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
The Drachenfels in Königswinter –
more than just tourist kitsch
I grew up in Königswinter, a town of approx. 40,000 inhabitants next to Bonn. It stretches from the Rhine in the west across the Siebengebirge to the east. The Siebengebirge (“Seven Mountains”) consists of more than 40 hills of volcanic origin. Of the seven hills, which gave the region its name, the highest is the Ölberg with 460m, the smallest is the Drachenfels with 321m. How it got its name is disputed with various suggestions floating around.
The Drachenfels seen from the Rhine
Siegfried von Westerburg refound in
The story of a forgotten archbishop
Siegfried von Westerburg, archbishop of Cologne, was buried in 1297 in Bonn Minster, where he seems to have had the unfortunate fate to get forgotten.
Bonn Minster from the north looking west
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).
A glimpse of the present-day Hunsdon House
The German Reinheitsgebot –
the oldest, currently valid consumer protection law in the world
Today we are celebrating a very important anniversary: the German ‘Reinheitsgebot’ (purity law) is 500 years-old. On 23 April 1516, the co-regents of Bavaria, dukes Wilhelm IV and Ludwig X, passed a decree that beer may only be made of barley, hops, and water.[i] Continue reading
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
Musty smell of old books can be avoided – a personal experience
My home is full of books. Books of all kinds, fiction and non-fiction, new and not so new – and that’s where a musty smell can become an issue.
As I find history fascinating, it won’t come as a great surprise when I tell you that many of my non-fiction books deal with historical subjects. Not all the books I would like to read are easily available, be it online, at a library near-by or for sale at a high street shop. Sometimes the only way to get my fingers on the book I desperately need is to buy it second hand. Continue reading
Henry Bolingbroke’s Reise –
the adventures of a young nobleman
in Eastern Prussia
My dad came from the area of Eastern Prussia which is now part of Russia. He grew up in Insterburg (now Chernyakhovsk)[i], meaning the fortress on the river Inster. The town is situated approx. 90 km to the east of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad). My dad had to leave in his teens, when the Soviets came, and never had a chance to visit again, as the area was a military zone, which until the end of the Soviet Union was closed to non-Russians.
When trying to find out more about my father’s background, I was quite intrigued when I read that more than 600 years ago this town had been visited by a future English king: Henry Bolingbroke, earl of Derby, who was to take the throne as Henry IV nine years later. In the later division between the Houses of York and Lancaster, Henry IV would be counted as the first Lancastrian king. However, not to be biased, a football club in Insterburg, founded in 1921, was called the “Sportverein Yorck”.
In the spring of 1390, after taking took part in an international feat of arms at St Inglevert near Calais, the 23-year-old Henry Bolingbroke was wondering what to do next. So he came up with the idea of going on crusade. Originally he planned to travel to “Africa” (i.e. Tunesia), but was also considering Prussia. Due to the medieval equivalent of visa problems, the Tunesian plan did not work out. So he set off to join the Teutonic Knights on a Reise. The German word just means ‘journey’, but in this context it refers to a crusading campaign against the Lithuanians. Henry might also have been influenced by memories of his grandfather’s trip to Prussia in 1351-52. Continue reading
Merevale Abbey – for a good night’s rest while travelling to and from Bosworth
One year, while travelling in Richard III’s footsteps, we went on to Atherstone, after spending a fascinating day at the Bosworth Battlefield Centre. We had booked accommodation at a B&B, Abbey Farm , which had come highly recommended by a friend from Canada – and we were not disappointed!
I knew that the B&B had got its name from its proximity to Merevale Abbey (the address – Merevale Lane – was a certain give-away), but had not realized that some of the ruins of this former abbey are actually in its garden and the only remaining complete buildings, the gate and gate chapel, are right next door. Continue reading
An English Pope –
Nicholas Breakspear chosen as pontiff
On 4 December 1154, a new pope was elected, following the death of pope Anastasius IV. The choice fell on Nicholas Breakspear, so far he has been the only pope from Britain. He assumed the name Adrian IV. Continue reading