MARKENFIELD HALL & THE MARKENFIELD BROTHERS, THOMAS AND ROBERT

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Markenfield Hall viewed through the Gatehouse.  A 14th century moated manor house and one time home to the Markenfields. Photo National Garden Scheme.

Markenfield Hall, near Ripon, Yorkshire is surely the epitome of a survivor of medieval manor houses.  The building of the Hall begun in 1230 and was rebuilt and enlarged by John de Markenfield c.1310.  This Markenfield,  d. by 1323,  was  an unpleasant man, one of Edward II’s leading officials ,  and was given permission to crenellate in 1310 when he became Chancellor of the Exchequer.

“Licence to John de Merkyngfeld, king’s clerk, to crenellate his dwelling house at Merkyngfeld co. York. 2 Feb. 1310

Merkyngfeld rose high but would appear to have been an objectionable brute who stooped to commit rape for which he was pardoned but not declared innocent.

‘Pardon to John de Merkynfeld, canon of the church of St Peter York, for the rape of Sybyl, late the wife of John de Metham, knight, whereof he was indicted’ (1). 

Eventually John Merkynfeld/Markenfield would, unsurprisingly,  be excommunicated.

The Hall was steadily improved by the Markenfields who came after,  until disaster struck in 1569 when it was confiscated from them and metamorphosed into  a farm.    However the house, which has been continuously inhabited in one way or another since it was built has now been fully and lovingly restored.     It’s an irony that such a violent and aggressive bully left behind him such a glorious legacy that is Markenfield Hall.  However tempist frugit and the house remained in the Markenfields hands for many generations passed down through a succession of  heirs, most confusingly named Thomas.

THE CHAPEL

One debt of gratitude owed to the odious John is  the completion in 1310 of the Chapel of St Michael the Archangel built in the heart of the Hall.   It was in this chapel on the 20 November 1569 that one of the Markenfields, another Thomas,  and the leaders of The Rising of the North gathered to hear a Catholic Mass before their departure on their doomed enterprise.    During the time of the Hall’s life as a farm the chapel was used by the farmers as a storage area for their grain and it is only by sheer good luck that the glorious 14th century piscina and traceried east window have survived unscathed.

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14th century double piscina in the Chapel with the Markenfield  family arms.   Piscinas were situated near altars and used by priests for washing their hands and chalices. 

Although the Hall had its own chapel, most family members were buried in their chantry chapel at Ripon Cathedral founded in 1345 by Andrew de Merkyngfeld c.1311 d.1365.

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Sir Thomas Markenfield  born c.1340 d.1398.  Effigy in the Markenfield chantry chapel, dedicated to St Andrew, east side of the north transept Ripon Cathedral. Fought in the Hundred Years War in France.

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Sir Thomas’ interesting collar depicting a stag in a little field within a fence. This is thought to have marked his adherence to Richard II whose emblem was a white hart.  However it is also thought it was a rebus/pun on the family name  ‘Mark in Field’ – a mark being the quarry in a hunt.  Perhaps it was both….

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Richard IIs badge The White Hart from the Wilton Diptych.  The National Gallery

Among the later owners of the Hall in the 15th century and those turbulent times known as the Wars of the Roses was yet another Thomas:   

Sir Thomas Markenfield born c.1447 d.June 20 1497.  Sir Thomas married Elinor Conyers daughter of Sir John Conyers who had connections to Middleham.   Their second  son, Ninian, born c.1476 was named after one of Richard III’s favourite saints.  Sir Thomas was one of  the  loyal followers of the king as well as to be counted among Richard’s personal friends and who may have been  a God father to Ninian.  Joining the service of the then 19 year old Richard Duke of Gloucester,  and Thomas being around 24 years of age,  it’s easy to imagine that they could have gravitated to each other.  Well awarded Thomas also went on to become  Knight of the Body by December 1484,  Justice of the Peace for Somerset in 1484 as well as  Commissioner of Array for both Somerset and in all Ridings of Yorkshire that same year.   Richard also made him Sheriff of Yorkshire.   Thomas would support Richard in suppressing the Buckingham rebellion for which he was generously rewarded with a grant of confiscated estates in Somerset to the value of £100 p.a. doubling his landed income and was named in the Harleian Manuscript 542  as being among those who came to Richard on the eve of Bosworth to fight for their king (2).    Certainly as A J Pollard succinctly puts it ‘he did what he agreed to do; he served his lord loyally and faithfully for life,  that is for the rest of Richard III’s life’ (3 ).   Sir Thomas was to survive Bosworth and pardoned by Henry Tudor lived the latter years of his life in quiet retirement at Markenfield Hall dying there aged about 50.  He was buried in Ripon Cathedral where his tomb survives today in the Markenfield chantry chapel, after requesting in his will to be buried before the altar ’emonge the beriall of myn ancestors’.  

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The tomb and effigies of Sir Thomas and his wife Elinor Conyers, sadly in poor condition.  Ripon Cathedral.  Photo Rex Harris @Flickr

Thomas’ brother Robert now makes an appearance in the story.    On the 3 March 1484 just a few short days after Elizabeth Wydeville and her daughters had left Westminster Abbey sanctuary on the Ist March, Richard III sent Robert Markenfield southwards to a small place in Devon called Coldridge or Holrig as it was called in the Harleian Manuscript 433 :

 ‘Robert Markyngfeld/the keping of the park of Holrig in Devoneshire during the kinges pleasure..’ (4 )

 Coldridge Manor and Park had belonged to Elizabeth Wydeville’s son, Thomas Grey,  Marquess of Dorset  who owned it through his Bonville wife.  However that is another story and covered in another post.  It seems perhaps rather odd that after Thomas had been so amply rewarded by Richard,  his brother was merely sent South to a backwater in Devon.    There is a plausible theory that no other than Edward V had been living in Coldridge incognito under the watchful eye of his Grey half brother.  Could it be that Robert, who prima facie appears not to have been held in such high regard as Thomas by Richard III was in actual fact the opposite and was sent on a mission of the most utmost importance and confidentiality.    That is to safeguard the man known as John Evans who may have been the king’s nephew.  Certainly around the time of Bosworth Robert, who like his brother was pardoned by Henry Tudor,  left Coldridge,  which was eventually returned to Grey and moved to nearby Wembworthy where he become an associate of Sir John Speke who is believed to  have supported Perkin Warbeck.  As far as is known Robert Markenfield, lived out the rest of his life in Devon.

Tragedy was to overtake the family when one of the latter Markenfields, Ninian’s grandson, Thomas,  was to lose the Hall after falling foul of the Tudors by involvement in the disastrous Rising of the North  in 1569.  This Thomas, described by a contemporary as  “rash, daring and too wildely yonge” fled England with other family members  and is said to have eventually died of starvation in Brussels in August 1592.  After the Hall was  confiscated from the Markenfields it became sadly neglected  by a succession of absentee landlords who let it out to various tenant farmers and their families.

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An old photo of Markenfield Hall showing the Courtyard and  Gatehouse in its life as a farm…

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The Tudor Gatehouse in a dilapidated condition.  Old sepia postcard.

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The Gatehouse today.  Photo Lenora Genovese @ Flickr

However this was to prove to be something of a blessing in disguise because for the next 200 hundred years none of the tenant farmers had neither the money nor the inclination to ‘do‘ the Hall up.  Thus its glories were merely plastered or wallpapered over but not destroyed.    Finally in the 20th century the Hall has now been lovingly restored to its former glory by the Grantley family who are descendants of the Markenfield family.  In the words of Anthony Emery, an expert on English medieval houses : ‘The berm is beflowered and the moat beautifully kept….’ and thus may it continue so for another 700 years.  

  1. Markenfield Hall   I have found much information in the many short articles to be found on this link  and I would recommend it to those who would like to delve more deeply into the Hall.  
  2. Sir Thomas Markenfield and Richard III p8 A J Pollard.
  3.  Ibid p.10
  4. Harleian Manuscript 433 p.140 Vol One.

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THE BETRAYAL OF RICHARD III BY V B LAMB – A Book Review..

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Artist Emma Vieceli

This book is a little gem.  Written by the late Vivien Beatrix Lamb and first published in 1959 it’s no surprise that it’s still in print and a new edition available from The Richard III Society online shop with an introduction and notes by  Peter Hammond.    I first bought my copy over 45 years ago when I was happy to discover it as there was then rather a dearth of Ricardian books.  Some very good books have been written since then but this little book, 127 pages, remains among my favourites.  Jogging along nicely with the most pertinent points of Richard’s reign  succinctly and vividly covered,  it could also be a useful aide-mémoire for those seeking to refresh their memories on certain points.   

The author dedicated her book to Sir Francis Bacon, which contains several quotes from Bacon’s eloquent pen.  The foreward tells the reader the purpose of the book is to examine very briefly the foundations on which one of the most famous legends in English history has been written and it’s  refreshing  to read, in a time when the consensus of opinion seems to have  been that Richard was a bad man, that ‘the evidence is so flimsy and of a suspect nature that a modern jury, would, I think rightly consider that there is no case to answer to

Making a beginning with Henry VI, who after a ‘long and disturbed minority had grown in a saintly but feeble witted man quite unfitted to rule a turbulent kingdom’ and who remarked upon the birth of his son Edward, ‘that this must have been through the agency of the Holy Ghost’  Mrs Lamb opines that however pleasing such divine intervention might have been to the saintly king, it was ‘hardly calculated to inspire confidence in his subjects’.  

The author then moves on to Edward IV.   Edward took the throne, aged just 19,  after his father’s death at Wakefield when it ‘seemed the White Rose of York had withered past revival’ and is described as ‘a leader of men and a lover of women’ who was also when he ‘chose to exert himself, a brilliant commander and a shrewd man of business’.

