December Newsletter 2015
Christmas is nearly here and also the close of an exciting and emotional year for us Ricardians. As a newly formed Group of the Richard III Society we have much to look forward to in 2016 and good times are anticipated if our proposed visits are anything to go by!
Hopefully, some of you will be attending the Society’s excellent carol service and lunch at Fotheringhay this month and it will be a pleasure to catch up with friends old and new. This is always an enjoyable occasion in the Ricardian year and really heralds the approach of Christmas.
Have a lovely Christmas and all the very best for the New Year! Janine Lawrence
Thank you to those who attended our recent events. In September, Alex McWhirter gave us an excellent tour of a thousand years of history at Moyse’s Hall Museum, after which we moved on to St. Edmundsbury Cathedral and the nearby St. Mary’s Church. For more photographs and information on the day, see our blog posts:
We then settled on an appropriately named venue for our AGM in November and, after a pleasant lunch, eight of us tucked in to business for the year ahead. As you will have seen from the minutes, we are starting at Stowmarket Parish Church on 26 March (Easter Saturday) and Framlingham (Castle and Church) on 21 May. In July, we expect to visit Otley Hall although we have a contingency plan, followed by Colchester Castle in September and an AGM in Beodericsworth, or Bury St. Edmunds as it is now known, on 19 November. Visits to Ely Cathedral, Wingfield Church, Beccles Museum and Christchurch Mansion are also being planned for 2016-7.
We now have a confirmed officer team for 2015-16 with Janine and I continuing, Joanne becoming Librarian and Murray becoming Treasurer. It was also good to see two new members at the meeting. Reburial year now draws to a close and we can look forward to the Stowmarket visit.
However, if anyone else would like to visit Christchurch Mansion in late January, we could easily fit in an extra event. Please comment.
Richard III Society Website
Just a reminder to members that this can be found at http://www.richardiii.net. Visit the website to check out dates for meetings and visits and keep your finger on the pulse of all that is happening in the Ricardian world! Browse the shop for those last minute Christmas gifts for your Ricardian friends (or for yourselves!)
Richard III Society AGM and Members’ Day
Janine gave the following report to the AGM which was held this year at the Doubletree Hilton Hotel in Ealing:
“The Mid Anglia Group was re-formed in 2014 and our first year has been very interesting with visits planned and enjoyed by members who come mainly from Suffolk and Essex.
Visits to historic Colchester and Ipswich have been enjoyed and in March several members were present during re-interment week in Leicester.
In March we visited St Peter’s and St Gregory’s churches in Sudbury. St Gregory’s is especially interesting as it is the home of the preserved head of Simon of Sudbury. He was a former Chancellor and was still Archbishop of Canterbury when he was beheaded by the mob in the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381! We were able to view the head which still has an ear attached!
Annette Carson visited us at our June meeting in Ipswich and gave us a fascinating illustrated talk entitled ‘Six Months in 1483’ which covered Richard’s roles as Lord Protector and High Constable of England, a subject which is covered in her latest book.
September saw us meeting up in Bury St Edmunds for the Historic Bury Festival and having a guided tour of Moyses’ Hall Museum.
At present, our newsletter is distributed to members on a quarterly basis and we constantly seek contributions for inclusion in it to make it an interesting and entertaining publication.
We have a Facebook and WordPress presence and so items of news and interest can be broadcast early.
We are in the process of planning our first AGM which will take place in Stowmarket in November and further details will be posted when final arrangements have been made.
We are a small group and a friendly welcome is extended to anyone thinking of joining us. New members are our future, after all.
We are constantly trying to find interesting places to visit, both linked to Richard and the fifteenth century and look forward to a full and exciting second year.”
The AGM and Members’ Day is a great day out giving an opportunity to meet up, browse the stalls and engage with other members. There is a full report in the December issue of the Ricardian Bulletin.
The 2016 AGM and Members’ Day will be held in York at the Merchant Adventurers Hall on Saturday 1st October.
Visit to Bury St Edmunds
Thanks to Jo Larner for the following account on the Group’s visit to Historic Bury St Edmunds in September:
The mid Anglia branch of the Richard III Society descended on Bury St Edmunds on Saturday the 12th September. We were lucky enough to have another brilliantly sunny day with no sign of rain and met up in Starbuck’s just across from our first and main objective, the Moyse’s Hall Museum.
This museum is housed in an ancient building dating from the time of the Town’s namesake, Edmund, who was king of England in the ninth century. Our knowledgeable guide, Alex, enthralled us with his tales of years gone by, beginning with Edmund himself. The ‘Bury’ in the town’s name has nothing to do with burying Edmund, but rather is another form of ‘burgh’, meaning ‘town’.
The town began as a shrine to St Edmund, who in 869/70 was captured and killed by the Danish Vikings who were in the habit of invading England at that time. They tied him to a tree and shot him with arrows before beheading him. When his men arrived they found his body, but no sign of his head. As they were about to give up the search, they heard a voice calling: “Hic! Hic!” the Latin for “Here! Here!” and, following it, they found a wolf keeping guard on Edmund’s lost head.
