Archive for the ‘Medieval History’ Category

The Merchant Adventurers hall was built in 1357-61 for the Mystery of Mercers, a guild of merchants from the city. They became involved in shipping woolen and cloth goods from England and returning with cargoes from the destination ports. This trade was primarily with northern Europe, the Baltic countries and Iceland.




The name Merchant Adventurers comes from a charter granted to the guild in 1581.

Merchant Adventurers' Hall, York
Photo by Allan Harris (

Today the hall is used for weddings and conferences.

William Tyndale was born in Gloucestershire in 1494. He attended Oxford University and obtained a first degree in 1512 and his master’s degree 3 years later. He began studying Theology. In 1517 he moved from Oxford to Cambridge where he remained until 1521. He then took up a post as chaplain and tutor to a family in Gloucestershire, but after 2 years left to travel to London seeking permission to translate the Latin Bible into English. Finding no support in England for his project, he travelled to Wittenberg in Germany where he began working on the translation. The first copies were printed in Antwerp and Worms in 1526 and some of these found their way back to England. Bishop Tunstall obtained some copies and promptly burnt them, although this proved to be a controversial action even amongst those who opposed the translation from Latin. In 1529, Cardinal Wolsey declared that Tyndale was a heretic and the following year Tyndale wrote an essay opposing the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Infuriated, Henry petitioned the Emporer Charles V for Tyndale’s arrest and extradition. Tyndale was eventually arrested in 1535 and put on trial at Vilvoorde near Brussels on a charge of Heresy. It is interesting to note that one person who urged the court for clemency was Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s chief minister.  Tyndale was found guilty and sentenced to execution. His last words were reported as “Lord, open the eyes of the King of England”. By 1540, Henry had commisioned the production of ‘The Great Bible’ an English language translation to be used in all churches in the new Church of England. Its core source was Tyndale’s translation.

This Bronze statue of Tyndale was erected in Victoria Embankment Gardens in 1884. Beside Tyndale is an open Bible resting on a printing press.

Norwich Cathedral has some wonderful stained glass windows.



Window celebrating Norwich’s Benedictine heritage



On a calm, warm sunny evening earlier this week, I was fortunate to go on a guided walk of the Temple area of London.

The Temple is a secluded area to the west of the city which is known today for its connections with the legal profession. It comprises two of the four Inns of Court, the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple. To the north are situated the Royal Courts of Justice and a short walk east brings you to the Central Criminal Court.


The area is first recorded in the 12th century when the Knights Templars moved here from a site in Holborn to the west and built the Temple Church. Within the site were two Templar Halls, Inner and Middle Hall. Upon the dissolution of the order in 1312 the land was granted to the Knights Hospitallers, although it took them over 100 years to fully establish their control over the site. However, the Hospitallers already had a compound and hall in Clerkenwell and so were not interested in moving to this site. They leased it to a group of lawyers and so the long association began between this area and the law. The lands passed to the crown following the dissolution of the monasteries and the lawyers became Crown Tenants (annual rent £10 per year for each Inn). They were granted a charter by James I and the lawyers gained absolute title to the land.

Today, Temple houses many chambers of barristers along with other legal organisations and is governed by a committee of leading members.

The symbols of the Inner (Pegasus) and Middle Temples (Agnus Dei)

The Temple area suffered badly during the air raids of WWII and much had to be rebuilt. The original Templars church was badly damaged and much restoration was needed to return it to an image of its original self.

One building that did survive and remains a jewel in the crown was the Elizabethan hall in Middle Temple which we were fortunate enough to be able to visit. Completed in 1572 it is a wonderful building with a fantastic hammer-beam roof, argued to be the finest still existing in London.

A great way to spend a summer evening.

Entering the Cathedral, you are faced with a wonderful lofty building with magnificent Norman architecture.

But for me, I think its real glory is the wonderful fan-vaulted ceiling.

Canterbury Castle in Kent built as one of the earliest Norman castles in 1066. Originally a woodern castle it was replaced by the surviving stone structure between 1100 -1135. Its highpoint in history (or indeed its low point) was when it was captured and held by the invading French army in 1380.