Edward’s calamitous Woodville ‘marriage’ is described as  ‘a rather furtive little May-day ceremony which doomed his dynasty and his whole family to extinction’ and  ‘an act of supreme folly that cast a shadow over the bright future of York which was never to lift until it swallowed up the glory on an August day at Bosworth twenty one years later. Edward’s reign with its ups and downs is well covered  until his sudden death in 1483 culminated in an outbreak of feverish activity by the Queen and her family’.  The results of all this are skilfully described, including the dramatic climax in the council chamber at the Tower of London on the 13th June.  The Talbot pre-contract,  i.e. marriage,  is covered and mention of the letter written by Cicely Neville to her son, Edward, imploring him not to commit the sin of bigamy’(More).   The author observes with regard to the sudden and unexpected revelation of  pre-contract :  ‘Richard’s behaviour up to the middle of June is inconsistent with his having any knowledge of the story true or false. His actions are those of a man who has been committed to a certain course of action and his plans are suddenly and violently upset’. 

Richard’s accession to the throne appeared to have been met by the common people with ‘equanimity’,  while  ‘his actions showed that he was determined to justify his acceptance of the crown by the exercise of mercy and justice. Unfortunately he had to deal with too many who did not know the meaning of either word.  However whispers that the lives of Edward’s sons were in danger begun swirling around encouraged by the Woodville  bloc and those who still secretly favoured the house of Lancaster ‘reviving the hopes so precariously based on the slender claim of Henry Tudor’.  

The book now moves on to the crux of the matter:  Richard leaving London too soon before consolidating his position there, his joyous welcome from the people of York, and then Buckingham’s  ‘astounding’ and still unexplained change of allegiance’.  Buckingham’s incompetence plus the flooding of the River Severn proved his undoing, a fleeting respite in the betrayal of Richard.  Personal tragedy was soon to follow with the deaths of his son and wife followed by the appalling betrayal of Bosworth.  

The author does not mince her words with who was to blame for that betrayal and the reader will need no reminding of the duplicity of the Stanleys and Margaret Beaufort.  Mrs Lamb wrote  ‘Entirely faithful himself he was unable to recognise treachery in others or to deal with it with sufficient ruthlessness when it became obvious. His leniency towards traitors was both remarkable and fatal.   It cost him his crown,  his life and his reputation’

The book continues with the aftermath of Richard’s death and the problems besetting Henry VII such Titulus Regius, and various Pretenders to the throne.  Thus a new legend had to be born out of necessity.  Mrs Lamb has devoted several chapters to this legend and ultimate betrayal of the dead king,  including the story of Perkin Warbeck claiming to be Richard,  the youngest son of Edward,  whose arrival was greeted with ‘intense excitement.  In Bacon’s vivid words the news that the real Duke of York was about to claim his inheritance come ‘blazing and thundering over into England’.   The supposed murders in the Tower went by the board showing that they had never been seriously believed and that the people were too ready to discard a story which had never been proved…’

However the Pretenders were seen off and in 1541 with the execution of the aged Countess of Salisbury the last of the Plantagenets had been annihilated.  Part of the summary of the book reads:  For all practical purposes the Tudors had now succeeded in their aim to exterminate the family whose throne they had usurped. Compared to their record Richard’s supposed crimes pale into insignificance. Richard has gone down to history as a monster while the Tudors,  father and son, are looked on,  the one as dull and miserly but respectable and the other as Bluff King Hal, uncomfortable as a husband certainly but otherwise not a bad sort.  This especially applies to Henry VII who even today is perceived by some as the gallant young hero destined by divine Providence to save England from the grip of the bloody tyrant Richard whose every action is attributed to basic motives’.  

However the author points out  ‘Security was something which neither Henry nor any of his immediate descendants  ever enjoyed in their hearts. They all suffered in some degree from the inferiority complex of the parvenu who knows that someone else is the rightful possessor of the position which he enjoys and this sense of insecurity lies behind all the horrifying cruelties of the Tudor rule and also explains the unrelenting hatred with which successive Tudors continued to pursue the memory of the last king of the house which they had supplanted till the monstrous distortion of a man which Henry had invented and fostered become generally accepted.

The enigma of the missing princes is discussed in depth.    It’s uplifting to hear that the author believed they were quite likely moved to a place of safety which would have been in keeping with Richard’s honourable reputation –  for had not Edward IV felt no hesitation in ‘committing the safety of his wife and children and the welfare of his countryto his brother?     This makes a refreshing change from the old  and boring chestnut of who was responsible for their ‘murders’ when there is no evidence they were actually murdered.  To this end Tyrell’s role in the story is analysed as is his ‘confession’.   

Since this book was written in the 1950s it’s now happily  commonplace for more balanced and enlightened views of Richard although sadly the tragic ending doesn’t change.     Although its  dispiriting that some historians and authors still give credence to the hearsay of Sir Thomas More and others of his ilk  I’m sure the author of The Betrayal of Richard III would be enormously pleased with the great progress that has been made in clearing Richard’s name.   Bravo Mrs V B Lamb!

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19th century etching of the Battle of Bosworth.  Artist unknown.

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THE MEDIEVAL PRIORY AND HOSPITAL OF ST MARY SPITAL

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Artists impression of how St Mary Spital may have appeared before the Dissolution.  Museum of London.  Artist Faith Vardy.  

St. Mary Spital Augustinian Priory and Hospital covered the area known today as Spital Square.  Standing outside the city walls it was bordered from the west by Bishopsgate Street where entrance was via the Great Gate and to the north  where  Folgate Street now stands.  Stand today in the square and you will feel swallowed up by the high rise modern buildings constructed from stark unforgiving  steel and glass and yet the ground plan of the Priory still survives today if you look carefully enough.

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The site of the Priory and hospital of St Mary Spital – Agas Map c.1560-70.   The main entrance would have been from Bishopsgate Street via the Great Gate.  This Gate may have stood at where today’s Spital Square joins Bishopsgate Street and opposite the road then known as Hog Lane,  now known as Primrose Street, the beginning of which can be seen on this section of the map…see red circle.The line of trees at the top of the map represents a lane that later evolved into Folgate Street. Although the Priory and Hospital had been swept away when this map was made its ghost remains traceable in modern day Bishopsgate/Spitalfields.

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Bishopsgate and Spital Square today.  Primrose Street and Spital Square Road opposite each other merge into Bishopsgate.  At the top you can see where the line of trees from the Agas map had developed into Folgate Street.   Amazingly Elder Garden, circled in red,  still survives in the same area and oblong shape as the one in the Agas map.    The artillery area covered where the church, cloister and canons refectory/dining room stood.   The shape of the artillery area is still discernible in what is now Spitalfields market, bottom of map. 

The precise position of the Great Gate has not been proven conclusively but there is reason to believe that it was where Spitalfield Square Road opens up and opposite Primrose Street.  The highly detailed Copperplate map shows, at that position,  a long roof which could have been the remains of the Gate House. 

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The Copperplate map c.1557.   Middle left – the road now known as Primrose Street merges into Bishopsgate opposite what could be the Great Gate House standing at what is now the beginning of Spital Square Road.  

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Plan of St Mary Spital.  With thanks to researchgate.net

St Mary Spital founded in 1197 by Walter Brunus,  a wealthy merchant and citizen of London, and his wife Roisia, stood on the east side of Bishopsgate Street on land where once stood a Roman cemetery.   Originally known as the Priory of the Blessed Virgin Mary without Bishopsgate, sometimes known as the New Hospital  of St Mary without Bishopsgate, later shortened St Mary Spital.   By the way  –  the Latin word “hospitali” had mutated variously into Spital,  Spital House, Spittal or even ‘Spytell’.     Sir Robert Gresham, Lord Mayor,  in his letter to Thomas Cromwell , August 1538 mentioned : 

“Nere and within the citie of London be iij hospitalls or spytells, commonly called Seynt Maryes Spytell, Seynt Bartholomewes Spytell and Seynt Thomas Spytell, and the new abby of Tower Hyll, founded of good devocion by auncient ffaders, and endowed with great possessions and rents onley for the releffe, comfort, and helyng of the poore and impotent people not beyng able to help themselffes, and not to the mayntennance of chanins, preestes, and monks to lyve in pleasure, nothyng regardyng the miserable people liying in every strete, offendyng every clene person passyng by the way with theyre fylthy and nasty savours.” 

Gresham was attempting to get a stay of execution for St Mary Spital.  He failed.

It was founded with the intention of  tending to ailing and weary pilgrims, the sick,  especially the poorer ones, people who had been injured and maimed in accidents and caring for pregnant women until their delivery, as well as looking after  the children of the  women who died there in childbirth, until they attained the  age of seven (1).   However it should be remembered it would not have been a hospital as we know it today,  obviously,  think church with beds in the aisles although St Mary’s also had a separate two story  infirmary built on the west side of the church in c 1320–50.  Possibly this smaller building may have been utilised for higher status patients.  It’s well-documented that royal servants,  such as a servant of Edward’s I’s confessor,  two of  Edward III’s yeomen,  a Robert de la Naperie maimed in the king’s service, as well as wealthy benefactors of the priory and infirmary such as John de Tany who died there in December 1315, were also cared for there as well poorer people.    As well as tending to the sick the focus would have been on prayers and the spiritual side of things.  

