The Curse of Cowdray House

THESE DAYS most people know Cowdray Park in Midhurst, West Sussex, for its polo (and golf course) and ochre-coloured estate buildings. But there is a magnificent ruin of a Tudor house also there – okay, you knew that as well.  But did you know why it’s a ruin?  The monk’s curse of course!

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The original house, named Coudreye, was built between 1273 and 1284 by Sir John Bohun. It was acquired by Sir David Owen (Henry VII’s uncle) on the death of his wife, Mary Bohun, in 1496. He built the current Cowdray House in 1520.  In 1529, Sir Owen’s son, Henry, sold the house to Sir William Fitzwilliam.  It became the home of Sir Anthony Browne when he inherited it from Sir William, his half-brother, in 1543. It remained one of his principal residences until his death just five years later in 1548.

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Cowdray House as it may have looked c1545

The house was then inherited by his son, also Sir Anthony Browne – later 1st Viscount Montague.  Much the same time (following the Dissolution of the Monasteries of 1536-41), Sir Anthony is said to have expelled the monks from the nearby Priory at Easebourne. An embittered monk raged into Cowdray House where Sir Anthony was feasting and cursed his family line, shouting, “by fire and water, thy line shall come to an end and it shall perish out of this land” [1]. Harsh, bearing in mind it wasn’t Sir Anthony who had dissolved the monasteries ……

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Sir Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montague, 1528-92 (portrait by Hans Eworth 1569)

Well, the curse rather fizzled out. That is until 200 years later in the 18th century. Cowdray House, under the ownership of the 8th Viscount Montague (George Browne), was destroyed by fire on the 24th September 1793, ironically, during restoration work. A few days later, the Viscount (unaware of the fire) drowned foolishly attempting to shoot the rapids at the falls of the Schauffhausen on the Rhine.  The 9th Viscount died childless in 1797 and with that the peerage became extinct. There’s more. The 8th Viscount’s sister, Elizabeth, became heir to Cowdray and married William Stephen Poyntz and in the summer of 1815 their two sons were drowned in a boating accident off Bognor Regis in West Sussex.  Cowdray House was never restored and remains a ruin today.   Spooky or what?!

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The House after the fire (above and below)

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The Cowdray estate was sold ‘out of the family’ by Poyntz’s three daughters to the 6th Earl of Egremont in 1843.  In 1908 the 8th Earl sold the estate (including the ruin) to Sir Weetman Dickinson Pearson, later (in 1917) 1st Viscount Cowdray.

Battle of the Solent (Mary Rose) painting

On the subject of the Mary Rose (as I was last week), Cowdray House was also famous for its painting of the Battle of the Solent when Henry VIII’s ship, Mary Rose, sunk (see also post, March 21). Well, I say ‘famous’ – it would have been if the painting still existed. Unfortunately it was destroyed in the 1793 fire. But fortunately a copy had been made eight years earlier.

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The Cowdray ‘copy’ of the Battle of the Solent (6ft in length)

The original of this painting was probably painted between 1545 and 1548 for Sir Anthony Browne who was Master of the King’s Horse (he was the father of ‘the cursed’ Sir Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montague – see above).  He is shown prominently in the centre of the image riding a white horse following just behind King Henry VIII who is also mounted (see just above the large English flag bottom middle – and see pic below). The picture was one of a set of five which adorned the walls of the dining hall at Cowdray House.

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Henry VIII and Sir Anthony Browne (on white horse) from the Cowdray ‘copy’

The Society of Antiquities of London commissioned the Sherwin brothers to make a watercolour copy of the original wall painting of the Portsmouth scene and this was completed by 1775.  Recording the image had been made at the suggestion of Sir Joseph Ayloffe (1708 – 1781) who read a paper to the Society about the wall paintings at Cowdray House in 1773. Thank goodness for Sir Joseph!

