The Magna Carta …. and all that

THE MAGNA CARTA was signed 800 years ago (well almost) on 15th June 1215. It means, of course, Great Charter. In fact it was so great that it was redundant by the middle of September of the same year, after having been annulled by Pope by letters dated the 24th August. But it did live on …….

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King John (reign 1199-1216)

Basically King John was a bit of a tyrant king, wanting supreme power over the Church and his barons. Being very silly, by 1204, he had lost most of his ancestral lands in France to Philip II and so he raised taxes on his barons to ‘save-up’ for a conquest of France to retrieve these lands. Result: very miffed barons. It didn’t help that John was a bit naughty with some of these barons’ wives and daughters but we won’t go there.   The barons in the north and east of England ganged together taking an oath to ‘stand fast for the liberty of the church and the realm’ and raised their ‘We Hate John’ banners. Civil war was looming.

Philip_II,_King_of_France,Philip II of France (reign 1180-1223)

John took an oath to become a crusader trusting that such an action would put him in favour with the Church (remember the Knight Templar crusader monks last week) – or, at least give him some protection under church (papal) law. I bet he had his fingers crossed behind his back when he took that oath.

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King John’s seal used to sign the Magna Carta and other documents making other promises he wouldn’t keep

Anyway, to avoid civil war, John and his barons met at Runnymede to sign the Magna Carta which had been drawn up by Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was an agreement of 63 clauses including the protection of church rights, prevention of unlawful imprisonment of barons, swift access to justice and limitations on taxes and other feudal payments to the Crown.  Any impeachment of terms by the King would be enforced by 25 barons (the ‘security clause’). It’s known as a liberty agreement but it only affected the higher ranking members of society – about 10-20% of the populace – so a democratic document it was not. In effect, the Magna Carta was a peace treaty between John and his rebel barons.

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King John (reluctantly) signing the Magna Carta

Needless to say, it almost immediately encountered problems. Firstly, the barons refused to surrender London which they controlled; secondly, the agreement forbid an appeal to any higher authority but John complained to the Pope, Innocent III (ironically, because I don’t suppose John accepted the Pope as a higher authority), as Langton (above) refused to enforce an earlier excommunication against the rebel barons (why would he if they had come to a peaceful agreement?!). Thirdly, Langton refused to give up Rochester Castle which was strategically vital as it guarded the access to the coast and a defensive position for any possible invasion by the French at Dover (so John wanted control over it). Then, when the Pope read the Magna Carta he was not impressed, particularly with the ‘security clause’ which implied use of violence which made the agreement unlawful in canon (church) law. That was it and, in August, the Pope sent his papal bull letters denouncing the agreement presumably as a ‘load of old bull’ (sorry).

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Pope Innocent III (1161-1216)

Civil war was inevitable as the barons were convinced (probably even prior to the signing of the charter) that John was going to be impossible to deal with. They allied with King Philip of France who sent them his son, the future Louis VII, to claim the English throne. Well, why not. The conflict achieved very little and John died in October 1216 leaving the crown to his nine year old son, Henry III (and if you remember last week, William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke was his regent). The charter was then resurrected – three times, in fact, during Henry’s reign – in 1216, 1217 and 1225  with Pembroke and the papal legate Guala sealing it whilst Henry was ‘under-age’. On each occasion certain modifications were made to it including the removal of the ‘security clause’. In 1253 it was first proclaimed to the public at large and, as well as its re-issue, Henry promised around a dozen or so times to uphold it. In 1297, Henry’s successor, his son Edward I, reissued the 1225 charter and guaranteed to comply with it on various occasions thereafter, as have the monarchs over the centuries ever since (okay, Charles I was a little difficult with it but there was no need to lose his head over it). It is this 1297 re-issue that sort of remains in force today.

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Henry III (reign 1216-1272)

I say ‘sort of remains in force today’ because most of the clauses were repealed in Queen Victoria’s reign and a few more during the 20th century leaving, now, only four in force, 1, 13, 39 and 40. Clause 1 confirms that the English Church shall be free to elect its own dignitaries without royal interference; clause 13 grants ancient liberties and free customs (trade) by land and water and to all other cities and towns;  clause 39 protects against unlawful imprisonment; clause 40 prevents a denial of justice. So there you have it – a great charter minus 59 of its original 63 clauses, although it had a great effect on future monarchs and their relationship with what was to become parliament. It stands for liberty, or, as the esteemed judge Lord Denning described it in 1964, ‘the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot’. Well, in principle anyway.