However not all went to plan all of the time.   A hiccup occurred in 1303 when during a visit  by the Archbishop of Canterbury it was revealed that lamps were no longer being lit between the patients beds as well as the sisters had not received their allowance of food, money or clothes.   The Archbishop ordered that the lamps should be returned and maintained for the ‘comfort’ of the sick with immediate effect.   That was not all for  the canons also managed to get themselves  reprimanded for disobedience –  ‘for frequenting the houses  of Alice la Faleyse and Matilda wife of Thomas’ .  Interestingly the houses where these ladies lived  were within the precincts of the hospital.  Hmmmmm  – what Thomas made of it who knows –  naughty, naughty canons.  However all good things come to an end and I’ll let Professor William Ayliffe of Gresham College take up the story here –

‘The Bishop of London then dismissed the prior and he appointed the sub-prior of St Bartholomew’s.  The reason they did that was that everybody trusted St Bartholomew’s.  They trusted it right the way through history.  Henry VIII trusted St Bartholomew’s, and in fact, he endowed some money to it.  The deposed prior, however, was not just sacked; he was treated rather like the head of some corporation in the City of London today.  He was given a room near the infirmary, a double allowance of bread, ale and fuel, forty shillings a year, and an allowance for his servant, who was given the astonishing amount of a gallon of beer, a loaf of black bread and a dish from the kitchen a day, and he also had a companion assigned to him.  This is really living it very well by medieval standards (2)’

The infirmary  was to become the largest  in medieval London, although St Leonard’s in York pipped it with just over 200 beds,  and was run by  twelve lay brothers and lay sisters under the supervision of a prior.  At the time of closure there was a total of 180 beds with two patients in each.    A list of parish churches and monasteries in London of about the mid-fifteenth century mentions  ~

’Seynt Marye Spetylle. A poore pryery, and a parysche chyrche in the same. And that pryory kepythe ospytalyte for pore men. And sum susters yn the same place to kepe the beddys for pore men that come to that place’

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The Wyngaerde map c.1543-1550. By the time the map was drawn up much of the Priory had been swept away.

However at the time of its dissolution in 1539 the fabric of the church was apparently already  in disrepair, as in August 1538, Sir Richard Gresham, reported to Thomas Cromwell that on the previous Wednesday afternoon the Rouffe and the Leedes and allssoo the Roodeloffte’ of the church had fallen down’ .  It’s possible the infirmary was in better condition because although twenty-five tons of lead had been received by James Needham, surveyor of the King’s manors, from the demolition of the Priory for the repair ofWestminster hall Rouff‘ by July 1540,  the sick were still occupying the hospital in December 1540, a lease granting them the right to there  lie for term of their lives (3).  However despite this slight respite for the patients, the Priory and hospital were utterly swept away – the precincts to become an artillery ground – with such thoroughness that nothing remains today except for the remains of a charnel house.  This charnel house was situated on the east side of the church in the cemetery and was discovered during major excavations carried out by Museum of London Archaeology in 1999-2002.    The upper floor of the charnel house had been used as a cemetery chapel in the early 14th century. Nothing remained of the chapel  but following the excavation the charnel house was preserved in situ and today can be viewed from behind glass below pavement level in Bishops Square.   

The cemetery had been in use for over 400 years until the Priory and its precincts were demolished in 1540.  During the London Museum excavations many single graves were found but also many multi layered burial pits.    These pits were thought to contain the victims of catastrophic events of high mortality such as plague.  There is also reason to believe that some of the remains in the pits were victims of famine which was not a stranger to Medieval London.  However all of the remains had clearly been buried with an obvious high level of  care and reverence and not merely tumbled in as was the case with some plague pits. The majority of bodies were aligned with heads to the west and feet facing east and  in some cases children were placed at the foot end of the grave, laid out north-south, apparently to make optimum use of the space within.  More information about this can be found here.

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One of the multi burials.  Clearly even in times of catastrophic and overwhelming events such as plague and famine, the canons ensured the people in their care were buried with prayers, reverence and kindness.  

Over 10,500 skeletons would be discovered of which 3000 were from the 13th century.  These large numbers of deaths have now been linked to a famine that is now thought to have been linked to a ‘devastating’ vulcano eruption in Indonesia.  This eruption may well have caused far flung  climate change which led to crop failures worldwide (5).

Following on from the Dissolution of the Monasteries the land that was not  turned into the Artilliary practice ground  was either given to those in royal favour or sold for the rich to build large residences upon.  In the late 17/18th centuries streets of beautiful houses such as Folgate Street were built which remained until the 1920s when most of them,  in their turn,  were razed to the ground – this time for the enlarging of the old Spitalfields market.  Such is progress.  Spital Square and its environs are now vibrant areas with people in droves using the eateries, shops and offices therein.     Not many of them as they go about their busy day to day lives realise that beneath the ground they walk on once stood the busiest Medieval Hospital in London, that took in the poorest, raised the babies of the mothers who died there in childbirth and provided a refuge and succour for medieval Londoners for almost 400 years.   

  1. BHO p21-23 Survey of London: Volume 27, Spitalfields and Mile End New Town
  2. William Ayliffe      ST BARTHOLOMEW’S HOSPITAL AND THE ORIGIN OF LONDON HOSPITALS
  3. The London Encyclopaedia p.763.  Edited by Ben Weinberg and Christopher Hibbert.
  4. BHO p21-23 Survey of London: Volume 27, Spitalfields and Mile End New Town
  5. A bioarchaeological study of medieval burials on the site of St Mary Spital: excavations at Spitalfields Market, London E1, 1991–2007 

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JUST WHY DID BUCKINGHAM THINK HE COULD CROSS THE FLOODED SEVERN?

With thanks to Viscountess at murreyandblue  for this interesting  guest post on why things went so very wrong for Henry Duke of Buckingham…

Buckingham and Flooded Severn

On St Luke’s Day, 18th October, in 1483, apparently egged on by that notorious Lancastrian plotter, John Morton, Bishop of Ely, Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham unfurled his banners in rebellion against his cousin, King Richard III. Morton was supposedly Buckingham’s prisoner, handed over to him by Richard for safe keeping. Safe keeping turned out to mean listening to Morton’s every seditious word and treating him as an honoured house guest. To make the king’s task all the more difficult, and to spread his resources thin, uprisings were already in progress elsewhere in England. Richard was therefore alert, and in swift action to secure his realm.

The whys and wherefores of Buckingham’s revolt are not of consequence for this article, because one thing about his action that 18th October has always bothered me. He was well acquainted with the Severn. He had to cross it every time he went to and from England from his stronghold in Brecon, so he would know the hazard it presented. This would be especially so at times of spring tides, and of the widespread floods that barred his way on this occasion. After ten days of endless rain and stormy weather, the river had burst its banks to a huge extent. Buckingham’s decision to cross anyway was not just unwise, but suicidal. Even allowing for a bridge, the approaches to which were miraculously not submerged, crossing over with an army of men would take time, and every minute counted when he was taking on a commander as clever and experienced as Richard. Maybe Buckingham felt that he had no choice. He had committed himself to join the rebellion, and maybe he saw some great prize in store if it succeeded. Maybe the prize was Richard’s crown.

Learning of Buckingham’s treachery, Richard called him “the most untrue creature living“, which is a measure of the hurt and incredulity he felt toward the second cousin upon whom he had showered rewards and position. Richard was no slouch when it came to military matters, and immediately ordered the destruction or blocking of all the bridges and river crossings that Buckingham might intend to use.  Richard wanted the duke trapped on the Severn’s western bank, where he was being harassed from behind by the Welsh Vaughan family. The longer his forces could be held back, the less secure his position became. Richard knew that soon the dissatisfied Welshmen forced into Buckingham’s service would begin to desert. Buckingham had never treated them well, and they resented him.

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Gloucester West Gate

Gloucester’s old West Gate

It is now generally agreed that Gloucester was Buckingham’s goal, because it provided the most direct route to London. But to cross there, over the long Westgate causeway that was raised over the channels of the Severn and the marshy island that lay between them, meant marching right through the city, for that was the only access and egress from the Welsh side. Did Buckingham have reason to think the gates would be flung open to him? The records suggest that choosing Gloucester was no last-minute decision, Buckingham had definitely intended all along to take that route, approaching through the Forest of Dean, so maybe he did have allies in the city. Or Morton did. It was to prove immaterial anyway, because the floods had turned the Severn into a sea. Buckingham and his army could not set foot on the causeway, let alone the city streets.

Tewkesbury on island in floods 2007

Tewkesbury Abbey on an “island” during the floods of 2007

The first crossing upstream of Gloucester was a ford just south of Tewkesbury at Lower Lode. Such a crossing would require very low river levels, which was most unlikely in October, around the equinox. In the middle of a hot, dry summer, perhaps. Otherwise, forget it. There was a ferry, of course…but imagine the time needed to convey a whole army, horses, weapons and all, even if the river were not in flood. With all that water, no ferryman would embark on such a hazardous exercise. The next bridge was at Upton on Severn, some way upstream, and had probably already been dealt with by Richard.

All factors concerning the arduous matter of crossing the Severn had been encountered in 1471 by Margaret of Anjou, prior to the Battle of Tewkesbury, and she did not have floods to deal with as well. She was trying to take her army into Wales. Buckingham was the other way around.

The warning signs would have been there for Buckingham and Morton all the way from Brecon, beginning with the River Usk which flowed past the castle and town. If the Usk was in spate on its way to the Bristol Channel and estuary, so too would be the next river to cross, the Wye, and finally the Severn itself. In between  the various streams in the Forest of Dean would no longer be sparkling, trickling, babbling little brooks, but  mini-torrents crashing their way down the gradual slope toward the sea.

The Severn still floods in prolonged bad weather, and is worse during the equinoxes. It sometimes floods in the summer too, as in July 2007. It is also subject all year around to a notorious wave, called a bore, that twice a day races in from the estuary and is confined and raised by the narrower channel of the river itself. Back then it could flow inland as far as Worcester. Now it is stopped at Maisemore weir, outside Gloucester. Some bores are small, some large, and in October are usually the latter. They swell any floods still more, and when the Severn bursts its banks, it spreads for miles.