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Footnote

[1] There is another version: Prior to his inheritance of Cowdray House, Sir Anthony Brown had received Battle Abbey in East  Sussex (where the Battle of Hastings had allegedly taken place). A dispossessed monk from Battle Abbey is said to have cursed the family with those words.

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Battle of Agincourt

ONCE UPON A TIME, 600 years ago, we had the Battle of Agincourt. Yes, another anniversary and this was on the 25th October 1415 to be exact (okay, sorry, I’m a week late, it was last Sunday).  A great victory by the English under Henry V based on a change of tactics (sort of).

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Henry V (1387-1422)

Henry’s army landed in France on the 13th August 1415. They were not, as someone suggested to me the other day,  transported by his famous ship the Grace Dieu (whose remains are still beneath the River Hamble at Burseledon near Southampton) as she was launched in 1418, or by Henry’s other famous ship, the Holigost (whose remains have just recently been discovered some 50 yard from the Grace Dieu), as she was launched in November 1415.

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‘Morning of the battle of Agincourt’ (John Gilbert, 19th century)

Early medieval battle tactics were simply a head-on charge of heavily armoured horseman followed by a gruesome and savage hand-to hand combat. Aka the chivalry and bravery of Knights in armour. Such Knights would also supply infantry to support their king’s cause in the oncoming furor.  The coming of the Tudors and the use of the long bow was to change this. This is not to say Henry V invented this type of bow as it was used in England before him. The Assize of Arms of 1252 and Edward III’s declaration of 1363 encouraged ownership and early practice of the long bow as it was very difficult to use (requiring great strength/skill to pull).  It was used to great effect at the Battle of Crécy in 1346 at the beginning of  the Hundred Years’ War (which actually lasted 116 years, 1337-1453, but let’s not go there) and also at Poitiers in 1356.

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English yew long bow (6ft 6in, 2m long; 105 lbf, 407 N draw force)

The long bow was, of course, so successful at Agincourt that it allowed a numerically inferior English (and Welsh) force of around 9,000 (which included 7,000 bowmen) to defeat a French force of around 12,000.  There does not appear to be any reliable sources on causalities but it is understood the French losses were high whereas English losses were very low – one account suggests 450 English to 4,000 French. Included in the English fatalities was Edward of Norwich, the Duke of York.

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Edward of Norwich, Duke of York (1373-1415)

Obviously the English were led by their king, Henry, but the French were not troubled by their monarch, Charles VI, as he suffered from a severe psychotic illnesses – that was his excuse anyway (we’ll call him ‘sick-note Charlie’).  The French were therefore commanded by a Charles D’Albret. The battlefield was possibly the most significant factor in deciding the outcome. The land had been recently ploughed and was hemmed in by dense woodland. This favoured the English both because of its narrowness and the thick mud through which the French knights had to pass over making advancement very slow. It also meant that “the living fell on top of the dead, and others falling on top of the living were killed as well” (Gesta Henrici Quinti – anonymous contemporary account). In fact, the French were so tightly packed they could hardly use their swords (account by a French monk, St Denis).

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Battle of Agincourt 

Interestingly the French bowmen seemed to play very little part in the battle. They had been deployed behind the French troops. The French delayed the attack expecting more troops to join them. This gave the English archers time to set up their defensive stakes and by the time the French horsemen charged the English bowmen were ready for them. The French Knights could not outflank the bowmen because of the surrounding woodland, instead they headed into a ‘woodland’ of sharpened stakes embedded into the ground. Not a good option. These stakes caused much injury to the French horses who, in turn, panicked and unseated many of their riders into the mud to be left to the mercy of the English infantry. Once a heavily armoured knight was stuck in the mud he wasn’t going anywhere!

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Mud of Agincourt (Donato Giancola 2007)

Retreating French horses and horseman ran over advancing French infantry, trampling or scattering them.  It was chaos. When the English bowmen ran out of arrows they simple grabbed whatever weapon they had and attacked the French men-at arms. By this time armour had become more of a disadvantage – knights were hot and tired within these armoured suits and could “scarcely lift their weapons” (see St Denis above). They had great difficulty in defending themselves against the much more nimble and lightly armoured English bowmen.