A plan of the interior

A model of what it looked like in 1135

The standing exterior wall

The origins of Norwich Cathedral date back to 1096 with the relocation of the bishop’s seat from Thetford. The site had been an Anglo-Saxon settlement including 2 earlier churches, which were demolished to make room for the new building. It took almost 50 years for it to be completed. The Cathedral was part of a monastery of Benedictine monks. The East End and Spire were rebuilt and remodelled on a number of occasions up until 1480. Cathedral, as we see it today, is pretty much as it was in that year. The exception is the Lady Chapel added in 1930, the original 13th-century chapel having been demolished in the 16th century.

Norwich Cathedral By Simon Leatherdale, CC BY-SA 2.0, (

Entrance into the Cathedral Precincts is by one of two gates

Ethelbert Gate

The Ethelbert Gate commemorates one of the Saxon Churches demolished in the building of the Cathedral. The original was destroyed in the riots of 1272 but was rebuilt in the early 14th century

Erpingham Gateway

The Erpingham Gateway dates from 1420 and is named for a city Benefactor, Sir Thomas Erpingham, who had been a military commander in the armies of Henry IV and Henry V but who is perhaps best known for being the commander of the archers at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 at the age of 60.

The only surviving part of the Medieval Palace is the Great Hall, built by King Edward IV between 1475 and 1480. By the time the Courtaulds arrived in the 1930s it was being used as a barn and desperately in need of repair

They set about restoring it and used it as a large dining room and ballroom.

Today it is used as a wedding venue when the Palace is not open to the public.

Charles VI at the signing of the Treaty of Troyes 1420 ( [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

The 21st May marks a day that could have seen the history of Europe turn out in a very different way. In 1420, the war between England and France had waged for 7 years and King Henry V of England was very much in the ascendancy. Harfleur had fallen to the English in 1415, Normandy in 1417 and Rouen surrendered 2 years later. The French position seemed hopeless and Charles VI seemingly had no choice but to seek peace with the English. The treaty of Troyes was signed on this day 498 years ago. It’s terms saw Henry married to Charles’ eldest daughter, Catherine of Valois; the Dauphin, Charles’ son and heir, disherited and declared illegitimate and Henry named as the heir to the French throne. It seemed as though it was destined for France and England to become one nation. In 1421, the birth of Henry’s son and heir seemed to strengthen the position.

The marriage of Henry V and Catherine of Valois. Troyes 1420 (By William Hamilton – This file was donated to Wikimedia Commons by as part of a project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.)

In August 1422, Henry suddenly died leaving a 1-year-old as heir to the thrones of France and England and then a couple of months later Charles VI also died. Into this vacuum stepped the deposed Dauphin, later Charles VII, who laid claim to his father’s crown. It would not be easy but eventually, in 1429 Charles was crowned King of France and any thoughts of union between the countries were abandoned.

Intriguing to think how the history of Europe could have been different if the terms of the treaty had come to pass and England and France had been united under one crown.


May 2nd marks the anniversary of the day in 1536 when Queen Anne Boleyn was arrested at Greenwich Palace and taken by river to the Tower of London. She was shown some courtesy on her arrival not normally afforded to prisoners charged with treason. She was allowed to disembark and enter through the Byward tower, rather than through Traitors Gate and with some irony, was housed in the house in the grounds where she had stayed prior to her coronation rather than in a prison room. Although her downfall can partially be attributed to her failure to produce a male heir, she had also made enemies within the court, most notable Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s principal secretary. It was Cromwell who collected and then presented the evidence of her adultery to the King – 5 men were named in the charges including Anne’s own brother. She was also accused of plotting to assassinate the King. Anne maintained her innocence of all the charges as did all but one of the men charged. On 12th May 4 of them were found guilty and condemned to death. Anne herself was put on trial on the 15th and was found guilty. Her brother was found guilty of the charges against him on the same day and all the men were executed on May 17th. Anne herself was executed on 19th May inside the Tower of London.

Many historians since have argued that Anne and the men condemned were innocent victims of a political plot or maybe just the victims of Cromwell’s malice.