Archive for the ‘Medieval History’ Category

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.

Lesnes Abbey

Posted: April 30, 2018 in History, London, Medieval History, UK


Lesnes Abbey was founded in 1178 by Richard De Luci, Justicular of England as penance for his part in the murder of Archbishop Thomas Beckett at Canterbury.It is close to the pilgrim way from London to the tomb of Beckett in Canterbury. De Luci, retired to the Abbey and died there.


An artists impression of Lesnes Abbey in 12th-13th century

It experienced a decline in the 14th century and despite a revival in the early 16th century, it was targeted by the government of Henry VIII, who had obtained permission from the pope to close all small monasteries (under 8 residents) in England. Lesnes closed in 1524 and was immediately pulled down. This dissolution of the monasteries was a full 12 years before the start of Henry’s major attack on the monasteries, which ran between 1536 and 1541 during which time he closed all the remaining monastic houses in the country.

The ruins and the surrounding land passed into private ownership until it was purchased by the London County Council in 1930 and opened as a public park. Ownership passed to Bexley Council in 1986.


Eltham Palace is approached from the town centre across a bridge which spans the moat and leads you into the inner garden which runs alongside the northern wing into the area which would have formed the courtyard of the Medieval Palace.


The gardens which incorporate the remains of the medieval palace along with the house are a great place to walk in the summer and are a great place for butterflies and dragonflies. They also give some great views of the House.

At one point in the garden, there is a great vista looking north towards central London.


When the Courtauld’s arrived at Eltham in the early 1930’s all that remained from the medieval palace was the Great Hall, ruined and being used as a barn for the farm that had been established on the site, along with the foundations of other buildings.

However, in addition to the remains of the Palace ranges, which were incorporated into the gardens of the new house, there were also smaller pieces of history to be found in the ruined Palace.

 13th-century-floor tile probably from original Great Hall (top). 15th-century-floor tile probably from Edward IV’s rebuild (bottom left). Spanish 16th-century-floor tile (centre right) and Dutch 16th-century-floor tile with the cheery message ‘Death is swift’

Stephen Courtauld also incorporated some medieval stained glass into his new house and it is possible that some of this he found on site.


This article was originally posted in 2013. I am re-posting it as an introduction to some new blogs on the interior of the Palace.

The medieval moated manor house with extensive parkland was acquired by King Edward II in 1305. In 1470 King Edward IV added the Great Hall (which survives to this day). The last monarch who regularly used Eltham Palace was King Henry VIII. Afterwards, monarchs tended to prefer Greenwich Palace, probably because of easy access along the river from central London. In the mid-17th century Sir John Shaw, who by now owned the property, decided to build a new house, Eltham Lodge, about half a mile away from the current Palace site. The Palace fell into disuse and was used as a tenanted farm. The buildings fell into disrepair and it was only following a campaign in 1828, that the Great Hall was restored to a safe condition. It continued, however, to be used as a barn for the farm.
In the 1930s Stephen and Virginia Courthold had an ‘ultramodern’ house designed in the art deco style and built adjacent to the medieval Great Hall. They also had the gardens completely redesigned. They lived here until 1944 and at that time the building passed to the Army educational unit, who used it as a college until 1992. In 1994 English Heritage, having been given management of the property, started a four-year restoration programme to restore the building to the state it had been in the 1930s. The newly restored art deco house together with the Great Hall opened to the public in 1999.





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Neville Place is a large house in the middle of Peterborough not far from the Cathedral. The original Tudor House was built in 1536 on this site by Humphrey Orme, a courtier of Henry VIII. In 1816 the Orme family sold it to Thomas Coke, a merchant, and in 1856 it became the home of Peterborough Infirmary, being enlarged in 1897 and again in 1902. In 1928 the infirmary moved away and it became a Museum.

It is still a museum today and has displays on various aspects of local history.

The house and it’s different uses

The history of Peterborough

A wonderful collection of craft items made by internees at Norman Cross Camp. The prisoners made these from wood and animal bone and sold them to the locals to make money to spend in the prison stores.

Norman Cross was a prisoner of war camp during the Napoleonic war. Prior to its construction prisoners had been held on old ships (Prison Hulks) and conditions were not good. So the government set out to improve things by building prisoner camps on land. Initially, the plan worked well and the conditions were far better than on a hulk. However, as the war drew on and the number of prisoners increased the conditions got worse and over a thousand prisoners were killed by an outbreak of Typhus in 1800. It is recorded that in the years of its operation (1796-1816) 1770 prisoners died, although some argue that many deaths were not recorded. It was demolished in 1816 and only the governers House remains standing.

Reconstructions of Peterborough houses through the ages