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Medieval Studies Medieval Archaeology in Britain, Twelfth to Fifteenth Centuries
by
David A. Hinton

Introduction

By the start of the 12th century, large-scale migrations had ended in Western Europe, although colonizers followed in the wake of successful invasions, such as that of the Normans into Ireland in 1169, and “aliens” from the Low Countries became a substantial group in 14th- and 15th-century England. The relationship of medieval archaeology to social anthropology, to historical documentation, and to contemporary literature takes the discipline beyond the study of physical remains alone. Themes include the role of material culture in shaping the environment and the lives of the people in its cities, towns, villages, and farmsteads. Churches provided a forum for their expressions of belief and received their corpses for eternity; their bones can reveal their aches, strains, and vulnerability to disease and inadequate nutrition. The social hierarchy is expressed in buildings that are increasingly likely to survive at least in part as standing structures: the elites’ castles and palaces; landowners’ manor houses; peasants’ farmhouses and barns; urban merchants’ grand dwellings and storage provisions; and the urban artisans’ terraces. Agriculture was the main economic activity; topics include the growth and decay of settlements, the crops grown, and the stock reared. Farming’s ability to change with the balance of supply and demand depended on ownership and control of land, leading to social issues, such as peasants’ ability to retain some of their production surplus. Urbanism, the market, and the physical evidence of trade are major themes. Objects range from elaborate gold and enameled goblets to pottery cups, from gold coins to copper-alloy tokens, and from crowns to pilgrims’ badges. Use of these depended on resources and the application of technologies, but also on people’s mindsets and their view of what was appropriate in terms of investment, behavior, and social positioning.

General Overviews

The Society for Medieval Archaeology publishes an annual journal, as well as an annual summary of the year’s principal fieldwork results, available through its website, and an occasional monograph series, all of which form the backbone of disciplinary studies of the archaeology of the Middle Ages. Medieval History and Archaeology, published by Oxford University Press, is an important series; the Council for British Archaeology’s Research Reports have included work on the medieval period, British Archaeological Reports are an outlet for these, and other societies may have multiperiod interests but include medieval articles or books from time to time. There is currently a dearth of publishers for more popular but nevertheless authoritative books. In contrast, there is a proliferation of special-interest groups, which produce journals and newsletters.

International, National, and Regional Journals

Many societies publish journals that include work on the later Middle Ages, though none specializes exclusively in the archaeology of the 12th to 15th centuries: Medieval Archaeology, which publishes on the earlier part of the period as well, is the principal outlet. Papers on the later medieval archaeology of Scotland appear frequently in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, but not in its counterpart in Wales, Studia Celtica. Antiquaries Journal, Archaeological Journal, and the many county journals such as Oxoniensia all carry occasional papers on the later Middle Ages.

Specialist Journals and Newsletters

Special-interest societies and groups that focus on a particular topic usually include in their publications some work on the earlier part of the medieval period, but the evidence for most of their interests tends to be later and runs on into the postmedieval period also. British Numismatic Journal has papers on coins, some very dense, but some essential for understanding the economy. Landscape Studies moves forward from topics such as the origin of open fields into the effects of population changes on the landscape. The Castle Studies Group Journal is always useful and well illustrated. Vernacular Architecture is published by a group of enthusiasts for buildings below the social level of castles. Medieval Ceramics deals with anything made of baked earth, and the Medieval Settlement Research Group Journal and Annual Report with the use of earth for everything else.

  • British Numismatic Journal.

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    Numismatists are economic historians who use coins as their source material. Many who are interested in coins are collectors, whose concerns may be as much about modern values as medieval ones. Some of the papers in this journal become so full of detail that it can be hard to distinguish one from the other. Archaeologists want to know about such issues as the amount of coin available, who was using it, and whether the use of money changed society—instead of service, rent could be paid in cash, and everything could have an impersonal value. An example of a paper full of detail about mint issues, but ultimately addressing a major question about the circulation of money in the later Middle Ages, is Allen 2007 (cited under Coins).

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  • Castle Studies Group.

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    This journal does not shy away from controversy, such as the current dispute on the purposes of 14th- and 15th-century castles. The annual reports on the Group’s field visits are extremely valuable, such as that on the Welsh castles visited in 2008: Neil Guy, et al., “The Castle Studies Group Conference: Abergavenny,” Castle Studies Group Journal 22 (2008–2009): 4–127 has descriptions, plans, and illustrations that lead to new interpretations and appreciation of the many castles inspected.

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  • Landscape History.

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    Recently changed, so now appears twice yearly in a smaller format. Easier to handle and read, though may prove less suitable than in its former A4 size for publishing larger maps and plans. A paper by Christopher Taylor, “England’s Landscape: A Review Article,” Landscape History 29 (2007): 93–99 shows the journal’s critical acumen at its best in a discussion of an English Heritage–sponsored series of books and its overall failure to engage with the totality of the landscapes of different regions.

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  • Medieval Ceramics.

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    Appearance of this journal has been less frequent than annual in recent years, but it usually contains a good range of British and continental material; some papers are very short discussion pieces, others present substantial primary accounts of, for instance, pot-production sites, like one in lowland Scotland that made among other things jugs with grotesque human faces below the rims. See Derek W. Hall, “Recent Excavations of Pottery Kilns and Workshops at New Carrow Road, Stenhousemuir,” Medieval Ceramics 30 (2006–2008): 3–20.

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  • Medieval Settlement Research Group Journal and Annual Report.

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    Societies exist for members with specialist interests, and often their conferences are valuable meeting-places for the exchange and discussion of ideas among people who can focus on something that to others might seem very narrow. Capturing the essence of what can at best be several days of stimulating camaraderie and equitable disagreement is difficult, but is done very well by Nicholas Higham with others, “MSRG Spring Conference, 11–13 April 2007,” Medieval Settlement Research Group Journal and Annual Report 22 (2007): 5–23, summarizing a series of workshops held to discuss how the landscape was perceived in the past.

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  • Vernacular Architecture.

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    Papers published in this journal focus on “traditional” buildings and the effects of industrialization once nonlocal materials were introduced. It is therefore worldwide in its scope, reminding readers that other societies have different problems and needs; a steep-gabled roof is not required if snow is never going to fall on it. Although mostly on rural survivals, one outstanding recent paper was on towns: Sarah Pearson, “Medieval Houses in English Towns: Form and Location,” Vernacular Architecture 40 (2009): 1–22, in which the author defends her arguments about urban plans and house-types, presenting maps and photographs to illustrate case studies such as Salisbury and Sandwich (see Houses and Halls).

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European Perspective

The archaeology of Britain should be viewed within a European context, but as yet no single overview of later medieval archaeology has appeared, though Graham-Campbell 2007 covers the 12th century. Meanwhile, studies in English of particular countries include Fehring 1991 on Germany, Andersson, et al. 1997 on Sweden, Besteman, et al. 1990 on the Netherlands, and Barry 1987 on Ireland. The intermittent series of papers resulting from the International Medieval Archaeology Congress meetings in 1992, 1997 and 2002 are very wide-ranging (e.g., Boe and Verhaege 1997). Very few people are prepared to write thematically except about the particular region in which they specialize, so Steane 2001 is welcome for a broader perspective.

  • Andersson, Hans, Peter Carelli, and Lars Ersgård, eds. Visions of the Past: Trends and Traditions in Swedish Medieval Archaeology. Lund Studies in Medieval Archaeology 19. Lund, Sweden: Central Board of National Antiquities, 1997.

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    Multiauthor investigation into the way in which Sweden, noted for its high-quality iron, became part of the European network, although hunter-gatherer systems continued to operate in the north.

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  • Barry, Terry. The Archaeology of Medieval Ireland. London: Methuen 1987.

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    Did for Ireland what Clarke 1984 (cited under British Isles) did for England, with chapters on fortifications, rural settlement, towns, and other mainstays of archaeology—tellingly, after a brief section on the documentary evidence.