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 1216 Magna Carta in the British London

 Many copies of the charter have been made over the centuries but there are very few of the ‘original copies’ around today. The ‘very original’ Magna Carta signed by John no longer exists but several copies were made for distribution around the realm. Only four of these 1215 copies still exist, two are in the British Library in London, one of which has suffered fire damage and is illegible but the only one to retain its seal (the other one, pictured above, was saved by the antiquarian, Sir Robert Cotton, from being cut up by his tailor for use as suit patterns). Another one is in Salisbury Cathedral, and the other in Lincoln Cathedral (both of these have been with these Cathedrals since 1215.  One 1216 original remains and is at Durham Cathedral.  Four 1217 editions still exist, three in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (one with William Marshall’s seal) and one at Hereford Cathedral.  A 1225 edition (the ‘Lacock Magna Carta’) had been hidden under the floorboards of Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire by its owner Miss Talbot in 1939 until 1945 and is now in the British Library. This one was to be loaned to the USA (the English setting up in the New World in the 17th century relied on the liberties of the Magna Carta) and a certain Lt-Cdr Douglas Fairbanks Jr USN set aside a public holiday as  a result (such authority for a movie star!),  but the loan required an Act of Parliament and Parliament couldn’t agree – nothing new there.  However, fear not America, there is a 1297 one in the US which was sold by the Brudenell family (the earls of Cardigan), to the Perot Foundation in the US in 1985, who sold to a US businessman, David Rubenstein, for $21.3 million dollars, who then gave it on permanent loan to the National Archives in Washington. Well done that man.

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The 1297 Rubenstein Magna Carta in Washington US

However, the 1297 Bruton Magna Carta was a bargain compared with the Rubenstein MC as it was sold at auction by the King’s School, Bruton, UK, to the Australian Government for only £12,500, although that was in 1952, and it is now on display in Parliament House in Canberra, Australia. It was not clear how the school came by this document – one suggestion was that it was simply found in a school desk in the 1936! The British Museum wanted to keep it but couldn’t afford it (they were thinking of offering around £2,500). Then there’s the ‘twist’ to the story. Later investigations revealed that the Bruton Magna Carta would have been part of a collection of documents, including a companion to the Magna Carta, the Forest Charter also of 1297 bearing the same sealing, owned by the nunnery at Eastbourne Priory in Sussex. On the dissolution of the monasteries the priory and its documents were transferred into private hands and the documents found their way into the possession of a solicitor, one John Louche of Drayton. In 1905, John Douche’s son granted all these documents to the British Museum.  The documents included the 1297 Forest Charter but not the Magna Carta. It should have been among the documents being a companion to the same-year and same-sealed Forest Charter. It would appear that John Douche may have muddled up the priory documents at some point and the Magna Carta had been accidentally ‘filed’ away with papers that eventually found their way to King’s School Bruton. So,  in reality, it was highly likely that the British Museum should have had the Magna Carta free of charge. Hmmm …… solicitors!

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  The 1297 Bruton Magna Carta on display in Canberra, Australia

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Next week: Odd bods: the druid who created cremation ……


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is another extract:

I was acquainted (not by friendship I must add) with a solicitor of rather undesirable habits, one of which was his continual boasting of his powers of negotiation.

 He met his match the other day with a good friend of mine, a barrister, Soames Maltravers.

 Now Maltravers had a great legal mind and would charge £100 for each question he answered. The solicitor was determined to negotiate a better deal. He asked Maltravers, “Can I ask you two questions for £150?”

 Maltravers responded, “Indeed you may. What’s the second question?”

art-smth

Middle Temple and Temple Church

ONE OF THE four Inns of Court in London is Middle Temple – or more formally known as the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple. The other three are Inner Temple, Lincoln’s Inn and Gray’s Inn, all in close proximity of each other, and they are where barristers work and, in some cases, live – in fact, in the early days it was were many of them did live communally, hence the name ‘Inn’. Middle and Inner Temple were once referred to as Middle Inn and Inner Inn of the Temple. I’m only going to talk about Middle Temple because it’s my Inn of Court, so there.

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Middle Temple Hall

 It’s called Middle Temple because the land it stands upon was once owned by the Knights Templars. In fact, the Temple Church which stand in the grounds today (see below) was built by them in 1185. The Knights Templar (they were mainly English and French) came into existence 895 years ago almost exactly. How many days more depends when you are reading this as it was Christmas Day 1119 that nine knights took monastic vows to protect pilgrims travelling from Western Europe to the Holy lands of the Levant. This was as a result of conflict between Christians and Muslims (nothing much has changed in nearly 1000 years). These knights were initially called the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon – Knights Templar for short. They came to an end in 1312 (Friday 13th October in fact – hence Friday 13th being supposedly bad luck) when King Philip IV of France, who was in with the Pope Clement V, persuaded the General Council of Rome to suppress the Order of the Templars. Philip was in great financial debt to the Templars – get rid of the Templars, get rid of the debt. Nice one Phil. It’s not what you know …… Anyway, in England the Templar properties were given to another military monastic order, the Hospitallers (or Knights of St John). For more on Templars click here.

templarKnight Templar

Cutting a long story short, the King’s courts moved from York to Westminster in 1339 and the judges needed to be nearby – and that is when the four Inns of Court were set up. At that time it was judges of the Inns that ‘Called’ advocates to the Bar to follow them in the King’s court (then the Common Pleas or Commons Bench). These advocates were called serjeants-at law (servientes ad legem) but they ‘went-out-of-use’ in the late 19th century and were replaced by senior barristers known as Queen’s Counsel (QC) and junior barristers (who are all ‘Called’ into their respective Inns).

