My article ‘St Edmund, King and Martyr in Popular Memory since the Reformation’ has just been published in the latest edition of Folklore, the journal of the Folklore Society. The article, which is the first ever treatment of the cult of St Edmund from the perspective of folklore, examines the ways in which Edmund was remembered locally after the Reformation in East Anglia, and considers the significance of the ‘Bury Bull’ ceremony, Edmund’s appearance in landscape folklore and his re-emergence in the ‘cult of commemoration’ in the Victorian period. The primary focus of the article, however, is on post-Reformation tales regarding the capture of St Edmund by the Danes which emerged in the Suffolk village of Hoxne in the Waveney Valley, which claimed to be Haeglisdun, the earliest recorded place of Edmund’s martyrdom. The article shows that, although Edmund is thought of as a medieval saint, in Suffolk at least the stories told about the martyr are as much a modern construction as an antiquarian return to ancient sources.
The 58th conference of the Catholic Record Society once again took place at Downing College, Cambridge this year, between 20 and 22 July. As last year, Liesbeth Corens and Dr Hannah Thomas did a fantastic job of organising the conference and they must be congratulated on a most successful event. This was also an important conference for me, as I was elected to the Council of the Catholic Record Society and appointed Volumes Editor, with responsibility for the Records and Monographs Series. It is a daunting role and I am grateful to the members of the CRS for their confidence in my ability to take charge of what has been at the heart of the CRS’s activities since its foundation in 1904: the publication of scholarly volumes on the history of post-Reformation British Catholicism.
The conference began at 2.15 on Monday, with most of the papers being devoted to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and thus of comparatively little relevance to my research. However, I was thoroughly intrigued by Ruth Barbour’s paper on John Hardman senior (1766-1844) of Birmingham, part of her ongoing research on ‘Catholics of the middling sort’ in the Midlands. Hardman was the father of the more famous John Hardman junior, who produced stained glass and metalwork for A. W. Pugin. Barbour developed many of the historical themes that are close to my heart, challenging the idea that Catholicism was in decline around 1800 and showing how men who had made their money through trade and business could assume the role of ‘seigneurial patron’ of a Catholic mission just as easily as the old Catholic families. Furthermore, she offered an intriguing aside on the anti-Dissenter Priestley Riots of 1791, suggesting that popular opinion in Birmingham was anti-Dissenter rather than anti-Catholic. Indeed, six days before the riots the priest Joseph Berington said to Joseph Priestley ‘We Catholics stand better with government than you dissenters’ and declined his invitation to dinner. Nevertheless, Berington and Priestley were friends and shared Enlightenment scientific interests; indeed, Barbour noted that the flourishing of both Catholics and Dissenters in industrial towns like Birmingham owed much to the Church of England’s failure to keep abreast of urban development.
The second day of the conference began with a typically stimulating and entertaining paper on Archbishop George Errington by Dr Serenhedd James. The first panel featured three intriguing papers from Jade Scott, Jennifer Binczewski and Anastasia Stylianou. Jade Scott spoke on Anne Percy, Countess of Northumberland (1536-91) and her networks, based on her study of a series of thirty letters written by or for the Countess. Scott advanced a convincing case that Anne was the driving force behind the Rising of the Northern Earls in 1569, based not only on the comments of contemporaries but also on her role as a focus of petitions to Phillip II and Pius V on behalf of the exiles from the 1569 rising. Anne and her husband escaped to Scotland but, while Anne was sheltered by Catholic lairds, Northumberland was captured. Although by 1572 Anne had succeeded in raising an enormous ransom for him, in the end Northumberland was sold to the English and executed for treason at York. In subsequently discussion with Jade Scott I was intrigued to discover that John Fenn, the former Master of the Bury Grammar School, became Anne Percy’s Latin secretary in 1570 after Sir Francis Englefield became blind.
Jennifer Binczewski’s paper on the role of widows in Elizabethan England argued that the stereotype of widows as destitute and helpless played into the hands of Catholic widows who harboured priests. She focussed on the ministry of the Jesuit John Gerard between 1589 and 1594, part of which was spent at the home of Henry Drury and his widowed mother (Lawshall Hall) between late 1589 and early 1591. There are no doubt interesting comparisons to be made with the case of Penelope Gage, who attempted to use her status as an unprotected widow to prevent the Committee of Suffolk searching Hengrave Hall for weapons in 1643.
Anastasia Stylianou delivered an extremely interesting paper entitled ‘Constructions of Blood in English Reformation Martyrologies’, in which she argued that the use of language concerned with blood underwent a significant transformation between medieval hagiography (which was strikingly ‘unbloody’) and Catholic hagiography from the 1580s onwards, in which the gory sufferings of the martyrs (as well as the ‘bloodthirstiness’ of their persecutors) is strongly emphasised. In Stylianou’s view, Catholics borrowed their language of blood from Protestant martyrologies, in an effort to appeal to a European audience. This paper struck a particular chord with me on account of my research into the transformation of hagiographies of St Edmund, King and Martyr between the late Middle Ages and the Counter-Reformation.