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  • Besteman, J. C., J. M. Bos, and H. A. Heidinga, eds. Medieval Archaeology in the Netherlands: Studies Presented to H. H. van Regteren. Studies in Paeen Protohistorie. Assen, The Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1990.

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    In the Low Countries, cloth manufacture concentrated in Bruges, Ghent, and other towns effectively created the first European zone outside Italy that was dominated by craft rather than agricultural production, but it remained under the political control of counts and dukes and was drawn disastrously into their wars in the 14th century. Archaeologically, buildings and metalware provide better evidence than textile survival.

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  • Boe, Guy de, and Franz Verhaege, eds. Papers of the “Medieval Europe Brugge 1997” Conference. 3 vols. Zellik, Belgium: Instituut voor het Archeologisch Patrimonium, 1997.

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    It is difficult enough to bring together scholars from all over Europe, even more so to persuade them to produce their papers for publication. Eleven thematic volumes emerged from this collaboration, ranging from Art and Symbols to Urbanism.

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  • Fehring, Günther. The Archaeology of Medieval Germany: An Introduction. Translated by Ross Samson. Studies in Archaeology. London: Routledge, 1991.

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    Straightforward account of the archaeology of one of Europe’s modern countries, which was not united in the Middle Ages. The Rhine Valley, however, and the Baltic ports such as Lübeck provided the Hanse merchants with the means to create one of the motors of the medieval economy.

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  • Graham-Campbell, James, ed., with Magdalena Valor. The Archaeology of Medieval Europe. Volume 1, Eighth to Twelfth Centuries. Acta Jutlandica 83.1; Humanities Series 79. Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University Press, 2007.

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    Multiauthor volume ranging from Iceland to Greece, arranged thematically, mostly with headings such as “Trade” and “Urban Settlement,” which are the stock-in-trade of archaeology, but also with a few that might be less expected, such as that on displays of secular power. Only covers the early part of the later Middle Ages, but has some useful summaries and insights.

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  • Steane, John M. The Archaeology of Power: England and Northern Europe AD 800–1600. Stroud, UK: Tempus, 2001.

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    The Roman legacy gave us “palaces” from the great houses on the Palatine Hill, and much else. The Ottonians set new standards for 11th-century Europe, and European monarchs became increasingly aware of the symbolism of crowns and coronations, and the settings in which they were seen by their subjects. The French court set the tone for most of Europe, with Louis IX’s Sainte-Chapelle in Paris built in the 1240s.

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British Isles

The physical evidence of Britain from the 11th to the 16th centuries has been addressed in a few overview books: Platt 1978, the first, rose to a rare level of scholarship demonstrating how archaeology can be brought to bear on historical issues. Two books that came out in close succession were Clarke 1984, in which themes were approached from the viewpoint of the subject’s development, and Steane 1985, which took a more practical approach. Hinton 1990 has weathered the later Middle Ages better than the earlier but does not consider Scotland, to which Yeoman 1995 is the best introduction. An author who is as much at home with documentary evidence as with archaeological is Christopher Dyer (Dyer 1989, Dyer 2005). Johnson 1996 showed that the end of the Middle Ages and the early postmodern period should be considered together.

  • Clarke, Helen. The Archaeology of Medieval England. London: British Museum, 1984.

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    First to offer a thematic overview of later medieval archaeology, with chapters adopting the main themes that preoccupied scholarship at the time—castles, towns, and the countryside—as it was then evidenced by the content published in the Society for Medieval Archaeology’s annual journal, Medieval Archaeology.

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  • Dyer, Christopher. Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages: Social Change in England c. 1200–1520. Cambridge Medieval Textbooks. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

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    Draws on a huge range of evidence to consider the disposable income available to different social groups at different times, and what goals and ambitions motivated them to purchase luxury foods and drink or plainer fare; grand houses, estates, or tiny patches of land; and whether town and country people varied significantly. All were prey to disease, discomfort, and bad weather, making them constantly aware of their mortality and the need to make provision for their souls by gifts and bequests to the Church.

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  • Dyer, Christopher. An Age of Transition? Economy and Society in England in the Later Middle Ages. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    Same interests in consumption as in Dyer 1989, but deploying new information, and perhaps more directly addressing the question of market development and how people were affected by it.

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  • Hinton, David A. Archaeology, Economy and Society: England from the Fifth to the Fifteenth Century. London: Seaby, 1990.

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    Ideas about and information on the first few centuries of the Middle Ages have changed so much in twenty years that it is only the second part of this book that is now worth considering. Some of the assimilation of others’ work is still not out of date.

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  • Johnson, Matthew. An Archaeology of Capitalism. Social Archaeology series. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996.

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    Argues that the later Middle Ages saw attitudes toward property change: low rents and decent prices favored farmers interested in investment, who developed a new awareness of their ownership of fields and houses. They eschewed old traditions of labor service, of cultivating segments of huge open fields, and of neighborly cooperation.

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  • Platt, Colin. Medieval England: A Social History and Archaeology from the Conquest to 1600 AD. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978.

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    Groundbreaking book using archaeology chronologically rather than thematically, and discussing trends and social problems. Synthesizes an enormous range, but did not take the further step of seeing whether archaeological material has its own story to tell.

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  • Steane, John M. The Archaeology of Medieval England and Wales. Croom Helm Studies in Archaeology. Beckenham: Croom Helm, 1985.

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    Still useful compendium of data, well illustrated with line drawings and photographs, covering everything from castles and churches to artifacts and bones.

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  • Yeoman, Peter. Medieval Scotland: An Archaeological Perspective. London: Batsford, 1995.

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    Introduction to the later medieval archaeology of the north: castles, churches, houses, and objects. The extent to which Scotland was exposed to the same influences as England, for instance in their social systems, and the question of how far it developed a culture distinctively its own, together comprise an important underlying theme.

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Theory

Particularly in the 13th century, documentary evidence exists even at the level of the illiterate peasantry. But it treats them fundamentally as economic units, not as people with problems and beliefs who structured their lives within a physical environment; some archaeologists see the documentary outline as a straitjacket that treats their evidence as no more than providing illustrative background or filling in a few minor gaps that the documents do not quite cover—often called the “handmaiden of history” approach. Johnson 1999 argues that the historical period can be treated as post-processually (stressing context and agency) as any other—and should be. The principles of integration are exemplified by Andrén 1998. Moreland 2001 debates the nature of the written form of communication. Some of the controversies involved in different approaches, and a history of medieval archaeology’s development as a discipline, are addressed by Gerrard 2003. The Society for Medieval Archaeology’s 50th anniversary volume edited by Gilchrist and Reynolds takes these discussions farther (see Gilchrist 2009); Gilchrist 2009, a paper on the later period, takes up the theme that not enough practitioners engage with theoretical approaches, concentrating too much on social and technological practicalities.

  • Andrén, Anders. Between Artifacts and Text: Historical Archaeology in Global Perspective. Translated by Alan Crozier. Contributions to Global Historical Archaeology. New York: Plenum, 1998.

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    Argues that writing creates one way of presenting a version of the past, pictures another, and artifacts a third. Uses case studies from all over the world to explore methodological issues and advocates that archaeology takes the long view best—the longue durée of Fernand Braudel.

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  • Gerrard, Christopher. Medieval Archaeology: Understanding Traditions and Contemporary Approaches. London: Routledge, 2003.

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    Excellent account of how the discipline emerged from antiquarianism, and how it now sits within the “heritage industry” as well as academic research. Deals with the application of modern scientific methods to site recognition, excavating, and dating, and very successfully articulates how the stridency of some of the advocates of theoretical approaches alienates many of those who are being told to apply them.

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  • Gilchrist, Roberta. “Medieval Archaeology and Theory: A Disciplinary Leap of Faith.” In Reflections: 50 Years of Medieval Archaeology 1957–2007. Edited by Roberta Gilchrist and Andrew Reynolds, 385–408. Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph 30. Leeds, UK: Maney, 2009.