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Middle Templar Lord Lindley was the last sergeant-at-law to be appointed – he became a QC in 1874

Middle Temple was rented to the lawyers by the Hospitallers until the Reformation of Henry VIII in the 16th century. The Crown then became its landlord until the reign of James I in 1608 when it obtained clear title to the land. Hooorah! Sir Walter Raleigh was a Middle Templar; Sir France Drake was not – but the cover hatch to his Golden Hind is still used today as the table to which Middle Temple barristers are Called to the Bar having qualified. Fine piece of useless trivia. And more – William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night was first performed in Middle Temple in 1602 (there are several ‘Inn’ jokes to be found in the play).

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 Hatch of the Golden Hind used a a table but actually called the ‘cupboard’ (don’t ask)

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Western interior of Middle Temple hall for dinning  … smart, eh?

Middle Temple Hall was built between 1562 and 1574 under the guidance of the Treasurer, Edmund Plowden. He employed the services of Sir John Thynne’s chief carpenter, John Lewis, to construct the hammer-beam roof (similar to the one he had created at Longleat). By the late 16th century the four Inns of Court were known as the third University (after Oxford and Cambridge, of course) and Middle Temple was the centre of education for potential lawyers of that Inn (and children of the nobility). Much of the learning was achieved by attending moots (mock trials) and dinners to discuss law – both traditions still continue today wherein student barristers have to attend 12 dinners in Hall before they can be Called to the Bar and mooting is a competitive activity.

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Edmund Plowden (1518-85)

During the Second World War, on 15th October 1940, a landmine on a parachute destroyed the eastern gable of Hall and the Elizabethan minstrel’s gallery. It was painstakingly restored and reopened in July 1949. In fact, Middle Temple as a whole suffered quite badly due to bombing during the war – it lost 122 of its 285 sets of chambers (sets of ‘offices’ where barrister work). But it’s all better now.

The eastern gable and minstrel’s gallery in Hall ………  1christodoulou-beresford-war-damage-to-hallbefore (in October 1940)   (painting by Frank Beresford now hanging in the minstrel’s gallery)       

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…. and after (that’s Plowden’s statue in the middle)

You can also hire the Hall and for more info on the place click here

Temple Church

As mentioned above, Temple Church was built in 1185 and is one of the oldest churches in London. Templar churches were always built to a circular design to remind the Templars of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem, which has a round dome above the site of the sepulchre where Jesus was buried. The church is still used today as a place of worship by both Middle and Inner Temple members and guests on Sundays. It’s well worth a visit and it’s open most days to the public.

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Temple Church 

The film buffs among you will recognize it from its appearance in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Hanks & Co are looking in the church following the clue: “In London lies a knight a Pope interred. His labour’s fruit a Holy wrath incurred. You seek the orb that ought be on his tomb. It speaks of Rosy flesh and seeded womb.” I forget what they found – other than trouble, but ‘the knight a Pope interred’ would have been one of the effigies of the Knights Templars that are on the floor of the circular part of the church. They include William Marshall, first Earl of Pembroke, and his son, William Marshall, second Earl of Pembroke. The first earl was chief adviser to King John and regent to Henry III until he came of age; the second earl was a witness to King John signing the Magna Carta in 1215 (more on that next week).

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Effigies of Knights Templars in Temple Church (situated in the circular part) – the Marshalls are far right background

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The Earls of Pembroke (dad to the left)

Next week: it will be 2015 – 800 years since the Magna Carta …..


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is another extract:

I received a letter from my good friend Joshua Barts-Hofner, a bit of a wit and jolly good rugger player. The letter read as follows:

My dear Artemus,

It was our thirtieth wedding anniversary last week and my adorable lady-wife asked me to describe her after all these years. I looked at her for a while, then said, “You’re an alphabet wife ….. A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K.”

She asked … “What on earth does that mean?”

I said, “Adorable, Beautiful, Cute, Delightful, Elegant, Fabulous, Gorgeous, and Hot”.

She smiled happily and said … “Oh, that’s so lovely, but what about I, J, K?”

I said, “I’m Just Kidding!”

The swelling in my eye is going down and I’m darn glad I took out dental insurance.

Yours, etc

art-smth

Ye Olde Castle Inn, Bramber

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Ye Old Castle Hotel

ONCE UPON A TIME there was this Inn in Bramber, West Sussex, called the White Lion. Today it’s my local pub and called the Castle Hotel. How did that happen? Well, it’s first mentioned, as the White Lion, in Henry VIII’s time in the 16th century (1526, as ‘dispensing alcohol’) but it could go back further than that. In the ‘olden’ days, Inns took their names from the local Lords’ family crests and Bramber’s Lord after William the Conq was William de Braose (see my blog on Bramber Castle way back in April) and the crest of his son, Philip de Braose, (c 1096-1135) was a lion – but a gold one. The coat of arms of William de Mowbray (1173-1222) was a white lion and Bramber became part of the de Mowbray estate by marriage in 1298, when John de Mowbray married Aline de Braose. The two lions merged when de Mowbray became Duke of Norfolk in 1397, so the pub could date back to sometime then …… oh yes it could.