Gloucestershire floods

Buckingham, and his nemesis Morton, could not possibly have been in ignorance until the moment of actually seeing the floods. Didn’t they have any scouts? Any local guides? Couldn’t they use their eyes all the way from Brecon? At the very least they should have anticipated it something.. Once closer to the Severn, they probably couldn’t even locate the riverbank, which would be somewhere in the great expanse of fast-flowing, muddy water that was pierced here and there by trees and dwellings.

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The following descriptive report is also quoted here  and serves to illustrate exactly how foolhardy Buckingham was to even consider the crossing. “In the second year of Richard III in the month of October 1483, as the Duke of Buckingham was advancing by long marches through the Forest of Dean to Gloucester, where he designed to pass with his army over the Severn, there was so great an inundation of water that men were drowned in their beds, houses were overturned, children were carried about the fields swimming in cradles, beasts were drowned on the hills. Which rage of water lasted for ten days and nights, and it is to this day in the counties thereabout called ‘The Great Water’ or ‘The Duke of Buckingham’s Water’ (Gloucester Journal November 1770).”

Our inability to understand, only guess, Buckingham’s motives in rising against Richard, lead us to view him as an arrogant numbskull. Did he actually hate Richard with a vengeance? Had Morton, that unholy man of God, convinced him of his own birthright and invincibility? Blessed him in the name of the Lord? Promised the aid of the saints? Vowed he could part the Severn Sea with a brandish of his crozier? We may never know. All we know is that the duke and his army reached the Severn and couldn’t cross. His Welshmen deserted him, Morton melted away too, and Buckingham had to flee north, eventually to be captured hiding near Shrewsbury.

Morton the Man of God - 2
ARCHBISHOP MORTON

Buckingham was taken prisoner to Salisbury, tried and beheaded, begging to the end for the chance to explain himself to Richard, who refused to receive him. Part of me wishes Richard had granted the request, because Buckingham’s explanation might have been interesting. Might? It would have been interesting. Illuminating, even.  On the other hand, Buckingham’s son and heir later told that his father had a dagger hidden on his person, which he intended to plunge into Richard at the first opportunity.

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Should anyone wish for a more light-hearted approach to the saga of Buckingham, Morton and the Severn floods, in 2014 I wrote a spoof called Row, row, row your boat.  I hope it amuses.

And if you’re ready for another laugh at Buckingham’s expense…

Buckingham's Big Mistake

A PORTRAIT OF EDWARD V AND THE MYSTERY OF COLDRIDGE CHURCH…Part II A Guest Post by John Dike.

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EDWARD V – STAINED GLASS COLDRIDGE CHURCH 

A guest post from John Dike who is leading Philippa Langley’s Missing Princes Project team in Devon and following on from my post A Portrait of Edward V and Perhaps Even a Resting Place?  :-

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The window in the Evans Chantry, St Matthew’s Church, Coldridge.

As far back as the writings of Beatrix Cresswell in the early 1900’s, learned authors have been puzzled by the rare stained glass window of Edward V in the Evans Chantry at Coldridge Church, Devon,  one of only four contemporary depictions of him in glass. Edward V was one of the two Princes in the Tower who disappeared, presumed by some to have been murdered by his uncle Richard III.   Later authors than Cresswell have speculated that Evans was in fact Edward V,  living a secret life in Coldridge.  It might sound far-fetched but there are a number of clues that add up to this possibility. The true identity of John Evans is currently under investigation by a small team of amateur historians under the guidance of Philippa Langley MBE who was responsible for the discovery of the grave of Richard III at Leicester. The following points are of interest.

EVANS ARRIVES IN COLDRIDGE

At some point after the battle of Bosworth in 1485,  John Evans was granted the Manor of Coldridge and the Stewardship of the Royal Coldridge Deer Park by Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset and half brother to Edward V.   He took over these estates from Robert Markenfield who had been granted them by Richard in 1484. Robert was the brother to the more famous Sir Thomas Markenfield who fought for Richard at Bosworth. Both the brothers, who were from Ripon in Yorkshire, were friends and Richard was extremely generous to Thomas (1). It would thus seem very strange that although Sir Thomas was granted much wealth, his brother, another good friend, was sent to a small and remote village in Devon. I will come back to this later. After Richard was killed at Bosworth and Henry VII took the throne,  Robert Markenfield moved to nearby Wembworthy and become an associate of Sir John Speke who held the Manor there. 

COLDRIDGE DEER PARK

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Coldridge Deer Park

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Being appointed the Parker was a prestigious appointment for Evans and allowed him to give favour to local dignitaries on behalf of Thomas Grey. The Deer Park was approximately 3000 yards in circumference and in 1525 had 140 ‘beasts of the chase. Existing place names indicate the area of the park on a modern map.   Higher Park, Lower Park, Lower Park Break, Park farm, Park Wood  etc., Park Mill was originally called Parker’s Mill. Long Parks named from Parker’s Long Field but adjacent to Coldridge Barton, John Evan’s manor house. 

THE EVANS CHANTRY

The chantry was built by John Evans and completed in 1511.  We know this because it originally contained two prayer desks with the inscriptions ‘Pray for John Evans, Parker of Coldridge, maker of this work in the third year of the reign of King Henry VIII’ and ‘Pray for the good estate of John Evans, who caused this to be made at his own expense the second day of August in the year of the Lord 1511.

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The renovated prayer desks with original inscriptions

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‘Pray for John Evans, Parker of Coldridge, maker of this work in the third year of the reign of King Henry VIII’

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The prayer desk front with the bench behind.  Photo John Dike.

20210411_102508Another view of the renovated prayer desks and bench.  It’s possible the bench and other pew ends were originally part of the furniture in the Evan’s Chantry and added in 1930s when the desk was restored.

By the early 1900’s these prayer desks were in poor condition and in 1930 the Rural Dean requested that these valuable objects be renovated. And so by 1931 a Miss Harris had rescued the desks by combining the remains into one with the new top engraved with the first inscription above. This desk is now in the Barton chapel as the Evans Chantry is now used as the vestry. The desks are significant as they confirm that John Evans was in Coldridge before 1511. As a chantry was intended to establish a ritual of prayer to speed the donor to heaven, it was likely that, with the then short life expectancy, he was around 40 years of age when it was finished. This would mean that he could have been the same age as Edward V who was born in 1470!.  

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JE bench

Original carving from the two prayer desks now combined into one. Photos Devon Churchland,

THE TOMB

Situated in the chantry is the tomb chest memorial to John Evans with his effigy carved from Beer Stone and dressed as a knight in armour with shield and helmet. The tomb itself   is empty but the remains are probably below the slab at the base of the tomb. The shield is inscribed ‘John Evas’ which is rather strange as the surname Evans has been correctly spelt at many other locations in the church. It has been postulated that if Edward V was in hiding in Coldridge then Evas could be hinting at E V with the letters AS an abbreviation of ASA which in Latin means ‘in sanctuary’. Also situated on the shield is a very old inscription, perhaps mediaeval graffiti, which appears to be the inverted word ‘king’. Below it are nine very mysterious inscribed lines. Is this a reference to the year 1509 when Henry VII died and if all things were resolved Edward V living a life as John Evans should have become Monarch. We know from the Tudor Lady carvings in the screen that things to be kept secret in the church were depicted upside down.

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 The shield with Evans incorrectly spelt as Evas. Was this a hidden clue with ‘EVa s’  a disguised ‘E V in sanctuary’

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 Grafitti, possibly medieval, on the shield which appears to be the word ‘king’ inverted.

evanstombCARVED FROM BEER STONE JOHN EVANS EFFIGY LIES ON TOP OF HIS TOMB 

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JOHN EVANS EFFIGY BUT COULD THIS BE THE FACE OF EDWARD V AS AN ADULT ?

THOMAS GREY AND ROYAL PLOTTING?

Grey was the eldest son of Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen, who married Edward IV, and was the mother of the Princes in the Tower who were supposedly murdered at the hands of Richard III.  Thomas married Cecily Bonville,  a rich heiress,  and owned as a result much land in Devon including Coldridge.  After Richard III acquired the throne of Edward V in 1483,  the widowed Queen Elizabeth took sanctuary in Westminster Abbey, accompanied by Thomas Grey and Richard of Shrewsbury,  the brother of Edward V.  Grey then escaped to join the future Henry VII in France.

However on the 1st of March 1484 Elizabeth and her daughters came out of sanctuary after Richard III publicly swore an oath that her daughters would not be harmed or molested and that they would not be imprisoned in the Tower of London or in any other prison. He also promised to provide them with marriage portions and to marry them to gentleman born. The family returned to court apparently reconciled with Richard.  

I think we can agree that if the princes were still alive it would be at that point in time that their mother would have negotiated their safe sanctuary as part of the deal. So it would be really interesting to look for any activity promoted by Richard to facilitate this.   In particular the appointment of a person loyal to the king who would insure that the prince/ princes were kept out of the way.

Two days later on the 3rd of March 1484 Robert Markenfield was dispatched to Coldridge. Was he then at Coldridge with Edward V who had been renamed John Evans?  We know that after Bosworth the Markenfields were pardoned by Henry VII and that in 1495 Robert Markenfield was associated with Sir John Speke at Wembworthy,  the manor adjacent to Coldridge. A possible scenario may be that he had handed the manor  and deer park of Coldridge over to John Evans by then.   We also know that Speke gave support to Perkin Warbeck, who claimed to be Richard Duke of York,  the brother of Edward V.  Warbeck attacked the North Gate at Exeter and the route from Cornwall would have taken him close to Coldridge and Wembworthy.   Speke was related by marriage to St James Tyrell the alleged murderer of the princes and it would seem strange he would support Warbeck without Tyrell warning him off if the princes were dead.   So in a very small area of Devon there may have been an intriguing meeting between Edward V and possibly his brother Richard aka Perkin Warbeck.

