HISTORY NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 2022
Change to Next Lecture
Unfortunately, the original speaker for December has had to cancel due to illness. However, Hugh Willing has come to the rescue again and will be giving a talk on ‘Oman & the Frankincense Trade: The Scent of History’ at 7.30pm on Thursday 15 December in the Wynne Room, Memorial Hall. Many thanks, Hugh.
It would be much appreciated if you would wear a mask on entering the Memorial Hall until you have been to the Membership Desk. Many thanks for your help in this matter.
We do hope that you will be able to join us. A video of the lecture will be available soon after on the Society’s private YouTube channel.
Date for the diary: ‘Thomas Becket’ by Imogen Corrigan at 7.30pm on Thursday 19 January 2023.
If you have not already done so, please remember to renew your membership for the year. Renewal information was sent out via email so If you have not received the material, please do check to see if the message has gone to your Spam folder. Any enquiries should be addressed to Jeremy Field at firstname.lastname@example.org
Society Facebook Page
If you have not already done so, do not forget to check out the new BDHS Facebook page. For those who are Facebook users, please find it at https://facebook.com/BattleHistorySociety or by searching for Battle and District Historical Society when logged into your Facebook account. Remember to like and follow the page to get notification of our posts.
Battle Museum Late Night Opening
The Museum has now closed for the season but will be open for Late Night Shopping on Thursday 8 December. We hope to see you there!
If you are interested in volunteering please leave your contact details using the “Contact us” link on the left.
History in the News
Treason: ‘Treason: People, Power and Plot’ exhibition is at the National Archives, Kew until April 2023. It explores stories as diverse as the charges brought against Anne Boleyn in 1536, and the trial and execution of Charles I in 1649, to the efforts of enslaved Baptist preacher Samuel Sharpe and his support for emancipation in Jamaica in 1832 and the extension of voting rights. As well as the exhibition, a variety of on-site and online events and activities are planned until 6 April 2023, including talks, films, document displays and podcasts – see the National Archives website for details.
War of the Roses Manuscript: a rare manuscript made during the War of the Roses, held by the London Society of Antiquaries, is almost 50ft long and is considered one of the world’s finest late-medieval chronicles. A Nottingham Trent University team hope to digitise the roll, which present unique challenges. It contains a series of images thought to have been created by William Abell, a well-known 15th century manuscript illuminator based in London. It was made between 1447 and 1455, in the period leading up to the Battle of St Albans when Henry VI’s favourites were toppled from power.
Mary, Queen of Scots: the British Library has acquired financial documents from two of the aristocratic homes where she was imprisoned: Wingfield Manor in Derbyshire and Tutbury Castle in Staffordshire. The papers include detailed lists of the various foods that Mary was able to enjoy while in captivity for 19 years, indicating that she lived in some style. The menu for the monarch included beef, mutton veal, boar and poultry, cod, salmon, eels, and herring spiced with saffron, ginger and nutmeg. She was also prepared exotic fare such as oranges, olives, capers, almonds and figs, as well as caraway biscuits and fruit preserved in syrup. The documents also detail the extensive household staff needed to maintain Mary’s lifestyle and items such as soap for cleaning her bedlinens.
Steamship wreck: the wreck of the SS Virago, which sank in 1882, has been discovered about two miles off Alderney. It was sailing from Hull to Russia, transporting 1,000 tonnes of machinery when it disappeared. Divers have found steam engines, ironworks, wheels and other machinery on the wreck. The dive supervisor, Richard Keen, said that there was fog on the day the ship sank but the speed and time at which it struck Alderney remain unknown. There were 26 crew, one body was washed ashore near Cherbourg sometime later and four of the lifeboats were found, two off Dieppe and 2 off Alderney. The ship, which belongs to the Wilson family business, is still listed as missing on Lloyd’s Register of Ships. A seabed survey in 2009 had established the presence of the wreck but it was not identified as the Virago until now. The team are yet to explore the whole of the wreck.
