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An Early Modern Christmas at the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum, Singleton near Chichester, West Sussex

12/30/2016 in Uncategorized

Christmas at the Weald and Downland Museum, 2016

 I know that Christmas has now been and gone as it always does with a slow anticipated wait then when it does finally arrive, it seems to go by in a flash and tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. So I apologise if anyone thinks that my post is out of ‘season’ but I wanted to share my trip to the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum on Boxing Day when they were open for their “Christmas at the Museum.”

The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum is located in the Downland village of Singleton, 4 miles north of Chichester in West Sussex. As the name implies the museum collects buildings and artefacts from the geographical area of the North Downs, the South Downs and the Weald.  The North and South Downs are chalk, while the geology of the Weald is made up of greenstone, sandstone and clays and was called the Andredes Weald by the Saxons – Andredes from the Roman place-name Anerida for Pevensey and Weald from the German Wald for forest as in the early medieval period the Weald was still a heavily forested area. There are three areas to the Weald, the high Weald which is in the centre on the sandstone, the low Weald which is located on the outside on the clay and the greensand ridge that is found around the north and west of the Weald. As a forested area, the Weald popular for hunting, while in the low Weald the clay made farming difficult. Arable farming was better suited on the dip slope of the Downland where the chalk provided better drainage of the soil.

My aim in visiting the Weald and Downland Museum was to visit the houses that had been dressed for an early modern Christmas. However, I first visited an old friend, the treadwheel from Catherington in Hampshire, which is a Downland parish as I grew up in Catherington and now live just down the hill from the farm where the treadwheel was located. The well shaft was over 300 feet deep and is most likely Roman. At different locations in Catherington sherds of Roman pottery have been found and the bank which runs along the north boundary of the churchyard of All Saints, the parish church from the eastern boundary right through to the western boundary at Catherington Lane has been dated as Roman. Some years ago the Museum of London built a replica of a Roman treadwheel and in addition to the well shaft that the Catherington treadwheel was built over, it is quite likely that the well shafts of the treadwheels at Beauworth, Hampshire (still in situ at the Milbury’s public house) and Saddlescombe Manor near Brighton – also Downland parishes, were originally dug out in the Roman period. The Catherington treadwheel and the un-daubed timber framed building in which it is housed are both seventeenth-century, no doubt built to replace an older treadwheel and building.

After the treadwheel I visited Tindall’s Cottage an eighteenth-century cottage from Ticehurst in East Sussex, a parish in the High Weald. It was the first time that I had visited this building as it was erected after my last visit to the museum. Tindall’s cottage which was built between c. 1700-1725, has a main room with a fireplace and bread oven and a second smaller unheated room that was used as a buttery. Behind the kitchen an outshot was built at the back of the cottage. This contained a Brewhouse with a built in copper and a smaller room that was probably used as the dairy for making milk, butter and cheese. When I was in the Brewhouse, two visitors remarked to each other: “Oh look there’s the copper for washing clothes!” I felt that this highlighted what I consider to be a major shortcoming as the museum has not provided any interpretation within the rooms of the buildings as to what features and the particular artefact assemblages within a room are. In the kitchen, a duo was playing music on recorders and the table was set for Christmas with a variety of crockery, food such as cheese and some greenery for decoration, very basic but nevertheless a Christmas celebration.

Next up was Pendean a seventeen-century yeoman’s farmhouse from Pendean farm, West Lavington which is a parish in the Weald near Midhurst. Pendean was constructed in 1609 and represents the transition from a medieval open hall house to an enclosed house with a baffle or lobby entrance opening onto the side of the main chimney stack that served the two ingle nock fireplaces. The wider fireplace in the end room contained a bread oven the room being used as a kitchen, while the smaller ingle nock fireplace heated the central room and one upstairs room was also heated by the chimney stack. The central room served as a hall or parlour while the room the other side of the hall, which was unheated would have used as a service room either a buttery or pantry. As Pendean was a yeoman’s house the Christmas spread was of a higher status than that which I found in Tindall’s Cottage. Not only was there a wider selection of food including a pie, but the ceramic / crockery assemblage was also of a higher status as was the table cloth. In the kitchen and buttery/pantry a domestic assemblage had also been set out again of a higher status of that of a yeoman’s household.

Following Pendean, I popped into Bayleaf a fifteenth-century Wealden house from Chiddingstone, Kent, a parish in the Weald. As the term ‘Wealden House’ implies, this design of house was commonplace in the Weald and also in the Downland of southern England. A Wealden house consisted of three bays with the central bay containing the hall that was open to the roof, the front wall of the hall being recessed with a double height unglazed window. The upper storeys of the end bays were jettied out, the chambers above the rooms of the end bays reached by separate stairs. One end bay would be designated the higher status end and in the hall adjacent to the door to this bay, the high table where the yeoman sat would be located. The inner ground floor room of the upper bay being a private room known as a solar and used to house the owner’s bed and other high status furniture and goods. The lower bay was divided from the open hall by a screen and divided into two service rooms the buttery where barrels of beer and other drinking victuals were stored. While food was stored in the pantry next door. Like Pendean, the buttery and pantry in Bayleaf was laid out with a variety of ceramic and other artefacts associated with food and drink manufacture during the early modern period. The hall also housed high status furniture and a hanging behind the high table. The high table was furnished with a high status table cloth and a variety of high status dishes, plates (some of which were pewter) and jugs. The dishes contained a variety of foods that were commonly eaten at Christmas during the early modern period including walnuts and pies. The table was also highly decorated with garlands.

