Category Archives: Medieval

London – The First Theatres – 1240 – Clerkenwell

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London’s theatres from the 1100s through to the 1800s.

London – The First Theatres – 1240 – Clerkenwell

The most eminent performers of the ancient mysteries in London were the parish clerks, who were incorporated about the year 1240; and one of the principal scenes of these exhibitions was at the Skinner’s Well, in Rag-street, or, as it is now called, Ray-street, Clerkenwell. One of the most remarkable of these mysteries, as has already been stated, was performed here on the 18th, 19th, and 20th of July, 1391, when they had for an audience Richard the Second, his queen and court. Another mystery on a more extended scale was performed here in 1409, before Henry the Fourth, several nobles, and the principal citizens: one of the mysteries was founded on the creation of the world, and the performances were extended to eight days.

Few, in London, are the memorials of the olden time that are preserved on modern buildings, a circumstance which is much regretted; to the honour, however, of the inhabitants of Clerkenwell, they have recorded the celebrity which the parish once possessed, by causing the following inscription to be placed in letters of iron on the pump on the east side of Raystreet.

“A.D. 1800. WILLIAM BOUND, JOSEPH BIRD, Churchwardens. For the better accommodation of the neighbourhood, this pump was removed to the spot where it now stands.

The spring by which it is supplied is situated four feet eastward, and round it, as history informs us, the parish clerks of London, in remote ages, commonly performed sacred plays. That custom caused it to be denominated Clerk’s well, and from whence this parish derived its name.

The water was greatly esteemed by the prior and brethren of the order of St John of Jerusalem and the Benedictine nuns in the neighbourhood.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

William Shakespeare on Wikipedia

The Globe Theatre on Wikipedia

Sholto and Rueben Percy

London – The First Theatres – 1110 – Mysteries & Moralities

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London’s theatres from the 1100s through to the 1800s.

 

London – The First Theatres – 1110 – Mysteries & Moralities

Rude as the early dramatic and scenic representations in the metropolis may now seem, they were proofs of an advance in intellectual knowledge and refinement of manners beyond those of our continental neighbours. To England, Germany was indebted for the drama, and in France it only became worthy of notice half a century after Shakespeare had raised it to its zenith of glory in England.

The mysteries, those precursors of the regular drama, which consisted of dramatic representations of religious subjects, either from the Old or New Testament, apocryphal story, or lives of the saints, are clearly proved to have been known in this country in the year 1110, which is more than a century earlier than the first record of them in Italy, where, according to  Dr. Burney, they were not known until the year 1243, when a spiritual comedy was represented at Padua. Matthew of Paris relates, that in the year 1110, Geoffrey, a learned Norman master of the school of the abbey of Dunstable, composed the play of St. Catherine, which was acted by his scholars; and Fitz-stephen, who wrote in 1174, speaks of the mysteries as quite common in the metropolis: “London,” he says, “for its theatrical exhibitions has religious plays, either the representations of miracles wrought by holy confessors, or the sufferings of martyrs.”

That the mysteries were one of the means used by the priests to sustain the Roman Catholic religion, is evident from the pope granting pardons and indulgences to those who attended some mysteries that were represented at Chester about the year 1398. By this time they had become so popular that the audience wished to have them in English, and it is related in one of the Harleian MS. in the British Museum, that the author of the Chester plays, Ranolph Higden, “was thrice at Rome before he could obtain leave of the pope to have them in the English tongue;”  the objection of the pope was no doubt that which the Roman Catholic church so often feels against the people being acquainted with the sacred Scriptures. The inference from this is, that the ancient mysteries were performed in Latin, and yet neither Matthew of Paris nor Fitz-stephen assert this.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

William Shakespeare on Wikipedia

The Globe Theatre on Wikipedia

Sholto and Rueben Percy

The Firedog of Capel Garmon – 1852

Below is an article from our library about a local archaeological discovery in 1852; interestingly enough there was also a  story about the same 2000 year old Firedog in the local BBC news recently – when it was used to pay a tax bill – read the story!