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    Thoughtful polemic decrying the continued tendency of medieval archaeologists to embrace empiricism rather than to explore ways in which their work enhances understanding of people’s behavior and beliefs. Advocates open-mindedness among prehistorians to philosophical notions of agency and postprocessualism.

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  • Johnson, Matthew. Archaeological Theory: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, 1999.

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    Concerned not only with the Middle Ages, but with presenting theoretical approaches in a way acceptable to all archaeologists; has a chapter on how archaeology can “fit” with history, using Bodiam Castle to show how physical survival of the building and its surroundings is as important for its interpretation as the documentary evidence about it. People would have seen it as revealing more about its owner and his place in society than he could have expressed in words.

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  • Moreland, John. Archaeology and Text. Duckworth Debates in Archaeology. London: Duckworth, 2001.

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    Discusses how the written word is a technology that changes the societies that adopt it, and shapes our own perceptions of them. Much praised, though disappoints readers by never referring to the object shown on the cover, which encapsulates many of the themes.

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History

The view that an archaeologist needs to know as much as possible about the context of the period being studied has become old-fashioned, but for the later Middle Ages much documentation helps to explain why the material record is created and what it may signify: Dyer 2005 and Platt 1978 (both cited under The British Isles) integrate the two sorts of evidence, but other historians do not see the need to do so, and indeed on the finer points of constitutional law their decision may be justified. An archaeologist who thinks that a broader viewpoint is needed has a range of books and articles to choose from. Authors cited in this section do not ignore the physical evidence if it is relevant to their themes, but those themes depend on documents for their expression. Britnell 2004 overlaps with archaeology in the creation of identity, for instance, as does Coss and Keen 2002 in considering the visual means that people used to express it, including their clothing, and Matthew 2005 in thinking about the importance of language. Horrox and Ormrod 2006 and Hatcher and Baillie 2001 both consider what caused the changes that are visible in such features as settlements and buildings. Woolgar 2006 shows how the senses and the humors affected attitudes to clothes, colors, containers, lamps, relics, and bells (which tolled the hours but also drove demons away with their clanging).

  • Britnell, Richard. Britain and Ireland 1050–1550: Economy and Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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    Important overview, not only of England, by an author who has contributed much to discussion of the role of commerce in shaping late medieval society. Examines more than just the economy and trade, however, considering evidence of ethnicity, expression of “national” sentiments, and the contrasting restraints of custom that affected England and Scotland. It also summarizes agricultural practice and productivity.

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  • Coss, Peter, and Maurice Keen, eds. Heraldry, Pageantry, and Social Display in Medieval England. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2002.

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    Social change in the later Middle Ages included the emergence of owners of country manors who might have fought as knights but who were likely to have made their money in other ways. Conscious of their social place, they sought possession of a coat of arms, which gave not only claims to ancient lineage but also to a military background; heraldry was important to display. Tombs and effigies in many churches attest to the ways in which they wished to be remembered.

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  • Hatcher, John, and Mark Bailey. Modelling the Middle Ages: The History and Theory of England’s Economic Development. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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    What caused higher wages, lower rents, and lower prices in the late 14th and 15th centuries: the Black Death, worsening climate, demography, and the end of feudal ties? Or wars and taxation? Why were England’s social changes not the same as those in France, where circumstances seem not to have changed significantly? Useful summary of a host of observations and interpretations that does not offer many ways forward.

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  • Horrox, Rosemary, and William M. Ormrod, eds. A Social History of England, 1200–1500. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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    Compendium that addresses and explains many of the current issues in late medieval studies, such as social identity and class; formal religion and informal beliefs; gender distinctions; the effects of money and commerce; population growth and decline; legal ties and lords’ constraints; the effects of war (ransom money, lawlessness caused by returning soldiers, and government taxation); and farming and the market for its products.

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  • Matthew, David. Britain and the Continent, 1000–1300: The Impact of the Norman Conquest. London: Hodder Education, 2005.

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    The archaeologist’s ability to recognize migration, as opposed to cultural change from other forms of contact, questioned by the undoubted transfer of power to a small number of militarily successful incomers in 1066. A well-balanced assessment of the Norman influence on a range of topics such as the English language, and how the Conquest drew Britain into the western Mediterranean rather than Scandinavian ambit.

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  • Woolgar, Christopher. The Senses in Late Medieval England. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006.

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    Earth, air, fire, and water create dryness, cold, heat, and dampness; healing and cooking both sought to balance these four “humours” in the body. Humans ingest through their senses: sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound—with speech a sixth, except that it did not give access into the body. To see the radiant light of a saint’s shrine, have contact with relics, hear a sweet sound, or smell clean air was not simply pleasurable, but penetrated the body and the soul.

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Literature

English again became a written language in the 13th century, and the language for composition (replacing French and Latin) in the 14th. Stories of “Romance” circulated in the 12th century, but whether they were told in English and became part of popular rather than elite culture is hard to know. Some writers whose work has survived had a deep sense of the beauty of landscape, the wealth of its resources, and that these were God’s blessings. God’s purpose was worked out by man if he improved the land that God had given, so that draining fens and enhancing fertility was doing God’s work. The land as a place of beauty, filled with God’s wonders and showing His purpose, was another theme. For aristocrats, the image of the deer-park was as “Paradise,” a word taken from the Persian pairidezia, meaning “game-park” (Clarke 2006). A militaristic society took more pleasure in tales of knights, and above all, Arthur (Wheatley 2004); whether the Cornish Tintagel or a Pictish stone near Perth, places and objects came to be associated with the stories (Hall 2005). Texts are as much about culture as is archaeology (Hines 2004). Food also has deep cultural meaning, expressed by Chaucer (Biebel 1998). Other stories, such as those of Robin Hood, find expression in carvings rather than on objects, but show how widely they circulated (Jones 2002).

  • Biebel, E. M. “Pilgrims to Table: Food Consumption in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.” In Food and Eating in Medieval Europe. Edited by Miriam Carlin and Joel T. Rosenthal, 15–26. London: Hambledon, 1998.

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    People’s characters are both reflected in and created by what they eat, so that the monk who ate roast swan, a food only for the rich, showed both his gluttony and his pride—two of the seven deadly sins in one mouthful. The more moderate Franklin ate well but only what was in season and so not too expensive. The poor widow ate milk and bread, with bacon and eggs as treats. Deeper symbolism is in Christ as symbol of the body and the flesh.

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  • Clarke, C. A. M. Literary Landscapes and the Idea of England, 700–1400. Woodbridge, UK: Brewer, 2006.

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    Shows how stories derived from other cultures and countries came to be “placed” in Britain, particularly many of the Arthurian legends. Towns appropriated stories to give themselves antiquity; Grimsby claimed the giant Grim, while London asserted foundation by Brutus, who had given his name to Britain. Some towns flaunted such claims on their seals.

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  • Hall, Mark A. “Burgh Mentalities: A “Town-in-the-Country” Case Study of Perth, Scotland.” In Town and Country in the Middle Ages: Contrasts, Contacts and Interconnections, 1100–1500. Edited by Kate Giles and Christopher Dyer, 211–228. Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph 22. Leeds, UK: Maney, 2005

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    Scotland, like England, relocated and appropriated stories coined in other parts of European culture. A Pictish stone carving came to be interpreted as an illustration of the fate of Arthur’s Queen Guinevere, and a nearby hillfort was associated with her lover Modred; the Scottish personal name Drustan was metamorphosed into Tristram, who is shown with Iseult on an elaborate mirror-case found in Perth.

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  • Hines, John. Voices in the Past: English Literature and Archaeology. Cambridge: Brewer, 2004.

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    After a chapter on geographical contexts in Old English literature, this book moves on to the 13th-century fabliaux and two books written in the west Midlands, in French, Latin, and English—but not in Welsh despite proximity to the border. This rejection is shown in other cultural indicators, such as the use of English-made pottery and English styles of building in the same region. For the 14th century, poetry reveals much about contemporary attitudes.