With Richard III dead in 1485 and Henry VII on the throne,  Elizabeth sought to restore her fortunes by marrying her daughter, Elizabeth of York to the new king. Thomas Grey also had his estates, previously attained by Richard III restored to him. If Edward V was still alive at this point, Henry would have required, as part of a deal with Elizabeth Woodville, that Edward should disappear into the landscape. There is no doubt that Elizabeth would have used Thomas Grey to facilitate and control this and where better than Coldridge,  part of the Grey estates?

THE CROWN IN THE WINDOW

THE CROWN WITH 41 DEER INSTEAD OF THE USUAL STOATS TAILS.  PHOTO JOHN DIKE

The stained glass depiction of Edward V shows a large crown descending above the figure.  Some years ago the Curator of the Department of Ceramics at the V & A was shown the window and commented that the crown was too big to fit the figure and must have come from another position in the church. It is possible that the crown was shown hovering over another image, probably in the original chancel glass, now long gone. What is of real interest is that the crown has links with the Deer Parker. Most unusually, rather than having stoats tails as the black spots in the ermine of the crown, there are 41 deer depicted.   So 41 years before 1511 gives 1470 or the year of birth of Edward the fifth! No example of animals in Ermine other than stoats tales has come to light elsewhere.   

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A NOTE FROM THE KEEPER OF THE DEPARTMENT OF CERAMICS AT THE V & A VERIFYING THAT THE STAINED GLASS PORTRAIT IS EDWARD V

THE SMALL PORTRAIT

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COULD THIS PORTRAIT BE OF  RICHARD III OR THE ADULT EDWARD V/JOHN EVANS ?

Also in the Edward V window are the remains of a portrait of a man from a similar period as the main subject. The face appears deformed and certain academics have suggested that this could be only the second contemporary portrait of Richard III in existence. It is also possible that this is John Evans and that the partial image of a crown on his chest may indicate that he was a royal Yeoman to Henry VII.   Henry gained the support of many Welsh soldiers during his successful invasion. Certainly there was a John Evans at court as a Yeoman.   Many Yeomen were granted estates or deer parks and the unique Chancery Rolls we have today document these grants. However despite exhaustive research no record of grants of the Coldridge Estates to anyone, other than Robert Markenfield has been found which adds to the mystery of John Evans and the Edward V window.  

JOHN EVANS TOMB IN THE EVANS CHAPEL, COLDRIDGE CHURCH, DEVON

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Examples of the hidden clues of Coldridge Church.  Inverted heads of  Tudor ladies who appear to be vomiting..

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Pews perhaps made from the fittings from the Evans Chapel in the 1930’s.

  1. Sir Thomas Markenfield and Richard III Prof A J Pollard.

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A Portrait of Edward V and Perhaps Even a Resting Place?- St Matthew’s Church Coldridge

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A NEW MANCINI – by ANNETTE CARSON

A guest post by Annette Carson – author of The Maligned King.

Towards the end of 1482 an Austin friar by the name of Dominic Mancini  was sent to London by a senior minister of King Louis XI of France This was pursuant to France’s act of hostility in breaching her long-standing treaty with England, and Mancini was clearly on a fact-finding mission, as shown by the report he made for the information of the French court. Probably his original visit was not expected to take long, because Mancini was an Italian who is believed to have been unacquainted with the English language.

            It happened that he was still in London in April 1483 when King Edward IV died unexpectedly. Mancini had clearly made useful contacts already, and was able to follow and note down events over the ensuing weeks. His written report is the only contemporary eyewitness account of the three months between Edward IV’s death and Richard III’s accession in place of Edward V. First published on its discovery in the 1930s, it is a supremely important text which has been used by every historian and commentator on Richard III.

            When I first read his account in the English translation by C.A.J. Armstrong I was struck by the seething tone of censure and repugnance that permeated the text. He seemed to delight in seeking and emphasizing defects – especially in the case of the house of York and its court – ranging from mere ignominy to degeneracy and connivance at murder.

            This seemed such obvious prejudice to me that when writing Richard III The Maligned King I made free with my opinion that the text should be regarded as emanating from a biased and hostile source. Yet not only has it been cited as authoritative by those historians of the traditional persuasion, its overall thrust has been accepted without demur by many whose tendencies are revisionist. Until recently I wasn’t engaged enough to analyse the document as a whole, but I was unwilling to take it at face value. I also noted that the shortcomings in Armstrong’s translations were not insignificant.

            It was only when I seriously investigated the office of Lord Protector, and looked to trace where the wrong-headed idea originated which described Richard as ‘protector of Edward IV’s sons’, that I realised it emanated from writers like Mancini, Bernard André and Polydore Vergil. All were foreigners who had no prior knowledge of the settlement known as a protectorate, established for England’s governance in the event of her king being underage or otherwise incompetent to rule.

            All this was of course unknown to Mancini, whose arrival coincided with a low tide in Edward IV’s fortunes. This afforded fertile ground for a mouthpiece of the French inner circle to rake over and expatiate upon every sin and act of moral turpitude by the execrable Yorkists. Thus it was that Domenico Mancini set the tone for those who followed. For Mancini, Edward’s taking of his Woodville wife was not only an example of his unbridled sexual appetites, but an ignoble match for a prince – despite the reality that her lineage, though discounted in England, would have been respected in France, descended as she was from the ancient house of Luxembourg. From Mancini’s point of view she and her family would be regarded as fair game because his audience knew they had encouraged Edward IV to make alliances with Burgundy, in defiance of the King of France.

            France had even attempted to overthrow Edward IV of York in 1470 and replace him with Henry VI of Lancaster: doubtless King Louis’ breach of treaty with England in 1482 gave him much satisfaction after years of smarting in the aftermath of that failure. Evidently, despite Edward’s regaining of his crown, there remained undiminished pro-Lancastrian factions of some influence in England (witness those that later rebelled against Richard III). Mancini was listening to these voices, and had doubtless been provisioned with a list of contacts among them. They supplied the juicy gossip that fleshed out his lengthy descriptions of Edward IV luxuriating in his morally degenerate court.

            Mancini’s original editor complained of his lingering on Edward before properly embarking on the meat of his account of 1483; but this is to miss the point completely. Mancini was appealing to an audience who enjoyed, above all things, relishing the disparagement of the English king and his entire house, culminating in the failure of his seed to secure the crown.

            Having found it hard to dig up early misdeeds on the part of Edward’s brother Richard of Gloucester, Mancini supplies the lack in two ways. The first, to which he repeatedly returns, is Richard’s dissimulation, hiding his evil intentions and often cloaking them with an appearance of rectitude (an accusation incapable of proof per se, yet espoused with enthusiasm by those chroniclers who followed his lead). The second is a supposed long-standing antagonism to the queen’s Woodville family, which both Mancini and his editor Armstrong would probably be surprised to learn has no foundation. Knowing history as we do now, we could catalogue many attempts on sovereign power among the rulers of Europe, not unfamiliar to Mancini. For his purposes it was necessary to make Richard’s ambition both tainted and unworthy; so this alleged feud supplied the necessary element of malice.

            Moreover … shortly after Mancini returned to France (and before he wrote his treatise) it became of enormous importance to condemn any challenge to the reign of a minor king … because in August 1483 Louis XI died and was succeeded by a boy whose age was scarcely different from that of Edward V. This boy’s reign was already vulnerable and would soon be subjected to a number of challenges. It isn’t difficult to connect the dots.

            There are matters of detail in Mancini that make his account valuable, especially those that can be checked against an almost contemporary source like the Crowland Chronicle. But there are too many occasions where his French-influenced assumptions and attitudes have led him to make fundamental errors  about England. I hope I have flagged them up in my new edition, but there may yet be some I’ve missed.

            Scant chance was there in 1483 that a Franco-Italian should comprehend the role of the Protector under a unique constitutional system set up in England sixty years previously. This was not the antiquarian age when historic documents were assiduously studied in order to understand the past. Mancini was writing at a time when there was a great burgeoning on the Continent of chroniclers of history and writers of memoirs. Many of them were patronized by leading individuals and great European houses (Mancini himself shared Angelo Cato’s patronage with Philippe de Commynes). These inveterate information-gatherers pounced on all available narratives; they shared knowledge with members of their wider literary/humanist circles; and this later reached Tudor England thanks to Henry VII’s proclivity for importing foreign-born purveyors of official English history.

            This is not rocket science. Mancini was poorly informed about England. He was an agent of a hostile foreign power. He condemned the intolerable Yorkist dynasty and Richard’s taking of the throne. He shared his information. And yet academics in England have proclaimed with one voice that the de occupatione regni Anglie influenced none of those who would soon afterwards create Richard’s black legend. On the contrary, it is claimed he confirmed them.

I fail to understand the sense of this. Mancini tells us he recited his observations orally several times, and then wrote them so they could be shared more widely. We know there existed interconnecting networks of scholars. His audience at the French court and in literary Paris must surely have passed along such sensational stories, especially when they so satisfyingly disparaged France’s ancient adversaries. We can even trace a major error in chronology made by Mancini which is copied in most of the leading Tudor chronicles. If you read Mancini first and then Thomas More the adoption of Mancini’s themes and arguments is abundantly clear. Yet historian Charles Ross (among many others) puts the cart firmly before the horse by saying that Mancini ‘tends to substantiate Sir Thomas More’s account on many points of detail’ (Edward IV, page 434). My seven pages covering Mancini’s influence on the Ricardian legend offer ample evidence, I feel, to show that More and all those chroniclers are not ‘substantiated’ by Mancini – they echo him.

            I can safely predict that my new edition of Mancini will draw down condemnation, just as the very idea of reviewing the text was condemned when I first suggested it. I can only hope that genuine Ricardians will give it a fair hearing. Domenico Mancini: de occupatione regni Anglie is a self-published paperback in a limited edition and the cover price is £10. Sales worldwide are being handled by Troubador Ltd – Domenico Mancini – Troubador Book Publishing. It can also be purchased on Amazon.