The Firedog of Capel Garmon – 1852

Firedog found near Capel GarmonThere are several objects of interest to the antiquary in the neighbourhood.  In close proximity is Carreg y lleon, (Rock of the legion,) suggestive of Roman domination.  A mile to the south is Dinas, commanding the junction of the Dolwyddelan and Penmachno vales.  At the foot of this rock was discovered an ancient firedog, in [1852].  Two miles to the north-east is Garneddwen, which, within living memory, was an immense heap of stones, under which, about the year [1803], several cistvaens were discovered and broken up.  Near this is the fragment of a maenhir, called Maenpebyll, (stone of tents or tabernacles,) which was wantonly blasted and thrown down in [1850].  To these may be added the Trebeddau graves, where the Brochmael inscription was found, Gaerfawr, and Yr hen foel, (which gave its name to the mansion and parish of Voelas,) with the inscribed pillar which has baffled palaeologists from Camden down to this day.

The relic of which a representation is appended was discovered in [May, 1852], by a man cutting a ditch through a turbary on the farm of Carreg Goedog, near Capel Garmon, Llanrwst.  It lay on the clay subsoil, flat upon its side, with a large stone at each end, and at a considerable depth.  The spot is quite unfrequented, nor are there any remains of ancient buildings.  It is all of iron, and the execution indicates considerable taste and skill.  It is in some parts much corroded, and exposure to the air decomposed the metal considerably.

The knobs on the crest and sides are, apparently, of cast iron, with rivets through.  The lower row of round marks on the crest are perforations.  Should a remote age be suggested, corroborative memorials are not wanting; such as the dinas, or fort, close to which it was found; Carreg y lleon, rock of the legion;  and the neighbouring Roman road through Dolwyddelan to Conovium – not to mention the cromlech.

Those who would maintain a mediaeval, or still more recent, date, might find a warrant for that supposition, in the circumstance of this neighbourhood having been the scene of many warlike conflicts, incursions and depredations.

The characteristics set forth in the following account of a Roman firedog, tally so well with those of the article above mentioned, that there appears good reason to believe it to be of Roman workmanship:-

“Mr. Roach Smith has given an engraving, in the second volume of his Collections, of a pair of andirons, or firedogs, of iron, discovered in [1839], in a sepulchral vault near Colchester.  Each consisted of a frame, the two upright sides of which were crowned with heads of oxen, with a brass knob on the tip of each horn.  Two very similar implements, also of iron, had been found near Shefford, in Bedfordshire, in [1832], and an engraving of them has also been given by Mr. Roach Smith.

Articles of the same character, but smaller, have been found at Pompeii, and in a tomb at Paestum.  The Italian antiquaries seem to consider that they were used, not like the mediaeval firedogs, to support the fuel, but that they were cooking utensils, intended to support iron bars to serve as a gridiron.  The two firedogs found near Shefford terminated in stags heads.  Even in these homely utensils, the imitations of nature are of the boldest order; the graceful turn of the stag’s neck, and the outline of the head, which form the ornamental part of each end, are singularly effective” – Celt, Roman and Saxon, by Thomas Wright, Esq., p. 335.

On the other hand, one of our members, Mr. O. Jewitt, observes as follows:

“I would suggest that this instrument is intended to hold the spits for roasting fowls, game, or other small animals, such as we see in mediaeval MSS.  The loops on the side are evidently intended for that purpose, and it is probable that the horns of the two heads are intended for supporting a larger one.  We see in the Bayeux Tapestry, and in MSS. of the fourteenth century, these spits continually used, and that boys were employed to turn them.  In the Bayeux Tapestry the small animals are always brought up to the table on the spits”  – J. EVANS. January, [1856].

Excerpt from Archaeologia Cambrensis Volume 2 by Thomas Rowland Powel & Donald Moore – 1856

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Further Reading and External Links

Tax bill paid with 2,000-year-old Iron Age fire guard – BBC News 19 December 2011

Other Firedog discoveries – Hertfordshire

The Great Charter – 1215

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Below is an Excerpt from The Rise and Fall of Nations: Ancient and Mediaeval by Josephus Nelson Larned – 1907 – it covers one of the most celebrated documents in history – The Magna Carta.

The Great Charter – 1215

King John signs the Magna CartaThe Great Charter (signed at Runnymede on the 15th of June, 1215) provided, says Bishop Stubbs, “that the Commons of the realm should have the benefit of every advantage which the two elder estates had won for themselves, and it bound the barons to treat their dependents as it bound the king to treat the barons.  Of its sixty-three articles, some provided securities for personal freedom; no man was to be taken, imprisoned, or damaged in person or estate, but by the judgment of his peers and by the law of the land. Others fixed the rate of payments due by the vassal to his lord.  Others presented rules for national taxation and for the organization of a national council, without the consent of which the king could not tax.  Others decreed the banishment of the alien servants of John.  Although it is not the foundation of English liberty, it is the first, the clearest, the most united, and historically the most important of the great enunciations of it.”