In the afternoon, Dr Judith Champ of Oscott College spoke on ‘History and Identity: The English Secular Clergy since the Reformation’. This very thought-provoking paper presented a narrative history of the secular clergy from the Act of Uniformity to the present day. Champ noted that the traumatic transformation of secular clergy from established parish priests to homeless missionaries in 1558-59 remains the greatest change they have experienced in their history, and she argued that this transition still marks the secular clergy today. The mission from the English College at Douai was originally an emergency expedient, but even in the nineteenth century priests were still being ‘ordained on the title of mission’ and priests trained at the English seminaries were still taking the missionary oath. Champ endeavoured to trace secular attempts to overcome a sense of ‘alienation’ by creating a distinct sense of a ‘body’ of secular priests, but she noted that it was easier for secular priests to decide what they were not – pseudo-Jesuits – than to decide what they were.
Borromean ideals of formation failed to take root in the English seminaries and the Jesuits (and Ignatian spirituality) dominated the training of the secular clergy. Champ noted that in the Appellants’ appeal to the Pope in 1598 they expressed a desire not to be subsumed into the Jesuits and requested a bishop with proper jurisdiction, including over the Jesuits themselves, as well as exercising governance over seminaries. On his appointment in March 1598 Archpriest George Blackwell attempted to set up regional confraternities of priests, an idea that was similarly advocated by the Appellant priest John Mush in his collection of Appellant documents, including ‘A Dialogue between a Secular Priest and a Lay Gentleman’. Champ argued for a link between the Appellants and the More family, and suggested that St Thomas More’s witness to Catholic unity ‘without slavish Papalism’ appealed to the seculars.
Although William Bishop and Richard Smith, the first two Vicars Apostolic of England, proved somewhat ineffectual as bishops, they did establish a chapter of the secular clergy which, while never canonically recognised by Rome, did give the seculars some semblance of an identity. The chapter vociferously claimed rights for itself (including the right to elect a Vicar Apostolic), and in the 1660s pressed for Phillip Howard to be made Bishop. Howard encountered Holzhauer’s ‘Institute for Secular Clergy’ in Bavaria and considered imposing Holzhauer’s rule of life on the English College, Rome: in 1697 the Institute was founded in England. However, a condemnatory letter from a member of the chapter, John Sergeant, led ultimately to the Institute’s suppression in 1702. Nevertheless, the Institute left behind its own finances which somewhat complicated the finances of the secular clergy in the eighteenth century; indeed, the finances of the secular clergy were always kept out of the control of the Vicars Apostolic. This fostered the development of a corporate identity for the clergy, which resided in large part in a desire to keep a certain distance from the Vicars Apostolic, as direct papal appointees.
In the 1740s the publication of Charles Dodd’s history, and his sympathetic treatment of the Appellants, produced uproar in the English church. Dodd called for bishops elected by the chapter of the secular clergy who should have authority over the Jesuits. In Dodd’s view, the pre-Reformation church was not ‘oppressed by Popes’ and he advocated the ‘independence and freedom of the secular clergy in England’. He went so far as to suggest that the secular clergy should be bound by oath to the laws of the kingdom. Dodd’s arguments were resurrected in the late eighteenth century by the Cisalpines, and John Kirk even wanted to write a continuation of his history. In the early nineteenth century Kirk and John Lingard were crucial in developing a corporate priestly identity, as well as holding distinctive views on the medieval church. They vociferously opposed Jesuit management of the English College, Rome and defended ‘the old English school’ in the teeth of Ultramontanism.
By the time of the restoration of the hierarchy in 1850, Kirk and Lingard’s ideas had been supplanted, but they did leave behind a deep tradition of clerical independence, and this led to a campaign for the new diocesan bishops to be elected by chapters, led by Daniel Rock. In 1842 Rock published a circular letter to the clergy and established the Adelphi Club to campaign for elected bishops. He even framed a petition to be sent to Rome, which included an appeal for limitations on episcopal power to move priests from one mission to another. The restoration of the hierarchy was not followed by any immediate change in the status of the secular clergy: every secular priest in England had the status of ‘missionary rector’ until the introduction of parishes in 1918. Thereafter there was a much greater rediscovery of sacerdotal authority and a return to something like the settled pattern of clerical life before the Reformation. The eradication of shared lay and clerical education by the division of minor and major seminaries, along with the increasing ‘professionalization’ of the clergy, led to a more self-confident corporate identity for the secular clergy.
An interesting and wide-ranging discussion followed Champ’s paper. Dr Simon Johnson noted that documents in the archives at Ushaw indicate that the existence of the chapter of the secular clergy was recognised both by the Papal Nuncio in Portugal and by the Portuguese Inquisition. The authority of the Vicars Apostolic, by contrast, was not recognised at Lisbon until the age of Richard Challoner. Michael Hodgetts suggested that, since Christopher Bagshawe managed to get Robert Parsons deprived of his fellowship at Gloucester Hall in the 1570s, the Wisbech Stirs could be understood as a continuation of academic infighting from that period. Fr Peter Harris commented on the management of secular seminaries by the religious orders, observing that it was often thought necessary for the orders to take over because the secular clergy lacked a distinctive spirituality of their own. Before the Reformation, the priest was the ‘religious artisan’ of the community, whereas priests like Lingard often lacked a sense of ‘priestcraft’. I enquired whether it might be legitimate to posit a link between Rock’s campaign for elected bishops, debates concerning infallibility in the 1870s, and even the Modernist controversy in the early years of the twentieth century, to produce a thread of English Catholic liberalism; Champ suggested there might be mileage in this suggestion.