 

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DR JOHN ARGENTINE – PHYSICIAN TO THE PRINCES IN THE TOWER

 

THE CHILDREN OF JOHN NEVILLE, MARQUIS OF MONTAGU and EARL OF NORTHUMBERLAND d.1471

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The Smythe monument Elford Church.  Photo Aidan McRae Thomson

Of the four sons of Richard Neville,  Earl of Salisbury, only two, Richard Earl of Warwick and John Marquis of Montagu had children.    Warwick, who would go on to  become known as the ‘Kingmaker’,  had two daughters, while  John who married Isabel Ingoldesthorpe/Ingaldesthorpe (d.20 May 1476) on the 25 April 1457 would have five daughters and two sons.   While the Kingmaker’s two daughters are well known being of course Isobel and Anne Neville,  wives to brothers George Duke of Clarence and Richard III respectively,  John’s children are rather less famous.     All were to lose their fathers violently at the Battle of Barnet 14 April 1471.    I will not be going into the careers of their fathers here but concentrate on  John Neville’s seven children.   

GEORGE NEVILLE  born c.1465 died 4 May 1483.  Betrothed to Edward IV’s three year old daughter Elizabeth, 5 Jan. 1470, when he was created duke of Bedford.   Not only his father’s heir but also the heir male of Richard Neville, earl of Warwick. However although neither his father or uncle had been attainted,  George did not inherit the Neville lands and in 1478 lost his dukedom on the grounds that he could not support the estate – this point is debatable –  see Prof M A Hick’s article What might have been: George Neville, Duke of Bedford 1465-83   – as well as all other dignities (1).  Little is  known of him after this shabby treatment by Edward IV, except that Richard Duke of Gloucester,  his cousin,  was on March 9 1480 granted the wardship and the marriage of George (2).  George who died 4 May 1483 was buried at Sherrif Hutton.

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Church of St Helen and the Holy Cross, Sheriff Hutton.  Resting place of George Neville Duke of Bedford.  Photo British Listed Buildings.  Photographer unknown.

JOHN NEVILLE: Died in infancy 1460, and was buried at Sawston, Cambridgeshire.

ANNE NEVILLE d.1486.  Anne became the third wife of Sir William Stonor in the autumn of 1481 and the only wife to give him children, a son and daughter.   The most advantageous of Sir William’s marriages for Anne had the blood of the old nobility of England coursing  through her veins.  The marriage became even more advantageous when on the early of death of her brother George in 1483,  Anne became a great heiress.  Hopefully love grew between the couple, as it often did between these marriages that were made for status rather than affection and  the charming letter she wrote  on the 27 February 1482 quite soon after her marriage  to her husband would indicate that it did. Written from Taunton Castle,  where she was staying with Thomas Grey Marquis of Dorset and his wife Cicely Bonville, the letter read:  

 ‘Syr, I recomaund me unto you in my most heartily wise, right joyfull to here of your helthe: liketh you to knowe, at the writyng of this bill I was in good helthe, thynkyng long sith I saw you, and if I had knowen that I shold hav ben this long tyme from you I wold have be moche lother then I was to have comyn in this ferre Countrey.  But I trust it shall not be long or I shall see you here, and else I wold be sorye on good feth….. And I beseche oure blessed lord preserve you’  Your new wyf Anne Stonor (3).

Anne saw her husband attainted in 1483 but lived long enough to see him restored to his estates in 1485 before her death the following year.  While it is known that Sir William was buried in the old Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey the whereabouts of his wife’s grave  as far as I can tell is unknown.  

Elizabeth:  d.1515 married first to Thomas, Lord Scrope of Masham (d 1493), and secondly, before 1496, to Sir Henry Wentworth, who died in 1500.  It was Elizabeth who would commission a tomb over the graves of her parents at Bisham Abbey,

Margaret: born c.1466.   Married 1.Thomas Horne, 2. Sir John Mortimer and 3. Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk  who divorced  her.  Brandon’s marital history is described as ‘murky and reprehensible as well as  controversial which is putting it mildly to be honest (4).   His first wife was Anne Browne, daughter of Sir Anthony Browne and Lucy Neville, Margaret’s sister.        He contracted to marry Anne and she became pregnant, but in summer 1506 he abandoned her to marry her widowed aunt, our Margaret Mortimer nee Neville.   On 7 February 1507 he had licence of entry on Margaret’s lands, which he rapidly began to sell. By the end of the year, probably £1000 or more in profit, he was negotiating the annulment of his marriage to Margaret on the multiple grounds of his consanguinity with Margaret, the consanguinity of his two wives, and the consanguinity of his grandmother with Margaret’s first husband.   He then went on to (re)marry Anne Brown in secret in Stepney Parish Church.  A later second, public,  marriage took place  at St Michael Cornhill. The legitimacy of their daughter Anne, please keep up at the back dear reader, was later questioned, depending as it did upon the exact sequence of events. After Anne’s death shortly after giving birth to a second daughter, Mary, Brandon went on  to marry Mary Tudor,  who was Queen of France for a brief time, and sister to Henry VIII (5).  It would seem she had always loved him and insisted they get married.  Why?  Brandon seems woefully lacking in honour where women were concerned.  Was there a dearth of men with integrity at the Tudor Court?  However, I think we have gone off on a tangent here so back to the Nevilles. Phew!

Lucy: Married 1. Sir Thomas Fitzwilliam  2.Sir Anthony Brown.  Lucy’s daughter by Sir Anthony,   Anne,  was to marry Charles Brandon Duke of Suffolk,  who abandoned her to marry her widowed aunt, Margaret Mortimer nee Neville,  see above.  What Lucy, who died c.1533, thought about it frustratingly is unknown.  Requested in her will dated 20 August 1531 to be buried at Bisham Abbey, Berkshire where ‘my lorde my father is buried but it appears that she was actually buried with her first husband Sir Thomas Fitzwilliam in the House of the Austin Friars, Tickhill, Yorkshire (6).   The friary was suppressed in 1537 and the tomb sometime thereafter was moved into the parish church of Tickhill where it still survives today.    During restoration work to the church in 2012, human remains were found in the tomb chest tightly packed together.  Osteoarchaeologists established the remains were of  two men and two women.  These were deduced to be the remains of Lucy, her first husband Sir Thomas and his parents whose remains were brought to St Mary’s Church, Tickhill after the dissolution of the friary.  The remains were reinterred in November 2013. An interesting article can be found on the examination of the bones can be found  here.

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LUCY NEVILLE’S EFFIGY IN TICKHILL CHURCH

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LUCY WAS REBURIED WITH HER FIRST HUSBAND SIR THOMAS FITZWILLIAM.  TICKHILL CHURCH.  PHOTOGRAPHER UNKNOWN.

Isabel: Married 1. Sir William Huddlestone of Sawston,Cambs  2.  William Smythe d.1525 of Elford, Staffordshire.  There is a splendid monument to Isabel and her second husband in St Peter’s Church, Elford. 

And there we it –  the children of John Neville Marquis of Montagu and his wife with the wonderful name – Isobel Ingoldesthorpe.  Some were sad and were scarce here before they were gone.  Others made hopefully good, happy marriages, others disastrous with a diabolical spouse i.e.  Charles Brandon.  Some made scarcely any impact at all but perhaps those were the best and the luckiest ones of all.

(1) See Prof M A Hick’s article What might have been: George Neville,Duke of Bedford1465-83— his identity and significance.  The Ricardian December 1986

(2) Memorials of the Wars of the Roses, p.230.  W E Hampton.

( 3) Stonor Letter and Papers 1290-1483 p.61 Kingsford ed Christine Carpenter

( 4) Oxford DNB.  Brandon, Charles, first duke of Suffolk c.1484-1545.  S J Gunn

(5) Ibid.

(6) Lucy Neville, Montague’s Daughter.  Ricardian article.  Pauline E. Routh.

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THE GRAFFITI OF THE TOWER OF LONDON

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The graffiti commemorating the Dudleys.  Beauchamp Tower.  Photo Spitalfieldlife 

I am, to be honest not a fan of graffiti, also known as graffito, neither do I know anyone who is. However, if you are talking historical graffiti, and from no less than the Tower of London, well that is definitely a different ball game and count me in.

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Examples of graffiti including an oak leaf and acorns dated 1537.  Photographer unknown.

There are 268 examples of graffiti carved by prisoners who while incarcerated within the Tower walls, sometimes languishing there for many years,  wiled the time away leaving behind messages that have endured to this day.  I suspect they would have been shocked to know  their carvings would survive for so long, some over 500 years old,  to be marvelled  at as well as now carefully preserved.  Some of the prisoners were high status including Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester who was imprisoned with his brothers  after his father’s plot to put Lady Jane Grey, his daughter in law,  on the throne went pear shaped.     The Dudley graffiti which  is to be found in the Beauchamp Tower,  commemorating  Robert and his brothers features roses for Ambrose, carnation or  gillyflowers for Guildford, oak leaves for Robert, rober being Latin for oak leaf,  and honeysuckle for Henry.  The carving is thought to have been completed by John Dudley, the fifth brother,  who added his name at the bottom.  The carved letters read 

“You that these beasts do wel behold and se may deme with ease wherefore here made they be with borders eke wherein four brothers names who list to serche the grounde” 

 Guildford and Jane were unsurprisingly executed.   The other brothers were released but John died almost immediately afterwards at Penshurst Place.  He seems to have suffered greatly during his imprisonment and was said to have been ‘crazed for want of air‘ (1).  Robert would go on to become a close and dear  friend to Elizabeth Ist.  

Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel was imprisoned by Elizabeth.  His name is also to be found in the Beauchamp Tower accompanied with the words

‘The more affliction we endure for Christ in this world, the more glory we shall get with Christ in the world to come.

