England and Wales
A DARK Age palace has been discovered, strengthening the likelihood that the legend of King Arthur may be based on a grain of truth.
A DARK Age palace has been uncovered on Cornwall’s windswept coast, strengthening the likelihood that the legend of King Arthur may be based on a grain of truth.
Myth has it that King Arthur will return at the hour of Britain’s greatest need. It could certainly do with some help right now.
Whether or not a new archaeological dig at his supposed birthplace of Tintagel Castle will prompt such a second coming is another matter.
But it may already be adding to the evidence that the myth surrounding the warrior king who, with the knights of his roundtable, struggled to hold back a “Dark Age” from enveloping Britain.
The Dark Age has long since proven to have been not so dark. But the scant records from the time have made pinning down one historical character that best fits the outline of the tale near impossible.
Now, archaeologists have returned to Arthur’s traditional birthplace of Tintagel for the first time since the 1990s. They’ve just completed their first dig in a new five-year excavation.
Last month they sank four trenches into previously unexcavated areas of the ancient island settlement.
What they found may be the remains of a 1500-year-old palace.
BIRTHPLACE OF A LEGEND
Like many prominent British landmarks, Tintagel has long been associated with Arthurian legend.
Like all the others, the evidence has been largely limited to hearsay.
The ruined castle that dominates the Tintagel landscape is believed to be from the Medieval 13th century. This would make it some 700 years younger than the Arthurian tales.
But it’s long been thought that the castle may have itself been built upon the ruins of an older structure.
But it was the discovery of a stone engraved with a name linked to Arthur’s in 1998 that reinvigorated interest in the windswept ruins on Cornwall’s coast.
Archaeologists believe it to have been a foundation/dedication stone dating from the 6th century. It is engraved with the name Artognou.
It’s these ruins that may have been linked to the Arthur of legend.
The tales tell of the seduction — some say by magical means — of the beautiful wife of a local lord by the then King of Britain. The illicit act conceived Arthur.
Mythology goes on to say the young boy was raised as a squire — a knight’s assistant — until fate took its hand and placed the rightful king on his throne.
The first written record of the mystic king comes from a monk named Gildas in the sixth century.
But it was a time where books were scarce and the most common form of transmitting history — and telling tales — was through memorised songs and poetry.
It took two several more centuries before a more detailed account of King Arthur and his actions would be recorded by Geoffrey of Monmouth in 1138AD.
Unwinding his tangle of myth, legend and history has been a challenge for authors and historians ever since.
At the time of Monmouth’s writing, historians believe Tintagel would likely have been little more than a windswept pile of rubble.
So the notion of it being a powerful palace would have had to have been handed down verbally through the generations.
Just like the tale of Arthur himself.
SCRATCHING THE SURFACE
The archaeologists were guided in their efforts by geophysical surveys of the rocky outcrop’s terraces earlier this year.
Among the ultrasound and radar echoes were outlines of what could be up to a dozen buried buildings, one-metre thick walls and winding paths.
The strategically positioned trenches, two on an upper east terrace and two to the south, have all provided a glimpse of the stonework foundations of long-lost buildings.
From the scattering of potsherds and glass, this places the site smack between 400 and 600AD — precisely the time Arthur is supposed to have led his war band against the invading hordes.
None of this proves Arthur existed.
But the new finds add substance to the idea that the site could have produced cultured but strong warriors as well as influential political figures.
It would have been a beacon of lost civilisation in a world of economic chaos and roving, marauding tribes.
Much of the 150 fragments of glass and pottery recovered had been imported from the far reaches of the then collapsing Roman Empire — indicating a place of both great wealth and trade importance.
One piece was the lip of a Turkish-Phocaean red-slip plate or bowl. It was a particularly fine and highly prized ceramic that would likely have held pride of place on the table of nobility.
Original excavation work in the 1930s led archaeologists to believe the cliffside landmark may have once been an Early Christian monastery.
Later work has steadily strengthened the idea that it may have been an important Dark Age fortress, held by the king of Dumnonia who filled the void in Cornwall left when the Romans abandoned Britain in 410AD.