Nits: A 3,700-year-old comb has been found at Tel Lachish in Israel, inscribed with a plaintive plea to eradicate hair lice. Not only does it provide evidence of everyday troubles of people living thousands of years ago, but it is the first example of a Canaanite sentence ever discovered from ancient Israel. The alphabet was invented around 1800 BC, meaning the comb dating from 1700 BC was inscribed near the birth of the written language. The seventeen letters are archaic in form, from the first stage of the invention of the alphabet script. The side of the comb with six thick teeth was used to untangle knots while the other side, with fourteen fine teeth, was used to remove lice and their eggs. The team even found the remains of a head louse on the second tooth. The comb probably came from Egypt and shows that even people of high status suffered from head lice.
Cleopatra’s tomb: an expert leading a dig in Egypt believes she may have discovered her tomb after finding a tunnel measuring 6’ high that stretches for almost a mile. The tunnel is situated under the Taposiris Magna Temple, close to the ancient city of Alexandria and is described as a ‘geometric miracle’. The Egyptian authorities have extended the permit to allow digging to continue. Kathleen Martinez’ theory is based on the discovery of Greco-Roman architecture and coins in the area, as well as a cemetery, which she says raises the possibility that a royal tomb is nearby. The team also found beheaded statues, including one of the Goddess Isis.
Roman bronze statues: twenty-four beautifully preserved bronze statues, together with about 6,000 bronze silver and gold coins, have been unearthed in Tuscan under the muddy ruins of an ancient bathhouse in San Casciano dei Bagni, a hilltop town in the Siena province about 100 miles north of Rome. Depicting Hygieia, Apollo and other Graeco-Roman gods, the figures are said to be around 2,300 years old. One expert said that they could ‘rewrite history’. The statues date to between 2nd century BC and the 1st century AD. The era marked the transition from Etruscan to Roman rule. One theory is that the statues were immersed in the thermal waters as some sort of ritual.
Roman Roads: it has been more than 2,000 years since the Romans built a network of famously straight roads connecting major cities to transport troops to the outer reaches of the empire, amounting to 49,000 miles of highway at its peak. Researchers have superimposed maps of the Roman’s road network onto satellite images showing light intensity at night to show a striking correlation. The roads were not built for economic reasons and little consideration was given to older networks and the communities along them. It would be easy to assume that the chaos in Western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire would have resulted in a reorientation of economic structures but in fact, the urban pattern largely remained. It is also interesting to note the difference in what happened in the eastern parts of the Empire, in North Africa and the Middle East where wheeled transport was basically abandoned in the 4th to 6th centuries to be replaced with camel caravans. Those roads were used less and less and were allowed to fall into disrepair and, in contrast to western part of the empire, new roads were not built on top of the old ones: the roads became irrelevant and there was not the same continuity in prosperity at all.
Sponsian: in 1713, a coin bearing the name of Sponsian was found in Transylvania, once a far-flung outpost of the Roman Empire. It was thought to be a genuine Roman coin until the mid-19th century, when experts suspected that it may have been produced by forgers of the time because of the crude design. The final blow came in 1863 when the leading coin expert of the time at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France described them as not only ‘modern’ fakes but poorly made and ‘ridiculously imagined’. However, scientists now say that scratch marks visible under a microscope prove it was in circulation 2,000 years ago. So, Sponsian seems to have been a real person with a role in history. Researchers believe that he was a military commander who was forced to crown himself as emperor of the most distant and difficult to defend province of the Roman Empire, Dacia. About 260 AD, Dacia was cut off from the rest of the Empire. There was a pandemic, civil war and the empire was fragmenting. Sponsian likely assumed command during a period of chaos and civil war, protecting the military and civil population of Dacia until order was restored and the province evacuated between 271 and 275 AD. In order to create a functioning economy, it is thought that they decided to mint their own coins and that would explain why they are unlike those from Rome.
Other history articles in the press: If any member spots an interesting history article, just email a scan of it to email@example.com and we’ll feature an edited version of it in the next Newsletter.
The Arts Society Rother Valley (ASRV)
Future lecture topics include: Dale Chihuly – the world’s foremost glass artist; Tantrums and Tiaras – Covent Garden; Cash for Coronets – an architectural legacy; and Gregorio Vasari – artist, architect and historian. Please first check the ASRV website https://www.theartssocietyrothervalley.org.uk or talk with Jenny Fairfax on 01424 421344.