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Philip de Braose’s coat of arms                         William de Mowbray’s  coats of arms

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De Mowbray/Duke of Norfolk coat of arms at the end of the 14th century

It would, of course, have been quite a popular Inn as it was on the main Pilgrims road from Canterbury to Winchester (and vice versa) so would have been a stopping off point for travellers throughout the Middle Ages. So, a Pilgrims’ Progress – to a pie and a pint. Nothing much has changed there.

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Pilgrims progress on route, with silly hats; “Mine’s a pint at the White Lion” says the guy on the white horse

The White Lion doubled up as the Bramber court house which was most likely a room on the first floor. In fact, in 1552, the County Coroner and 14 jurors gathered at the court house to decide whether the innkeeper of the White Horse, William Battner, should be tried for assaulting a Joan Davyd, the servant of the innkeeper of the ‘other public house’ in Bramber (wherever that may have been).  Joan had been fighting with William’s son, John, when William’s dogs had been attacking pigs belonging to the ‘other innkeeper’ (widow Kayne); the pigs had been causing damage on Battner’s land – get it? Anyway, Joan died as result of John wacking her ear with his hand. The jury of the inquest held that Joan died of a natural death because she had been suffering from black jaundice and was already weakened, so the blow did not cause her death (don’t try this at home as today it would be manslaughter. Don’t say you haven’t been warned).

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“You deserve a clip round the ear as well, sir – but it’s your round!”

By the 17th century the Inn was sleeping around fourteen people and this increased to around twenty by the early 18th century. There were four ground floor rooms and five on the first floor (including the court ‘house’) and a stable yard at the back (now the new family restaurant, formerly the games room). From 1780 to 1833, the Inn was owned by the Gough family who, from 1713-1860, also owned St Mary’s Tudor House along the High Street. So the Goughs were obviously an affluent bunch who dabbled in Inn-keeping (well, Inn-ownership … I don’t suppose they got their hands too dirty). From 1841 to 1871 the White Lion was owned by James Potter whose son, Walter, displayed his stuffed animals at the Inn from 1861. He was, later (1880), to set up the Potter’s Museum (for more info click here) in, what is now, the gardens of Bramber Villa .

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Potter’s Museum along from the Castle Hotel

It was when the Inn changed hands from James Potter to Henry Kelcey in 1871 that it changed its name to the Castle Hotel. This was as a result of the many visitors to the ruins of Bramber Castle, assisted by the opening up of the railway in 1861. Picnicing up at the Castle ruins led to Kelcey selling refreshments up there, so the change of name was a promotional ‘thing’. When the Duke of Norfolk sold Bramber Castle, the 1925 advert included a reference to a £70 per year rental paid by the Kemp Town Brewery (in east Brighton) which meant that the Castle pub was then a tied house of the brewery but continued to make money up at the Castle ruins. And why not. Now we just get the ice-cream man.

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The Castle Hotel in recent flowering glory

For more info on the Castle Hotel/pub today click here

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Next week: Brasenose – an Oxford College


ASIDE

I mentioned last week that Lawrence of Arabia’s motor bike sold at auction for a record £315,100. Well, keeping up with such prices, E.H. Shepard’s signed drawing of Winnie the Pooh et al playing pooh sticks sold at Sothebys this week for £315,500 – a record for any book illustration. I think I’m in the wrong buisness.

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Pooh, Piglet and Christopher Robin – bargain at 300k!


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is another extract:

My fine friend, Christian de Belvedere, called in on my rooms the other day sporting a shiner of a black eye. “My dear fellow, what happened to you?” I enquired with deep concern.

“Well, old boy,” he replied, “I made bit of a faux pas. The wife said to me, ‘If I pass away before you I imagine you will find someone else in due course, but you won’t share our house with her will you?’ 

‘No, no, my dear,’ I replied.

Then she said, ‘You won’t give her my car will you?’

‘Good Lord, no, no, my dear’ I replied.

Then she said, ‘You won’t give her any of my clothes will you?’

‘Certainly not, my dear,’ I replied.

Then she said, ‘You won’t give her my golf clubs will you?’

‘Definitely not, my dear,’ I replied, ‘she’s left-handed ……..’ aagh!”

art-smth

Glastonbury Abbey: fact and fiction

FACT: Glastonbury Abbey existed in the Middle Ages and still does – to a certain extent.

FICTION (maybe): King Arthur and his two-timing wife, Guinevere, were buried there.

First let’s distinguish between myth, legend and fiction Myth never happened (trust me – e.g. Greek and Roman gods, 6 headed monsters, one-eyed ogres  … actually, I do know someone who might fit that description); legend may have happened (e.g. Geoff Hurst’s 1966 World Cup 2nd goal did go over the line); fiction didn’t happen but some fiction is based on legend (e.g. politicians are honest). Get it? So, legend has it that Glastonbury Abbey was built on the site of a wattle and daub church erected by Joseph of Arimathea when he visited the town with the young boy, Jesus. After the crucifixion of Jesus, Joseph revisited Glastonbury (or the island of Avalon as it was then) with the Holy Grail and buried it below the great hill of Tor – now the site of the Chalice Well.