According to one source, Henry, in rescuing his brother, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, received an axe blow to his helmeted head, knocking off a piece of his crown. So, clearly he was right in the thick of it, not like the French king, ‘sick-note Charlie’.

King Henry V and The Battle of Agincourt.

Henry rescuing his brother …..

The battle lasted some three hours.

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A walk from Blackfriars Bridge to London Bridge

The other weekend Sarah and I visited Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on the south side of the River Thames in London – between the Millennium Bridge and Southwark Bridge – both of which are between Blackfriars Bridge and London Bridge.  Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre was originally built in 1599, destroyed by fire in 1613, rebuilt in 1614, and then demolished in 1644. The modern reconstruction is based on available evidence of the 1599 and 1614 buildings. It was founded by the American actor and director, Sam Wannamaker (Zoës dad), almost on the site of the original theatre, and opened in 1997.

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The Globe

Interestingly we went to see a variation on Aeschylus’ Oresteia, the ancient Greek play – nothing to do with Shakespeare!  However, as you do, we wandered around the area and what we found, within no more than a 5 minute walk, was quite fascinating.

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Inside the Globe  – the set of The Oresteia

If you hear the phrase “he’s in the clink” you think of someone in prison.  But where does the phrase come from?  If you walk eastward from the Globe along Bankside you come into Clink Street – and the answer to the question. Here you will find the Clink Prison Museum. The Clink Prison is the name given to all prisons that have stood on a number of sites around this particular vicinity over the years. The first prison dates back to 1127 and was a cellar in the Palace of the Bishop of Winchester (see below). The last was in Deadman’s Place – now Park Street (immediately southwest of Clink St) – which, at various times, held Protestant and Catholic religious martyrs. It was burned down in 1780 by anti-Catholic Gordon rioters (see Charles Dickens’ 1841 novel, Barnaby Rudge).

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The Clink Prison Museum – enter at your own peril….!

Just along from the prison (still going east) is the remains of Winchester Palace. This was the palace of the powerful Bishops of Winchester which was one of the largest and most important buildings in medieval London. It was founded in the 12th century (around 1136) by Bishop Henry de Blois, brother of King Steven. Its purpose was to house the bishops in comfort whilst they were staying in London on royal or administrative business.  And why not.

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Remains of Winchester Palace

The visible remains (above) were part of the Great Hall which formerly stood alongside the south bank of the Thames. You can see the magnificent rose window at the top. Below it are three glass ‘windows’ which were, in fact, entrances leading to the buttery, pantry and kitchen.  Below the hall was a vaulted cellar where goods such as wine could be stored, with a passage to the river wharf. The palace remained in use until the 17th century when it was divided into tenements and warehouses. It was destroyed by fire in 1814 and then rediscovered in the 1980s during redevelopment of the area.

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The foundations of the cellar (in between the pot plants) – the ground floor of the hall would have been immediately below the four glass entrances at the top

Along from the palace is the replica of Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hinde. The original ship dates back to the 16th century when it circumnavigated the globe between 1577 and 1580 during the reign of Elizabeth I. The Golden Hinde II took two years to build and, as  there were no plans of the original ship, Loring Christian Norgaard, a Californian naval architect, spent three years researching manuscripts about Drake’s voyage, Tudor shipbuilding techniques, and the journals compiled by crew members.  The replica was launched in April 1973 from the  J. Hinks & Son shipyard in Devon.

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Golden Hinde II

From Winter 1974 to Spring 1975 the ship sailed from Plymouth to San Francisco to commemorate the upcoming 400th anniversary of Francis Drake’s discovery of Nova Albion in North America in 1579. She returned to England in 1980.  After a tour of Britain and Ireland, Golden Hinde II sailed to Canada to appear in Expo ’86, and a year later began a four-year expedition along the East and West Coasts of North America, returning to the UK in 1991.  Following another successful tour, she finally settled down in her current home at St Mary Overie Dock in 1996.