Most of the other peoples in Europe, as a German historian has remarked, obtained from their rulers, at some time in their history, agreements of the nature of the, English Magna Charta, but allowed them to become a dead letter. The English never suffered their charter to be forgotten, but kept it in force by confirmations, which, first and last, were repeated no less than thirty-eight times.

A few weeks after signing the great charter John tried to annul it, with authority from the pope.  Then certain of the barons, in their rage, offered the English crown to the heir of France, afterwards Louis VIII; and the French prince came to England with an army to secure it.  But, before the forces gathered were brought to any decisive battle, John died.  Louis’ partisans then dropped away from him and the next year, after a defeat at sea, he returned to France.  John left a son, a lad of nine years, who grew to be a better man than himself, though not a good king, for he was untruthful and weak. He held the throne for fifty-six years, during which long time, after his minority was passed, no minister of ability and honorable character could get and keep office in his service.  He was jealous of ministers, preferring mere administrative clerks, but was docile to favorites, and picked them for the most part from a swarm of foreign adventurers whom the nation detested.

Excerpt from The Rise and Fall of Nations: Ancient and Mediaeval by Josephus Nelson Larned – 1907

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Further Reading and External Links

The Magna Carta at the British Library

The Magna Carta at the National Archives

The Origin of the Name ‘Pipe Roll’

 

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The Pipe Roll Society

The National Archives

The Origin of the Name ‘Pipe Roll’

King Henry II – on the throne at the time of the early Pipe RolsTHE origin and meaning of the name Pipe Roll as applied to the sheriffs’ accounts of the landed and feudal revenues of the Crown seems to have escaped notice.  In fact the name should be ‘Roll of Pipes’ as the pipes were not the Roll itself, but the individual membranes of which the Roll consisted.  This comes out clearly from passages in certain ordinances of the Exchequer issued by  Edward II on 14 June anno sexto decimo (1323), and printed in the Red Book of the Exchequer, iii. 858, where we have the following direction given,

Quant (?Que) le Grant Roule soit escrit saunz rascure et les Pipes annuelement examinez;

while further on the officials are more explicitly directed to see that

soient desore annuelment tutes les pipes de tutz les accomptes renduz en lan bien et pleynement examinez avant qe eles soient mises ensemble, et roule fait de eles.

Each ‘pipe’ of the Roll must be examined before they are put together and the Roll made up.  So again on p.860 we have the ‘pipes’ of the Foreign Accounts as well as those of the sheriffs’ accounts.  From these passages we also learn that the proper name of the series was Le Grant Roule or Magnus Rotulus, but we also find it spoken of as Le roule annal; but it soon came to be known as La Pipe (Rot. Pari., ii. 101, A.D. 1348).  The ‘pipes’ or membranes of which each Roll consists are strips of parchment about 6 feet long, sewn together at one end, and not continuously, as the Patent and Pell Rolls are.  Each strip bears at its head the name of the county whose account it contains, as EBOR.  If one strip does not suffice the supplementary strip is headed ITEM EBOR , and if a third is requisite then it will be ADHUC ITEM EBOR, and so on.  That the ‘pipes’ are the individual membranes, and not the accounts, as suggested in the Oxford Dictionary, seems clear: further, as they were flat strips of parchment, in seeking for the meaning and etymology we may keep clear of the notion of anything tubular and cylindrical on which previous suggestions have run.

Excerpt taken from The English Historical Review Volume 26 – 1911

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Further Reading and External Links

The Pipe Roll Society:  Rolls for 8 Richard I and 3 John have been printed in full by the Pipe Roll Society.  The earliest record dates from 1129-30, and then continue in an almost unbroken series from 1155 until 1833.

The National Archives:  The Pipe Rolls are the oldest series of English governmental documents, and were created by the most ancient department of the English government, the Exchequer, which existed by 1110. The earliest survivor dates from the reign of Henry I, and is second only to Domesday Book itself in its antiquity as a public record. They were created principally to record the accounts of the sheriffs of the counties of England, which they made annually before the barons of the Exchequer, but came also to include the accounts of other officials.  The National Archives have extensive information on the Pipe Rolls.  Visit their website to find out more

Pipe Rolls on Wikipedia

Pipe Rolls on Google Books