Archive for the ‘Talks by Members of the Project Team’ Category

The ‘Revealing Records’ Symposium held at King’s College on Friday 27 May 2011

Monday, June 13th, 2011

On Friday 27 May, the fourth ‘Revealing Records’ symposium was held at King’s. This gives an opportunity to doctoral students  from many universities to give papers about the records on which their research is based. A link to the proceedings will shortly appear on the Fine Rolls website.  One paper by Johanna Dale of UEA showed how European rulers timed their coronations to coincide with great ecclesiastical festivals. In a comment afterwards, David Carpenter drew attention to a choice of date by King Henry III of England which so far seems to have escaped comment. This was the date on which he took the cross in 1250. The day selected was the fourth Sunday in Lent, the Sunday that is when ‘Rejoice Jerusalem’ was sung, with readings appropriate to the theme. What more fitting day on which to assume the cross.  Clearly Henry was thinking big. His crusade was to be no brief tour of the East. Jerusalem would rejoice.  Joanna Daly pointed out that Frederick Barbarossa also took the cross on the fourth Sunday of Lent. Does anyone know of other examples?

Henry III Fine Rolls Project Launch, 24 November 2010

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

For those of us in the “engine room” of the project, constantly shovelling coal on the historical fires to prevent the good ship FRH3 from colliding with the iceberg and sinking without trace (I borrow a metaphor here regularly wheeled out by David Carpenter – I kid you not!), the chance to view the dazzling lights of the outside world and to demonstrate our achievements is rare indeed. Such an opportunity arose on 24 November when the project hosted a launch in the wonderfully appropriate setting of the Weston Room, King’s College, formerly the Rolls Chapel of the Public Record Office in Chancery Lane. Over seventy invited guests braved the elements, enticed mainly by the prospect of unlimited wine and canapé privileges, to hear members of the project team, King’s College, Canterbury Christ Church University College and the Arts and Humanities Research Council give various brief talks which set the project and the Fine Rolls in their historical and administrative context and celebrated the project’s contribution to historical and digital humanities scholarship and its place within the wider UK research environment.

The launch principally marked the upload of a large amount of new content to the website, all of which is freely available:

  1. Translations of all the rolls down to 1272.
  2. Images of all the rolls from 1248-72.
  3. A search facility to the rolls now down to 1242.

 It also marked the fifth birthday of the ‘Fine of the Month’ feature, which now numbers sixty articles and has contributed ten of thousands of words of original research on top of the calendars and scholarly introductory material. The event passed very successfully with some particularly kind and encouraging words from Rick Rylance, Chief Executive of the AHRC, and Sir Alan Wilson, Chairman of the AHRC, to whom we were able to demonstrate from the Fine Rolls that Henry III had visited his home town of Darlington on two separate occasions.

 Obviously, events like these require a good deal of planning and arranging, and our particular thanks go to Paul Caton of CCH, who saved us from IT paralysis with about 30 minutes to go before the kick-off (how many historians does it take to turn on a computer?), to the King’s catering staff, and to several King’s MA and doctoral students who were given the unduly onerous tasks by their nameless supervisor of manning the doors and serving the canapés. Unfortunately, our well-laid plan of welcoming Michael Wood and his fabled magnifying glass was foiled when Michael got the days mixed up and arrived at the correct time but on the following day!

 Above all, the launch was the brainchild of David Carpenter. Given the amount of nervous energy he had expended in the run-up to the event, including forcing us to do about seventeen full run-throughs and subjecting the audience to a hideous picture of Yours Truly woofing a fish supper at a chippy in Leeds, he can now rest easy and bask in one of his greatest triumphs.

Members of the Project Team at the Reception on 24 November 2010

Members of the Project Team with Representatives from the AHRC, Canterbury Christ Church University, King's College London and The National Archives

Wigmore Castle – Further Thoughts

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Just to add something to Paul Dryburgh’s account of our visit to Wigmore castle in September. When I was last there in the 1980s it was totally overgrown and it was difficult to make out anything about the castle.  English Heritage have now, in a sympathetic and sensitive way, cleared the site of the overgrowth of bushes and brambles, and have laid out paths and steps so that one can walk around and appreciate the overall form of the castle. On the other hand, they have not excavated the site so that there must be a great deal of masonry still buried beneath the earth. As in the 1980s, there is still the extraordinary sight of the top of the arch of the gateway poking up out of the ground.  The castle has become an important wildlife and wildflower habitat and English Heritage gives this as a reason for leaving it as it is. Its full excavation would also, of course, be very costly.  I am in two minds as to what would be best.  Quite apart from the wildlife and wildflowers (and I suppose they could go elsewhere), excavation would rob the castle of its mystery and romance. Yet one does wonder what is below all that earth, and wish that Wigmore could be excavated and laid out in the same way as Montgomery.

In the last few weeks, alongside the start of the University term, I have been writing a ‘Fine of the Month’ for November. It is about Archbishop Langton and Magna Carta, and has grown from an expose of Langton’s hypocrisy (if that is not too strong a word) in relation to the Charter, prompted  by never used material in the fine rolls, into a much wider discussion of his role in begetting the Charters of 1215 and 1225. As such, I hope it will not seem too out of place as a ‘Fine of the Month’.  I gave a talk on the subject at the opening session of the European Medieval seminar at the Institute of Historical Research in October, where I also said something about the Fine Rolls Project. Since then the paper has developed considerably and in one of those flashes of insight (or I hope insight)  which make history so exciting, I suddenly realised that Langton had grave doubts about the validity of the 1215 Charter, doubts which he laid to rest in the very different form of the Charter in 1225.  One pleasant feature of the research, although I got soaked walking there from King’s, was that it took me for the first time, I am ashamed to say,  to the Lambeth Palace Library, this to look at the Canterbury Cartulary (MS1212) which has copies of the 1215 Articles of the Barons and the Coronation Charter of Henry I.

A Visit to the Mortimer History Society’s Conference

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

On Saturday 18 September David Carpenter and Paul Dryburgh attended the autumn conference of the Mortimer History Society ( in the suitably medieval setting of Ludlow in Shropshire. David gave a stimulating talk about Roger Mortimer (d. 1282) and his role in the political upheavals of the 1250s and 1260s, in which he brought a good deal of information mined from the Fine Rolls to bear. He highlighted the highly personal causes for political rebellion and reconciliation at that time, arguing that Mortimer’s guiding principle in the baronial conflict with Henry III was his desire to recover the valuable manor of Lechlade (Gloucs) and to safeguard his interests on the March against Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. This was followed by a fascinating micro-study of the lost medieval manor and deerpark of Tedstone Wafer (Herefs.) by Dr. Martin Toms, who demonstrated how a tiny border community was catapulted into the national spotlight by the activities of its lord, Roger Mortimer of Chirk (d. 1326).

Following a good lunch in Ludlow, David and Paul, who is Honorary President of the MHS, headed for Wigmore castle, one of the great fortresses on the Middle March and the principal Mortimer stronghold. There they rediscovered this wonderful ruin and mused both on whether more could not be made of it as an attraction for scholars and the general public and on its suitability as the location for an Arthurian tournament held in September 1329 by Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March. This was the occasion when Mortimer, lover of Isabella the queen mother, invited the king and court to sample his extravagant hospitality, and can perhaps be seen as part of his policy of self-aggrandisement locally and nationally. Paul’s main contribution to the day, however, was in buying some local cheese, ferrying Professor Carpenter safely to the station and in eating two cream teas!