Online Archive Update – September 2021
Exciting news! We now have a great new resource available online. The original Battle Town Index, identified by advisers from the National Archives as potentially the most important item in our archive, was recorded on a series of Index cards. Members of our Society started the Index with the aim of recording information on the use and occupants of all the buildings in the town centre. Information, gleaned mainly from trade and other directories, was recorded up to the early 1990s. The online version of the Index has been edited so that beyond 1940 only information on businesses and a few private individuals reasonably assumed now dead have been included in the online version. This complies with the recommendations of the National Archives on publication of material which is covered by the Data Protection Act. It still, however, provides a wealth of information and is found in our online archive as a series of searchable .pdf files. Go to our archive page The Battle & District Historical Society Archives http://bdhsarchives.com and search for Battle Town Index to see the available .pdf files. When you have downloaded the file you can find the search function by clicking on the magnifying glass symbol and entering your search term.
The British Library is going to archive our website in the UK Web Archive and to make it publicly available via that route. The UK Web Archive was established in 2004 to capture and archive websites from the UK domain and across the web, responding to the challenge of a digital black hole in the nations memory. It contains specially selected websites that represent different aspects of UK heritage on the web, as well as important global events. We work closely with leading international institutions to collect and permanently preserve the web, and the open UK Web Archive can be seen at http://www.webarchive.org.uk/.
Also an on-line version of the BDHS Journal for 2019 has been added – see Previous BDHS Journals
Meet our new President
Our new President, Professor David Bates, gave his inaugural lecture entitled ‘Writing a Biography of William the Conqueror’ at a very well attended meeting on 16 January. His presentation was well received and afterwards David had the opportunity to meet many members of the Society and be photographed with all members of the BDHS Committee. He also gave another lecture – by Zoom on 15th October. This was about ‘New thoughts on the Bayeux Tapestry’.
Meeting with the new Dean of Battle
The new Dean of Battle, the Very Reverend Lee Duckett, together with his wife Ange, has been presented with some books from BDHS members Keith Foord and Tina Greene, which are concerned with the Church and the Battle Tapestry, currently on display there. BDHS hopes to develop some mutually beneficial projects based on the church’s archives and the use of the church environmental space for exhibitions etc..
The Dark Ages’ greatest Christmas relics were at Battle Abbey
The Guardian and other media have reported that a medieval manuscript listing Battle Abbey’s relics has been analysed and transcribed for the first time by English Heritage historian Michael Carter. It reveals that the relics were the most prestigious given to any abbey, more significant even than those at Westminster Abbey.
A report on this can be found at https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2019/dec/18/a-bit-of-manger-st-nicholass-bone-the-dark-ages-greatest-christmas-relics.Michael Carter’s paper can also be found in full using this reference: Carter, M: The Relics of Battle Abbey: A Fifteenth-Century Inventory at The Huntington Library, San Marino The Journal of Medieval Monastic Studies 8 (2019)
Video: The Battle of Hastings. No – the Battle of Battle!!
BDHS Members Michael Hodge, Alan Judd and Peter Greene, working in close cooperation with Natasha Williams of English Heritage, have produced a video explaining where the Battle of Hastings actually took place and why we have a town called Battle. The video has been released by Mirador Television and can be found via Youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDe8uyKXL9Y
Amazing find by BDHS
In the process of changing over BDHS archivists Gina Doherty and David Sawyer unexpectedly turned up an old small parchment that appeared to originate from Abbot Richard Tovey of Battle Abbey in 1493. Christopher Whittick of ESRO confirmed its authenticity This is a ‘pass’ entitling the carrier to travel freely in England and quoting the old charter rights of the abbey. Gina has produced an excellent summary of this find which can be read in Section A3.4 of Collectanea. BDHS has also given a facsimile copy to Battle Abbey for future display.
L-R: Neil Clephane-Cameron, Keith Foord, George Kiloh, Gina Doherty, Natasha Williams (English Heritage) handing the parchment to Christopher Whittick (Vide-President of BDHS). Picture Peter Greene