Mid Anglia Group, Richard III Society

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Following an unsuccesful Viking raid in 924, the battle of Maldon took place in August 991 and the result was a victory for the Norse invaders. Byrthnoth, the Essex earldorman who led the Saxons that day, was among those killed and Ethelred II instituted payment of the “Danegeld” to pacify the Vikings. This Byrthnoth statue (left), consequently, is displayed and a tapestry marking the millennium is part of the Maeldune Centre, to which we shall return.

Just over a mile from the town centre is Beeleigh Abbey, where Isabel Countess of Essex (Richard’s aunt) was buried, together with her Bourchier husband and son, before they were moved to Little Easton by her grandson, then Earl of Essex, at the time of the Dissolution, as were the Mowbrays and Howards in Thetford. The Abbey is closed nowadays, although it can be viewed from the gardens, which remain open.

This Essex town, by the Blackwater Estuary and the narrower River Chelmer, lies about six miles from Witham and was previously accessible from there by train. This plaque (left) by the Moot Hall details the more recent historic buildings, many of them on the High Street. The Rose and Crown (bottom) is one of these, down the hill and still in operation as an inn today.

The Maeldune Centre itself lies at the Market Hill junction, by Coes. Across the road is a long redundant church (St. Peter’s), which was adapted by the Maldon-born Thomas Plume (1630-1704), Vicar of Greenwich and Archdeacon of Rochester, to place Maldon Grammar School on the ground floor and his extraordinary private library (below left) on the first. The school has moved on but the Plume Library, funded by the income from nearby farmland, still stands.

Here, in a structure open only eight hours a week and accessible by a spiral staircase, the books are arranged by size and are not lent but have been stored since Plume’s time and a modern volume is very occasionally added. The collection relates to Plume’s interests in theology, history, science and philosophy, as well as the Civil War that plagued his youth. Some of the leather spines on the books are disintegrating although the pages themselves are in good condition.

Plume’s collection also includes a notable range of portraits, including all the monarchs of his lifetime and others from Edward IV, but excluding Edward V, the first two “Tudors” and Jane. The portraits include other clerics, including an “unknown divine”, whilst that of Charles I was made before his beard made an appearance. Groups can visit only by appointment and the total capacity is limited to twelve, including the staff.

So, to view a good portrait of Richard III and the former burial place of his Bourchier relatives, as well as some other history, Maldon is certainly worth a day out. All Saints, the contemporary civic church, houses the remains of George Washington’s great-grandfather.

From Ian Churchward and the Legendary Ten Seconds

I have recorded a new album of Ricardian songs called Devon Roses to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Devon & Cornwall branch of the Richard III Society and the album can be purchased from this website.

Audley End

The present house at Audley End is, like Hatfield House, a seventeenth century building on the site of an earlier structure. In particular, Walden Abbey was here until the Dissolution in 1538 and passed to Sir Thomas Audley, Town Clerk of Colchester, Speaker and later Lord Chancellor, as a result, much as St. John’s Abbey became a Lucas residence. This Sir Thomas was not related to the Lancastrian Lords Audley (Tuchet), the seventh of whom was attainted and executed in 1497 after the First Cornish Rebellion, but whose title remains, albeit in abeyance, however he presided over treason cases such as Fisher and More, Anne Boleyn et al, the Pilgrimage of Grace, Montague-Exeter and Thomas Cromwell.

After his death in 1544, the widowed 4th Duke of Norfolk married Margaret, his daughter, so that their son, Lord Thomas Howard, was created Lord Audley de Walden in 1597 and Earl of Suffolk in 1603, also being the custodian of Framlingham Castle. Audley End House as we know it was constructed soon after this, before his 1619 arrest and brief Tower incarceration.

Like Hatfield, Audley End is best visited from our region by travelling west to Cambridge to join the southbound Birmingham-Stansted line. Unlike Hatfield, whose driveway is immediately opposite the station, Audley End House is a mile and a quarter away from its eponymous station, such that a bus runs to Saffron Walden. Both house and garden are open between April and October, from Wednesday to Sunday, although the garden, partially designed by Brown and Adam, is open all year.

A Peterborough mystery


Peterborough is a well-planned city. The walk from station to Cathedral passes through two short subways, with an optional detour to start of the Nene Valley Railway heritage line, to a semi-pedestrianised street with the Cathedral ahead,  with a range of shops, restaurants and even a parish church on the approach. The Queensgate Centre includes a footbridge over the main road from the centre back to the station. The Cathedral is adjacent to a cafe and bank in other ancient structures.

The building itself was converted from of the remains of Peterborough Abbey and the last Abbot, John Chambers, became the first Bishop, a fate very unlike that of his counterparts. Katherine of Aragon (left) is buried there, as was Mary Stuart (below) until her son removed her remains to Westminster Abbey. It is, however, the second Bishop that concerns us here.

As the plaque in that Cathedral relates, his…

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Raedwald again


Basil Brown’s work at Sutton Hoo, on secondment from Ipswich Museum, began in summer 1938 and reached “Mound One” today in 1939. In time, he explored the many mounds on that site, one of which probably includes the remains of Raedwald, King of East Anglia to about 624 and Bretwalda of England from 616. Raedwald, of the Wuffing dynasty, was a Christian convert and his collateral descendants fed into the House of Wessex and their successors from 1154.

Here are some pictures from The Cricketers, Ipswich, about Raedwald, his family and his times:

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There’s still hope

This mediaeval hat badge , linked to Edward IV and the battle of Mortimer’s Cross, was found in a field in Lincolnshire. Bearing his “sun in splendour” emblem, it was unsuccessfully auctioned last month.


A group of ram-raiders in Dedham, drove their vehicle into the facade of a plain, old Co-Op, causing considerable damage – and revealing behind the 1950’s front a timbered-framed merchant’s house built around 1520, with earlier medieval features such as a hearth and a large cauldron blocking the doorway, possibly as a talisman to ward off evil. The talisman seems to have worked as the ram-raiders fled empty-handed.


The Staple

In early medieval times, ‘the staple’ meant England’s staple export: wool. But it was inconvenient and inefficient for the king’s men to collect the customs duties that were payable on the exported wool from every one of the hundreds of little English ports all around the country. London, Bristol, Ipswich and Sandwich were major ports but little ships could sail from any small harbour or river estuary. Therefore, since wherever the ships had sailed from, they were all taking their cargo of wool to Flanders (modern day Belgium and north-east France), it was easier to collect the customs when they arrived at their destination. In 1313, Edward II ordained that all merchants had to land their ‘staple’ at a port he would designate. During the Hundred Years War, England acquired Calais from the French and from the mid-fifteenth century until 1558 this port became the convenient Calais Staple, where customs duties were collected on all English wool exports.

From “A Year in the Life of Medieval England” by Toni Mount.

The image is Old bird’s-eye view plan of Calais by Braun & Hogenberg 1597

A free public lecture in Leicester

This will take place, as you can see, on Tuesday 28 May, about money and the economy in Richard’s time. Booking instructions are included.

Coming to Minster Lovell

Sadly, most of the Mid-Anglia group cannot make this event as we will be busy Howard-hunting in Thetford on 18 May. Nevertheless, with Stephen David and Michele Schindler speaking about the mysteries of the life and death of Francis, Viscount Lovell, it promises to be fascinating.

Here is a link to the event.

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