Bayleaf forms part of ‘Bayleaf Farmstead’ a group of farm buildings from the early modern period erected to show what a farmstead in the Weald and Downland would have looked like. The farmstead includes barns, stables and Winkhurst Tudor Kitchen. I have been a visitor to the Weald and Downland Museum since 1982 when I was 15. At that time the buildings were not furnished with furniture and artefacts but were empty. Winkhurst was located up on the Down not far from the treadwheel from Catherington. It was interpreted as a two bay timber framed house with one bay having an upper storey and the other bay open to the roof in the manner of an open hall. However, since Winkhurst’s initial interpretation and erection at the museum, further research has been undertaken into separate kitchen buildings and after 2002 Winkhurst was dismantled and re-erected and reinterpreted as a separate kitchen building to Bayleaf – i.e. Winkhurst was where the food was prepared and cooked away from the main house as a measure of fire safety. Dendro dating of the timbers from Winkhurst suggest that it was constructed sometime during the period c.1492-1537. The re-interpretation of Winkhurst as a kitchen is based on the observation that whilst one bay was open to the roof it lacks architectural features common to open hall houses such as double height windows as found in open hall houses like Bayleaf. I have visited Winkhurst on several occasions since it was re-erected and re-interpreted as a Tudor kitchen and on my visit on Boxing day it was evidence that the cooking and other processes that the re-enactors undertake in Winkhurst is ongoing research. On previous visits the shelves containing the ceramics/crockery was located on the south wall, but on Monday I noticed that they have been moved to the east wall and the south wall has a few artefacts and other items such as dried herbs hanging from it. The kitchen also contains several tables on trestles and benches, a bread oven and copper for brewing, along with a variety of cooking utensils and pots, plates and jugs. Winkhurst is always the highlight of my visit I love watching the re-enactors going about their chores. On Boxing Day, they were offering visitors gingerbread and ale and they were delicious!

The final early modern building that I visited was Poplar Cottage from Washington, Sussex. Washington is a Downland / scarp foot parish on the north facing scarp slope of the South Downs and on the scarp foot where the Downs and the Weald meet. It has a Borstal (sometimes and in this instance spelt as Bostal) which is a steep path that traverses the steep scarp slope of the South Downs diagonally from the scarp foot and the Weald. The term ‘Borstal/Bostal” comes from the Old English burg-steall originally meaning an earthwork or hillfort but which in the case of a steep path up the scarp slope of the South Downs came to mean getting to such a place as an earthwork or hillfort. The term Borstal is particular to these paths up the north facing scarp slope and are not found on the top of the Downs, on the dip slope or south of the Downs on the coastal plain (Professor Richard Coates pers. com.). The Naturalist Gilbert White imported the term into East Hampshire when he had a path constructed up the side of Selborne Hill in the eighteen-century. Poplar Cottage was built down on the scarp foot on Washington Common and built c. mid seventeenth-century, and probably was an example of encroachment onto the common. It was built to house a landless husbandman or labourer and their family. Poplar Cottage was decorated not with Christmas decorations – an A board outside declared: “The Cancellation of Christmas 1647.” Inside the main room of the cottage was devoid of any examples of Christmas food or decorations and instead copies of posters detailing: “The Arraignment, Imprisoning and Conviction of Christmas.” These posters were distributed throughout the land in 1647 after Oliver Cromwell declared that Christmas should be banned. Although as a labourer’s home, Popular Cottage would have little in the way of furnishings the lack of even a small amount of Christmas food and decoration illustrated what life would have been like for people during the mid 1640’s. People who had been born during the later Reformation/Post-Reformation period and who had been used to celebrating the 12 days of Christmas annually, and who now suddenly in their world turned upside down were forced not to celebrate Christmas – the bleakness of this little cottage stood apparent in stark contrast to the Christmas celebrations found in Tindall’s Cottage, Pendean and Bayleaf.