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Golden Hinde II

I don’t wish to be a spoil-sport but if you are in any doubt as to whether she really is a replica check out the propeller!

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16th century propeller?   …… perhaps not

Finally, just around the corner from the Golden Hinde II is Southwark Cathedral. This began its life in AD 606 as a convent. Around the 9th century, the Bishop of Winchester may have replaced the nuns with a college of priests. In 1106 the church was ‘re-founded’ by two Norman knights as a priory, living according to the rule of St Augustine of Hippo, dedicated to St Mary.   After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 it was appointed a parish church and renamed St Saviour’s.  It became Southwark Cathedral in 1905.

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Southwark Cathedral

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Southwark Cathedral – the nave designed  Sir Arthur Blomfield in 1895

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Inside the Cathedral – quite impressive

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Map of the vicinity – Winchester Palace is located between The Clink Prison Museum and the Golden Hinde II  (Blackfriars Bridge is about 300m off the map to the left and London Bridge is on the map, far right)

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 Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is another extract:

My large friend, Paramount Hargrove, told me he had discovered that he had the body of a Greek god.

I had some difficulty trying to explain to him that Buddha is not Greek.

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The Mary Rose

I KNOW, quite a lot has been written about the Mary Rose, but I haven’t written it and you may not have read it. However, I feel bound to say something of this great ship because I’m one of her Flag Officers (sounds grand but it just means I’ve donated some money to her conservation) and I think she is a fab project …. and I give talks on her every so often (or when anyone wants to listen).

The only image we have of the Mary Rose from the Anthony Roll of 1546

As for her history, she was built on the order of Henry VIII when he came to the throne in 1509 and completed in 1511 and named after his favourite sister (Mary not Rose). Then she was of 500 tons and one of the first war ships to have on board  heavy canons. Before such usage of heavy guns, naval warfare was simply sailing up to your opponent, boarding and battling it out hand to hand (‘fighting-by-the-sea’, I expect you could get postcards). Anyway, two French Wars came and went and then, in 1536, the Mary Rose was refurbished and uprated to 700 tons. The third French War arrived in 1544 and a year later, at the Battle of the Solent (although not much of a battle), the Mary Rose went to the bottom of the sea.

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The Cowdray engraving of the sinking of The Mary Rose – you can just see the top of her mast circled in red (see pic below)

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Cowdray engraving: mast of the Mary Rose (centre) with a survivor raising his arms

Why did she sink?  Good question. There are a couple of theories. The first is that she was hit by a French canon ball from one of the French barges firing on the British fleet. We reject this out of hand as in no way will we accept that the French can take any credit for the ship’s demise.  The second, and more feasible, is that she turned abruptly, was caught by the wind and veered over so far that her open gunports filled with water causing her to sink. That her gun ports were still open during this manoeuvre must have been a human error. Either she turned too quick for the orders to be given to close them or orders were given but ignored (wouldn’t a captain wait until such orders were fulfilled before turning?). Her admiral, Sir George Carew, was reported as saying to his uncle, Gawen, “I have the sort of knaves I cannot rule”. This would imply that his crew were far from organised – and isotope analysis (science stuff) of human bones recovered suggests that some were from around Spain and so may not have understood orders in English (a minor difficulty one might imagine!). Regardless, some 450 crew drowned, including Carew and his captain, Roger Grenville (the anti-boarding netting over the open deck area prevented most of the crew from abandoning ship). There were only around 30-40 survivors.

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Sir George Carew

Tudor attempts to raise her failed and she succumbed to a watery grave, being covered, over the years, by silt. She was briefly discovered in 1836 by John Deane who had invented diving equipment and was investigating fishing nets being caught under the sea – they were being caught on the Mary Rose. Over four years Deane recovered some guns and other artifacts but the location of the wreck was soon forgotten.