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  • Jones, Malcolm. The Secret Middle Ages: Discovering the Real Medieval World. Stroud, UK: Sutton, 2002.

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    Minor church carvings show that references to myths and stories were understood. Another example is a little pewter badge showing a curry-comb and the letters “Favel” underneath, which derives from the story of a powerful horse that liked to be groomed, and so the phrase “to curry favor” means to gain favor by toadying to Favel.

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  • Wheatley, Abigail. The Idea of the Castle in Medieval England. York, UK: York Medieval Press, 2004.

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    Reviews the concepts that castles might express. Biblical allusions may seem far-fetched (a castle ditch for humility, a wall for chastity) but are justified by texts from as early as the 12th century. More understandable is that secular stories should have associated some castles with legend, not only of Arthur but also of Troy, Rome, Brutus, and the foundation of Britain.

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The Church

Medieval Britain was a culture unlike anything known to prehistory in that its religion was not derived from within its own society, but came from outside, Rome. Liturgies, calls for crusades, and new doctrines were all promoted without any particular consideration of British circumstances, though with deep effect on British practice. Politically, control issues arose, as the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket showed in extreme form; his cult, however, was fervently accepted partly because it gave Britain a saint of its own whose physical existence was undoubted. Occasionally grumbles about the Church and its costs emerge, but even the 15th-century Lollards were not deeply hostile to the Catholic faith, merely to its priests and their practices. Consequently the Church and its teaching permeated every facet of people’s lives, blessing them on their arrival and watching over them when they were dead. The range of different church establishments is one facet of archaeological enquiry; what it all meant to people is another.

Monasteries, Friaries, and Cathedrals

The great churches were religious institutions that employed large numbers of servants, supported by large estates; others might only have had a priest or two. We admire what we see today (Tatton-Brown and Crook 2002, Platt 1990), but forget that medieval building had its disasters (Stalley 2006). Because they needed money, churches were very willing to receive gifts, but that made them susceptible to pressure; in particular, it was difficult to refuse benefactors’ requests for family members to be buried in the church that they had patronized. The 13th-century friars were supposed to eschew wealth and property to avoid such problems, but for practical reasons could hardly do so (Butler 1984, Foreman 1996).

  • Butler, Lawrence A. S. “The Houses of the Mendicant Orders in Britain: Recent Archaeological Work.” In Archaeological Papers from York Presented to M. W. Barley. Edited by Peter V. Addyman and V. E. Black, 123–136. York, UK: York Archaeological Trust, 1984.

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    Review of what was then known about friary churches and cloisters, usually built in 13th-century towns to take missions to the largest number of people. Many had to be built on the less densely used edges. Popularity meant large congregations, necessitating a long nave, usually divided by a “walking-place” from a long east end for the friars’ own use.

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  • Foreman, Martin. Further Excavations at the Dominican Priory: Beverley, 1986–1989. Sheffield Excavation Report 4. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996.

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    Like many reports on friary sites, cut through by a 19th-century railway, and further but scientifically investigated in advance of late-20th-century growth. Before the friary, it was merely backland, used for pit-digging and waste disposal. Discoveries of book-binding fittings and writing equipment create a more favorable impression of the friars’ activities than does an imported jug almost certainly associated with wine drinking.

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  • Platt, Colin. The Architecture of Medieval Britain: A Social History. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990.

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    Winner of a Wolfson History Prize, full of brilliant photographs by A. F. Kersting, which accompany an insightful text, so that the buildings are not merely described but set into their contexts. Because many survivals are ecclesiastical, it is filled with information on them, but also deals with castles and houses, situating them into the broader perspective of who built them and why.

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  • Stalley, Roger. “Lapides reclamabunt: Art and Engineering at Lincoln Cathedral in the Thirteenth Century.” Antiquaries Journal 86 (2006): 131–147.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0003581500000081Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Describes how the central tower of Lincoln Cathedral fell down in the late 1230s, probably because of an attempt to heighten it without strengthening the existing crossing-piers. The cathedral canons should have blamed themselves for such stupidity, particularly since collapses had happened elsewhere. Instead, they took it to be God warning their bishop not to undertake his planned visitation to look into their behavior.

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  • Tatton-Brown, Tim, and John Crook. The English Cathedral. London: New Holland, 2002.

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    Large-format book by two scholars of church architecture, one of whom is also a very highly skilled photographer, so that there are pictures of aspects that might not normally receive attention. Gazetteer format eliminates chronology (and modern cathedrals as well as medieval ones are included), but anyone needing an introduction to the greatest surviving church buildings will find this an authoritative guide.

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Church Estates

The great ecclesiastical institutions needed very large estates, usually acquired by endowment and gift, so that they often owned widely scattered manors lacking any particular agricultural coherence. To administer these properties, meticulous records were kept; those that survive are the key to understanding not only profits and yields but also the social tensions between landlords and tenants, particularly those who were unfree and whose lives were tightly controlled. The 13th century, when most lords farmed at least much of their land as “demesne,” that is, they ran it themselves, is better documented overall than in the 14th and 15th centuries, when more and more demesne was transferred to leasehold, so that the everyday details of estate management did not need to be recorded by the churches. Archaeology has turned to this subject relatively recently (Keevill, et al. 2001, Astill, et al. 2004). The shaping of the landscape for water-courses is one facet of their management (Bond 2003); Scotland has received separate treatment (Hall 2006).

  • Astill, Grenville, Sue Hirst, and Susan M. Wright. “The Bordesley Abbey Project Reviewed.” Archaeological Journal 141 (2004): 106–158.

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    Reassessment of a 1970s project undertaken to look at a Cistercian monastery, its church, the buildings in its perimeter (a water-mill used for forging iron, with hammer and bellows, was notable, not least because it was one reason for the redirection of streams and a river for a range of purposes including fish ponds) and the estates both nearby and at a distance that sustained it.

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  • Bond, James. Monastic Landscapes. Stroud, UK: Tempus, 2003.

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    Author is a fieldworker with a well-developed eye for a bank and a ditch, but also knows the documentary evidence and has studied in particular the lands held by the great medieval churches. Ecclesiastics knew that their own lives would be short, but they hoped that their institutions would live forever. Consequently, they were more likely to invest for the long term; nearly all the large surviving medieval barns were built on their estates.

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  • Hall, Derek. Scottish Monastic Landscapes. Stroud, UK: Tempus, 2006.

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    Before the 12th century, Scottish monasteries were old-style institutions like Whithorn. These were then joined by Augustinian, Cistercian, and Benedictine foundations, which expected to own estates as elsewhere in Europe, developing sheep pastures. Other income sources included metal and coal.

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  • Keevill, Graham, Michael Aston, and Teresa Hall, eds. Monastic Archaeology: Papers on the Study of Medieval Monasteries. Oxford: Oxbow, 2001.

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    Essays on the physical evidence for religious institutions. Estate management involved, in part, feeding the community and also producing surpluses for sale and receiving cash from rentals. Water-courses supplied clean water (purity of body mirrored purity of soul) and took away effluents. Plants in many Hulton Abbey graves provided sweet smells, symbolizing new life if the flowers were annual, eternal life if they were perennials.

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Parish Churches

Rural landowners increasingly built churches on their manors, not only out of piety and as somewhere for their bodies finally to rest (see Bodies and Burial), and to save their tenants from having to go a long way to attend Easter service or to be buried, but because the tithes, fees, and offerings that those people paid could be directed to the new church. Costs went up as stone rather than timber churches came to be expected. Even these were affected by new ideas (Barnwell 2004). Older establishments therefore lost income and were largely able to stop the practice in the later part of the 12th century. In towns, very many very small churches were built, until the new restrictions kept new towns from building parish churches; instead, they built themselves chapels that were often much bigger and better maintained than the parish church in which they still had to be baptized, and in the yard in which they had to be buried (Slater and Rosser 1998). Much speculation about the alignment of churches has been put to rest, although with an unexpected conclusion (Hinton 2006). Doctrinal change emphasized Purgatory, and the opportunity to achieve Salvation if enough of the living prayed for your soul (Graves 2000). With so much investment in creating family memory, the sudden changes of the 1530s and 1540s seem inexplicable (Gaimster and Gilchrist 2003). Platt 1981 remains a useful chronological treatment showing how churches at this social level fitted into place.