With the heavy rain proving the church roof is now definitely watertight, a small gathering greet the grant representatives from Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund which contributed over £70,000 towards the costs of re-roofing and repairs. From left: Archdeacon of Bodmin Ven Audrey Elkington, roof repair fund programme manager Sarah Palmer and grants officer Sarah Drewell, roof and tower restoration project team members Laurence Harvey, Richard Cavin and David Attwell. Picture: Peter Glaser
A CORNISH church founded by the Knights Templar has been saved from ruin thanks to nearly £90,000 of grants and huge efforts from the local community.
St Catherine’s Church lies in the wild hamlet of Temple on Bodmin Moor. It has had a chequered history from its origins as an outpost for the secretive medieval order of the Knights Templar to its reputation in the 18th century as the Gretna Green of the South West.
Now, after 12 weeks of construction and over 18 months of planning, this historic church has been restored to glory. It was the 2015 quinquennial survey that reported the church roof as ‘nailsick’ and the resulting water damage meant that the church’s days were numbered. The village community rallied and in partnership with Blisland Parochial Church Council secured the funding, planning consents and contractors to bring the church back from the brink.
The Listed Places of Worship: Roof Repair Fund came to Temple’s aid with a grant of £70,300, which together with £10,000 from the National Churches Trust and another £5,000 each from the Cornwall Historic Churches Trust and the Blisland and Temple Preservation Society put the project to save the church well on its way.
The final funds were all thanks to the Blisland PCC, the Scottish Knights Templars and the Headley Trust along with local fundraising events and concerts.
Karen Dickin, chair of the Temple village sub-group, said: “It’s been a real team effort. So many individuals have pledged their time and expertise to make this happen and the result has been the rescue of a church that is our best and only community asset.”
All-in-all it’s taken over £117,000 to complete the works. This has paid for contractors W R Bedford to re-roof the entire building, install a new drainage system and complete crucial timber repairs to the structure itself. The sensitive reuse of the original ‘fishtail’ slates means that the church retains its old world charm, and the scheduling of works and choice of materials has meant that the three resident colonies of bats have been left unharmed. The church is many things to many people — a place of calm and refuge, a centre of the community, a touchstone to history. Thanks to this project the church can continue to be all those things for many years to come.
A OSMTHU, através do seu Priorado Ibérico, celebrou este ano o Pentecostes, realizando uma cerimónia de Armação de novos Cavaleiros e Damas, que teve lugar em aquartelamento protegido na região do Alentejo. Além das autoridades nacionais da Ordem, incluindo o Grão Prior Fr+ Luis de Matos e o Capelão Geral, Mons. Tau Christophorus de Lusignan, esteve igualmente presente o Senescal da Ordem, membro do Conselho Magistral e Prior da Inglaterra e Gales, Fr+ Leslie Payne.
Na mesma ocasião prestou juramento ainda o Fr+ Paulo Valente, KCTJ, sendo investido como Comendador da Comendadoria de Sintra, que terá o especial encargo de proceder à instrução da classe de Noviços.
Damos os parabéns a todos os Cavaleiros e Damas armados nesta ocasião, acolhendo-os numa fraternidade de serviço, espiritualidade e busca pelo conhecimento. Que os seus nomes sejam conhecidos: Cavaleiro Fernando Silva, KTJ; Cavaleiro Jaime Laranjeira, KTJ; Cavaleiro João Pedro Silva, KTJ; Cavaleiro Joaquim Marvão, KTJ; Cavaleiro Jorge Rosa, KTJ; Dama Margarida Rodrigues, DTJ; Cavaleiro Miguel Fabiana, KTJ; Dama Paula Valente, DTJ; Cavaleiro Pedro Coradinho, KTJ; Dama Rosa Ferreira, DTJ; Dama Sandra de Oliveira, DTJ; Cavaleiro Victor Varela Martins, KTJ e Cavaleiro Victor Graça, KTJ.
Agradecemos ainda a todos os que organizaram e puseram todo o seu esforço ao serviço da Ordem neste dia tão especial.