Overall I enjoyed my trip through an early modern Christmas, but I felt that despite the displays it was hard at times to appreciate what the exhibits were attempting to convey. This was due to the volume of people, the museum was proving to be a popular attraction on Boxing Day well not everyone wants to engage in the instant convenience orientated throwaway society that we live in and hit the high street or out of town shopping centres and go to the Boxing Day sales. Clearly, many people were enjoying a wonder round the past. For me as an archaeologist and historian specialising in the early modern period the problem is how the past is presented- and many academics have discussed the question of how we present the past particularly when it’s in the vein of an idealised past or rather how the museum visitor sees and idealises the past. An event such as the Weald and Downland Museum opening on Boxing Day for the ‘Museum at Christmas’ is perhaps more about attracting visitors to give them an opportunity to escape and for the museum to have 2 successful days of visitor numbers in the middle of winter. I admit I see the draw of the escapism I myself talk about “getting lost in the sixteenth-century”, but in my case I’m getting lost in doing research not visiting an attraction to idolise the past. I mentioned the two visitors in the Brewhouse in the outshot at the back of Tindall’s Cottage who thought the copper was for washing clothes rather than brewing ale. They may have said this based on family tales of how their grandmother’s or great grandmothers heated up the copper in order to wash the clothes in. My own late mother frequently talked about how her mother in the 1930’s, as a married woman, while living with her own mother in a Victorian terraced house in Aldershot, Hampshire would heat up the built in copper in the kitchen in order to wash the clothes there being no such thing as an electric washing machine in those days at least not in a working class house. Its these kind of memories – oral histories that can shape people’s experiences when they visit an open air / living history museum and it needs to be acknowledge as an integral part of the visitor experience. For my part as an early modern archaeologist and historian.

I tend to find that when I visit this type of museum I study the way the houses and other buildings are furnished including the artefact assemblages – ceramics/crockery, pots, pans, jars, cooking utensils, furniture, seating, soft furnishings, bedding etc. then I come home and think about these items and how a particular house has been furnished, laid out and interpreted or not as the case may be. I feel that the Weald and Downland Museum could do more to provide on-site interpretation about how the jars, pots, pans, cooking utensils and other household items have been researched and chosen. The museum has a historic clothing project running which has already produced a small booklet, they need a similar project about the artefact assemblages. I also think they could run study days for academics engaged in research into say the medieval period or the early modern period on a day when the museum is quieter. A seminar could be held in the Downland Gridshell building and a tour of the houses along with some hands on with the Tudor food in Winkhurst. It is something to consider seeing if this could be organised in 2017! Overall presenting Christmas past in an open air museum is a good idea but the large numbers of visitors hinders the experience.

Treadwheel from Catherington,Hampshire

Treadwheel from Catherington, Hampshire

Tindall’s Cottage from Ticehurst, East Sussex

Tindall’s Cottage from Ticehurst, East Sussex

Tindall’s Cottage from Ticehurst, East Sussex


Pendean Farmhouse

Ceramic Assemblage from Pendean


Bayleaf Wealden House







Winkhurst Artefact Assemblage


Winkhurst a small measure of ale


Poplar Cottage

Poplar Cottage the cancellation of Christmas 1647

Poplar Cottage the cancellation of Christmas 1647

Poplar Cottage the cancellation of Christmas 1647

Poplar Cottage the cancellation of Christmas 1647



Call for research on English and Welsh parish registers, 1640-1662

10/10/2016 in Uncategorized

Readers may recall that I appealed for help with a project on parish registers during the Interregnum at the 14th Symposium held in May 2016, and again at a conference held in Portsmouth in July to discuss the 1650s.  The idea is that we might use our humble parish registers as strong indicators of the degree of disruption caused by the Civil Wars and Cromwellian regime – a simple idea – but one which requires a lot of work hence the appeal to local historians across the country.  We all know that the Church of England technically ceased to exist between 1646 and 1660, and it has long been assumed that all remained well at the level of our parishes – but did it?

How did different regions fare regarding the creation and retention of parish registers?  May we discern patterns and significant breaks in recording?  What dates emerge as critical across the country and how smooth and quick was recovery after 1660?  We have growing evidence of some turmoil with regard to the provision (and ejection) of clergy during this period; there may even have been a crisis of supply by 1653 when the Commission for Triers and Ejectors was established.  It was in that year that the nature of parish registers was also ordered to be changed, with the appointment of confusingly named ‘registers’ (for which perhaps read Registrars), and details of births requested rather than the more controversial baptisms.  In many ways we gain better quality evidence from parish registers in the 1650s, with details of both parents, while marriages were transferred to civil jurisdiction.  But is all this data reliable?

We are asking for your thoughts on what happened to registers during this period in your area so that we can compile a simple listing of parish registers, noting all gaps that may not have been picked up in general cataloguing, which usually stresses the point from which registers commence.  And of course, we have no Bishops’ Transcripts for this period to fall back upon.  We think that this research will offer valuable clues in relation to an host of questions regarding provision of clergy, changing attitudes towards them, data for population studies where some have argued for a demographic crisis at this time (which may be an optical illusion pertaining to survival of records), and valuable data on the role of churchwardens during this period.  In collecting data we would ask you to use your local knowledge to comment on patterns you might discern relating to geography, patronage, and wealth in the survival of registers (and we are always looking for more churchwardens’ accounts!).