  • Barnwell, Paul S. “The Laity, the Clergy, and the Divine Presence: The Use of Space in Smaller Churches of the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries.” Journal of the British Archaeological Association 157 (2004): 41–60.

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    The 12th-century doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ, and that the bread and wine turned into His flesh and blood, meant that the priest was now in direct physical contact with Christ. He had to face east at the Elevation, and the principal altar had to be moved from the nave to the east wall of his church. Consequently the chancel became more important, and many were added on to single-cell churches, or enlarged if they already existed.

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  • Gaimster, David, and Roberta Gilchrist, eds. The Archaeology of the Reformation 1480–1580. Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology Monograph 1. Leeds, UK: Maney, 2003.

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    Various essays explore different reactions in different countries to the new “Protestant’ ideas of the 16th century. To what extent had religious devotion moved from the church into the home, shown by altar vases and rosary beads? How did different ideas about the nature of death affect belief and treatment of the dead? Was the Dissolution made more acceptable by the release of so many estates and buildings on to the market?

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  • Graves, Pamela C. The Form and Fabric of Belief: An Archaeology of the Lay Experience in Medieval Norfolk and Devon. Series 311. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, 2000.

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    A tomb effigy, a new window, or a finely embroidered altar cloth or pall, were visible reminders to pray for the soul of the provider. The poor might offer a candle to light a favorite image. Gifts were in thanks for a prayer granted, such as a healing, and an anticipation of favor to come, including after death. Church interiors acquired more altars and shrines, and more enclosed spaces for private prayers and chantry chapels, disrupting processional routes.

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  • Hinton, Ian. “Church Alignment and Patronal Saints’ Days.” Antiquaries Journal 86 (2006): 206–226.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0003581500000111Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Statistical study of 1500 churches: they were not aligned on the point at which the sun rose on a particular saint’s feast day, nor were chancel and nave sometimes on a slightly different angle because Christ’s head drooped on the cross. The chancel, often a later addition, is usually more precisely aligned to compass-point east than the nave. Across the country, from east to west, churches tend to align farther north of true east, a fact that has so far not been explained.

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  • Platt, Colin. The Parish Churches of Mediaeval England. London: Secker and Warburg, 1981.

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    Although inevitably overtaken by new approaches, this book was the first to look at parish churches as more than just a sequence of building styles and embellishments, interpreting them as investments, both for admiration in this world and for achieving salvation in the next. Good explanation of the reasons why images were painted onto walls and why some churches are so much larger than others.

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  • Slater, Terry, and Gervase Rosser, eds. The Church in the Medieval Town. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1998.

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    Towns were physical places, and the church taught that they were to be seen as analogues of the human body, needing integration of all their different parts. Churches were of different status and capacity; old towns had more than new ones; but new towns had chapels that might seek to become independent, and often more money was spent on them than on a “mother-church” outside the town. Churches were also part of the economy, as investors and purchasers.

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Chapels, Hospitals, Colleges, and Chantries

A chapel might be a separate building, used for worship but not licensed for burial or baptism; therefore, unless they received a separate income as did some classified as “royal,” they were maintained by local effort rather than by formal fees and tithes (Orme 1996). A hospital was a religious institution, to alleviate people’s suffering whether they were sick or poor, but since their condition was God’s will for them, actual healing or setting them on their feet financially was not the goal (Rawcliffe 2005). Several have been excavated in whole or part, including some for lepers, but most did not specialize (Price 1998). A chantry chapel was one paid for by a wealthy person who wanted to be prayed for (Roffey 2006), or might be maintained by a guild. Colleges were originally groups of priests serving a particular church; cathedrals were served by canons, but they had many duties to attend to, or so they said, and numbers of lesser priests were hired to take many of the services and had to be provided for in colleges (Hall and Stocker 2005). Some colleges acquired good reputations for learning and teaching, and if this was maintained, a center for education might develop almost casually; Oxford was a “university” city by the early 13th century, but the colleges were a slightly later development. They became institutions that other foundations sought to emulate (Thompson 1967).

  • Hall, Richard A., and David Stocker. Vicars Choral at English Cathedrals: Cantate Domino: History, Architecture, and Archaeology. Oxford: Oxbow, 2005.

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    Vicars Choral who took services in cathedrals originally lived communally in dormitories, eating together. This became irksome, and they wanted their own houses. Some cathedrals provided them; a notable survival is the street in Wells where each priest had “his own front door” like laypeople, even though priests did not have families to support. A useful insight into developing social aspirations.

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  • Orme, Nicholas. “Church and Chapel in Medieval England.” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 6th ser. 6 (1996): 75–102.

    DOI: 10.2307/3679230Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Chapels might be private, within people’s houses; they might be structures within or built onto a church; or they might be separate buildings, such as “chapels of ease” to spare parishioners a long journey to their parish church. Some were for guilds; others were placed at cult centers, at holy wells, or on hills and cliffs as reminders of God’s omnipotence; at gates, bridges, or ferry crossings for travelers’ prayers; or at the site of a battle or a murder to redeem it.

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  • Price, Roger, with Michael W. Ponsford. St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, Bristol. The Excavation of a Medieval Hospital, 1976–8. Council for British Archaeology Research Report 110. York, UK: Council for British Archaeology, 1998.

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    Excavation report on a small institution for which a substantial stone building of c. 1175, with an undercroft and an aisled hall above it, was converted to a hospital before 1234, to shelter both men and women. Bone analysis showed a higher than usual ratio of older people, worn down by osteoporosis. None had certainly had leprosy or tuberculosis, but four had harbored infections long enough to affect their bones.

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  • Rawcliffe, Carole. “The Earthly and Spiritual Topography of Suburban Hospitals.” In Town and Country in the Middle Ages: Contrasts, Contacts and Interconnections, 1100–1500. Edited by Kate Giles and Christopher Dyer, 251–274. Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph 22. Leeds, UK: Maney, 2005.

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    Hospitals were usually in suburbs, on the edge of a town because they were places where people were partly of this world and partly not, a liminal existence expressed by a liminal position. They were often also near holy wells so that sickness could be eased by the blessed water. More practically, they were often also near roads to benefit from travelers’ donations.

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  • Roffey, Simon. “Constructing a Vision of Salvation: Chantries and the Social Dimension of Religious Experience in the Medieval Parish Church.” Archaeological Journal 163.1 (2006): 122–146.

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    Fear of Purgatory and the need for the prayers of the living to intercede for the dead led to many provisions for remembrance: the rich might build a physical space in which there was an altar. Other altars were placed at the ends of side-aisles. Sometimes a “squint” was cut through a pillar so that a priest at one of the subsidiary altars could observe when the Host was raised, and act in unison.

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  • Thompson, Michael W. “A Contraction in Plan at Archbishop Chichele’s College in Higham Ferrers, Northants.” Medieval Archaeology 11 (1967): 255–257.

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    Many of those who prospered in the church or in commerce chose to make a substantial gift of some sort to their birthplace. For merchants it might be something practical like Hugh Hopton’s bridge at Stratford-on-Avon, but for a late medieval archbishop a small educational establishment was appropriate. The plan was to be like that of a university college, but the money ran out and it ended up more like a large domestic house.