John Deane’s diving gear

In 1965, Alexander McGee went in search of the wreck. He had found her rough location in 1966 on an Admiralty chart and by using a newly invented sub-profiling apparatus (science stuff again) he eventually discovered the wreck’s exact whereabouts in 1971. The site of the wreck was subsequently protected from ‘treasure seekers’ by the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. It was surveyed between 1971 and 1979 whereafter the Mary Rose Trust was set up to consider bringing her to the surface. This happened on the 11th October 1982 and watched on television by some 60 million people.

Portrait of Alex McKee OBE (1918-1992)

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Raising of the Mary Rose: A. attaching it to the lifting gear; B. lifting it towards the frame, C. lowering it into frame which was then raised to the surface

In the region of 3000 timbers were recovered from the Mary Rose. Once out in the fresh air the wood of the ship had to be preserved. Under the water the centre cells of wood are eaten away and so the wood is hollow. Left too long in the air the wood will just collapse. So these hollows had to be filled. From 1982 t0 1995, the hull was sprayed with chilled water; from 1995 to 2004, it was sprayed with low grade polyethylene glycol (PEG) to penetrate inner layers; from 2004 to 2012, it was sprayed with high grade PEG to penetrate outer layers; in the the final phase, from 2012 to 2016, it is undergoing air drying.

Mary Rose undergoing wood preservation treatment

The Mary Rose has produced some phenomenal artifacts – a real taste of the Tudors which we knew nothing about until the discovery of the wreck. Over 130 Tudor longbows (no Tudor longbow had ever been seen before) and something like 3500 arrows were part of some 19,000 finds – a real ‘treasure chest’ of Tudor life. You can see many of them on the internet.

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Sarah and I were lucky enough to be able to ‘go behind the scenes’ at the original museum and handle some of the rare finds including a Tudor longbow

The new Mary Rose Museum which opened on 31st May 2013  – well worth a visit

Prince Charles officially opening the new Mary Rose Museum on 26th February 2014 – I put this photo in because I was invited to this opening and was standing right in front of him ……

Find out how to support the Mary Rose – or go and see her – by clicking here

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Next week: Stonehenge and the Druids


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 watched with astonishment as a farmer of my acquaintance, Gerald G. Giles, was feeding his pigs. He held a pig in his arms and lifted it to an apple tree whilst it ate sufficient apples to satisfy its appetite. When the pig’s appetite was satisfied Gerald put it down and held another to the tree to eat. I said to him, “Gerald, old boy, why don’t you just shake the tree, let the apples fall and allow the pigs to eat them at their leisure. What you are doing is a terrible waste of time.” He turned to me with frowned expression and replied, “What’s time to a pig?”

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Herstmonceux Castle

CONTINUING my long overdue visitations of some Sussex sites (last week the Booth Museum, Brighton), I came upon Herstmonceux Castle, near Hastings in East Sussex. Actually, some Canadian students had recently attended a talk I had given on Maritime Archaeology at the Brighton Divers Club at Brighton Marina and I had met up with Dr Scott Mclean who teaches Archaeology and History at the Castle. Teaches at the Castle? Yes, in fact it’s the Bader International Study Centre of Queen’s University in Canada. In 1992, Alfred Bader wanted to buy the Castle for his wife (some people just buy their wives flowers) but she complained that there were too many rooms to clean!  And she would be cleaning them??  Bader, an alumni of Queen’s University, then liaised with the Principal of the University and ‘hey presto’, the International Study Centre was set up in 1994 (its name was changed to incorporate Bader’s name in 2009).

