaeological Trust, and the volunteer Dover team.

Such a project is one of several across the county under experienced, trained archaeologists who are passionately interested in their part of Kent, as well as wishing to see it within the bigger picture across the county and also nationally and sometimes internationally. For example, I’m here thinking of the Anglo-Saxon people that Dr Andrew Richardson has described on either side of the North Sea in the fifth century onwards, for whom jewellery types can be used as markers, denoting trade and other links over considerable differences. For more on this I would suggest Andrew’s essay in Early Medieval Kent, 800-1220 which will be available next summer – a long awaited volume!

Other matters that came up at the Centre’s strategy meeting were ideas about inter-active digital mapping of the county’s history – the chance to click on a particular place on a route, for example, to find out about the particular places pilgrims or other travellers visited between Dover and Canterbury or through Maidstone to Canterbury by way of the Holy Rood at Boxley, the monks there apparently cashing on the pilgrims’ devotions, in addition to the spiritual benefits that were on offer. Dr Elizabeth Eastlake of the University of Winchester has worked extensively on the house’s economy and how it managed its estates, including its Romney marshlands.

Stronger links between Quex Park and members of the Centre was also seen as a good idea. This has been led by Dr Sara Wolfson so far, but others likely to become more involved in the near future are Drs Diane Heath and Lesley Hardy. However if there are sources from the English Civil War period Professor Jackie Eales may investigate further. Moreover, there may be opportunities for postgraduates to work on the archives at Quex Park, and a further possibility mooted was work experience for students as part of Christ Church’s commitment to enhancing student employability.

Shakespeare 400 will be with us in 2016, and this is likely to involve staff from the Centre, both as individuals responding and working with outside groups such as the BBC, but also as an initiative particularly through English and Dr Claire Bartram. This is likely to focus on Canterbury and Dover. However the Records of Early English Drama (REED) indicate that playing companies in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries did visit several Kentish towns, often playing before the mayor and his brethren, these events recorded as a consequence of the food and drink purchased, in addition to other costs. Drama in Kent has a very long history and hopefully it will not be too long before the records from the diocese of Rochester are also published to complement those for Canterbury. Dr James Gibson worked on both projects, and hopefully he and I will be publishing an article on the New Romney Passion Play next year in an edited collection on medieval drama.

I have mentioned Dr Martin Watts’ various projects before, whether it is the First World War port of Richborough or his work on Whitstable Maritime, and he and I are also putting together a preliminary proposal regarding a taught Masters degree on Kentish History. We are making good progress on this and hopefully the draft will be ready to be passed on to Professor Eales, as one of the directors of the Centre, in January. We envisage that as well as appealing to perhaps more mature students, it may attract third-year undergraduates from Christ Church who can see the benefit of staying on for an extra year to acquire greater research skills, other transferrable skills, and the opportunity to investigate the rich archival resources from Kent.

Finally, I just thought I would take you back into the Canterbury city court records that I touched on a few weeks ago because I have been in the Canterbury Cathedral Archives & Library again this week. I’m still mainly looking for evidence of women as independent workers, like Margery Amet who as a sole merchant of Canterbury found herself before the courts accused by John Hamon of being in debt to him. In this case there are no further details but in others the common clerk was more expansive. For example, in what was said to involve a violent assault and the stealing of personal property in St George’s parish and Newingate ward, Joan Coke was accused by John Foster of taking a mazer (large drinking cup) that was decorated with silver and silvergilt and was valued at 26s8d. In other cases the widow was expected to administer matters relating to her deceased husband’s goods, as happened when Cornelius Wilmynson brought an action for debt against Margaret Jonson, her late husband having died intestate. It was not always much better if the husband had made a will before dying, however the widow might at least have the support of her fellow executors. As in the case of Agnes who was joined by Dom. Thomas Halywell when they sued Nicholas Shaldwich over payment relating to a transaction by William Faunt, her late spouse, over 60 ‘buns’ (type of barrel) of single and double beer; and Agnes and Thomas were also aided by her new husband Edward Bolney. And finally, even though it does not relate to women, I found another debt case from the same year (1489/90) that involves items I have never met before: ‘6 knyttyng nedils’ and ‘yearn’, which I’m assuming was used for the making of hose. If anyone knows anything about the early history of such items I would be interested to hear.