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Popular Devotion

Interest has revived recently in the ways that archaeology can demonstrate the formal and informal beliefs that people held: some, such as the presence of demons, were formally taught by priests and illustrated on church walls; others shaded into witchcraft (Gilchrist 2008). Formally, images were explained in traditional terms, but might take on new meanings (Gray 2000). Pews became standard, from the 13th century onward. This allowed longer sermons, as seated people could concentrate better, but it also meant that they could pray privately more easily, which in theory could challenge the priest’s role as intercessor with God; typically, one of the first mentions of pews occurs because of a dispute over who was entitled to the best ones nearest the altar. Exploration of how people felt about the physical arrangements in their churches, as well as what they spent on them, comes from documentary evidence; religious guilds and parish “groups” who maintained a particular space or provided the lights for a particular image, were acts of communality (Duffy 2003). Although chantries and elaborate three-dimensional tomb monuments are the most extreme statements, the efforts that less-well-off people made to acquire stone slabs and brasses testify to the growing importance that people felt about being individually remembered (Badham 2005).

  • Badham, Sally. “Evidence for the Minor Funerary Monument Industry 1100–1500.” In Town and Country in the Middle Ages. Contrasts, Contacts and Interconnections, 1100–1500. Edited by Kate Giles and Christopher Dyer, 165–196. Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph 22. Leeds, UK: Maney, 2005.

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    Class of funerary monuments called “minor” because they did not express any very deep thoughts and did not demand an endowment for a priest to say masses for the soul in perpetuity. But from the 13th century onward, they were sought by gentry, priests, and merchants so that at least a church held a permanent memory of them. Incised stone slabs from various quarries were transported over long distances, but London almost achieved a monopoly on the making of memorial brasses.

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  • Duffy, Eamon. “Late Medieval Religion.” In Gothic Art for England 1400–1547. Edited by Richard Marks and Paul Williamson, 56–67. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2003.

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    Summary of a number of author’s thoughts about the “vernacular” church to which people made donations and legacies, and about the images that they understood. Religion was not just private devotion; many people belonged to a guild dedicated to a particular saint or mystery, or to less formal “groups” of wives, maidens, and young men.

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  • Gilchrist, Roberta. “Magic for the Dead? The Archaeology of Magic in Later Medieval Burials.” Medieval Archaeology 52 (2008): 119–160.

    DOI: 10.1179/174581708x335468Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Priests were buried with lead chalices and patens, to ensure their recognition at the Resurrection; laypeople sometimes had talismans. Lead seals from papal bulls probably represent indulgences bought to cut short time in Purgatory—increasingly feared in the 13th century and later. Other objects were natural, valued for their “properties” and used in life to prevent sudden death or disease.

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  • Gray, Madeleine. Images of Piety: The Iconography of Traditional Religion in Late Medieval Wales. Series 316. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, 2000.

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    Comprehensive study of the way in which imagery was used in churches as a means of teaching nonliterate people, reminding them of what they heard in sermons. Wall paintings and sculptures provided the means to instruct them in the latest formal doctrines of the Church rather than to reinforce traditional beliefs and values.

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Pilgrimages and Shrines

The cult of relics, and the powers of healing attributed to them, made shrines popular places of devotion; the more arduous the pilgrim’s journey, the more virtue thereby acquired (Crook 1990). As well as from their estates, many churches derived substantial income from their shrines, if they could attract pilgrims (Pestell 2005). In England, Thomas Becket at Canterbury was eclipsed in the later Middle Ages by the Virgin Mary at Walsingham, but some lesser cults were bizarre—that of a priest who was thought to have trapped the devil in his boot, or of a murdered member of a noble family. Pilgrims bought ampullae, miniature lead containers for holy water blessed at a saint’s shrine, in the 13th century, and pewter (tin/lead) badges, usually worn on the pilgrim’s hat—“that men might see, and know by his signs, whom he had sought” (Chaucer, Canterbury Tales). Large numbers survive (Spencer 1990, Spencer 1998).

  • Crook, John. “The Typology of Early Medieval Shrines—A Previously Misidentified ‘Tomb-Shrine’ Panel from Winchester Cathedral.” Antiquaries Journal 70 (1990): 49–64.

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    Later medieval stone shrines over saints’ graves were often elaborate. Sometimes provision was made for pilgrims to touch a saint’s coffin and thus to receive sanctity from the contact. A “holy hole” in the screen below an effigy might allow access through a stone panel to the tomb beneath. Deep niches in walls were another form of shrine.

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  • Pestell, Tim. “Using Material Culture to Define Holy Space: The Bromholm Project.” In Defining the Holy. Sacred Space in Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Edited by Andrew Spicer and Sarah Hamilton, 161–186. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2005.

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    Novel approach to the study of the physical impact of pilgrimage, using the Norfolk priory at Bromholm. Fairly isolated, it lacked inns to offer accommodation, so a campsite developed outside the gatehouse; broken cooking vessels showed where people ate, horseshoe nails where there were stables, with coins and weights indicating an unofficial market. Book clasps and badges attest to spiritual activity within the precinct.

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  • Spencer, Brian. Pilgrim Souvenirs and Secular Badges. Salisbury Museum Medieval Catalogue Part 2. Salisbury, UK: Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, 1990.

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    Author also catalogued the Museum of London’s collection (Spencer 1998). Thomas Becket’s shrine at Canterbury emerges from both as the most visited, but the smaller, inland city’s people were less likely to venture far afield, although Compostela and Rome badges feature. Equally, local cults such as that of Bishop Osmund, who had built the first Sarum cathedral at the end of the 11th century, figure more strongly. (For political and other badges, see Badges, Souvenirs, Love Tokens, Seals.)

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  • Spencer, Brian. Pilgrim Souvenirs and Secular Badges. Medieval Finds from Excavations in London 7. London: Stationery Office, 1998.

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    The five senses were central to devotional souvenirs. The touch of holy water blessed at a shrine and brought back in an ampulla, or of a badge that had been pressed against it, would be efficacious when a pilgrim returned home and needed its healing power. A mirror held up to catch a shrine’s sacred light and to make sure that the pilgrim had been seen, gave a blessing to the glass that held the saint’s gaze. The sounds of bells and whistles attracted the saint’s attention.

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Bodies and Burial

The importance of burial changed during the course of the Middle Ages, with more emphasis being placed on the physical purity and wholeness of the body. Location of burial was always a matter of status, but proximity to altars and a grave within rather than outside a church became even more sought after. Such an asset can affect the representative nature of an assemblage of skeletons, because the richest elements of a population may not be with the rest, and excavation of the inside of a church may produce the better fed and nurtured.

Churchyards

Ideas about burial and the importance of keeping the body physically intact for the Resurrection developed during the Middle Ages. Disturbance of churchyards was a fraught issue, as was their use for holding church-ales and informal markets, activities that may account for some of the broken pottery found in them. When churches were extended or a new grave dug into an existing one, inevitable in space-limited churchyards, at least the principal bones were usually either redeposited alongside the new corpse, or gathered and put into a “charnel,” usually a large pit dug for the purpose, but sometimes part of the church, most often an undercroft (Stone and Appleton-Fox 1996). The important thing was to have a “good death” after a priest’s absolution (Binski 1996, Daniell 1997); the priest’s special place in society was marked by burial within the church, a privilege that rich patrons therefore also demanded (Bertram 2007); even the friars found it difficult to refuse such pressures (Williams 2003). As belief in Purgatory spread during the 13th century, so too did the concept that it was important to be remembered and prayed for. The horror and suddenness of the Black Death probably accentuated such sentiments; to go into a mass grave without at least an individual space was dreadful. In London, new cemeteries had to be opened because existing yards were already overcrowded, and recent excavations have shown that long trenches were dug. Even in those, however, most corpses were laid carefully, to preserve at least some individuality. A few pits were also necessary, but even in those some semblance of order was usually maintained, with heads to the west ready for the Resurrection (Grainger, et al. 2008).