We would welcome lists of parishes – by deaneries, archdeaconries and better still dioceses/counties – but even full details with comments on one loved parish would be helpful!  This project will take time, is highly suitable for ‘crowd-sourcing’, and is very worthwhile, so please give it your kind consideration…. We will report back regularly and hopefully results may be mounted on this Warwick platform.   With best wishes, Andrew


David Starkey Lecture Tour: “The King is Dead: Royal Death and Succession Under the Tudors”

05/31/2016 in Uncategorized

Hello Everyone,

This isn’t of a “micro historical” nature but the Tudor historian Dr David Starkey is on a lecture tour with a lecture on “The King is Dead: Royal Death and Succession Under the Tudors.” I attended the lecture that David gave at the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth on Saturday and it was very good. David only made one rude remark and was very complimentary about Suzannah Lipscomb and always addressed the audience as “Ladies and Gentlemen.” In his introduction he said that the Tudor monarchy was like being on a stage and using this analogy he said that in the lecture he would take the audience behind the scenes to the wings and dressing room in his exploration of the deaths of the five Tudor monarchs. David focused on the secrecy surrounding the deaths of Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI and Elizabeth I as all had the announcements of their deaths delayed. In the case of Henry VII this involved the struggle between the leading church men and the lawyers, which delayed the proclamation of his death and of Henry VIII’s kingship by 48 hours. In contrast David said that Henry VIII’s own death was keep secret for 4 days, and he also discussed what he believes was the cause of Henry VIII’s death – septicaemia caused by the  ulcer(s) on his leg – I’m not entirely convinced that this was the cause of Henry’s death. C.R. Chalmers & E.J. Chaloner, referring to documentary evidence have argued that the ulceration on Henry’s leg began in 1527 (Chalmers & Chaloner, J R Soc Med. 2009 Dec 1; 102(12): 514–517) and in an age where injuries often resulted in infection and then death due to the limited medical understanding about infection I would have thought that if Henry’s ulcer caused the development of septicaemia then it would have done so within a shorter time frame that was closer to the development of the ulcer in 1527 rather then 20 years later. After discussing Henry’s death, David moved on to consider the deaths of Edward VI and Elizabeth I. 

Whilst David doesn’t practice history from the bottom up and his lecture wasn’t micro history, I found it an enjoyable event so thought I would share it with, particularly as reflecting on the lecture has helped me to appreciate the wealth of documentary evidence that is available to the micro historian taking a bottom up approach  David talked about the rule of law through parliament particularly in relation to the legality of Henry VIII’s will but whilst he had no reason to mention common law or the canon law (even though he referred to both leading churchmen such as Cardinal John Fisher and to the struggle between the church and the lawyers), his omission of these two types of law could give the impression to the audience that there was only Parliamentary Law during the Tudor period.

Afterwards in the bar David kindly consented to a photo with me.

Dr David Starkey

Dr David Starkey

Dr David Starkey with Hàìghlèàgh Winslade after his lecture at the New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth 28 May 2016.

Dr David Starkey with Hàìghlèàgh Winslade after his lecture at the New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth 28 May 2016.



Sacred Space: Reflecting on the Fourteenth Warwick Parish Network Symposium and my own research.

05/13/2016 in Uncategorized

Digital StillCamera

The Gage chapel, St Peters, Firle, East Sussex, from the NW.

The Hyde Chapel All Saints Catherington

The Hyde Chapel All Saints Catherington

The largest bay in the church between the Hyde chapel and Chancel, All Saints, Catherington, Hampshire

The largest bay in the church between the Hyde chapel and Chancel, All Saints, Catherington, Hampshire

The tomb of Sir John Gage KG and Dame Philippa Gage, the Gage chapel, St Peter's, Firle, East Sussex.

The tomb of Sir John Gage KG and Dame Philippa Gage, the Gage chapel, St Peter’s, Firle, East Sussex.


This was my first Warwick Parish Network Symposium having recently joined and during discussions I had the opportunity to refer to my ongoing research at both Catherington, Hampshire and Firle, East Sussex. In a break I had a discussion with Elizabeth Norton from Kings College London (who gave a paper on “The Manor and the Parish: Local Organisation in the Sixteenth Century Through the Example of the Blount Family”) about the recusancy of John Gage the Younger as Elizabeth had touched on recusancy. In the final paper of the second session Jörg Widmaier of Eberhard-Karls-Universität, Tübingen talked about “The Gotlandic Parish: Concepts of Identity and Social Differentiation.” This included his study of the adaptation of sacred space by members of the laity in the Reformation / post-Reformation period and in the ensuing discussion I made a comment about lay appropriation of sacred space in the Hyde chapel at All Saints, Catherington, Hampshire.

I have been researching the Hyde chapel at All Saints, Catherington, Hampshire for the past 9 ½ years. I have been a member of the congregation on and off since 1978 and the consensus has always been that the Hyde chapel at All Saints is the oldest part of the church. In the C11th the village of Catherington formed part of the hundred of Ceptune. The focus of this post is the lay appropriation of the sacred space that the two chapels discussed offer, but dating issues will be touched on where necessary. To put matters in context, the Hyde chapel is dated c. 1064 and I have proposed that it was built by Edward the Confessor to commemorate his half-brother Athelstan who held land in Catherington and who died c. 1014-1016. The arrangement of the chapel and the chancel is evidence of how the sacredness of the space was perceived in the late C11th and early C12th. There is a large bay between the Hyde chapel and the chancel, this is the largest bay in the church. To the east of this bay is a half bay and David Lloyd the co-editor of The Buildings of England: Hampshire and the Isle of Wight noted the following:

“The N arcade continues without a break into an E bay [the largest bay] opening from chancel to chapel and ends very curiously, in a further bay of about half the width of the others and correspondingly lower, although the details are similar.” (Pevsner & Lloyd: 1967, 159).