INÍCIO DA VIGÍLIA
INSTRUÇÃO E LEITURAS
Renovations at the York Theatre Royal have brought to life remains from what is considered to have been the largest hospital in northern England in the Middle Ages. Researchers from the York Archaeology Trust were surprised by the well preserved state of the remains, as it was believed that whatever remained from St Leonard’s Hospital had been crushed beneath the floor of the theatre, which underwent a replacement at the beginning of the twentieth century, soon after the discovery of several column plinths and the foundations for the rib-vaulted ground floor of a building.
The discovery of the plinths and foundations was made by George Benson, a historian and archaeologist, Culture 24 details, but were believed to have been destroyed, until in 1989 a research team unearthed two bays of a rib-vaulted roof at the site. However, it remained uncertain whether anything else had survived over the centuries, especially since the erection of the York Theatre Royal in 1744.
The latest remains found in what are called occupation deposits beneath the building consist of six column plinths and the base of the northern wall of a building right beneath the theatre’s stalls. There is a lot of documentary evidence about St. Leonard’s Hospital, and the researchers are hopeful that they will be able to uncover more parts of one of the busiest hospitals in Medieval England and identify what they were used for. Parts of the hospital’s undercroft remain above the surface and can be visited from the Museum Gardens.
St. Leonard’s Hospital was built over the remains of another hospital, St Peter’s, in 1137, after the initial building suffered a fire. It went on to become a completely self-sufficient (and profitable) complex for more than four centuries. Ben Reeves, from the York Archaeology Trust, told Culture 24 that documents from the time describe the hospital as a complex of separate buildings, including a leper house, an infirmary, a chapel, and a children’s ward, as well as a residential area for the monks and nuns who ran the hospital. The complex must have also included other structures such as kitchens and outbuildings. Examination of the occupation deposits in which this latest discovery was made could reveal which of the buildings used to be on the site of the York Theatre Royal. Reeves cautioned that such an examination would have to be combined with a dose of luck but added that having samples to examine at all was in itself valuable.
Reeves went on to say that what makes the discovery extraordinary is the very fact of the remains’ survival. Occupation deposits are as a rule very fragile and seldom “survive modern groundworks,” he explained. St Leonard’s Hospital was almost entirely destroyed in 1539, during the Reformation, and the city of York had no hospital until 1740, according to the “History of York” website. Excavation works will now continue at the site of the York Theatre Royal with the researchers hoping to uncover more parts of the building that could provide some insight as to its function.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user: W. Monkhouse/ Wellcome Trust
By: Irina Slav in newhistorian.com
The ruins of Chibburn Preceptory stand about a mile from Widdrington Village. It was a house of the Order of St John of Jerusalem and stood in its own agricultural estate. It was, in other words, a manor. The head of such a house was called the preceptor, hence preceptory.
The Order of St John was also known as the Knights Hospitaller. Being a military order, they later adopted the title of commander for the heads of houses so Low Chibburn is sometimes referred to as Chibburn Commandery, but they both mean the same thing, the lowest level of territorial responsibility within the Order.
The Hospital of St John of Jerusalem was founded in 1113 by a man called Gerard, about whom little else is known. It had probably existed for some time previously, but 1113 is when it was formally established under papal authority. Its object was to care for the poor and strangers, and since this was Jerusalem the strangers would most likely be pilgrims.
There were older hospitals in Jerusalem, even as far back as the 7th century. But Gerard’s was so much appreciated by the pilgrims and crusaders that they rewarded him with estates, at that time mostly in Palestine and southern Europe. Gerard died in 1118 and was followed by Raymond of Provence.
Raymond was a warrior aristocrat. He re-founded the Order, built a larger hospital and added the care of the sick. He also provided armed escorts to pilgrims going to and from Jerusalem, and it was he who first took the title of Grand Master.
Full members of the Order were monks, bound by lifetime vows. There were three classes: Military brothers, brothers chaplain and brothers infirmarer. The military brothers were knights, i.e. heavy cavalry. The chaplains were priests. Their main duty was to celebrate the Mass and perform the other services of the church. The infirmarers looked after the inmates.