Arrested for practicing his Christian faith in 1585,  Arundel was to die in the Tower in 1595.

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The Arundel Graffiti.  Beauchamp Tower

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G Gyfford 1586 “Grief is overcome by patience Avgvst 8th, 1586”.  Photo Ann Longmore-Etheridge

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One of the more poignant – ‘My hart is yours tel death’ Thomas Willyngar date unknown.  Photo Ann Longmore-Etheridge

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Edward Smalley.   Smalley was the servant of a member of parliament who had neglected to pay a fine for assault. He was imprisoned in the Beauchamp Tower for one month in 1576. 

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 Thomas Rooper 1570. Photo The Royal Mint Museum

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A lovely example complete with the name Peverel,  fruit on a vine, shells and a little skeleton.  Photo The Royal Mint Museum. 

In 1912 because  of the perishable nature of the stone it was decided permanent records should be made of the prisoners inscriptions as some of them were in a state of powdery decay.  The Royal Mint was asked for their assistance to which they readily agreed.  At this time the Mint was busy using its newly-installed electrotyping plant for the production of postage stamp plates but nevertheless agreed to take on the project.  Wax moulds were taken of the whole series of 268 inscriptions with great care taken for the preservation of the original stone carvings.  The work was completed In 1914, and 458 electrotypes with a total area of 332.8 square feet were delivered to the Office of Works (2).

 

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Unfinished graffiti.  Dated 1573.  Name and fate of prisoner unknown…

I have only been able to mention here a handful of the remarkable graffiti at the Tower of London,  the greater part of it from the 16th century and thus over 500 years old.  Now protected hopefully it will survive another 500 years and the plight of the prisoners of the Tower of London never forgotten.  

 

  1. Loades 2008
  2. Writings on the Wall.  The Royal Mint Museum.   Online article. 

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THE ORANGE AND LEMON CHURCHES OF OLD LONDON

The Abbey of the Minoresses of St Clare without Aldgate and the Ladies of the Minories

 

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Anne Montgomery nee Darcy.  One of the much respected Ladies of the Minories from the window of Holy Trinity Church, Long Melford, Suffolk.

Shakespeare said ‘all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players‘.  Following on from that if we may be allowed to say that the Wars of the Roses were a stage then surely some of the saddest players on it were the ladies of the Minories – the widows, mothers, sisters and daughters of some of the main players of that tragic and violent period who survived their menfolk but in what must have  been difficult and sometimes straightened circumstances.  I have here leaned heavily on W E Hampton’s excellent article, the Ladies of the Minories (1)

The Abbey of the Minoresses of St Clare without Aldgate was founded by Edmund in 1293 Crouchback Duke of Lancaster and his wife, Blanche of Navarre,  for the nuns that Blanche had brought to England with her.  Surviving until 1539  the abbey, which was very large,  was surrendered by the last abbess,  Dame Elizabeth Savage,  to Henry VIII.  The abbey had already suffered what must have been a catastrophic loss in 1515 when 27 nuns and other lay people i.e. servants died of the plague (2)

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Edmund Crouchback, illustrations of his tomb in Westminster Abbey by Stothard from Monumental Effigies of Great Britain 1832

According to Edward Tomlinson who wrote A History of the Minories there is an old manuscript in British Museum ‘which appers to have escaped the notice of any historian‘ which states that Edmund’s ‘hart ys buryed at the North end of the high Awter in the mynorysse And his body ys buryed at Westminster in the Abbey‘.  This manuscript which is probably a transcript from a register kept in the Abbey contains ‘the names of all psones beyng of Nobull Blode whiche be buryed wthin the Monastorye of the mynnorysse‘.  The names of these illustrious burials are too numerous to name here but a few..

Dame Elizabeth Countess of Clare

Dame Isabel daughter of Thomas of Woodstock Duke of Gloucester

Margaret Countess of Shrewsbury daughter of Humphrey Duke of Buckingham

Agnes Countess of Pembroke

Eleanor Scrope wife to Lord Scrope and Daughter of Raufe/Ralph Neville

Edmunde De La Pole and Margaret his wife

Elizabeth de la Pole, Edmund’s daughter (3).

Among the burials I am focusing on here are those of the ladies who lived in the turbulent period known as the Wars of Roses.   I shall start with one of the leaders of this little band,  Elizabeth Mowbray nee Talbot, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk and who lived out the latter years of her life  in the Great House within the Close of the Abbey for which she paid a rent of 10 pounds.   Elizabeth was the daughter of John Talbot Ist Earl of Shrewsbury,  sister to another lady of great importance from that period, Eleanor Butler nee Talbot  and mother to the tragic Anne Mowbray child bride to Richard of Shrewsbury, Edward IV’s youngest son.   Elizabeth,  it will be remembered, on the sudden unexpected death of her husband was forced soon after to take a diminished dower in order to augment the revenue of her young son-in-law.  Frustratingly Elizabeth’s thoughts on this  were, as far as is known, never recorded.  The   marriage of her daughter Anne to the youngest son of Edward IV and Elizabeth Wydeville,  whose own ‘ marriage’ had ruined her sister, Eleanor,   ensured that the vast Mowbray estates would pass to Richard if it should come to pass that her daughter died, which as it transpired is exactly what happened.   Anne died shortly before her 9th birthday at Greenwich Palace one of her mother-in-law’s favourite homes.  Anne was buried in Westminster Abbey but her body was removed from there in 1502 when the chapel she was buried in was demolished to make way for Henry Tudor’s grandiose new chapel.  Anne was returned to her mother at the Minories and buried there –  ‘Dame Anne Duches of yorke doughter to lord moumbray Duke of Norfolke ys buried yn the sayed Quere’ (4)

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Elizabeth Mowbray, nee Talbot, Duchess of Norfolk as depicted in the window of Holy Trinity Church, Long Melford, Suffolk.

Although the glory days must have been over for Elizabeth with the demise of her husband – her retirement to the Minories  would have been a serious case of downsizing –  a look at her will tells us that she had not lost absolutely everything  as did  her daughter’s mother in law, Elizabeth Wydeville whose pitiful will tells us that she was left more or less destitute.  Ah well Karma is a bitch as they say.

Jane Talbot, sister-in-law to the above, having married Sir Humphrey Talbot.  Humphrey was the son of John Talbot by  his second wife Margaret who was a daughter of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick.  Jane’s interesting will which left numerous bequests especially to her servants also requested that ‘I Dame Jane Talbott, wedowe late the Wif of sir Humfrey Talbott knyght…  my body to be buried within the inner choer of the churche of the Mynores withoute Algate of London nygh the place and sepulture where the body of Maistres Anne Mongomery late the wif of John Mongomery Squyer restity and ys buried within the same quere’.

Anne Montgomery widow of John Montgomery who was executed in 1462, brother of Sir Thomas Montgomery, Sir James Tyrell was her nephew.  Anne was clearly a person much revered.  As well as Jane Talbot, Elizabeth Mowbray also requested to be buried close to her in her will made 6 November 1506 – ‘And my body to be buried in the Nonnes qwere of the Minorsesses without Alegate of London nyghe vnto the place Wher Anne Montgomery lyeth buried’.

Mary Tyrell.  According to Hampton ‘Almost certainly one of the sisters of Sir James Tyrell – probably the youngest – and therefore a niece of Anne Montgomery  (5 )

Elizabeth Brackenbury.  Daughter to the loyal Sir Robert Brackenbury, Richard III’s Constable of the Tower,  who died with his king at Bosworth.  Hampton mentions that Elizabeth’s poverty was clear in her will of 1504 and  that she found shelter under the wings of the Talbots and requested in her will that her debts to Elizabeth Mowbray were to be paid –  ‘I Elizabeth Brakkynbury..beyng of goode and hole mind’… all such money as my lady’s grace of Norff to whom I am most specially bounde of her charitie’   (6).  Hampton also adds that there was some connection between Sir Robert and Sir Thomas Montgomery which could partly explain his daughter’s connection to these ladies, although it is not certain if Brackenbury’s daughter was an inmate at the time of Anne Montgomery’s tenancy at the Minories.

Hampton wrote  ‘All of these ladies, with the possible exception of Jane Talbot had suffered great loss, but it would perhaps be unwise to to think too much of them as sheltering in the Minories, where life may not have been too severe.  They may as Dr Tudor-Craig suggests have gathered around the Duchess yet Anne Montgomery’s influence may have been greater spiritually’.

While some ladies had  been most grieviously  injured by Edward IV and his Wydeville wife – i.e. the shabby way Elizabeth Mowbray was forced to augment the revenue of her small son-in-law, the betrayal of her sister, Eleanor, the executions  of  William Tyrell and John Montgomery, further injury was inflicted by Henry VII with the unjust attainder of Sir Robert Brackenbury and the execution and attainder of Sir James Tyrell.

FullSizeRender.jpgWynegaerde’s Panorama of London (1543)  in which the Minories can be seen just above  and to the left of the White Tower/Tower of London.   Note the close  proximity of the scaffold on Tower Hill, shown to  to the left of the Minories.  

Doubtless they were great comforters of each other and it is very easy to imagine them being of a great solace to Elizabeth Mowbray when her daughter’s remains were returned  to her.

The beginning of the end for the once grand Minories came when the last abbess, Dame Elizabeth Salvage surrendered the abbey to Henry VIII in 1539.  Stowe describes how in place of  ‘this house of nuns is now built divers fair and large storehouses for armour and habiliments of war, with divers workhouses serving to the same purpose’ although there is  ‘a small parish church for inhabitants of the close, called St Trinities’ (7)  Some of the abbey walls survived until a fire in 1797.  Around 1566 the parishioners came into possession of what had once been the Minories church but  was now the parish church and set about ‘renovating‘ it.  This involved the removal and destruction of ancient monuments and the adding of a steeple.  Finally around 1705 , having surived the Great Fire of 1666,  begun the final destruction of the fabric of  the ancient church and the rebuilding of a new one although the medieval northern wall was retained.

