Lecture 8th April 2017: Ian Roberts on Wakefield Cathedral and St Giles’ Church, Pontefract: New Archaeological Insights

Our speaker today, Ian Roberts, will talk about the new archaeological insights which have emerged from the work on Wakefield Cathedral and St Giles’ Church, Pontefract. He writes: ‘The major re-ordering which involves the excavation of historic church interiors is a relatively rare occurrence. However, in the last five years, two of West Yorkshire’s medieval churches have had extensive floor renewals, providing archaeological opportunities to investigate and reassess long-standing ideas about their development, based upon Victorian observations.’

The lecture will be in the Swarthmore Centre today at 2pm. Our AGM has been postponed until next month.


Power, Privilege and Politics in the Medieval Honour of Pontefract


Keirincx, Alexander, 1600-1652; Pontefract Castle

An Illustrated Lecture about the Medieval Honour of Pontefract by Dr Sarah Rose for Saddleworth Historical Society

From at least the twelfth century, Saddleworth was in the possession of the Stapletons, a knightly family based over forty miles away in Stapleton, south of Pontefract.  They held several manors of the Lacy dynasty who controlled the honour of Pontefract, a large, compact lordship, the core of which lay within the old West Riding of Yorkshire.

Created in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest, the honour was atypical of many English honours in that it survived throughout the medieval period, not only as a physical entity, but also as a meaningful focus for authority and community, loyalty and reward. By examining the behaviour of its lords and leading tenants, as well as the significance of the honour’s institutions, this talk will demonstrate how the honour of Pontefract challenges perceptions of honorial decline and supports the notion of feudal continuity.

Dr Sarah Rose completed her PhD, ‘Landed Society in the honour of Pontefract, c.1086-1509’ at Lancaster University in 2010. Since then, she has worked within the Regional Heritage Centre at Lancaster on the Victoria County History of Cumbria project as Assistant Editor. She has also taught several medieval history modules at Lancaster and Manchester Metropolitan Universities, including a specialist module on Richard III. Sarah also works for the British Association for Local History as the Reviews Editor for The Local Historian journal.

The lecture will be held at Saddleworth Museum, Uppermill, OL3 6AP on Wednesday 8th March, at 7:30 p.m.

Members Free, Non-Members £3

Medieval Section lecture 11th March 2017: Early Medieval Execution in England and the Problem of the North

Cotton Claudius BIV 59r hanging close-up 2
Cotton Claudius BIV 59r hanging close-up

The next talk in the spring programme will be given by Alyxandra Mattison, who will discuss the archaeological and historical evidence for execution in early medieval England. Anglo-Saxons had very specific beliefs surrounding judicial punishment and the treatment of criminals in death, many of which came to an end after the Norman Conquest. The impetuses behind these changes and what they meant for the future of criminality in England will be explored. The talk will then venture to the Yorkshire (and the Danelaw) and the problem of how it fit into this Anglo-Saxon scheme of punishment. Did the Danelaw use the same punishments and treatment of criminals as the rest of Anglo-Saxon England? What sort of evidence, or lack thereof, do we have for judicial punishment in the Danelaw? The venue for our meeting will be the Swarthmore Institute in Leeds. We will start at 2pm and there will be time for questions.

The speaker recently completed her PhD on early medieval judicial punishment at the University of Sheffield. She has  general interests in bioarchaeology and funerary studies, Anglo-Saxon England, the Norman Conquest, early medieval law, medieval theology, and the medieval view of the body. She currently work as a commercial archaeologist for Northern Archaeological Associates.

IMS Open Lecture Series: ‘The Archaeology of Anarchy? Landscapes of War and Status in 12th-Century England’

Tuesday 7th March – 17.30

Presented by Professor Oliver Creighton

This lecture will examine material evidence for the conflict of the mid-12th century popularly known as ‘the Anarchy’, during the turbulent reign of Stephen, King of England (1135–54).

Drawing on new research and fieldwork, the lecture will provide an overview of the material record for this controversial period, covering castles, siege-castles, churches and settlements, alongside material culture including coins, pottery, seals and arms and armour, and question the ‘real’ impact of Stephen’s troubled reign on society and the English landscape.

IMS Open Lecture Series : Runes and Verse: The Medialities of Early Scandinavian Poetry

Tuesday 21st February, 2017 – 17.30

Judith Jesch is Professor of Viking Studies at the University of Nottingham. She is the author most recently of The Viking Diaspora (2015) and is currently working mainly on runic inscriptions and Old Norse poetry. She is also PI on the AHRC-funded ‘Bringing the Vikings Back to the East Midlands’ project, starting on 1 February 2017.