Based on my dating of the chapel to c.1064, which would give it a terminus ante quem date to the chancel and nave, I have suggested that the Norman builders of the chancel and nave sought to equate their sacred space of the chancel with that of the earlier chapel by knocking through the south wall of the chapel to the greatest extent possible which would explain why this bay is the largest in the church; especially if the chapel had been built by Edward the Confessor as this was another way of equating and legitimating their rule with that of Edward all be it at a local level.

If the sponsor for the Norman chancel and nave was Earl Roger who held the hundred of Ceptune after the conquest, then it could be argued that the equation of the chancel with the sacred space of the chapel was a form of lay appropriation. The presence of the smaller half bay to the east of the large bay is evidence of the separation of clerical and lay portals between the chapel and the chancel, given the proximity of this half bay to the east end of the chancel it is probable that this would have been reserved for exclusive use by the priest.

Moreover, in the post-Reformation period the chapel acquired lay appropriation of its space when the tomb of Sir Nicholas Hyde of Hinton Daubnay a hamlet to the NW of Catherington who had been Lord Chief Justice and who died in 1631 was erected. In his paper, Jörg Widmaier talked about how during the Reformation and post-Reformation period the laity appropriated sacred space in the Gotlandic churches, such as in the insertion of a gallery into a chancel for the use of the local elite. In considering the former lay appropriation of the late C11th / early C12th of the chapel with the new Norman chancel, Hyde’s tomb can be seen in a similar context, abet in a funerary context.

My research into the Gage chapel at St Peter’s, Firle has revealed a similar pattern in its history to that of the Hyde chapel at Catherington. Like the Hyde chapel it lays to the north of the chancel, and to touch briefly on dating matters it is proving harder to date because there have been changes to the NW quoin column, with some of the higher quoins having been replaced at some point; whilst most of the NE quoin column is hidden by the addition of a double faced buttress of c. C18-19th date and built to prevent the chapel from collapse as it had the combined weight of the latter chancel and nave pushing against it. Also like the Hyde chapel there is a connection with Edward the Confessor, the entry in the Domesday Book for Sussex states that Edward gave Firle to Wilton Abbey (Morris:1976, 56, folio 19 a,b).

However, unlike the Hyde chapel at Catherington, it has been difficult to construct the relationship of the sacred space in the Gage chapel and the chancel, the two spaces are divided by a two bay arcade which is not only separate from the nave’s north arcade but also of a different date. In the first edition of the Buildings of England: Sussex, Ian Nairn thought the arcade between the chapel and chancel to be late Perpendicular (c.C15th-mid C16th) (Narian:1965,623), but the architectural historian Rodney Hubbuck who has visited the chapel with me believes that they are Victorian (Rodney Hubbuck Pers. Comm.). So until the dating of this arcade can be resolved it is only possible to speculate the construction of the sacred space between the Gage chapel and chancel during the middle ages. Rodney Hubbuck has also dated the stone skirt which encompasses most of St Peter’s including the east and north sides of the Gage chapel as C14th (Rodney Hubbuck Pers. Comm.), while Ian Nairn argued that the chapel was built in the C16th (Nairn: 1965,623). Further typological research into the stone skirt needs to be undertaken, but this major dating difference is noted here in order to highlight the extent of the problems in dating the Gage chapel.

In turning to the matter of the use of the Gage chapel as sacred space especially in terms of lay appropriation during the C16th and early C17th, the evidence is clearer. The chapel is dominated by the table tomb of Sir John Gage KG, a second rank Catholic courtier who died in 1557. In his will, Sir John left instructions that a chantry was to be established to commemorate him in the parish church. Chantries had of course been dissolved and abolished during the reign of Edward VI, and this instruction gives an insight into Sir John’s religious mind set indicating that perhaps he expected Mary to reinstate chantries as part of her policy to return England to its Catholic roots.

The chantry was never constructed and Sir John’s grandson, John Gage the Younger suffered 39 years persecution as a recusant, but in the 1590’s he instructed the Flemish artist Garrat (or Gerard) Johnson who was a member of the entourage of John Gage the Younger’s relative Viscount Montague (Questier:2006, 207-8) to design a table tomb for his grandparents and two smaller tombs for his parents and himself and his two wives. The plans that Johnson drew up are extant and survive at Firle Place the seat of the Gages in Firle. They are annotated around the outside with the hand written discussions between John Gage the Younger and Johnson over the design of the three tombs.