  • Bertram, Jerome. “From Duccius to Dabernoun: Ancient Antecedents of Monumental Brass Designs.” In Pagans and Christians: From Antiquity to the Middle Ages; Papers in Honor of Martin Henig Presented on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday. Edited by Lauren Gilmour, 219–228. British Archaeological Reports International Series 1610. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2007.

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    In Western Europe, a few burials inside churches took place, despite occasional attempts to stop the practice; if they were in sealed lead and stone coffins, the smell of the decaying corpse could be masked. Priests could expect to be in the churches that they had served, and it was often difficult to refuse the demand of a patron to be inside as well, not outside in the yard with everyone else.

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  • Binski, Paul. Medieval Death: Ritual and Representation. London: British Museum Press, 1996.

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    For the late medieval church, particular importance attached to the transition from life to death—viewed as a process, with the body physically continuing its journey even after the spirit has left. Any form of bodily mutilation was a problem; how would the parts rejoin at the Resurrection? To lose a limb was also to affect the different senses (see Woolgar 2006, cited under History). Heart burial, separate from the rest of the body, was discouraged.

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  • Daniell, Christopher. Death and Burial in Medieval England. London and New York: Routledge, 1997.

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    Full treatment of why, where, and how people were buried, the ceremonials and rituals practiced, and how ideas changed, about such subjects as Purgatory. Demons could possess the souls of the dead, and “revenants” might be seen in churchyards; enclosing bodies in coffins helped to prevent them from rising before the resurrection, and some were even weighed down with stones. Effigies, incised stone slabs, and memorial brasses are informative on beliefs (see also Badham 2005, cited under Popular Devotion).

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  • Gilchrist, Roberta, and Barney Sloane. Requiem. The Medieval Monastic Cemetery in Britain. London: Museum of London Archaeological Service, 2005.

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    Analysis of some seventy cemeteries from which eighty thousand burials provided information about cemetery use in the everyday world—many as markets, licensed or otherwise—as well as about beliefs. Some purely local practices, not suggestive of heresy but of oddly localized customs, were identified.

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  • Grainger, Ian, with Lynne Cowie, Duncan Hawkins, and Richard Mikulski. The Black Death Cemetery, East Smithfield, London. MoLAS Monograph 43. London: Museum of London Archaeological Service, 2008.

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    The Black Death killed so many Londoners that two new cemeteries were opened outside the city walls. Excavation of one showed that individual graves were not possible, and that burials were in trenches, but these were carefully kept in rows, so that order was not completely lost.

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  • Stone, Richard, and Nic Appleton-Fox. A View from Hereford’s Past: A Report on the Archaeological Investigations in Hereford Cathedral Close in 1993. Little Logaston, UK: Logaston Press, 1996.

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    Norman rebuilding of England’s cathedrals was standard practice, but at Hereford major work probably did not begin until the start of the 12th century. A large pit dug to extract gravel for mortar was backfilled with the bones of about four thousand skeletons, some probably from graves disturbed by the rebuilding, some still articulated. The dead did not necessarily rest in peace; pigs were rooting up the graves in the late 14th century.

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  • Williams, Howard. “Remembering and Forgetting the Medieval Dead.” In The Archaeology of Remembrance: Death and Memory in Past Societies. Edited by Howard Williams, 227–254. New York: Kluwer/Plenum, 2003.

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    In a paper originally delivered at the Theoretical Archaeology Group conference, the author, who usually focuses on early Anglo-Saxon death, here applies anthropological and social theories to the later Middle Ages. Many benefactors’ burials had wooden rods, perhaps staffs to suggest pilgrimage, or at least aspiration to the spirituality of the monks. Eventually these people passed into the immortal family of the dead, no longer needing prayers as remembered individuals, and allowing their graves to be disturbed.

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Bodies, Health, and Nutrition

Many excavations of cemeteries have taken place, giving the opportunity to study human remains and to investigate the strains and stresses caused by hard work and evidenced by the condition of the skeleton, which also reveals traces of wounds, and the nourishment that determined how people grew. Most fatal diseases develop too quickly for the bones to be affected, although leprosy can reveal itself when it becomes advanced (Rawcliffe 1995; see also Chapels, Hospitals, Colleges, and Chantries). Wharram Percy, Yorkshire, has provided the first large rural assemblage (Mays, et al. 2007), to which a small London parish church provides a comparative analogue (White 1988). Isotopic studies are now augmenting physical measurements and observations (Müldner 2009).Towns may have had particular problems as they brought people too close together and restricted opportunities to gather food. If—and it is not really established—people were significantly less likely to breed successfully in towns, they would have to depend on a constant inflow of newcomers to maintain or increase their numbers. Contraction, from the suburbs and fringe zones, after the Black Death reflects not just general population decline (Manchester 1992, Gowland and Chamberlain 2005), but possibly also reluctance to move into them when new opportunities were opening up in the countryside, with land available for low rents (Roberts 2009). Roberts and Cox 2003 provide an overall study.

  • Gowland, R. L., and Andrew T. Chamberlain. “Detecting Plague: Palaeodemographic Characterisation of a Catastrophic Death Assemblage.” Antiquity 79.303 (2005): 146–157.

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    Helpful brief paper on reasons for, and recognition of, episodes when the death rate shoots up, beyond what a famine occurrence would cause. The speed with which the Black Death spread throughout Europe suggests that, as well as rat fleas, a new pathogen or pneumonic infection, exacerbated by preexisting typhus and famine outbreaks, may have also been involved. Young adults were not particularly susceptible, as has been suggested.

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  • Manchester, Keith. “The Palaeopathology of Urban Infections.” In Death in Towns: Urban Responses to the Dying and the Dead, 100–1600. Edited by Stephen Bassett, 8–14. Leicester, UK: Leicester University Press, 1992.

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    Brief but very clear statement about infection, both medieval attitudes to it and what is now known medically. The Black Death was caused by Yersinia Pestis, harbored in fleas on black rats (a source also of Weil’s disease), but pneumonic plague spread by inhaling the bacteria may have played a part, so medieval belief that foul air could kill was not unjustified, although smell was not the problem as thought.

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  • Mays, Simon, Charlotte Roberts, and Carolyn Heighway. Wharram: A Study in Settlement on the Yorkshire Wolds. Vol. 11, The Churchyard. York University Archaeological Publications 13. York, UK: York University Department of Archaeology, 2007.

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    Analysis of 687 skeletons, mostly from the 12th to 15th century. If all the community’s postnatal infants were buried with everyone else, then their mortality at 15 percent is low compared to modern populations. Infants’ long-bone growth showed that weaning was usually successful. Harris lines show that one problem was episodes of food scarcity and disease, interrupting growth. Anyone who reached twenty had a 40 percent chance of reaching 50.

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  • Müldner, Gundula. “Investigating Medieval Diet and Society by Stable Isotope Analysis of Human Bone.” In Reflections: 50 Years of Medieval Archaeology. Edited by Roberta Gilchrist and Andrew Reynolds, 327–346. Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph 30. Leeds, UK: Maney, 2009.

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    Carbon and nitrogen are absorbed into bones and teeth, so some of their isotopes can signal what protein the person or animal was eating. The proportions of meat and dairy products to sea-fish can be measured if the ratios are different enough to be clearly significant. The rural peasants in Wharram Percy varied their cereal and meat input with fish less than did most other population groups; certainly canons and friars ate more fish.

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  • Rawcliffe, Carol. Medicine and Society in Later Medieval England. Stroud, UK: Sutton, 1995.

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    Author has done particular work on leprosy, but this book has a wider remit. People with diseases and afflictions were to be cared for, rather than cured; God chose to test their fortitude, reducing their time in Purgatory—they had already begun their torments. The balance of the four humors meant that urine had to be inspected for traces of bile, so bits of glass uroscopes are quite common. Brooches with the names of the Three Kings warded off fits.