There were also extern knights, who fought alongside the military brothers, but only served for a limited time, and there were turcopoles. The turcopoles were a light cavalry, recruited from men born in Palestine of mixed parentage and equipped in the Turkish fashion.
The Hospitallers’ charitable work never stopped, but the military role soon took first place. Along with the Knights Templar, they defended the Kingdom of Jerusalem against the Saracens, but for all practical purposes they were expelled from the Holy Land in 1291 with the fall of Acre.
They set up instead on the island of Rhodes, and later at Malta, and turned to the suppression of piracy and the protection of Christian pilgrims and trade routes throughout the Mediterranean.
AT their height, the Knights Hospitaller were organised into eight ‘tongues’, or nations, each tongue into priories and each priory into preceptories. The main purpose of having preceptories was to raise money for the Order’s work in the Holy Land, or later in the Mediterranean at large.
According to a 13th Century writer, the hospitallers had 19,000 properties scattered across Europe. As there were only 656 preceptories, this suggests that each preceptory was responsible on average for about 30 lesser properties.
An information panel at Low Chibburn says that the estate ‘was given to the Order in 1313’. This is not correct. It was already in existence. William Woodman, writing in the Archaeological Journal for 1860, says that Chibburn is first mentioned in a return made by Bishop Kellawe of Durham in that year, following the suppression of the Knights Templar in 1312.
“‘In the archdeaconry of Northumberland, the Hospitallers have the house of Chibburn (domus de Chipburn) which, with the small things thereunto pertaining, (cum minutis ad eam pertintentibus) is usually estimated at ten pounds per annum.
“At this time,” says Woodman, “when the Hospitalers had not acquired the lands of the Templars, it appears that Chibburn belonged to the Knights of St John, therefore it must have been originally granted to them.
“No evidence has been found to show at what period or by whom the establishment was originally founded, possibly by the Fitzwilliams, the tenants in capite under the crown, or by the Widdringtons, who held under them in the 12th century.”
He thought the Widdringtons more likely because: “Immediately over the arch of the south doorway (i.e. of the chapel) there are two escutcheons … nearly obliterated, but traces of a cross patée, doubtless for the Knights of St John, may be seen on one, and a quarterly coat on the other. It is not improbable that this may have been the coat of Widdrington, an ancient family in the neighbourhood.”
WE have copious information from a survey of all Hospitaller properties in England in 1338. It was discovered in Malta in about 1830, hidden in a walled-up cavity in a house belonging to the Order.
The community consisted of a Preceptor, a brother chaplain, and a third brother, who was presumably the infirmarer. They also had a stipendiary chaplain, a chamberlain, head stableman, stable boy, steward (farm bailiff), a laundress, a clerk who acted as a collector, and a pensioner who got 20 shillings ayear for life.
Some of these would have been married men, and there would also have been peasant families on the estate, so the total population of Low Chibburn would perhaps be as many as 50 or 60 people.
Income was £23 18s. 8d., and outgoings £17 13s. 4d. Woodman analyses both in detail. The income was severely affected by the war with Scotland. The manor house was ruinous, and the balance available to send to the headquarters at Clerkenwell was less than ten pounds.
There is no direct evidence of Chibburn managing other properties in Northumberland, but Hodgson, in the chapter on Woodhorn in his History of Northumberland, says that in 1294 the prior of the hospital of St John of Jerusalem claimed certain privileges (for example, exemption from tithes) in respect of lands that he held in Ulgham, ‘Wetewirth’, Seton, Newbiggin, Ellington and elsewhere.
It seems unlikely that the prior would have made this claim personally so it must have been made by someone acting on his behalf. But whether this was the preceptor of Chibburn or somebody else, we do not know.
Henry VIII suppressed the Order in 1540. Woodman records that, ten years later, the Ministers in the Augmentation Office held Hospitaller lands at Ulgham, North Seaton, Newbiggin, Ellington, Felton, Chevington, and Morwick.
They do not say that they had been under the control of Chibburn — indeed, all of the Northumberland estates, including Chibburn and Temple Thornton, are described as parcels of the Preceptory of Mount St John in Yorkshire, but it seems likely that they were.