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Hill of Tor, Glastonbury

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Chalice Well at the bottom of Tor Hill

Fiction (as legend) then moves forward to AD 540(ish) and the death of King Arthur. He was reputedly taken, mortally wounded, by boat to Avalon. There he died and was buried – at Glastonbury in the ancient burial ground (3 on plan), maybe.

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morte d’Arthur (‘so long Art’)

Fact and fiction merge: In 1190 it is recorded that the monks dug up a grave in a cemetery just south of the Lady Chapel (not to mention St Dunstan and Galilee chapels) at Glastonbury Abbey. It contained two skeletons, male and female, and they were deemed to be Arthur and Guinevere. It is not clear what happened to them at that time, but in 1278 they were reburied in a black marbled tomb in the Choir/Chancel of the Nave before the High Altar. King Edward I was present, so it must be true (must it? Bit like reading the Sun or the Daily Mail). After the vandalising of the Abbey in 1539 the bones were no longer to be found.


Plan of Glastonbury Abbey (north at top) (shaded red is what remains)

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Toby pointing out the site of King Arthur’s first burial place …. maybe (looking north with Lady Chapel in background)

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King Arthur’s tomb of 1278 in the Chancel (looking east, High Altar chain-linked in background with ruins of Edgar Chapel behind that)

Back to fact: The first stone church at the site of the Abbey was built by the Saxon King, Inde, in AD 712 and it was enlarged (the cloisters) by Abbot Dunstan in 940. In 1077, after the Norman invasion, this church was destroyed and replaced with a larger one by Abbot Thurstin. Then, between 1100-1118, Abbot Herlewin demolished this church and built the main Abbey. The Domesday Book of 1086 records it as the richest monastery in the country. The building was destroyed by fire in 1184 and rebuilt. Historical records tell us that rebuilding went on until 1524 and the archaeology gives physical evidence of these previous buildings. The Abbey was finally ransacked in 1539 after the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII (there’s someone who had a lot to answer for). Regardless, the remains of the Abbey are well worth a visit.glast4

Interior of Lady Chapel (looking east)

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Nave and Central Tower remains (looking east)

And, of course, Caburn Castle is Camelot …… (it said so in the Sun – or was it the Daily Mail)

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Next week: The develoment of societies with archaeological interests


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is another extract:

met an old American friend of mine the other day in the bar of London hotel of some note. It was Douglas Fairweather Jnr, a famous actor over from Hollywood. He was slumped over a whisky.

“Hi Dougie, what’s the problem?” I enquired detecting a state of morose.

“I’ve come over to make a movie of The Merchant of Venice and they want me to play Shylock.” He responded in some despair.

“But that’s excellent old boy,” I retorted with much enthusiasm, “What’s the problem?”

He replied, “But I want to play the Merchant.”

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St Mary’s House, Bramber

THE TUDOR HOUSE of St Mary’s is a must to visit if you are in Bramber between May and September on a Thursday or a Sunday. I’m not really a rep for the Bramber Tourist Board, honest. (Actually, I think I AM the Bramber Tourist Board).

 

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St Mary’s Tudor House

St Mary’s was built around 1470. The land had original belonged to the Knights Templars who remained in Bramber until 1154. The house took its name from the late 12th century chapel of St Mary’s that had been built on the central pier of the old stone bridge between Bramber and Beeding.

The house became a sanctuary (or Inn) for pilgrims travelling from Canterbury to Winchester (as you do) and was controlled by the Monks of Sele (Sele Priory was in Beeding in case you missed previous blog). It is likely it would have been a four-sided, two-storied, oak-framed building with a central open courtyard (where the music room is today).

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Plan of what the house may have been like as a four-sided building in 1470 (street to right) – by Walter Godfrey (Thorogood, St Mary’s Bramber, 1998, 8)

What remains of the 15th century house is the east wing. During the 17th century the other wings of the house and the south end of the east wing were demolished, either through fire or disrepair (they didn’t have insurance in those days!). If you come out of the music room onto the stairs and look up you will see four entrances which would have been to the travellers’ cells (bedrooms). The fact that one opens into thin air is evidence of a gallery which would have been present in the 17th century (either that or the owner had a sense of humour). If you go into the garden from the door by the kitchen and look back you will see the south wall is of flint and stone. This is a 17th century repair and the old wood beamed wall would have extended further into the garden (by approximately 15 feet).

Although there are two entrances on the east side of the existing wing, the original entrance would have been where there is still a door on the North (the street) side (see pic below). Part of the oak pillar (found in the basement) to this entrance is now on display on a wall within house.

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Plan of what the front (north side) of house may have been like from the street in 1470 (Thorogood, St Mary’s Bramber, 1998, 7). From the middle of the entrance door to the right no longer exists (well, it does, it’s now the flats and St Mary’s Court)

The Warden’s room (or Monks’ parlour) contains some of the earliest oak panelling in the house, dating from the 16th century. There is also a unique massive ‘dragon’ beam carrying the weight of the upper floor. The Elizabethan inglenook would have been used for cooking when the great kitchen in the west wing was lost.