Fr David Lannon noted that the pre-1850 antipathy to Vicars Apostolic among the secular clergy easily translated to hostility towards the diocesan bishops thereafter, since they were appointed the same way. Dr Peter Doyle observed that debates about the secular clergy’s right to appoint bishops rumbled on into the 1870s and ’80s. Rome continued to insist, until the 1930s, that at least one English bishop should be a Benedictine – a relic of the Bull Plantata of 1633. Dr Peter Glazebrook noted that another major change to affect the secular clergy at the time of the Reformation was that, whereas before the Reformation many clergy lacked a university-level education, after the Reformation all clergy had the equivalent of a university education at one of the English Colleges. Simon Johnson observed that the London Procurator of the English College, Lisbon controlled funds endowed to allow priests from a particular locality to study at the college, often tied to a specific parcel of land; in this way, it could be said that secular clergy continued to be associated with geographical areas linked to a specific patron.
The final major paper of the day was delivered by Dr Adam Morton, entitled ‘A Catholic Queen in the Protestant Nation: curiosity and condemnation in the career of Catherine of Braganza’. He argued that queens consort were at the heart of two strands of ‘curiosity’ and ‘condemnation’ about all things foreign in seventeenth-century England. There was a desire to experience the foreign but also anxiety about its influence on England. For instance, Wren looked to Rome for the architectural model for his rebuilding of London, but Rome was equally blamed for the Great Fire of London itself. Queens consort embodied the tensions between the Protestant state and its continuing Catholic elements, and Catherine of Braganza can only be understood in terms of her predecessor, Henrietta Maria. Catholics were woven into the court as a result of the presence of these Catholic queens, and queens were simultaneously a part of the state but also apart from it. They represented ‘Fissures in the bedrock of the British state’, since marriage articles guaranteed freedom of worship and, indeed, lavish religious establishments on English soil. Somerset House was home to both Henrietta Maria and Catherine, and was the focus of popish plots.
Morton challenged the traditional historiography of Catherine of Braganza as passive and insignificant, arguing that she was at the centre of a faction promoting Portuguese and Italian baroque Catholicism as opposed to the Francophile elements of Charles II’s court. She patronised foreign Catholic artists, established a vogue for Italian art and, through her court composer Giovanni Battista Draghi, influenced the music of Henry Purcell. Her chapel was popular as a place to hear Italian music and singing, and an image of her as St Catherine was widely disseminated both by Catholics and Protestants. The iconography of Lely’s depictions of Barbara Palmer, Morton argued, was deliberately designed to undermine Catherine’s self-portrayal, while Dryden’s ‘Tyrannick Love, or, the Royal Martyr’ was an overt allegory of Charles’ mistreatment of Catherine. Morton also noted that Tangier, acquired by Britain as a dowry for Catherine, proved to be a troublesome colonial possession and was staffed by Catholics.
Morton argued that the Popish Plot, rather than being conceived as an attack on James, Duke of York out of fear of his future succession to the throne, was directly targeted against Catherine. Rather than being a crisis about the future, the Popish Plot was about unresolved tensions in the Restoration settlement. The eventual acquittal of George Wakeman was equivalent to an acquittal of Catherine, and once it became clear that the Queen’s involvement in the Plot was a fiction, the entire construction began to unravel; after the Wakeman trial there were no more convictions in London itself.
After dinner, Dr James Kelly briefly introduced the new ‘Monks in Motion’ project, Dr Simon Johnson outlined Downside Abbey’s future plans for its library, and I outlined the Diocese of East Anglia’s plans to celebrate its fortieth anniversary in 2016, delivering a short paper entitled ‘Developments in East Anglian Catholic History’.
The third day of the conference began with a panel on the legacy of Marian Catholicism, beginning with a paper from Dr Elizabeth Evenden on the Spanish influence on the Marian Counter-Reformation and the ways in which English hostility to the Spaniards was managed. Evenden noted that Foxe pays little attention to Spanish involvement, since it was part of his propaganda agenda to blame specific Englishmen for the Marian persecution. She challenged the idea that persecution of Gospellers was something Spaniards did not become involved in: although Phillip was forbidden to appoint anyone to any office in England, in the 1560s it was noted that Bartolomé de Carranza ‘met with those who worked as inquisitors by order of the Queen’ when he was in England. Evenden explored the ways in which the authorities attempted to deal with violence (mainly in London) against friars and at public worship.