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Diagram of the 18th century Holy Trinity church showing the north 13th Century  wall retained.  This wall managed to survive the fire and bombs until clearance of the site in 1956-58.  

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The remains of the abbey after the fire in 1796.  Etching by John Thomas Smith 1766-1833

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Another print showing the abbey remains after the 1796 fire. Etching by John Thomas Smith 1766-1833

It would have been about this time that the building of new burial vaults begun in the process of which,  the ‘greater part of the ground beneath the parish church must have been evacuated which would have not been achieved without the unfortunate removal of the remains of those, who in the past centuries, would have been buried there‘ (8). Alas!

The 18th century  church was finally destroyed after being bombed during the war.   But that is not the end of the story of our intrepid band of  Ladies of the Minories or indeed the Minories itself, for in 1964 the remains of Elizabeth’s daughter, Anne Mowbray were  discovered by an excavator driver in a vaulted burial chamber of the church which had somehow been, fortunately,  overlooked.   Anne was once again reinterred in Westminster Abbey as close to her original burial place as possible but, that dear reader is another story.

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18th century Holy Trinity Church prior to its destruction by a bomb.    It was during excavation of this area after the war that Anne Mowbray’s remains were discovered in a vault.

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Holy Trinity Church looking slightly less stark in this painting,1881, artist unknown.

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The area now covering where once stood the Abbey of St Clare (The Minories).  Such is progress.  

1. The Ladies of the Minories, W E Hampton, Richard III Crown and People p195-201

2.  A Survey of London Written in the year 1599. John Stowe pp 122.1233.

3. A History of the Minories pp68.69 Edward Murrey Tomlinson M.A

4. Ibid p 69.

5. The Ladies of the Minories W E Hampton, Richard lll Crown and People p.19

6. Ibid p.198

7. A Survey of London Written in the year 1599.  John Stowe p.128.

8. A History of the Minories p 299 Edward Murrey Tomlinson

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THE ORANGE AND LEMON CHURCHES OF OLD LONDON

Old London – City of Churches.   Bow Church can be seen to the left.  Part of the The Visscher Panorama of London, 1616. Image Peter Harrington Rare Books.  

Orange and lemons say the bells of Saint Clement’s

You owe me five farthings say the bells of St Martin’s

When will you pay me say the bells at Old Bailey

When I grow rich say the bells at Shoreditch

Pray when will that be say the bells at Stepney

I do not know said the Great Bell at Bow..

This has to be perhaps the most charming of all nursery rhymes but did we, as kids, ever stop to cogitate about the six old London churches whose names rolled off our tongues?  On the whole I don’t think we did.  And yet there can’t be many adults who sung this old rhyme as children who can’t recall the names of those six lovely old churches some of which were destroyed in the disastrous conflagration known as the Great Fire of London in 1666.

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St Clement Danes at nightfall.  Note the statue of Hugh Lord Dowding.  Photo enacademic.com

St Clement Danes There is some debate about which of two churches is the one mentioned in the rhyme but the consensus is that it is St Clement Danes.  According to Stow the church was named after Harold, a Danish King and other Danes buried there. Harold was the son of King Canute by a concubine but we won’t go into that here except to say that after he popped his clogs Harold’s remains spent some time in the Thames after being thrown there by an annoyed brother, Hardicanitus (and no dear reader I’m not making this up!). However a kindly fisherman retrieved him and he was reburied in St Clement Danes churchyard. Another story suggests that the church was named thus after the burial of Danes that were slain in the aftermath of a great looting, murder and general mayhem committed by them. Time passed and the medieval church was partly rebuilt in 1640. The parish of St Clement Danes was heavily hit by the Great Plague in 1665 with 1,319 deaths from that awful pestilence alone (1). However the church managed to escape destruction from the Fire of London 1666 only to fall into such disrepair in 1679, except for the tower, that it was declared unsafe and rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren. Spire rebuilt by James Gibbs c.1719, with the surviving tower being, happily, incorporated. Interesting members of the congregation included Samuel Johnson and James Boswell.  William Webb-Ellis, was a rector between 1843 and 1855, who as a schoolboy at Rugby ‘with a fine disregard of the rules of the game (football) as played in his time, first took the ball in his arms and run with it, thus originating the distinctive feature of the Rugby game’

The interior was badly damaged during the Blitz in 1941 but miraculously the exterior and tower survived. The remains of the medieval crypt were discovered in 1942. Restored in 1958 and now in use as the Central Church of the Royal Air Force. A Latin inscription now over the main door reads

AEDIFICAVIT CHR WREN
AD MDCLXXII
DIRUERUNT AERII BELLI
FULMINA AD MCMXLI
RESTITUIT REGINAE CLASSIS
AERONAUTICA AD MCMLVIII

which translates as 

“Christopher Wren built it 1672. The thunderbolts of aerial warfare destroyed it 1941. The Royal Air Force restored it 1958”

However, it should be noted that the church referred to in the rhyme could very well have been :

St Clement Eastcheap.  First mentioned in the IIth century, repaired in 1632 only to be destroyed in the Great Fire and rebuilt by Wren 1683-7.    The grateful parishioners presented Wren with one third of a hogshead of wine cost £4 2s.  The claim to being the church mentioned in the rhyme is based upon its close proximity to the wharves where citrus fruit from the Mediterranean used to be unloaded although it should be said there were other churches that were even closer.  Yet another church badly damaged in 1940.

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Delightful carved cherubs from the 17th century pulpit St Clement Church.

St Martin Orgar  is gone.  Situated in Martin Lane and first mentioned 12th century.  Described by Stow as ‘a small thing’.   Popular with 15th and 16th century mayors and their families for a burial place.  Much damaged in the Great Fire,  although the Tower and part of the nave survived, it was abandoned.  French Protestants restored the tower and used it for worshop for over a century.  However it was finally demolished in 1820.

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Old Bailey.  The bells referred to are those of St Sepulchre’s, first mentioned in 1137.  Known in  Stow’s time as St Sepulchre’s in the Bailey.   Stow described it  as a fair parish church in a fair churchyard.  Another church gutted by the Great Fire with the outer walls surviving.  Famous burials include courtier Thomas Culpeper executed in 1541 accused of being the lover of Queen Catherine Howard and Captain John Smith d.1631 of Pocahontas fame.  In close proximity to Newgate prison, there is a story that posies were handed to the condemned as they passed the church on their way to execution.  A reminder of a less kinder practice is the hand bell kept in the church which was rung outside the condemned person’s cell the night before execution.

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The Newgate Execution Hand Bell..

St Leonard’s Shoreditch.  Probably founded 12th century.  In the 18th century part of the tower collapsed during a service.  Rebuilt by George Dance the Elder in 1736 who attempted to build the steeple in the same style as that of Mary-le-Bow.  Another city church damaged during the Blitz but since repaired.  Among the famous buried here is Will Somers d.1560, Henry VIII’s jester and the only man able to lift Henry’s spirits who was in chronic pain through an ulcerated leg. However he did sometimes overstep the mark which resulted on one occasion in Henry threatening to kill him with his own bare hands.  Will managed to outlive his tyrannical boss and a plaque marks his burial in St Leonards 15th June 1560.

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Henry VIII and his fool, Will Somers who was buried in St Leonard’s Shoreditch

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St Leonard’s Shoreditch

St Dunstan’s and All Saints Stepney.  The oldest of the Orange and Lemon Churches.  A church has stood on this site for over 1000 years, the existing building being the third church on the site.  One of its oldest bells still in use was cast in 1385.  The churchyard was enlarged to cope with the massive amount of deaths – 6,583 in 18 months –   during the Great Plague of 1665.  A disastrous fire in 1901 caused a large amount of destruction including an organ carved by Grinling Gibbons.  The funds were raised to repair the church although of course some of the features such as the 15th century roof were irreplaceable.  Fortunately St Dunstan’s survived the Blitz unscathed although the surrounding areas suffered greatly due to the proximity of the docks.  For anyone wanting to read more about St Dunstan’s here is a link to an interesting article.  

st-dunstansSt Dunstan’s, a survivor amongst the destruction of the Blitz.  Modern window by Hugh Easton.  Photo thanks to david.robarts

St Mary-le-Bow Cheapside.  Almost totally destroyed in the Great Fire and rebuilt by Wren.  Norman crypt survived the Fire and was allowed to survive the rebuild by Wren.  Pevsner wrote   ‘The glory of the church is its steeple,  the proudest of all Wrens steeples.   Built in 1678 at a cost of £7,388 as against £8,033 for the rest of the church.   It is a triumph of the skill of Wren’s masons Thomas Cartwright and J Thompson that it withstood the fire inside the steeple and the crashing down of the bells during the Second World War (2).  Bravo gentlemen!  The bells of this church are the famous bells that according to London folklore persuaded Richard/Dick Whittington as a young lad to turn around, turn around and return to London!  Which he did.  Became Lord Mayor and a great doer of many, many good deeds.   The bells nowadays can be heard tolling on every quarter of the hour.

bowBeautiful St Mary-le-Bow at twilight.   

So dear reader we have come to the end of our armchair perambulation of the Orange and Lemon churches of Old London.  I have only been able to touch briefly upon the rich history of each church due to time and space but if you wish to delve deeper I can thoroughly recommend A Survey of London by John Stow 1598 and Pevsner’s Cities of London and Westminster.

 

1.The Great Plague of London p.113.  Walter George Bell

2.The Buildings of England, London, Vol.1.p.170.  Nickolaus Pevsner. Third Edition.

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