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The Warden’s room (or monks’ parlour) in the first entrance

In the 16th century, following the dissolution of the monasteries, the house was taken over by Sir Ralph Shirley (of Wiston) and he divided the open common room on the ground floor of the east wing into separate rooms and installed the fireplace in the middle entrance hall – as it is today. Also in the hallway is a central table believed to be from the wood of a ship from the battle of Trafalgar.

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The entrance hall with the ‘Trafalgar’ table

It is possible that the house may have seen the visitation of Elizabeth I on one of her ‘Progresses’ through Sussex and it may be that ‘The Painted Room’ was prepared for her visit (see pic below). It has also be ‘said’ that Charles II stayed at the house during his escape to France, but there is no documenatry evidence of either of these royal visits, just romantic speculation. Nothing wrong with that.

19a-Painted Room

The Painted Room

During the 18th and 19th centuries the house was used as a farm and the Tudor oak beams whitewashed over (sacrilege!). Then in 1890 the Hon. Algernon Bourke (second son of the Earl of Mayo) purchased the property and built the music room and accommodation extension (now flats and St Mary’s Court). Algernon was from ‘High Society’ and owner of White’s Club in St James’s and chairman of the Grand Hotel in Monte Carlo. He was also related to the ‘notorious’ Lord Alfred Douglas whose father, the Marquis of Queensberry, had a hand in the fall from grace of Oscar Wilde. The characters, Algernon Moncreiff and Gwendolen Fairfax, in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, are believed to be based on Algernon Bourke and his wife, Guendoline.

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Algernon Bourke by ‘Spy’

In 1899 Alfred Musgrove succeeded Bourke as owner of the house. Little is known of him other than that he may have been the inspiration behind Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes’ tale The Musgrove Ritual which is set in a house very similar to St Mary’s. As with the Conan Doyle tale, there is a cellar which, at present, is blocked off – but what may be down there today?

Between the war years the house was owned by the McConnels and was used on occasions as an American ‘finishing school’. First-hand accounts from the family’s grand-daughters report that the rooms were filled with gaiety, dancing and laughter.

The outbreak of WWII brought the downfall of the house and it fell into disrepair. It was saved by Miss Dorothy Ellis who bought it at auction in 1944, saving it from a builder who would have dismantled it for building materials (omg!). Since 1985 it has been lovingly cared for with expertise and skill by Peter Thorogood and Roger Linton.

 

music rm

The Music Room

The Gardens

The five acres of gardens make St Mary’s a very special place to visit. Surrounding the actual house is the Topiary garden to the east, leading to the now front doors and the Terrace garden to the south leading out from the rear door.

In the Terrace garden is the ‘Monks Walk’ (remember previous blog?) which is an ivy-clad pergola of yew. Some of the ornamental stone fragments in the flint wall are remnants of the old Medieval bridge. The lawn was laid out by Algernon Bourke in the 1890s and was used for croquet. One of the notable features of the garden is the ‘living fossil’ tree, the prehistoric ginko biloba, which is the oldest species of tree in the world.

Behind the Castle pub St Mary’s Victorian gardens were sold off by Dorothy Ellis to pay for the repairs to the house. The present owners, Peter Thorogood and Roger Linton, were fortunate enough to be able to buy them back when the cottage to which they belonged came up for sale. The gardens (aka the ‘secret’ gardens) have now been restored to their Victorian glory by Roger and are a delight to wander around and relax.

gate

Entrance to the ‘secret’ gardens

There is also a small museum housing various fascinating garden relics and an enchanting and tranquil ‘Poets Corner’.

Dr Who

For Dr Who fans St Mary’s is a must. The ‘Silver Nemesis’, with Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor, and his trusty police box, was filmed at the House in July 1988. Click here for article.

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Events and things

The House puts on various events, including music and comedy which you can all go and see. You can also get married there, as my son, Toby and his wife, Zoe, did in 2012:

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Toby and Zoe married at St Mary’s

More on the House, click here: stmarysbramber.co.uk


ASIDE

On another topic, did you see the size of ‘dem bones’ found just recently??

bone

The bone in the picture is a fossilised femur (thigh bone) of a new species of dinosaur or titanosaur, dating back to the late Cretaceous period (that’s somewhere between 66 and 100 million years ago to you). It was discovered in a desert in La Flecha in Argentinia and bearing in mind the size of the femur this dinosaur (sorry, or titanosaur) is likely to have been around 40 m in length (that’s 130 ft in English) and 20m tall (that’ll be 65 ft), weighing in at 77 tonnes (much the same as 14 elephants apparently), which is seven tonnes heavier than the previous record holder, Argentinosaurus. Bad luck Argentia, you’re big but not big enough.

Fossilised remains of seven of this enormous fellows, totaling some 150 bones, were excavated by a team of palaeontologists from the Museum of Palaeontology Egidio Feruglio, led by Dr Jose Luis Carballido and Dr Diego Pol. They were discovered by a local farm worker and one assumes he thought better than to give them to his dog.