Herstmonceux Castle

The Castle’s name derives from the owners of the original building around the 12th century. A Norman nobleman, Ingelram de Monceaux, was married to one Idonea de Herst and the manor was called Herst de Monceux (makes sense). The Castle (although it’s not really a defensive castle – more of a palace) as it appears today in its red brick was built in the Tudor period in 1441  at the cost of £3000 by Sir Roger Fiennes (a familiar name), who was the Treasurer to Henry VII. 100 years later in 1541, Sir Thomas Fiennes, aka Lord Dacre, was unceremoniously hanged having been found guilty of the death of a gamekeeper of a neighbouring estate (naughty Sir Thomas had been poaching deer from his neighbour). Although the house/castle was confiscated by Henry VIII, it was returned to the Fiennes family after the King’s death and remained so until 1708 when Thomas Leonard, 15th Baron Dacre (and 1st Earl of Sussex) sold it to a lawyer, George Naylor. George’s half-brother, Robert, took possession of it in 1775 and began dismantling it leaving only its external walls (don’t even ask why).

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Naughty Sir Thomas Fiennes, 9th Baron Dacre (1515-1541)

Whilst still a ruin in 1807, it was bought by Thomas Read Kemp whose father (Thomas Kemp Sr) owned a farmhouse in Brighton rented by the Prince of Wales – the same building which was to become the Royal Pavilion (quiz trivia for you). It (the castle not the Royal Pavilion) remained a ruin until 1911 when it was purchased by the MP Lt Colonel Claude William Henry Lowther who began to restore it. This restoration was not completed until 1933, when it was under the ownership of Sir (Herbert) Paul Latham (whose architect, Walter Godfrey, wrote various books and articles on Sussex history published by, among others, the Sussex Archaeological Society). Now Latham was an interesting – if that is the correct word – character. In 1931 he became MP for Scarborough and Whitby and, even though he was exempt from military service during WWII, he joined the army only to be arrested for ‘improper behaviour’ with three soldiers and a civilian. He was the first MP to be court-martialled for ‘indecent conduct’ (10 charges) for over 100 years. He attempted suicide by riding his motorbike into a tree – attempted suicide was illegal then and so he was charged and found guilty of that as well. He was dishonourably discharged from the army and spent two years in prison and, needless to say, resigned his seat in Parliament. Not a very successful career.

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Unsuccessful Sir (Herbert) Paul Latham (1905-1955) 

In 1946, the Admiralty purchased the Castle and, in 1957, made use of the observatory in the grounds. It remained the Royal Greenwich Observatory until that moved to Cambridge in 1988. The Castle then sat lonely and empty until its banner was taken up by Alfred Bader who refurbished it into the magnificent building it is today.

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The Observatory in the grounds of the Castle

The Castle and grounds are also open to the public – click here. For more info on the Bader International Study Centre at the Castle, Click here

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Next week: The Mary Rose


ASIDE

Spooky or what?

I was at a talk on the First World War the other day and it was mentioned that the number plate of the car in which Archduke Franz Ferdinand was in when he was assassinated was AIII 118.  That is A 11 11 18 – Armistice 11th November 1918

     

 


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 visiting a jungle outpost to meet a retiring colonel CO. After a welcoming (gin and tonic), the retiring colonel said, “You must meet my Adjutant, Captain Jameson. He’s my right-hand man, and he’s really the strength of this office. His talent is simply boundless.”

Jameson was summoned and introduced to me and I was very surprised to meet a humpbacked, one eyed, toothless, hairless, scabbed and pockmarked specimen of humanity, a particularly unattractive man less than three feet tall.

The colonel said, “Jameson, old man, tell Smith about yourself.”

“Well, sir, I graduated with honours from Sandhurst, joined the regiment and won the Military Cross and Bar after three expeditions behind enemy lines. I’ve represented Great Britain in equestrian events, and won a Silver Medal in the middleweight division of the Olympics. I have researched the history of…..”

Here the colonel interrupted, “Yes, yes, never mind that Jameson, he can find all that in your file.  Tell him about the day you told the witch doctor he was a joke.”