In this lecture, Professor Jesch will discuss a number of versified runic inscriptions, from ca. 400 to 1400 AD, to explore what they reveal about the forms and functions of early Scandinavian poetry outside the manuscript tradition.

Nathan Bodington Council Chamber, Parkinson Building, University of Leeds.

Thornton Le Street Heritage Lottery Fund Project.

Thornton Le Street History Group are launching their Heritage Lottery funded archaeology and history project with an Open Day to be held in the village hall on Saturday 18th February between 10.00 am and 4.00 pm. Anyone interested in participating is invited to come along, see what is involved and register their interest.

Thornton le Street is a typical Vale of York village with extensive evidence of early occupation. The project will study the history of the village and its surrounding area which contains a substantial Scheduled Monument site, a water mill, a river ford, an early church, and landed estates. Two Roman roads are said to converge at this point and it is hoped to resolve whether the village is Roman or medieval in origin.

Jim Brightman of Solstice Heritage, who recently led a community archaeology project at Kiplin Hall in the nearby Vale of Mowbray, will supervise the project which will be of 18 months duration. Training and practical experience will be provided in archaeological field work and historical documentary research. The latest digital recording will be used which will be incorporated into a bespoke website which will be developed by the participants.

If you cannot attend on the day, a project synopsis is available on the village website  or you can contact John Sheehan on 01609 771878 or at jgsheehan@btinternet.com

February 2017 Medieval Section Lecture

I regret to inform readers that we have just received the news that Professor Sarah Rees Jones, who had stepped in to give the Medieval Section lecture tomorrow afternoon at Swarthmore in place of Dr Peter Addyman has had to pull out due to ill health.  In the circumstances we cannot find another replacement in the time avalable, so we regret that the lecture will have to be cancelled.  Please pass this news on to anyone you know who you think may not receive it via this means, or through the Medieval section mailing list and blog.

February 2017 lecture

Saturday 11th February, 2017 2 p.m. at Swarthmore

Professor Sarah Rees Jones, of the Dept of Medieval Studies at the University of York and one of the co-authors of the York Historic Towns Atlas will give this Saturday’s talk to the Medieval Section instead of Peter Addyman who is unavoidably detained in the USA.

Sarah is a distinguished medieval historian whose recently-published book on medieval York has been very well received.

January 2017 Lecture

St William window procession

Our speaker at the first Medieval Section lecture of the new calendar year on 14th January will be Dr Elisa Foster, and she will be talking about ‘Investigating the Head Reliquary of St William of York: Processions, Piety and Place.’ Dr Foster has kindly sent an abstract of her presentation:

From its foundation in 1408, the Corpus Christi Guild in York was responsible for organising a city-wide procession of the Eucharist. Although the shrine used during this procession was destroyed in 1546, inventory records and account rolls reveal that guild members donated luxury items and devotional objects to attach to its surface. Such offerings were quite unusual for Eucharistic shrines, but were more commonly found on the shrines of saints, like those that could have been seen in York Minster. Although the majority of these shrines were located at fixed sites in the cathedral, the head reliquary shrine of St William was borne in procession around the city on the feast of the saint’s translation, and inventory records indicate that it was also adorned with luxury objects. These shrines are not often examined together, but both objects were deeply connected to the civic identity of late medieval York. This paper will argue that that the processional shrines of the Head of St William and Corpus Christi encouraged emulation and rivalry, both spiritually and civically. A comparative analysis of these shrines and their processions thus aims to reveal new insights into the complex nature of medieval civic identity in the City of York.

Elisa Foster a Henry Moore Foundation Post-Doctoral Research Fellow based at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds. She received her PhD from Brown University in the United States, where she wrote her thesis on sculptures of the black Madonna in European art from c. 1200-1700. Her research on this topic has been recently published in Studies in Iconography, Peregrinations: A Journal of Medieval Art and Architecture and the edited volume, Envisioning Others: Race, Color and the Visual in Iberia and Latin America. In addition to her research on Black Madonnas, Elisa is co-editor a collection of essays titled Devotional Interaction in Medieval England and Its Afterlives, forthcoming in 2017. Her research in Yorkshire expands her interest in destroyed objects and iconoclasm, focusing specifically on the shrine of Corpus Christi in York, from which her talk on Saturday 14th January is derived.

As usual the lecture will be held at Swarthmore, 2-3pm. We look forward to seeing you there and have a Happy New Year.