Abbot John of Wheathampstead visits Cologne

As we have seen in my last post, John of Wheathampstead, abbot of St Albans, travelled in 1423/24 to Italy to attend the Council of Pavia/Siena and to visit the Pope.  Both on his way to Italy and back, he visited Cologne.  This part of his trip was of particular interest to me, as I grew up in the Cologne/Bonn area of Germany.

Abbot John of Wheathampstead visits Cologne

Cologne in 1531. The unfinished cathedral is on the right.

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Digging deeper at St Albans

Digging deeper at St Albans

John Whetehamstede found at
St Albans Abbey

Most mornings, still half asleep, I have a look at Facebook on my phone to see whether anything monumental has happened overnight.  Most mornings I am disappointed, but the other morning I was suddenly wide awake:  Another cleric had been found, but not just any old cleric!  This one is John Whetehamstede, well-known to anyone interested in the late medieval period and the Wars of the Roses as an eye witness to the two battles of St Albans.

Digging deeper at St Albans

St Albans Cathedral seen from the east

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Hunsdon House

Hunsdon House – 

One of the most important medieval houses in Hertfordshire

A few years ago, an attempt to find traces of Richard III’s family in Hertfordshire led me to Hunsdon.  This is a small village in the south-east of Hertfordshire, near the border to Essex.  The former manor house, Hunsdon House, is situated to the south of the actual village, next to the church of St Dunstan (find it on a map here).

Hunsdon House

A glimpse of the present-day Hunsdon House

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The Manor of Ware

The Manor of Ware in Hertfordshire during the Middle Ages

The town of Ware has a long history.  The oldest dateable artefacts found in the area go back to the late Paleolithic period (c.25,000 – 10,000BC).  There is evidence for a more permanent settlement in the Mesolithic period (8,000 – 5,000 BC).  The Romans were also there and so it goes on into the Middle Ages, which is the period this post will be dealing with.[i] Continue reading

Hatfield before Hatfield House, Part 4

Hatfield before Hatfield House –

the 15th century ‘Old Palace’

In this final part of Hatfield before Hatfield House, we look at the last medieval manor at Hatfield, and the only one of which a part is still standing.[i]

In 1478, a new bishop of Ely was appointed:  John Morton. Morton was a dedicated supporter of the Lancastrians and would be on very good terms with Henry VII, though considerably less so with Richard III.  However, he is not only remembered for political mischief, but also as one of the great builders of his age.  Soon after being elevated to the bishopric of Ely, he set about rebuilding the manor at Hatfield, as well as Wisbech Castle, which also belonged to the Diocese of Ely.  Another project was a great dyke, which was cut through the fens from Peterborough to Wisbech, and is considered a pioneer effort in drainage.  In 1486, a grateful Henry VII had him translated to the see of Canterbury, where he completed the Angel steeple on the cathedral and further buildings of the archdiocese, as for example the gatehouse of Lambeth Palace (also built of brick).[ii] Continue reading

Hatfield before Hatfield House, Part 3

Hatfield before Hatfield House –

the Medieval Manor of the Bishops of Ely

Part 1 and Part 2 of Hatfield before Hatfield House explained how the Bishops of Ely came to hold the estate and how the park and township developed.  Part 3 will deal with the medieval manor of the bishops of Ely at Hatfield.

It is known that the bishops of Ely had a substantial house at Hatfield from early on, though we don’t know exactly when it was first built or what it looked like. [i] Continue reading

Hatfield before Hatfield House, Part 1

Hatfield before Hatfield House –

the Anglo-Saxons and Ely

Today’s main attraction for a visit to Hatfield in Hertfordshire is Hatfield House.  This “modern” palace was built between 1608 and 1611 by Robert Cecil, 1st earl of Salisbury and chief minister to king James I.[i]  In the 17th century, Hatfield belonged to the crown, but James I was envious of Cecil’s Theobalds House, near Cheshunt, Herts.  He therefore offered several properties, including Hatfield, in exchange.  This being an offer he couldn’t refuse, Cecil agreed and made the best of it.  While Hatfield House is most impressive and certainly worth a visit, the manor of Hatfield has a much older history, which is often overlooked.  Therefore, this is the first of a series of posts dealing with Hatfield before Hatfield House. Continue reading

The Schoolmaster Printer

The Schoolmaster Printer –

the Medieval Printing Press in St Albans

Here endyth this present cronycle of Englonde wyth the frute of tymes, compiled in a booke and also empryted by one somtyme scole mayster of saynt Albons, on whoos soule God have mercy (Wynkin de Worde, 1497)

After the first book printed with movable type had had its debut at the Frankfurt Fair in 1454, Johannes Gutenberg’s invention quickly spread all over Europe.

William Caxton was the first to bring printing to England, when he set up his workshop in Westminster in the mid-1470s (either 1475 or – more probably – 1476).  Two years after Caxton opened his shop in Westminster, another printing press, in Oxford, published its first book (in 1478).  However, given my personal interest, I would like to find out more about the third English printing press – in St Albans. Continue reading