The second paper of the panel was delivered by Fred Smith on the deprived cathedral clergy in the early years of the reign of Elizabeth, and argued that this group did more to maintain a distinct Catholic identity than has previously been recognised. Marian cathedral clergy defended Marian ideas of unity into the Elizabethan period; they regarded unity as a defining feature of Catholic identity. Smith challenged the traditional historiography that sees the senior Marian clergy as divided after 1558, leaving English Catholics leaderless. This is not borne out by what these clergy actually wrote, in which they encouraged Catholics to profess their faith publicly and withdraw themselves from Protestant services. Almost 50% of deprived clergy remained in England, and developed networks of principled recusancy. In Lancashire, Laurence Vaux and John Morwen were at the centre of such a network. Vaux returned to Lancashire from Louvain in 1566 with a circular letter from Nicholas Sander insisting on Catholics absenting themselves from church. Morwen distributed a tract in the streets of Chester in 1561 calling on people to stay away from church. The two men developed an extensive network of recusant priests, displaying a surprising degree of mobility and interconnection normally associated with the seminary priests. Henry Cumberford, the ex-Precentor of Lichfield, was critical to the survival of Catholicism in Yorkshire. Cumberford claimed in his examination to have received a direct message from an angel telling his to ‘pounder well the third Chapter of Danyell’, on the refusal of the Israelites to worship false gods (TNA SP 12/74, ff. 87r-v).
Dr Ceri Law spoke on Catholic assessments of Mary’s reign in the works of Elizabethan Catholic polemicists. In November 1558 the Count of Feria wrote to Phillip II to inform him that Queen Mary had died and that people had already started to treat religious images with disrespect. Accordingly, the traditional historiography portrays the end of Mary’s reign as a total collapse. Nicholas Sander reported to Cardinal Morone in 1561 that the simultaneous deaths of Mary and Cardinal Pole were manifestations of divine wrath. Sander portrayed Mary as under the protection of divine providence, and presented her brief reign as a beacon of hope to Catholics. He attributed Mary’s childlessness to an ongoing punishment for Henry’s break with Rome; Mary’s death was a punishment for the English people.
This account of Mary’s reign had a limited usefulness, because as Elizabeth’s reign endured England seemed like a nation abandoned. Around 1600, Robert Parsons interpreted Mary’s reign as largely unsuccessful because her advisers were divided. A group of covert Protestants was led by William Paget that undermined Mary’s regime. Even devout Catholics were drawn to these divisions. In 1605 he wrote that Mary and Pole made an egregious error, missing an opportunity by not calling upon the expertise of the Jesuits. These accounts tell us as much about the context in which they were written as about Mary’s reign. Catholics had to be careful not to denigrate Mary in the course of wider attacks on her father and half-sister. Mary was portrayed as ‘the only true Tudor’. This ‘special pleading’ stopped in the early seventeenth century and started to slip out of historical memory.
In 1603 William Watson noted that seminary priests were sometimes taunted as ‘old Queen Mary priests’, although real priests ordained in Mary’s reign had a distinct legal status. Francis Bacon wrote in 1599 that the difference between Marian and seminary priests that one was a priest of superstition, the other a priest of sedition. Cecil pointed to the ‘gentleness’ shown to Mary’s bishops by Elizabeth, in contrast to Mary’s treatment of Protestants. Thomas Watson, the ex-Bishop of Lincoln at Wisbech Castle, was described as ‘altogether sour’. Cecil made the legacy of Marian Catholics toxic by portraying the survivors as ineffectual. Roger Martin’s representation of Mary’s reign as a brief oasis may have been more influential than Parsons’ polemical take on Mary’s regime.
I chaired the final panel of the conference, on the theme of ‘Catholics and Local Networks in the Eighteenth Century’. This featured a paper from Carys Brown on the Rookwoods of Stanningfield between 1689 and 1737 and a paper from Tom McInally on the arrest of Patrick Weems SJ in Aberdeen in 1720. I was delighted that Carys was speaking about the Rookwoods, which were the theme of her undergraduate dissertation, and she focussed on the petition sent by Thomas Rookwood’s neighbours in 1703 to Queen Anne, pleading for him to be allowed to return from exile. The question Carys posed was an excellent one: why was a family so intimately and repeatedly associated with treason considered so valuable? She argued that ‘the ecumenism of everyday relations’ was paramount, and that rather than self-conscious toleration, the Rookwoods’ Protestant neighbours were prepared to ‘get along and get on’ with the family in exchange for their discreet practice of the Catholic faith as well as the continued public dominance of the established church. Carys argued convincingly that the expenditure of the Rookwoods was crucial from the local economy – one way in which her research differs from mine is that she has thoroughly analysed the Rookwoods from a financial and economic point of view. The Rookwoods provided employment and the relationships they built with Protestant gentry were based on social credit: the ability to extend and receive credit was an important mark of social status, and the fact that the Rookwoods were individuals of good credit and reputation came before and outweighed their religious differences.
Once again, I organised this year’s conference outing which took us to Oxburgh Hall in West Norfolk, the home of the recusant Bedingfield family. Michael Hodgetts delivered an expert guided tour of the hall, culminating in the fifteenth-century King’s Room and the attached priesthole, which the more adventurous delegates climbed into. Finally, delegates had the opportunity to view the Catholic chapel (1835) in the grounds before returning to Cambridge.
The conference was a great success and congratulations are due to Hannah Thomas and Liesbeth Corens for such a seamlessly organised event!