The real question is, where are they gonna put them?

Honey, we need a bigger garage …….

Next week: Lets’ go to Crete


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr. Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is a further extract:

My days searching for early African civilization were fraught with endangerment. I recall being warned by our guide that we were entering a region inhabited by a lion. My colleagues and I commenced enclothing ourselves in heavy boots and a strong robust rig about the body. To my surprise, our guide stripped almost naked and donned only a pair of plimsolls, clearly intent on avoiding any physical contact with the king of the jungle.

“My dear man,” my voice raised with some degree of authority, “I trust that such foolish attire will do you little favour should we encounter the savage beast of the wild. Lightly garmented such as you are, you will never out run the creature.”

His response, which left me a little disturbed, was, “Master, but I only need to out run you.”

AT

 


 

Ghosts of Bramber Castle

Oooooooooo, do you believe in ghosts? ONCE UPON ANOTHER TIME there was a King called John. He was a bad king and was easily upset by his barons ….. who were just as easily upset by him (if you get the drift). William de Braose, the 4th Lord of Bramber,  was no exception. In 1208, John seized William’s lands and Will de B escaped to France. Bramber-Castle.-Sussex-570x300

Don’t go up to the Castle at night ……

Unfortunately Will’s wife, Maud (or Matilda) and eldest son, William (imaginative with their names in those days), were captured by King John ‘the Bad’ and he locked them up in Corfe Castle (or possibly Windsor Castle) and starved them to death. Easily done. Here the tale slightly deviates as another source says that two of Will de B’s children were captured and starved. It is these two children that are (sometimes) seen wandering the grounds of Bramber Castle at night in search of their father. Admittedly, when I say ‘sometimes’, they are usually seen after the pub has shut. Then there is the white horse A riderless white horse has been heard and seen on moonlit nights galloping around the moat.  Its origin is unknown.  Could it be the horse of the sporting young William de Lindfield? (Yes, another William). In the 15th century, the ill-tempered Lord Hubert de Hurst occupied the castle (supposedly).  He was in his 50s and married to Maud of Ditchling (oh, another imaginative name), a rustic beauty, half his age.  The naughty 25-year-old Lindfield was having an affair with Maud (no surprise there), which Hurst discovered (oops, careless). whitehorse On a fresh September day, Lindfield rode into the castle and dismounted the horse and was never to be seen again.  Hurst had set a trap for him in the pleasure house, in a garden at the rear of the castle, where the young gentleman was awaiting the company of Lady Maud.  It resulted in Lindfield being imprisoned in a vault beneath the house. Hurst proceeded to brick up the vault’s entrance and the entombed Lindfield fell to a dark and solitary doom. Maud died of grief shortly after discovering the fate of her lover and the dastardly Hurst was reduced to a raving maniac (happy days).  Many years later the pleasure house and gardens were supposedly destroyed by the Parliamentarians and a skeleton was found crouched in the corner of the old vault (Lindfield’s?).  Perhaps it is Lindfield’s white horse which, today, roams the moat awaiting the return of its master. bramber_moat

The moat ……. domain of the riderless horse?

I don’t want to be a spoil-sport, but if you read my previous blog on the Castle, you know that it was in ruins during the Civil War which puts a bit of  a dampener on the existence of any pleasure house (or its destruction by Parliamentarians) and any possible truth of this yarn ……

 St Mary’s Down the road to the Castle you may find another ghostly apparition if you are in the right place at the right time (and consumed sufficient champagne). This will be at the old Tudor House of St Mary’s. In fact it has two estranged figures wandering the premises. First there is the ‘mysterious monk’ who has been seen lurking in the Monk’s Walk (obvious place for a monk I suppose) in the back garden of the House. The source of this vision is a Canadian soldier (or two) and the occasion was a revel (involving a certain amount of alcohol so we’ll leave it at that). 48-Garden today- Monks walk

 The Monk’s Walk at St Mary’s (it’s day time that’s why you can’t see the monk)

Ghost-of-monk-seen-in-church

‘Mysterious monk’ on his way to the garden …. perhaps

The second is the ‘lady in grey’ seen on the hall stairs of the House by one of the more elderly occupants, Mimi McConnel, during the early part of the 1900s. The source does not mention Mimi’s drinking habit. stairs

The ‘spooky’ stairs (again, day time so don’t expect to see the ‘lady’)

  Next week: More on St Mary’s Tudor House.


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction (see last blog). Here is another extract:

I received a call from my very good friend, Professor Michaelmas Aston-Villa, who informed me of an interesting experience he had just had. He had heard that some very strange crop marks  had recently appeared in a field near his home.  He decided to hire a plane to take a look and photograph them, but he had to be quick as he believed the field was to be ploughed up that very day. He telephoned the local airfield to have a plane ready and waiting.  As he arrived, sure enough, there was a small bi-plane warming up on the runway.  He ran to it, jumped into the passenger cockpit and shouted to the pilot to go. Once airborne, he turned to the pilot and pointed in the direction of the field.  The pilot asked of his interest in the field and Michaelmas explained to him that he was an archaeologist and needed to take aerial photographs before it was ploughed over.  After a long pause, the pilot tapped Michaelmas on the shoulder and said, “You mean you are not my instructor?”