The plans provide evidence that John Gage the Younger was very specific when it came to what he wanted in these memorials to his family even specifying what design of hats his two wives should be portrayed as wearing on their images on the memorial brass on their tomb. The plans show that the east elevation of the table tomb of Sir John and his wife Dame Philippa would have had an inscription, which points to the tomb originally being placed in the centre of the chapel. It has since been re-located to the SE corner of the chapel, probably in the C19th to make space in the chapel either for a poor school that Lady Gage established or to accommodate the organ box when the organ box was inserted into the western bay of the two bay arcade between the chapel and chancel (the presence of the organ box in this location is another obstacle to dating the arcade and evaluating the relationship of the sacred spaces of the chapel and chancel in the middle ages). The discussion between John Gage the Younger and Johnson as recorded on these plans therefore provide primary evidence of how John Gage the Younger sought to appropriate this sacred space for the lay commemoration of his family. I have suggested that despite the many years that he was persecuted both financially and through imprisonment for his obstinate recusancy in having these tombs built in the chapel and in particular the grand tomb of his grandparents that he probably saw himself as fulling his grandfather’s wish and whilst not a chantry commemoration one that fitted in with the current culture of commemoration for funerary monuments (Winslade: 2012: 19-25).

My research into these two chapels is ongoing, but to date I have been able to construct an outline of lay appropriation, at Catherington for both the late C11th / early C12th and early C17th. At Firle research is on-going into both the appropriation and application of sacred memory to the spaces of the Gage chapel and chancel for the late C11th / C112th and the late C16th / early C17th.


Morris, J. (ed.), Domesday Book Sussex (Chichester: Philimore, 1976)

Pevsner, N & Nairn, I, The Buildings of England: Sussex (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1967)

Questier, Michael, Catholicism and Community in Early Modern England: Politics, Aristocratic Patronage and Religion c. 1550-1640 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006)

Winslade, Hàìghlèàgh, The Gage Family of Firle, East Sussex, c. 1503-1650. Prosopography, Politics, Religion & Recusancy.(Chichester: University of Chichester unpublished BA dissertation, 2012)

Great Packington

03/11/2016 in Uncategorized

The reference to the Church Wardens’ Accounts, Great Packington that I mentioned last Saturday morning is WCRO DR 158/19. The years covered are 1551; then 1556-1631. There are later accounts too. They have been kept in excellent condition because Gt Packington is an estate village. I did a considerable amount of research for the late Earl of Aylesford and have copies of all the Gt Packington wills for this period. There are some interesting facts in these such as details about an estate employee/ husbandman who accompanied Mr John Fisher the owner of the estate on Henry VI1I’s Bologne campaign, 1546. Ronald Hutton in, ‘The Rise and Fall of Merry England’ mentions these accounts. The villagers had to dismantle the Rood Screen under compunction early in Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Later we learn that St James’ church bells rang when she passed through the parish after her 1575 visit to Kenilworth Castle. She had previously stopped at Meriden Hall where she met Sir Edward Aglionby’s step son and family before travelling on into Staffordshire.

Viking runestone at Växjö

04/02/2015 in archeology and architecture, Parish sources, ritual, devotion and religious change, Scandinavia, Uncategorized

Växjö Runestone c1000 Tyke Gunnar Pic Berig

Outside the chancel of the Domkyrkan, the medieval cathedral which also served as the town’s parish church, visitors to Växjö in Sweden encounter a runestone dating from c. 1000. One of several surviving in the area, it was discovered in the nineteenth century under plaster in the church wall.

Religious historians are used to memorial brasses and tomb inscriptions inviting prayers for the dead on the eve of the Reformation, but this concern for the salvation of souls predates the elaboration of the doctrine of purgatory by several centuries.

The inscription starts at the head of the serpent and runs clockwise along the circle, with the commendation to God in the vertical rectangle on the right. Translated into English, it reads: “Tyke, the Viking, raised the stone in memory of Gunnar, Grím’s son. May God help his soul!”. Picture: Berig 2007 under Wikimedia Commons.

New postgraduate part-time on-line diploma launched!

05/02/2014 in Uncategorized

Following the success of our Buildings for Mission training days and widespread feedback we at The Centre for the Study of Christianity & Culture at University of York have developed an on-line part-time   postgraduate diploma course in the History, Heritage and Fabric of the English Parish Church, which is based on our DVD-ROM “The English Parish Church through the Centuries”.

Find out more at  Postgraduate diploma course

Starting this autumn, the course is aimed at clergy, churchwardens, architects, DAC members, heritage staff, volunteers really anyone with a responsibility for or interest in churches and wanting to know more about their history.  The course has IHBC accreditation and we are in the process of getting RIBA CPD Supplier accreditation, so this will be a valuable source of CPD  for professionals. It is entirely online, so designed to work around busy lives anywhere in the country.

The course costs £930 per year for two years, a considerable discount on the normal postgraduate fees.

Don’t worry of you don’t have a first degree; if you have experience and enthusiasm and can work at a postgraduate level we’d be very interested to hear from you!

If you have any questions please do get back to me on

Parishes – A View from the Vatican Archives

01/29/2014 in Parish Research Today, Uncategorized

A week in the Vatican Secret Archives has caused me to think carefully about the relationship between centre and periphery – papacy and parishes – in Europe of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. I am currently working on a Leverhulme-sponsored project ‘Indulgences after Luther: the fall and rise of pardons in Counter-Reformation France’. This involves an examination of how pardons were represented, how they were acquired and how they evolved over the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. After a decline in popularity in France across the middle sixteenth century, indulgences again became popular and were created and consumed in large numbers after 1600. The parish church and its associated confraternities, was one of the largest ‘consumers’ of pardons.