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Wolf Hall, Anne Boleyn and all that

QUITE A FEW people have been following BBC’s Wolf Hall and it has received great reviews. I’ve read both books and found them most intriguing, but I was not sure how easy they would convert to TV – especially into just six episodes!  When I saw the first instalment  I think ‘rather slow’ came to my mind.  Also, Mark Rylance, I believe, is an undisputed great on the stage (and I’ve seen him there), but he appeared a little uncomfortable in front of the camera (or maybe that is how he thought Cromwell would be).  Saying that, he sort of reminds me of Michael Kitchen’s Foyle of Foyle’s War (and that’s a compliment – although it’s not exactly how I envisaged Cromwell). Then there’s Damian Lewis – yes, another fine actor and, although English himself, far too type-cast as an American to justify an impersonation of a king of England (in my opinion).  Despite that, and despite the fact that Henry the Large, Anne B, and Uncle Tom Cromwell and all have been somewhat flogged to death on the screen over the years, Wolf Hall still grabbed my attention.

Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell

Anyway, if I haven’t already alienated you with my opinion of the TV Prog/actors, and if you haven’t seen it yet and don’t want the plot ruined (well, not so much Wolf Hall plot, but the general Anne B intrigue), STOP READING NOW and return into hibernation.

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Damian Lewis as Henry USA style (okay, Eton then ….)

So who was to blame for Anne’s downfall in 1536?  Henry?  Cromwell? Or Anne herself?  The scriptwriters, in general, will have it down to Cromwell with much help from Anne.  A villain is always needed and Cromwell is convenient. Violence is also a need but that was already there – heads rolling around … but not with laughter.  All the film/TV makers now needed was the sex.  Enter adultery and incest . Yummy – money in the bank.  But did Anne really commit all those naughty acts? Who was really to blame for her demise?

First, let’s blame Anne. She came from an ambitious family, notorious for scheming and so it was in her blood. She was clever – perhaps too clever – and ruthless, but not, I think, so much so to cross that line into incest with her brother, George.  The Countess of Worcester was accused of ‘hanky panky’ with courtiers and claimed she was no worse that the Queen (or words to that effect).  Then there was the overheard damning conversation with Sir Henry Norris in Queen Anne’s chamber. She had asked Norris why he hadn’t married and he replied he would wait awhile. Anne responded with, “You look for dead men’s shoes for if ought came to the king but good, you would look to have me.”  Treasonous words!!  But who reported hearing them?  Anne’s lady-in-waiting, Madge Shelton? Well, Norris was supposed to be courting her, so a woman scorned perhaps? Or maybe it was  the gossipy Lady Worcester diverting her own infidelities.  If Anne had been messing about with others she must have realised she was playing with fire – it just doesn’t add up.

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Anne Boleyn (1499-1536) complete with head 

So, let’s blame Henry.  Anne couldn’t give him the male heir he was so desperate for and he was nearly 45 years old and …. well, not that old, but was getting worried.  He had wasted some 24 years waiting in vain for Catherine of Aragon to do the noble ‘thing’. ‘Been there, done that’, he may have been thinking. He also had taken a fancy to one Jane Seymour (she of Wolf Hall in case you were wondering where the name came from) but that was nothing new and she would have been fine as a mistress one may think. So, how to rid himself of Anne?

One suggestion was that he accused her of witchcraft.  It was a Medieval theory that miscarriages only happened to evil women – women who committed adultery, incest or even witchcraft.  This was Anne’s second miscarriage (well, stillborn … and male) and Henry may have caught on to this Medieval bunkum and preferring the witchcraft route (adultery suggested he wasn’t ‘up to it’), he spread rumours that Anne had cast a spell on him to marry her so it was without his consent.  Yeah, right.  He was obviously hoping his Ecclesiastical court would wave a magic wand to relieve the spell with the magic words, “I divorce thee”. (Actually Canon Law in England at the time did not recognise divorce – both Henry’s ‘divorces’ were, in fact, annulments).

What is rather strange is that it has been reported that Henry and Anne appeared to be contented with each other a couple of weeks before her arrest. This may have meant Henry was faking it (contentment that is) or possibly implying some third party intervention……….