He was made a saint and his resting place became a shrine. Thus, also, began the wolf legend and it is still referred to today since, for the weekend, they had laid a ‘Wolf Trail’ around the town for visitors to follow. There is a skull of a wolf or dog found in the area, which is one of many found there and this adds to the legend.
Some of the architecture in the building itself even dates back that far and there are other sections of the building which have architecture from differing periods, providing a great tour through the ages.
One of the highlights of the tour was the ‘Crime’ section featuring a gibbet, a metal human-shaped cage in which criminals were displayed as a deterrent to others. However, apparently, the punishment wasn’t that you were placed in there until you died of thirst because it was after you were executed (usually by hanging), that your body would be displayed there.
The extra punishment was the knowledge that your body would be dissected afterwards by surgeons or your bones scattered. This meant that you would be unable to go to heaven. Moyse’s Hall Museum is unique in that it possesses a photo of the skeleton (still in the gibbet) of a man executed for murdering his sister – the said photo is displayed beside the very same gibbet!
Further on there is an exhibit of various objects associated with witchcraft, such as mummified cats (probably locked up alive within a wall to so its spirit would guard the house), shoes (used the same way), ‘voodoo’ type dolls and various other witchy paraphernalia.
Next came the notorious Red Barn murder. William Corder was accused of murdering his lover, Maria Marten, having been found out because her stepmother had a dream which showed where Maria was buried – in the Red Barn. The defendant said she had committed suicide, but the jury didn’t believe him and he was hung.
He was so hated that he was taken to his execution by an inside route to avoid the baying crowds. But the story didn’t end there; several death masks were made afterwards, one on display in the museum, as well as a death mask used for the study of his skull by phrenologists. His skin was tanned and used to bind a book (an account of the murder), which is one of the exhibits. Our guide Alex, did not believe that all was as it seemed and felt Corder had been harshly judged.
Up the stairs, which was devoted to one of the largest collections of Mary Beale paintings, would be found a room dedicated to the Suffolk Regiment through the years, with life-size, realistic mannequins of soldiers in different style uniforms, depending on the time and whether it was preferable to stand out from the crowd or blend in. They wore red when they wanted to stand out and be recognised by their own fellow soldiers, but when the sniper became common that was understandably changed and camouflage became the norm.
There was an exhibit of clothing and more paintings, and finally a room full of clocks and watches. Some of these were very intricate and exquisitely beautiful, and many were very rare examples. Alex told us that there had been a theft of some of them from the place where they were previously kept and that they would have no doubt been stolen to order by a collector as all the dealers would have recognised them for what they were.
It is a huge place and has many interesting exhibits from the time of Edmund himself right up until the present day; over 1000 years of history. We were there for one and half hours and the time flew by as our guide, Alex, was so interesting.
After we left there we wanted to visit St Mary’s Church, as we knew there was a wedding going on at the Cathedral. However, when we arrived, the church was closed as a service was going on for the WI. By this time the bells of the Cathedral were ringing indicating the wedding was over and so we trooped back there for a while.
The stained glass windows were impressive as well as the font which is gigantic, and we found a tapestry depicting King Henry VI visiting the shrine of St Edmund. I was pleased to see that the floral decorations included white roses. The cathedral was previously St James Church and became a Cathedral in 1914.
We then tried our luck again at St Mary’s and this time managed to get in and see the tomb of Mary Tudor (she of the lock of hair). It is right at the far left part of the church, but is clearly marked.
In addition there was the tomb of one William Carewe who fought at the Battle of Stoke and was subsequently knighted by Henry VII.
All in all a thoroughly good time was had and we learned a lot.
Chapel of St Nicholas, Gipping
The group are planning to visit the chapel as part of the outing to Stowmarket in March next year. It’s a little tucked away in beautiful Suffolk farmland, but is well worth seeking out. I visited it last month for the second time this year and took a few photographs as a ‘taster’ for those who are considering joining us for the visit.
As you can see, there is some beautiful medieval stained glass and the Sun in Splendour and Yorkist rose is featured many times. It is a small chapel and, being built for James Tyrrell in the 1470s, has very strong Yorkist connections. The Tyrrell knot features on pew ends and just about everywhere on the outside of the building, proclaiming the owner and resident of the nearby manor. Sadly, this is no longer extant, being demolished in the 1850s, although there is still a pond and some odd lumps and bumps in the ground.
The chapel is open all day, every day which is a refreshing change for those of us who have travelled miles to visit a church only to find the door stoutly locked against us.
What’s On – Diary Dates
• 12th December – Richard III Society Christmas at Fotheringhay. Details in December Bulletin
• 12th March – ‘Uncle Richard’ play performed by the Tell Tale Theatre Company and organised by the Norfolk Branch. Details in December Bulletin
• 26th March – Group outing to Stowmarket and the Chapel of St Nicholas, Gipping
Loyaulté me Lie