Soon after this, the Widdringtons of Widdrington Castle bought the preceptory from the crown. They demolished everything except the chapel (if it hadn’t all fallen down already) and built a dower house for the dowager ladies or other landless members of the family.
What remains today is mainly the ruins of the house and the medieval chapel.
in Morpeth Herald
A PUB landlord has completed ‘a kind of Da Vinci Code journey’ through the notorious Hell Fire Caves – and written a book to dispel some of the myths surrounding the West Wycombe tourist attraction.
Eamonn Loughran, 42, has published ‘Secret Symbols of the Hell Fire Club’ after living for 20 years on West Wycombe Road and looking up at the Dashwood Mausoleum every day.
He says the much-published ‘history’ of the Hell Fire Club adds up to little more than gossip, adding: “The idea that Sir Francis Dashwood dug these caves simply to get drunk and worship the devil is absolute rubbish.
“There were a lot of very bad books written about the club from early 1900s onwards, mostly by journalists who sensationalised the stories.”
Rumours of black magic, satanic rituals and orgies surrounded Dashwood’s club when it was around in the 1750s and 60s.
But after years of research Mr Loughran has found that though many of these activities undoubtedly went on, the ideas behind the caves are much more intricate and complex than might appear.
The father-of-three got interested in the Dashwood estate when he met a researcher who was collecting voice recordings from farm workers and people speaking in the old Buckinghamshire dialect.
His ‘ears pricked up’ when he heard some of the voices tell of local ghost stories and he began to collect his own oral evidence of local legends and folklore.
He ended up meeting descendants of illegitimate children born of amorous liaisons in the caves, as well as existing members of Hell Fire Chapters in the UK and abroad. He now lives in Lincolnshire and has since become a member of one of the Chapters.
Mr Loughran is critical of the way the Hell Fire Caves are full of “tourist kitsch” and leave visitors with “quite a negative response”.
He said: “I know they do a good trade with things like kids’ parties, but there are no ghosts down there and it’s a bit of a shame that people are going to what’s quite a beautiful and mythological place and treating it like some kind of Halloween experience.
“The caves are really a very important monument and should, like the tunnels inside the Egyptian pyramids, be studies in depth.
“To enter them with no more information than is found in a ‘tourist attraction’ would be like treating Westminster Abbey as somewhere that’s merely scary and Gothic.”
He says the caves, along with the church and mausoleum, are full of intricate symbolism, science and philosophy and are a ‘testament to a man’s love of liberty and freedom’. He added: “We need to look very closely at what this actually is”.
His book examines the astronomical positions of the caves’ entrances – “a little bit like you would with Stone Henge”, while indicating the possible existence of Knights Templar cosmology deep underground at West Wycombe.
He promises a look at the “most notorious of secret societies from the inside” and details rare information deriving from Sir Francis Dashwood’s intellectually brilliant daughter Rachel Frances Antonina (‘The Infidel’), who knew the poet Coleridge and Thomas de Quincey. There is also a focus on a 1940’s ‘Phoenix Nest’ occult group which met at West Wycombe and whose members published books on esoteric subjects up to the 1970’s.
Secret Symbols of the Hell Fire Club is available in hardback on http://www.amazon.co.uk for £22.
by Bucks Free Press
ARCHAEOLOGISTS turned up in force to examine the history of Bisham Abbey last month.
About 20 enthusiasts were told of the little-known fact that the existing building once home to the Knights Templar is actually a manor house as opposed to an abbey.
However, as John Laker, of Archaeology In Marlow, insists: “The house is still of immense interest, with parts of it dating back over 800 years.”
The tour was led by historian Anne Daracott, of Maidenhead, an expert on Bisham Abbey.
The house has had a number of famous inhabitants, including the Knights Templar, and remained in the ownership of the Earl of Salisbury’s family for a number of generations.
The building was even used as a jail for dignitaries such as Elizabeth I who was imprisoned there by Queen Mary.
The original hall of the Knights Templar is still in existence, as is one of the most impressive dovecots in the country dating to the 16th Century.
Remains of the original abbey, which was thought to be attached to the house, have not been discovered.
in Bucks Free Press