HISTORY NEWSLETTER AUGUST 2023
As usual, there is no lecture scheduled for August but we have an exciting programme starting in September. Topics include Norman Castles in Kent and Sussex, the Mary Stanford disaster, James Burton’s St Leonards, Battle Abbey Archives, life on a Whatlington farm in the 1890’s, the history of Cricket and the writers of Romney Marsh.
The next talk is on ‘The Franklin Letters’ by Mary Williamson and Peter Carney at 7.30 pm on Thursday 21 September in the Wynne Room, Battle Memorial Hall. We do hope you will be able to join us. A video of the lecture will be circulated soon after on the Society’s private channel.
Society Facebook Page
Don’t forget to check out the 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.
Renewal details will be sent out by email from the end of August. Please remember to check your inbox.
With the School holidays in full swing, do not forget to visit Battle Museum. The special exhibition this year is on ‘Royalty and Battle’ including images of the Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to the town in 1966 – the 900th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. There is a Coronation Trail for children. Opening hours are 10-4.15pm Monday to Friday inclusive.
New Tapestry Project
Tina Greene, the designer of the Battle Tapestry in 2016, has designed a new tapestry for Battle Town Council to be displayed in the Almonry. Everybody is welcome to contribute stitches to this historically themed new design – no experience necessary, Tina will teach you how to do the stitches. So do come along! Sessions are being held on Thursdays 10.00-2.00 pm in the Almonry and Saturdays 10-2.00 pm in Battle Library, until further notice.
History in the News
Shipwreck: the Rooswijk, a Dutch East India Company ship was sailing to Jakarta when it ran aground on the Goodwin Sands in 1740, is now revealing some of the thousands of treasures it had on board. So far, the most intriguing find is 100 finely etched sabre blades, beautifully marked with images of the sun and moon, which were in one of the five chests already lifted from the sea. There were no hilts – they are possibly in one of the chests yet to be uncovered or maybe there were to be assembled at a later date. It is also unclear whether they were to be used or to be purely ornamental. This is the only chest that has been opened so far as the process takes years. Concretion and corrosion layers were stripped before the wood was analysed and when the chest was opened, a similar anti-corrosive process was repeated 100 times for each sword, although those packed in the middle of the chest were better preserved. About 2,500 artefacts have been found in the latest round of retrievals from the wreck, including 1,846 silver coins.
Prehistoric Dolphin: bones of a 3m dolphin thought to be 8,000 years old have been uncovered in Stirling. It is thought that the dolphin washed up when the area was part of an ancient shoreline at the end of the last Ice Age. Evidence suggests that hunter gatherers found its corpse and made a meal of it. A broken tool, carved from a deer antler, was found among the bones. It is probably the first find of its kind in Scotland for more than a century – the last whale bones found near Stirling were in 1897.
Viking-era brooch: a brooch made in the style of an Arabic coin has been found by a detectorist in Norfolk. It appears to have been made by someone with no knowledge of Arabic script and is only partly legible – it is assumed that the maker was illiterate. Contact between the Viking and Arabic worlds has been long-established by historical accounts and many Arabic coins have been found in Scandinavian graves. The 9th or 10th century coin was probably struck on a die, meaning that the design had to be reversed, increasing the chances of making mistakes with the script. Norwich Castle Museum is hoping to acquire it.
Bonnie Prince Charlie: a lost image of Bonnie Prince Charlie has been discovered using X-rays. It was discovered behind the well-known Highlander Portrait. Analysis has revealed that the original portrait of Charles, with brown eyes, was painted on top of what appears to be a Jacobite battle flag. The unknown portrait has gone on display at the West Highland Museum in Fort William. It shows Charles wearing tartan, a white cockade in his bonnet, and the Order of the Thistle, the pre-eminent Scottish Order of Chivalry. Experts believe some of the portrait was repainted during the 19th century to make Charles ‘bonnier’, even giving him blue eyes instead of brown.
Isles of Scilly Warrior Woman: a prehistoric skeleton was found in 1999, buried together with a 2,000 year old sword and mirror. New analysis of tooth enamel has revealed that the warrior was most likely a woman. The discovery of the sword and mirror is considered to be very unusual as swords were normally found with men and mirrors with women in other burials of the same period. The remains have recently been re-examined in the US, using a new technique that looks at tooth enamel – the conclusion is that it is 96% certain to be female. The findings suggest that this woman had high status within her community and may have played a commanding role in local warfare.
Hardwick Hall Tapestries: a unique set of thirteen 16th centuries, which tell the story of Gideon, are now on display after a 24 year, £1.7million restoration project. They were bought for Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire in 1592 by its owner Elizabeth Talbot, also known as Bess of Hardwick: they have never been moved to another home, dispersed or cut up. Centuries of damage and dirt have been tackled by a team of experts working on one 19.6 ft wall hanging at a time. The tapestries were shipped to Belgium for wet cleaning before specialist needlework repairs. In total, the conservation stitching, lining and reconstruction took 5,470 hours to complete.
Other history articles in the press: If any member spots an interesting history article, just email a scan of it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll feature an edited version of it in the next Newsletter.
The Arts Society Rother Valley (ASRV)
This season’s topics include: 2B or not 2B? An illustrated history of drawing; Benevenuto Cellini; what have the Huguenots ever done for us; Joseph Wright of Derby; the Valois Dukes of Burgundy; the music of Dimitry Shostakovich; and the story of the city of Bath. For further details, please check the ASRV website https://www.theartssocietyrothervalley.org.uk or contact Pat Arrowsmith, Membership Secretary, on 07838 214675.
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 (Vice-President of BDHS). Picture Peter Greene