On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week I attended the first three days of a five-day conference, ‘Princes of the Church and their Palaces’, at Auckland Castle in County Durham. This was the first ever conference devoted to episcopal palaces. The conference brought together medieval historians, archaeologists, landscape historians, librarians, archivists and curators. In my case, I attended the conference to represent the Bishop’s Palace in Ely, with a view to learning how other bishops’ palaces present themselves to the public and to consider how the unique history of Ely’s Bishop’s Palace can better be promoted.
The conference began on Tuesday afternoon in the Castle chapel with an introduction to the Auckland Project from Chris Ferguson, who explained the aims of the Auckland Castle Trust. This was set up in 2012 following an attempt by the Church Commissioners to sell a series of paintings of the Sons of Jacob by the Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbarrán, which were purchased in 1756 by Bishop Trevor and placed in a room specially designed for them, the Long Dining Room. The Trust was formed in order to save the paintings, but as a consequence of a £10 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund it was able to acquire the Auckland estate from the Church Commissioners. Auckland Castle remains the Bishop of Durham’s Palace and the home of the Diocesan Offices, but the historic core of the building is being made accessible to visitors. Furthermore, an annexe is to be built which will house a permanent exhibition on the story of faith in Britain. All of this is expected to be completed in 2018.
Delegates were given a tour of the Castle and grounds, including usually unseen areas such as the great kitchen, which was divided up in the 1960s and currently contains a plant room made of breeze blocks; plans are afoot, however, to clear the area and restore the kitchens to their original plan. We were also shown Bishop Cosin’s astonishing chapel, a re-worked medieval banqueting hall (although this would be hard to guess) and the late eighteenth-century ‘Strawberry Hill Gothick’ rooms designed by James Wyatt, including the magnificent throne room. Finally, we were taken into the grounds and shown the remains of the south-facing walled gardens, which are also due to be restored in future.
After dinner, the Bishop of Durham opened the conference and a public lecture was delivered by Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, entitled ‘What is special about bishop’s palaces?’ Thurley began with an examination of two buildings constructed by Cardinal Wolsey – York House (later Whitehall Palace) and Hampton Court. He argued that these belong to a group of buildings built between 1450 and 1530 that features a chapel, cloister and hall, with residential buildings on an axis. They include Hampton Court, York Place, the Palace of Westminster, the Priory of St John at Clerkenwell, Lambeth Palace and Ely Place. Thurley set out to answer the question, ‘Why do these buildings have cloisters?’ To do so, he returned to the origins of secular cloisters at Sarum Cathedral in the twelfth century, and he argued that bishops began constructing cloisters in their residences, beginning with Bishop Roger of Sarum at Sherborne, so that the full processional liturgy of the Sarum usage could take place in their private chapels.
Royalty began to imitate the episcopal model and cloisters were installed in the Palace of Westminster and at Windsor, where the Canons of St Stephen and St George respectively formed a college to demonstrate the King’s piety. Bishops, Thurley argued, naturally wanted to imitate royalty in this respect, as their personal courts needed to proclaim their piety; indeed, bishops themselves participated in the liturgy on occasions of high diplomatic importance. A case in point is the summer residence of Cardinal Beaufort at Bishop Waltham, where a new chapel was begun in 1416. Progress on the Palace was slow owing to Beaufort’s changing fortunes at court; the Palace was glazed in 1427 (the year Beaufort received his red hat) but not finally completed until 1441. Beaufort’s palace, like a college of secular canons, contained a detached cloister whose only apparent use was for liturgical processions.
Thurley argued that an elite of bishop-administrators (some of them Cardinals) appropriated cloisters from colleges of secular canons and royal palaces. The cloister became the defining feature of the bishop’s palace and thus made bishop’s residences closer in form and function to royal palaces than to the houses and castles of the great temporal barons. As a coda to his paper, Thurley observed that in the reign of Edward VI the cloister at Whitehall was reinvented as a preaching space; a pulpit was constructed in the centre, and an oriel window built out into the cloister where the King himself could listen to sermons.
There is no evidence for a cloister at the Palace in Ely (although since the evidence we have for the Palace’s original layout is somewhat patchy, it is not impossible that one existed). However, overall it seems more likely that Ely was closer to the model of a Cambridge college, without a cloister – the cloister at Jesus College, founded by Bishop Alcock, only exists because the college was previously a convent of Benedictine nuns. However, the very fact that Ely did not have a cloister could be interpreted as significant – was it because Ely also served the purpose of a military installation? It seems likely that Alcock saw the purpose of the Palace at Ely quite differently from Ely Place; the latter was a London residence that served the diplomatic functions outlined by Thurley, whereas the Palace at Ely was a symbol of the Bishop’s temporal power within the Isle of Ely itself. Another possible explanation for the absence of a cloister is that Bishop Alcock’s Palace was replacing Hugh of Northwold’s thirteenth-century palace on the west side of the monastic cloister; Ely does not, therefore, fit into the lineage of secular buildings posited by Thurley. Thurley’s description of the oriel window at Whitehall led me to wonder whether Bishop Goodrich’s oriel, facing Cathedral Green, might originally have served a similar purpose. Did public sermons take place on Cathedral Green in Edward’s reign? If so, then the oriel window would have been the ideal place from which the Bishop could listen to them. We certainly know that burnings of heretics took place on Cathedral Green in Mary’s reign.