Henry

Henry the Ate (a lot)

Okay, let’s blame Cromwell.  But why?  Well he has the villain’s black hat for a starters. But what had he to gain from the downfall of Anne?  In fact, if he was the instigator and he had failed, his head would have been on the block, as they say, literally (I know it was later but that was …… later).  He already had as much power as he needed and I don’t believe Anne was a threat to that.  Alternatively, was he simply told to compound evidence against Anne by Henry?  Cromwell took sick-leave for a couple of days (21-22 April) just after Anne’s miscarriage, and shortly after his return he had Mark Smeaton, the king’s musician, arrested for adultery with Anne. She was arrested just after that on the 2nd May.

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Thomas Cromwell (1485-1540) …. in villainous black hat

What is the conclusion then? We can never be sure, of course, but I’ll put my money on Henry commissioning Cromwell to find the evidence of adultery.  Henry needed to move on to seek his male heir elsewhere and quickly.  Jane Seymour was in the ‘right place at the right time’ (unless you were Jane Seymour – see footnote below).  I don’t think Cromwell wanted the job of bringing Anne down or to be in such an unenviable position, but he had to follow the king’s bidding. There is a letter he wrote to Eustace Chapuys, the ambassador of Charles V, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, saying that he (Cromwell) had been commissioned by the king to conspire and think up the affair of Anne’s adultery. Cromwell duly obtained a confession of carnal cavorting with Anne from Smeaton (how, we don’t know – torture maybe ….. threat of several weeks of listening to the king sing perhaps?).

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Eustace Chapuys (1490-1556)

Spoiler alert – if you don’t  want to know what happened TURN AWAY NOW:               Anne got the chop (yes, I knew you knew that).  Despite denials, two others were found guilty of ‘dallying’ with the Queen, Sir Francis Weston and Sir William Brereton, who, along with Norris and Anne’s brother, George, also went to the executioner. Everyone else lived happily ever after ….. well, not quite – in fact, nothing like.

 

POSTSCRIPT

The day Anne was executed, Henry was out riding with Jane Seymour. You can imagine the conversation:

Seymour: “How has your morning been my Lord?”

Henry:  “Such turmoil. First I lost my cod-piece; then I lost my wallet; oh, and my wife lost her head.”

Two weeks after Anne’s departure, Henry married wife number three, Seymour … and then they all live happily ever after. Well, no. Mind you, what was Jane Seymour thinking?  Henry’s first marriage with Cathy of Aragon had been annulled against all odds and she died in January 1836. Henry’s second wife, Anne, died four months later.  Was this a ‘Jonah marriage’ or what?  Indeed, Jane died in October the following year (having dutifully produced the required male heir, Edward [VI to be, albeit briefly]).  But still there were game young fillies out there prepared to marry Henry the Unlucky (three of them anyway). It all reminds me of Nat King Cole’s  song, ‘Let’s Face the Music and Dance’ which would have been more appropriate for Henry to have composed, particularly with its very first line, ‘There may trouble ahead’.

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Next week: The Parthenon at Athens – now and then


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 heard of an arrangement my good friend, Rev. Arbuthnot Smythe-Harcourt, had had with his son. The boy had just passed his driving test and inquired of his father as to when they could discuss his use of the family car.
His father said he’d make a deal: “You bring your grades up from a C to a B average, study your Bible a little, and get your hair cut. Then we’ll talk about the car.”
The boy thought about that for a moment, decided he’d settle for the offer, and they agreed upon it.
After about six weeks his father said, “Son, you’ve brought your grades up and I have observed that you have been studying your Bible, but I’m disappointed you have not had your hair cut.”
The boy said, “You know, Dad, I’ve been thinking about that, and I’ve noticed in my studies of the Bible that Samson had long hair, John the Baptist had long hair, Moses had long hair… and there is even strong evidence that Jesus had long hair.”
His father thought for a minute and then replied:
“Did you also notice that they all walked everywhere they went?”

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.”

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