There was one important shift between the Middle Ages and the Catholic Reform period, that is, plenary pardons became much more frequent. New confraternities commonly sought plenaries as part of their foundation, while churches of the mendicant orders and parishes sought permission for privileged altars, where a mass would liberate a soul from purgatory. As the papacy was the only source of plenary pardons, requests from French communities increased enormously in this period. Directly or indirectly, ordinary parishioners and confraternity members had a much closer relationship with Rome.

While there were numerous ways of acquiring pardons from Rome, such as through the procurators of religious orders or via political and financial commissioners resident at the Curia, a good number were obtained by ordinary visitors. For example, in 1626, Cléder parish church in Vannes diocese obtained an indulgence for its altar of St Sebastian, through one of the parish’s priests, Jean Charles, who visited Rome for the Jubilee of the previous year.  In 1656, Nicolas Le Noir of Nancy in Lorraine visited the shrine of Loreto and then continued his pilgrimage to Rome. He petitioned the Holy See for an indulgence for his parish church of St Sebastian in Nancy. Here, a shortage of priests was forcing the population to seek the sacraments elsewhere. Le Noir intended to make an endowment to provide four more priests and hoped for a pardon to attract visitors and therefore revenue to the church as part of his project.

Having an attractive, authentic pardon for display was of great prestige value for local churches. In a handbook for the confraternity of pilgrims to Mont Saint-Michel of Saint-Niçaise parish of Rouen, published in 1668, the author was careful to describe the document as well as the text of the plenary pardon. It was signed by one C. de Goux, with ‘several other notes and signatures customary at the court of Rome’, sealed with wax and a lead seal, which was attached to the document by a string of yellow and red silk. The seal had alarge R on its reverse, signifying Registrata with the text ‘Rentius in secretaria Apostolica’   (Obtained from the Secretariat of the Apostolic See). Indirectly if not directly, the sight and touch of a papal brief exposed local parishioners to Rome’s spiritual prestige.

So we see evidence for a shift in spiritual authority over powers to loose and bind towards Rome. The mechanisms of obtaining indulgences reinforced the link between centre and periphery, reinforcing the position of Rome as the capital of Catholicism. The regulation of indulgences was part a wider systematisation of ritual and papal governance in the Catholic Reformation, which enhanced its authority. But this was not a top-down imposition, it was just as much, demand led. Through pardons, centre and periphery, the pope and the parishioner, came closer together.

Holy Trinity Rothwell (Northants) Crypt and Ossuary Open Day Saturday 10 August 11am-4pm & 6pm-8pm

07/15/2013 in Uncategorized

Rothwell Crypt & Ossuary Open Day

Rothwell is on J3 & J4 of the A14 (35 miles away from Coventry)

The Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield is hosting a family-friendly open day at Rothwell Holy Trinity Church followed by an evening event presenting our research on the Rothwell bone crypt. The event is free to all. Refreshments will be available in the church.

Drop in between 11am and 4pm to find out more about medieval ossuaries – learn about the human skeleton with our hands-on human bone sessions

- take a guided Church tour with a local expert (12pm & 2pm)

- visit the crypt and find out about the 10,000 or more bones of the medieval population of Rothwell

- discover more about research in Archaeology at Sheffield

You are also invited to return to the church from 6pm to 8pm for an evening of talks by staff and students who are currently undertaking new research at Rothwell (please note, this evening event is not suitable for children). To register your interest for this free event please contact;

Jennifer Crangle – or

Elizabeth Craig-Atkins –

Parish Pests: ‘vermin’ and other animals in early modern parishes

07/05/2013 in agriculture and the economy, archeology and architecture, British Isles, officeholding and local government, Uncategorized

In today’s Guardian, Simon Hoggart outlines the great trouble caused by bats in modern parish churches. Due to the recent classification of bats as a protected species, churchwardens are no longer able to disturb their homes and habitats. It can cost up to £29,000 in legal fees for churches to be allowed to relocate bats, and a project has been set up to help our two species communities cohabit peaceably in churches.

Ridding parish churches of ‘vermin’ has a long history. The term ‘vermin’ has had various contested meanings, many of which were based on the slyness and subtlety of vermin. The main threat that these unwanted creatures posed was to seeds and crops. In 1533, parliament passed ‘An Acte made and ordeyned to dystroe Choughes, Crowes and Ro[o]ks’, which ordered every parish to provide a net for catching birds, on pain of a fine. The act specified that two pence was to be paid by farmers and landowners ‘for every xij [twelve] olde Crowes Rookes or Choughes’ caught on their land. A further act of 1566 (‘An Acte for preservacion of Grayne’) expanded the list of vermin to a further thirty-two types of bird and mammal, including kingfishers, bustards, stoats and wild cats, each with a price on their head. In Silent Fields: The long decline of a nation’s wildlifeRoger Lovegrove argues that this act sanctioned the systematic and widespread persecution of wildlife, that continued right up until the nineteenth century.