Wednesday’s proceedings took place primarily in Bishop Auckland Town Hall and began with a paper delivered by Jaqueline Sturm of Princeton University on late antique episcopal complexes. I found this paper especially interesting, since a few months ago I visited the ruins of early episcopal complexes at Kourion, Palaepaphos and Agios Georgios in Cyprus. Sturm focussed on the sole surviving and intact sixth-century episcopium at Parenzo (Porec) in Croatia. She argued that bishops began to adopt an ‘imperial architectural vocabulary’ as a consequence of the decline of curial government under the Tetrarchy; as barbarian incursions into the Empire intensified, bishops assumed the role of middlemen between invading forces and the citizens of Roman towns. The Euphrasian Basilica at Parenzo is still linked to its original baptistery and episcopium, which features an aula designed as a miniature version of an imperial basilica. Remarkably, the bishop’s residence at Parenzo was continuously occupied by bishops between around 550 and 1994, when the Bishop moved out and it became a museum. It must surely be a contender for the longest continuously occupied residence in Europe. However, as a consequence of its continuous occupation the house was remodelled many times, and original features such as marble and mosaic have long since disappeared.
The second paper of the morning was delivered by Michael Burger from Montgomery, Alabama, who spoke on the evidence for architectural space in thirteenth-century bishops’ registers. Burger noted that most registers contain a combination of charters and memoranda – the memoranda usually containing information about where a bishop was when he performed a particular act. In some cases this information is very specific, telling us that a bishop was beneath a particular window or in front of his hearth in a particular chamber. Most commonly, the acts of the bishop are recorded as having taken place in a hall, chamber or chapel at an episcopal residence. Burger interprets this as an incursion of Italian notarial practices into England, associated with a desire to be precise about time and place for legal reasons. He noted that English episcopal places often had two halls, one smaller and one larger – the reason for this being that an older hall would be replaced by a larger one, built at a later date as an indication of status. Indeed, so great was the reputation of bishops’ halls that Henry III may have modelled Westminster Hall on episcopal models.
It is worth noting that this is consonant with the evidence from Ely, where we see an extremely large hall as part of Bishop Alcock’s Palace. Could it be that the grandeur of medieval episcopal halls derived ultimately from the basilica-like audience chambers of late antique episcopia? Finally, Burger noted that a number of episcopal acts took place not in the hall but in the bishop’s chamber – some of which were very large – such as the collation of clerks to benefices or the appointment of archdeacons. Burger did not suggest this, but I wonder whether the choice of the more intimate setting of the bishop’s chamber was intended to reinforce the bishop’s relationship with his clerks, especially the archdeacon. As Burger observed, the setting of the bishop’s chamber was more advantageous to the bishop than it was to the clerk, since it meant that the meeting took place on the bishop’s own terms and the witnesses were determined by him. The hall, by contrast, was a much more public space.
The next panel featured a paper from Julia Barrow of the University of Leeds on bishops’ itineraries, beginning with the Anglo-Saxon period. Barrow observed that there are no consistent records of bishops’ itineraries until the thirteenth century, but more general evidence of bishops on the move can be gleaned from earlier sources. Bede’s Letter to Egberht, for example, tells us about a number of visits to Carlisle made by St Cuthbert and tells us that Cuthbert conducted visits around his diocese in a particular order. Other sources for the movements of Anglo-Saxon bishops are Stephanus’ Life of Wilfrid and Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, which gives information on how bishops travelled to royal centres (e.g. the journey of Finan to a royal estate to baptise Peada and Sigeberht ad murum). Anglo-Saxon bishops also regularly travelled to church councils, especially during the period of Mercian dominance.
Philippa Hoskin of the University of Lincoln picked up where Barrow left off, concentrating on bishops’ itineraries in the thirteenth century. Hoskin cautioned that bishops’ itineraries do not always constitute an accurate guide to where a bishop was at any given time, because charters might record the bishop’s formal consent but need not have been drawn up in his presence or personally sealed by him. Episcopal households were complex, ever-shifting institutions, and the bishop’s chancery did not always accompany the bishop. The distinction between the bishop’s seal of dignity (which could be applied by his representative on his written instructions) and the bishop’s personal seal (which would only be applied by the bishop himself) means that even ‘performative’ documents do not necessarily guarantee the bishop’s personal presence.