 AT

 


St Nicholas’ Church at Bramber Castle

st nich

St Nicholas’ Church, Bramber

EDWARD THE CONFESSOR (1042-1066) gave the parish of Bramber (and nearby Steyning) to the Abbey of Fecamp in Normandy. As seen in the first blog (if you have been paying attention), when William the Conqueror took his place as King of England he granted the ‘Rape’ of Bramber to William de Braose but the monks of Fecamp still claimed rights to the land (see ‘Historical Note’ below). In 1073, de Braose, in competition with the Abbey of Fecamp,  built the church of St Nicholas, just outside his castle’s gatehouse, for Beneditine monks of the Abbey of St Florence (Florent) at Sanmur in Anjou.  In 1080, those monks moved from St Nicholas and established themselves at the Priory of Sele in Beeding (village next door) but St Nicholas remained as a religious centre for the occupants of Bramber.

Historical Note (not that the rest of this is not historical you understand): After Edward the Confessor died, new king, Harold, decided to cut Fecamp’s ties with St Cuthman in Steyning (along the road from Bramber – pay attention). William of Normandy (he hadn’t been upgraded to ‘Conquerer’ yet) was furious and planned retribution.  And so Steyning maybe accountable for the cause of the Norman Conquest ……….

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Anyway, in 1085, William le Conq belatedly re-confirmed Fecamp Abbey’s claim to St Cuthman Church (now St Andrew’s in Steyning). This was not a good thing as it was to lead to various disputes between the Abbey’s monks at St Cuthman  and Billy de Braose (we’ll call him Will de B). In fact, 3 court cases came to pass in 1086. The first involved the monks successfully stopping Will de B charging a 2d toll at Bramber bridge for boats to pass through to the Steyning port. In the second case, Will de B was ordered to fill in ditches he had dug to allow water from a tributary of the River Adur to flood the east side of the moat of his castle and to make it easier for water transportation to the castle. In both cases the monks of St Cuthman claimed they had the rights to the river – and the court obviously agreed. In the third case, the monks considered they had the rights to bury the Bramber dead at St Cuthman – and receive the burial fees. Again they were successful and burials at St Nicholas had to be dug up and reinterred at St Cuthman – along with payment of the burial fees. Monks with a mission!

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Conjectural map of 12th century Bramber/Steyning (yellow circle is St Cuthman, white circle is Bramber Castle [ditches from tributary NE & SE], red circle is Bramber bridge)

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Plan of St Nicholas over the years

See the above plan of St Nicholas over the years. The north and south transepts have disappeared entirely and the east apse was replaced with a chancel (in or around 1250), which has also since disappeared (after the civil war in the 17th century).  Arches of all three are still visible on the outside walls.  The single aisle and tower are original structures (well, the tower has needed some repairs – see pic below).

st nics 1770

St Nicholas c 1770 – towerless

In 1459, the Priory link with monks was dissolved and the church (& Priory at Sele) was granted to St Mary Magdalen College, Oxford, by Henry VI (at bequest of William of Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester).  It had now obtained full status as a parish church.

As a result of the dissolution of monasteries in 1538 the church became  the property of the Crown, who granted it to Richard Andrews and Nicholas Temple, who sold it to Owen and Clement Oglethorpe, who re-granted it back to Magdalen College in 1546, where it remained until 1952.  It then passed to the Bishop of Chichester, who holds it today.

 st nic 19th c

St Nicholas in the 19th century

The church was damaged during Civil War (c1643) and it took many years for it to be fully repaired.  The materials from the wrecked chancel were utilised to repair the tower.  In 1931, the vestry was added to west side of the church.

Inside the church is a fine arch with two original Medieval carvings on its capitals. The left column said to be one of only three examples of Norman 11th century figured sculpture in the country. The right column carving is most likely 14th century and has a Maltese cross which associates the church with the Knights Templars who occupied the village around that time (see pictures on link below).

As is rather obvious, the church has fared somewhat better than the castle (see previous blog if you don’t believe me) and is still in use today.

Click here for another link to a site regarding the church.

Next: Ghosts of Bramber Castle …….. and another extract from Artemus Smith’s notebooks (talking of which …..)


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction (see last blog). Here is another extract:

I had been working on a survey of a churchyard in Vienna.  On the first day I could hear music which was emitting from the gravestone of none other than Ludwig van Beethoven.  Being familiar with his work, I soon realized was that it was his Ninth Symphony, but it was playing backwards!  After luncheon, I returned to hear his Seventh Symphony, again, playing backwards.  Curious as I was, I sought the graveyard’s caretaker.  On our return to the headstone, the Fifth Symphony was playing, as I expected, backwards.  I asked the caretaker whether he could provide a suitable explanation. 

“Nothing to worry about” he said, “He’s just decomposing.’’

AT