Early modern parishes had a mixed relationship with their animal neighbours. Records abound of churchwardens paying out for animals caught or moved on under the 1533 and 1566 acts. In 1555 at Mildenhall, Suffolk, ‘John Pollyngton and Buntyng’ were paid for ‘taking of the dows [doves] and the oules [owls] in the church’.[1] Church roofers could supplement their income by removing unwanted birds from church lofts. Whilst repairing the roof of Walton-on-the-Hill, Lancashire, in 1663-4 a group of ‘slaters’ removed four owls at a cost of 1s 2d, and later the intransigent ‘old owle’ for a substantial 1s.[2] In a typical churchwardens’ account entry in the Bedfordshire parish of Northill in 1572, John More was paid twelve pence for bringing in a fox head.[3] In Shillington, Bedfordshire, during the ‘general crisis’ of the dearth years of 1594-7, the parish invested in crow nets to be used by parishioners, perhaps to protect a slender crop. In 1594 wardens laid out 7s 10d on a net, which was subsequently repaired for 10d in 1597.[4] During the Interregnum, the parish of Walton-on-the-Hill, Lancashire paid out for many fox heads, including the 2s for four fox ‘whelps’ (cubs) in 1657.[5] In Cratfield, Suffolk, in 1651-2 the pursuit of vermin became weaponised as the churchwardens paid out 4s 10d ‘for lokeing to the wheat, and powder and shott to kill varmen’.[6]

‘Vermin’ and other animals did not always enter parishes and churches entirely of their own volition. In his 1509 Shippe of Fooles, Alexander Barclay laments the veritable menagerie attendant at some pre-Reformation church services:

Into the church there comes another sotte,
Without devotion jetting up and downe,
Or to be seene, and to shew his garded cote;
Another on his fiste a sparhawke or fawcone
Or else a cokow, so wasting his shoon.
Before the aultar he to and fro doth wander,
With even so great devotion as a gander.

One time the hawkes bells jangleth hye,
Another time they flatter with their wings,
And now the houndes barking strikes the skye,
Nowe sounde their feete, and now the chaynes ringes,
They clap with their handes ; by such manner of things
They make of the church for their hawkes a mewe.
And canell for their dogges, which they shall after rewe.[7]

Dogs were a particular problem for some parishes. They were to be whipped out of the choir in sixteenth-century Chichester, and payments for dog whipping are not uncommon in churchwardens’ accounts.[8] Dogs’ admittance to church became a minor polemical controversy in the seventeenth century. Archbishop Laud’s introduction of the rail around the communion table was loathed by stricter Protestants and seen as ‘popish’ due to the formal separation of clergy and congregation. The rector of Beckington, Somerset, claimed rails would ‘give admittance unto dogs, while Christians be kept out’.[9] Laud himself saw the rail functioning differently. After a dog stole a consecrated loaf from the altar at Tatlow, Cambridgeshire one Christmas Day, Laud argued that such a scandal would have actually been prevented by the presence of a rail.[10]

Some domestic animals behaved much better than these anecdotes would have us believe. Whilst I have no evidence to suggest that anyone went as far as blessing a dog, special dog pews were erected in Aveley, in Essex, and at Northorpe, in Lincolnshire, where the small ‘Hall Dog Pew’ accommodated canine companions during divine service.[11] Perhaps there is yet hope for bats and humans to cohabit in peace and piety.

[1] Judith Middleton-Stewart (ed.), Records of the Churchwardens of Mildenhall Collections (1446-1454) and Accounts (1503-1553) (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2011), p. 135.

[2] Esther M.E. Ramsay and Alison J. Maddock (eds), The Churchwardens’ Accounts of Walton-on-the-Hill, Lancashire 1627-1667 (The Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, 2005), pp. 148-9.

[3] J.E. Farmiloe and Rosita Nixseaman (eds), Elizabethan Churchwardens’ Accounts (Streatley: The Bedfordshire historical Record Society, 1952), p. 14.

[4] Ibid. p. 91, p. 99.

[5] Ramsay and Maddock (eds), The Churchwardens’ Accounts of Walton-on-the-Hill, Lancashire 1627-1667, p. 116, passim.

[6] L.A. Botelho (ed.), Churchwardens’ Accounts of Cratfield 1640-1660 (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 1999), p. 87.

[7] quoted in George S. Tyack, Lore and legend of the English Church (London: W. Andrews & Co., 1899), pp. 109-10.

[8] W.D. Peckham (ed.), The acts of the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral Church of Chichester, 1545-1642 (Lewes : Sussex Record Society, 1959); i.e. C.J. Litzenberger (ed), Tewkesbury Churchwardens’ Accounts, 1563-1624 (Stroud: TBGAS, 1994), p. 46, p. 63.

[9] Charles Carlton, Archbishop William Laud (London: Routledge, 1987), p. 97.

[10] Carlton, Archbishop William Laud, p. 97.

[11] Tyack, Lore and legend of the English Church, p. 109; T.F. Thiselton-Dyer, Church-lore gleanings (London: A.D. Innes and Co, 1892), pp. 191-92.