645 Books with a Happy Ending

The library of my alma mater, Bonn University, has reason to celebrate:  645 books, which had been missing since WWII, have returned home.  Among the books, many of them unique, are 11 medieval manuscripts, 2 medieval documents and 39 incunabula. Continue reading

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Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire, Part III

Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire

Part III:  A look around town

This is the last of three parts dealing with Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire.

St Peter’s Church from Castle Street

St Peter’s Church

I made my way back to the High Street along Castle Street, the original access route to the castle.  It used to end at the South Gate, the main entrance to the castle.  However, both the gate and the moat in that part were knocked down to make place for the railway in the 19th century.

I walked past Berkhamsted School to St Peter’s Church, at the corner of Castle Street and the High Street. Continue reading

Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire, Part II

Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire

Part II:  Berkhamsted Castle

This is the second of three parts dealing with Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire.

Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire, Part II

Castle Ruins

When I visited Berkhamsted, rather than the town itself, my first stop were the ruins of the castle. As the reason for my visit was to pay my respects to Cecily Neville, the mother of Richard III, it was only polite to go to where she had resided.

The castle is located a bit away from the town, on higher ground, instead of the marshy river area.  Berkhamsted was an important strategic location, as it was on one of the main routes between London and the Midlands, approx. 30 miles (= 48 km) from the capital.

Don’t be confused by today’s entrance to the castle area.  You will pass the Keeper’s House, but this is only from the 19th century. Continue reading

Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire, Part I

Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire

Part I:  Historical background & References

This is the first of three parts dealing with Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire. The posts are based on a talk I gave at the recent Ricardian convention at Albury, where members of the Richard III Society from Australia and New Zealand met.

(This post was updated 21 Dec. 2018)

Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire, Part I

Grand Union Canal in Berkhamsted

A few years ago, while visiting the UK, I decided to go to Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire, where the mother of Richard III, Cecily Neville, duchess of York, had resided for a long period.

(Great) Berkhamsted is a town in western Hertfordshire.  Not to be confused with Little Berkhamsted, a village, also in Hertfordshire, approx. 6 km east of Hatfield.  When we lived in central Hertfordshire for five years in the 1990s, Little Berkhamsted was much closer to home and easily visited.  However, a trip to the other Berkhamsted so far west had been in the too hard basket at that time!

It took the distance from Australia to put things into perspective.  So, when, many years later, I was going to drive from St Albans to Oxford, it was the perfect opportunity to make up for my earlier negligence.  In anticipation of my trip, I told some friends that I would be going to meet up with Cecily Neville for a coffee.

Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire, Part I

Cecily Neville

Continue reading

God’s House: Part IV

William and Alice de la Pole’s God’s House at Ewelme[i] – Domestic Buildings & School

This fourth and last part of the series about God’s House in Ewelme will look at the domestic buildings and the school.

The domestic quarters

At the western end of St Mary’s church is an impressive wooden door.  This leads down some steps to a covered passage connecting the church and the almshouse quadrangle.   In each of the external walls of the passage there is an archway, opposite of each other.  Originally, they probably had wooden doors, which could be opened on feast days to allow processions to walk around the church.  Normally they would be kept closed to allow the almsmen to get to church without getting wet and being blown away by the wind.  The passage is built in brick with stone details and can be linked architecturally to the later building period of the church.

God’s House: Part IV

Passage to the alsmhouse from the church

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God’s House: Part III

William and Alice de la Pole’s Foundation at Ewelme[i] – St Mary’s Church

Parts III and IV of this series about William and Alice de la Pole’s foundation at Ewelme will deal with the buildings of God’s House.  Most of these still stand and provide a glimpse into a long gone-by time.  This post deals with St Mary’s Church, which still serves as Ewelme’s parish church. Continue reading

God’s House: Part I

William and Alice de la Pole’s Foundation at Ewelme[i] – Family Background and Ewelme Manor

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Ewelme and its St Mary’s Church with the adjacent almshouse and school.  This was an experience which has resonated with me since that day.  It was an opportunity to come close to “normal” medieval people, not just the high-status people.

Ewelme is a village approx. 25 km south east of Oxford.  Its name is derived from the Anglo-Saxon “æwelme”, meaning a fresh spring, which refers to the stream which still runs through the village.

580 years ago, on 3 July 1437, William and Alice de la Pole, the Earl and Countess of Suffolk. received a royal licence to found an almshouse supporting a community of two priests and thirteen poor men, which was to be called God’s House.  The priests and poor men were to pray for the King, and the Earl and Countess during their lives and later for their souls, as well as the parents and friends and benefactors of the Earl and Countess. Continue reading