John Hare concluded the panel by considering the episcopal houses of the Bishop of Winchester, and asking why the bishop needed so many houses. He observed that the number of episcopal residences declined in the later Middle Ages as royal authority became more centred on London. For Hare, the difference between an episcopal residence and a mere episcopal manor was the provision of fishponds, a park and a wine cellar – all of these indicating the preparedness of the palace to receive the bishop. Hare observed that bishops began building castles during the unstable period of the Civil War of Stephen and Matilda – a case in point being the castle at Ely traditionally attributed to Bishop Nigel. Hare noted that the residences of the Bishop of Winchester fell into a number of categories determined by function; categories that can equally be applied to Ely. There was the ‘administrative headquarters’ where the pipe rolls were kept – Wolvesey Palace in the case of Winchester, Ely Palace in the case of Ely. There was the London residence (Southwark Palace for Winchester, Ely Place for Ely). There was the country house and hunting lodge (Esher for Winchester, Hatfield for Ely). Finally, there was the fortified castle (Farnham Castle for Winchester, Wisbech Castle for Ely). Hare noted that, even if the bishop was not in residence, his household at a particular residence, particularly the chapel establishment, could maintain a sense of his presence and influence the local gentry and aristocracy. Hare argued for a growing distinction, as the Middle Ages progressed, between those houses regularly visited by bishops and those that were merely assets. He also noted the increasing challenge to bishops’ local dominance by the gentry and aristocracy after the Reformation – something seen particularly clearly in the case of Ely in the conflict between Bishop Cox and the Norths.
The panel was followed by an interesting discussion that struck at the very title of the conference itself. Simon Thurley noted that the Palace of Westminster was the only building consistently called a palatium in the Middle Ages; Henry VIII passed an Act of Parliament to ensure Whitehall was considered a palace. He questioned whether a clear distinction can be made between palaces and other buildings, since there is no use of the word palatium in thirteenth-century documents referring to bishops’ residences. Hoskin observed that in most itineraries it is usually just the name of a town or village that is given, and the reader is meant to know where the bishop might have been. Burger noted that domus episcopi is sometimes used. The question of when large episcopal residences in see towns were first referred to as ‘palaces’ was raised, but not adequately answered. Barrow said that a bishop’s residence is sometimes described as aula episcopi, and John Hare noted that the phrase curia episcopalis sometimes designates the bishop’s residence in pipe rolls. Mike Ashby took the discussion forward to the eighteenth century, mentioning letters published in The Gentleman’s Magazine expressing anxiety in the eighteenth century about bishops’ houses being called palaces and bishops’ seats being described as thrones. Such ‘relics of popery’ cast into question how reformed the Church of England really was. Thurley said that the most common term used to describe an episcopal residence in the medieval period was simply ‘manor’. However, Maureen Miller indicated that she might be able to shed further light on the use of the word palatium in her lecture on Italian bishops’ palaces, as in an Italian context the word implied a very specific claim to power.
Mike Ashby of Emmanuel College, Cambridge began the next panel by speaking on ‘Episcopal Hospitality in the Eighteenth Century’. I am familiar with Mike’s work as we corresponded at the time I was writing A History of the Bishop’s Palace at Ely (2012), at which time he pointed me towards some important sources. Mike explained that his PhD thesis began as a study of the relationship between the Church of England and the ‘age of elegance’ in the eighteenth century, through both sermons and material culture. It also considered episcopal propagation of loyalty to the Hanoverian regime, e.g. through portraiture, and asked the question ‘What was it to be a Georgian churchman?’ Ashby noted that much work has been done on ecclesiastical administration but little has been done on the social life of bishops and their hospitality. How were bishops expected to receive guests in the period 1740–89? Ashby argued that since bishops’ palaces were such socially vibrant places, we must try to understand the etiquette used there.
Ashby has conducted much research into Bishop Yorke at Ely, and a key source of evidence has been around 800 letters written by the Bishop’s wife Mary Yorke to her mother and niece. Bishop’s palaces played host to many occasions governed by highly theorised principles of politeness, which through the bishops’ efforts led Anglicanism to be strongly associated with politeness. However, the Church of England has featured little in scholarly discussions of politeness because it has been falsely perceived as a ‘secular’ feature of eighteenth-century culture, yet many bishops were described and praised in terms of politeness in funeral sermons. William Cole was very critical of Robert Butts of Ely, who failed to live up to expected standards of polite conduct, reporting that ‘the only Time he ever went to his public Day at Ely, he behaved so rudely & insolently to the clergy, that he resolved it would be his first and last visit there’. Even worse, Butts consumed most of the port that was set out.
Ashby argued that churchmanship in the eighteenth century was a social pursuit; social mechanisms were required to reconcile the upper and lower clergy in a highly divided church. Grayson Ditchfield has argued that Archbishop Frederick Cornwallis played a key role in avoiding a revolution in Britain by leading a national church which maintained the loyalty of the lower clergy as well as the loyalty of the vast proportion of the laity. Tim Hitchcock adds that politeness enabled Britain’s elite to become comfortable with governing the British Empire. In the subsequent discussion, Ashby noted that Bishop Gooch, who was also Master of Gonville and Caius College, usually stayed at the Master’s Lodge at Caius rather than the Palace when he visited the Diocese of Ely. He also observed that a subtle distinction that separated episcopal hospitality from the largesse of the temporal nobility was that bishops were not supposed to partake of their hospitality themselves, but to stand back from it.
By the second half of the eighteenth century, most bishops stayed at the Palaces in their cathedral cities in summer and winter when Parliament was not in session (the fact that the number of episcopal palaces was greatly reduced during the Interregnum led to bishops spending more time at a smaller number of residences). Thousands of crab and lobster claws have been found at Bishop Auckland, and there may be similar deposits to be discovered at other bishops’ palace which can shed light on episcopal hospitality from an archaeological perspective. Ashby argued that the strong emphasis placed on politeness by the bishops of the Church of England was an attempt to wrest the concept from the grip of extreme Whigs like Shaftesbury, and the bishops seem to have believed that their lavish spending benefited the lower orders by providing employment.
In the final panel of the day, Christine Penney, the librarian at Hartlebury Castle, spoke about Bishop Hurd’s library, which is the only library of a Church of England bishop to remain in the room designed for it, although other episcopal libraries remain intact. Bishop Moore of Ely was a noted book collector, and Bishop Yorke bequeathed his entire library to the University of Cambridge, where it remains as part of the collection of Cambridge University Library. An interesting discussion on episcopal libraries followed Penney’s paper, and one delegate observed that a registry of episcopal libraries would be very helpful. I was intrigued to learn that the Hurd Library contains Alexander Pope’s own copy of Spenser’s Faerie Queen, which had previously belonged to John Dryden, as well as a 1543 Greek New Testament given by to Pope by Jonathan. The bibliographical history of the Bishop’s Palace at Ely is one aspect of the building’s history that could usefully be explored; I have so far only researched Sir Thomas Tresham’s library, which wholly or partially accompanied him to the Palace during his imprisonments there in the 1580s and ’90s.
The final paper of the day, from Adrian Green of Durham University, addressed John Cosin as an architect. Green intriguingly suggested that Cosin’s interest in architecture may have been stimulated by the Renaissance glories of his undergraduate college, Gonville and Caius, although I am not sure this can be demonstrated. I was unaware that, as Vice Chancellor of the University in 1639, Cosin draw up plans for a University Library and Senate House – a typical example of the visionary agenda of the pre-Civil War Laudians, so cruelly cut short by the storm to come. Cosin was also responsible for the restoration of the tomb of St Bede in Durham Cathedral for the occasion of Charles I’s visit there in 1633, and his relationship with the pre-Reformation church seems to have been complicated at best. Certainly, the chapel at Auckland Castle is a strong contender to be considered the masterpiece of seventeenth-century Gothic.
The focus of the third day of the conference was bishops’ forests, chases and parks, and the panel was opened with a paper by Graham Jones of St John’s College, Oxford on ‘Mapping episcopal forests’. Jones defined forests as delimited districts in which Sthe king had a monopoly on hunting certain animals, and in which there was legal protection for both animals and vegetation (venison and vert). Together with John Langton, who delivered the next paper on episcopal hunting, Jones is the author of two recent volumes on forests and chases. Jones argued that the mapping of forests tells us not just about the royalty and nobility who hunted in them but also about the wider social context of forests, which sustained large numbers of people who exercised their common rights.
Langton’s paper outlined the theoretical canonical restrictions on bishops hunting – they were allowed to do so, but only for lawful health and recreation – although in practice many bishops and abbots seem to have spent much (or even most) of their time hunting. Henry Spelman argued in the 1620s that bishops needed to hunt in order to be fitted for their duties as lieutenants-in-chief of the crown, which might involve leading armies into battle. Hunting was a huge part of episcopal households, and the Bishop of Winchester had fox hunters, otter hunters and falconers in addition to deer hunters. Furthermore, hunting took place in parks as well as forests, where it enjoyed the same protection as the forest hunt; freewarrens were also a venue for hunting ‘vermin’ (such as rabbits). Langton noted that the sale and purchase of venison was made illegal by James I in 1607 and was only legalised in 1833, as a means of preserving the giving of venison as a relic of chivalry and protecting it from commercial exploitation.
The final two papers I heard before leaving the conference were delivered by Linda Drury and Andrew Miller, on the park at Bishop Auckland and the expression of masculinity in episcopal hunting. I was interested to note that Jones and Langton have identified Somersham in Huntingdonshire as a hunting lodge of the Bishop of Ely, as well as a couple of sites outside his Diocese. However, I also noted that Hatfield Palace was not identified as a hunting centre in spite of its proximity to one of the great royal forests, Hatfield Chase. These are all matters that merit further investigation. The conference continues today (Friday) and concludes on Saturday with field trips to other palaces and residences of the Bishops of Durham.
There were some themes that the conference did not address; it was entitled ‘Princes of the Church and their Palaces’ – and Princes of the Church included Abbots as well, of course. No attention was given to abbatial palaces and priors’ residences (perhaps they deserve a conference of their own?). The conference might also have addressed the household of Cardinal Pole, both in Italy and in England, which would have tied together the conference’s British and European themes. It could also have included discussion of the households of foreign bishops who acted as ambassadors to England, such as Alvaro de la Quadra. Furthermore, I personally would have loved to hear some discussion of the accommodation of the Catholic Vicars Apostolic between 1623 and 1850, and a discussion of Catholic bishops’ houses since the restoration of the hierarchy in 1850 would also be intriguing. Perhaps a future companion volume to A Glimpse of Heaven could address the architecture of bishops’ houses, presbyteries and conventual buildings?