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  • Roberts, Charlotte. “Health and Welfare in Medieval England: The Human Skeletal Remains Contextualised.” In Reflections: 50 Years of Medieval Archaeology, 1957—2007. Edited by Roberta Gilchrist and Andrew Reynolds, 307–326. Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph 30. Leeds, UK: Maney, 2009.

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    Although the plague killed its victims too quickly to affect bones, skeletons can reveal much about lifestyles and deaths. Tuberculosis increases when people live close together, smoke causes sinusitis, and high buildings in narrow streets keep the sun out, causing rickets in children—all conditions more likely to be urban than rural. Poor hygiene caused infection, facilitated by inadequate Vitamin C intake, but leprosy seems to have declined.

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  • Roberts, Charlotte A., and Margaret Cox. Health and Disease in Britain: From Prehistory to the Present Day. Stroud, UK: Sutton, 2003.

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    The Middle Ages are only part of the time period covered in this book, which sets out the basics of the study of human reaction to food resources, bacteria, infections, and injuries. Fewer would have died from violence than is usually supposed, although head injuries caused by sharp implements were likely to be fatal.

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  • White, William J. Skeletal Remains from the Cemetery of St Nicholas Shambles, City of London. Special Paper 9. London: London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, 1988.

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    Opportunity for large-scale, coherent excavation of urban parish cemeteries is rare; this report on 234 articulated skeletons probably of the 11th and 12th centuries gives an unusual insight. People were reasonably tall. Calculus deposits on teeth showed poor mouth hygiene, and tooth loss was high, as was wear from chewing coarse food, though without sugar in their food few had caries.

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Secular Houses and Buildings

No clear distinction seems to have existed in most people’s minds between a castle and a palace or great house. A castle was not merely a fort, but even if only occasionally visited by its lord, it had to provide living accommodation suitable for the family’s status. Some houses were not strong points, however, and were certainly not intended for use in time of war against a well-conducted siege; their security depended on a prince’s power to impose governance and prevent either internal rebellion or external raiding. Because many princes were unable to exercise effective rule, many castles were deemed necessary and besides, in a world in which status derived from military responsibility, a house that evidenced its owner’s wish to display martial prowess was expected even in times of peace. Effective defenses were expensive to create and maintain, and so not many people could afford them once an earth bank and ditch no longer sufficed. The roles of castles and houses are therefore interlinked, involving warfare, social position, and the depth of an owner’s purse.

Castles

In that medieval castles were lived in, if only intermittently, they are perhaps best viewed as a subdivison of royal, aristocratic, and even gentry housing; documents may refer to various means of fortifying them, but nearly always call them domus. Even those that were on new sites perched inconveniently for everyday access and exposed to the elements had to have chambers for the visits of the owner and family; these might be in the great stone tower that became a feature of many, but the smaller ringwork or motte-and-bailey castle made do with timber and no great luxury. Some were controlled by ladies when their husbands were overseas, but initially little additional comfort seems to have been provided. The constant flow of books about castles shows that many small boys fascinated by ruined walls and towers grow up to become serious students of castellology and never shake off early passion. A good straightforward outline, which does more than simply ponder on the military effectiveness of the buildings’ defenses, is McNeill 2006, which might be followed by Thompson 1987, Thompson 1991, Brown 1976, and Cruden 1981, the latter’s Scottish coverage being augmented now by Foster, et al. 1998. Kenyon 1990 is very comprehensive. The most complex is Coulson 2003.

  • Brown, R. Allen. English Castles. 3d rev. ed. London: B. T. Batsford, 1976.

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    Originally published in 1954, not much altered over the next twenty years, and still useful, partly for the black-and-white photographs. Takes a historian’s chronological approach for the most part, but looks beyond documents. The author coined the phrase that the castle was “the symbol of lordship,” which expressed how no baron could afford to be without what was appropriate to his status. For knights, they became too expensive.

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  • Coulson, Charles. Castles in Medieval Society. Fortresses in England, France, and Ireland in the Central Middle Ages. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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    To produce a book on castles without a single illustration is an achievement of a sort, but is symptomatic of the density of this book, which goes off on tangents somewhat too readily. It is, however, the place to look for discussion of the imprecision of words like “castelle,” of the nature of serjeanties and castle-guard, of royal rights over their subjects’ castles—rather limited by convention—and of women in castles as more than passive bystanders.

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  • Cruden, Stewart. The Scottish Castle. 3d ed. Studies in History and Archaeology. Edinburgh: Spurbooks, 1981.

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    Although first published in 1960, this probably remains the best outline guide to Scottish castles and how in some ways they are distinctive from those in other countries. A strong emphasis on the tower-house is one salient feature.

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  • Foster, Sally, Allan MacInnes, and Ranald MacInnes, eds. Scottish Power Centres from the Early Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century. Glasgow: Cruithne, 1998.

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    More than just a book on castles, or on the Middle Ages, contains useful arguments, such as whether “feudalism” was expressed in buildings, and whether the term is appropriate in Scottish contexts when great lords did not need to build castles to express their military status, unlike lesser lords, unsure of their security. In the later part of the period, tower-houses may have mattered more for appearance than for defense.

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  • Higham, Robert, and Philip Barker. Timber Castles. London: B. T. Batsford, 1992.

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    Authors made their reputations through meticulous excavation of the motte-and-bailey at Hen Domen, Montgomeryshire, where they showed that very careful work could reveal traces of elusive timber buildings that never survive, unlike stone-walled ones. Pursuing that theme, they argue that masonry was not essential, and that timber towers and palisades could have looked just as impressive, even though they were cheaper and quicker to build.

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  • Kenyon, John. Medieval Fortifications. Archaeology of Medieval Britain. Leicester, UK: Leicester University Press, 1990.

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    More than title suggests, very informative not only on defenses, dealing with all aspects of what went on inside the castles. Subjects include halls, chapels, and other buildings, as well as the artifacts found and what they may signify about behavior. The final chapter is on urban defenses (see also Waterfronts and Defenses).

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  • McNeill, Tom. Castles. English Heritage. London: Batsford, 2006.

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    Revised edition of short book in very useful series, unfortunately discontinued. Strength of this introduction is that it looks beyond the military capacity of buildings, and at the roles that ceremony, ritual, and display had in their creation and maintenance, and how the prestige of a military setting shaped medieval self-awareness.

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  • Thompson, Michael W. The Decline of the Castle. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

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    Unwittingly set off a controversy: what were late medieval castles really for, defense or show? Englishmen built very few tower-houses, except in the Scottish Borders, but was this really attributable to their country’s greater stability compared to that of France? Castles were settings for chivalry and tournaments, and were therefore spaciously built with comfortable accommodation and decorative polychrome bands of brick and stone in the walls.

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  • Thompson, Michael W. The Rise of the Castle. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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    Shows how castles emerged from a continental background, and interesting also for its cross-comparisons, making telling contrasts between England and France after the Conquest. The new aristocracy kept “native” traditions such as ground-floor halls, despite what they experienced overseas, where most of them were more at home than in England.

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Positioning

The question why castles were built where they were has attracted renewed attention. Military considerations were not necessarily paramount; the need to overawe their locality was another, by presenting a show of lordship, and many castles were not sited in the most defensible positions, but where they would be most visible. Access was needed for administration of estates, so a location near transport systems was a consideration, but the approach might be directed through parks or across fishponds, to show off the owner’s resources, over which he could look from his windows. Many recent studies have focused on particular castles, counties, countries (Oram 2008), or moments in time, but others have sought to apply new approaches to the whole of Britain and to no particular time period (Creighton 2005). A setting from which the lord could survey his property was another factor, even for early Norman builders (Lowerre 2005). Another sort of setting was required in the specific circumstances of the mid-12th-century anarchy; temporary siege castles were put up, just beyond arrow range at Corfe, for instance, or two in Hampshire (Stamper 1984). Archaeologically, dating is rarely so precise (Graham and Davies 1993). The extent to which a castle was no more and no less than a great house is shown by the discussions of their place in a landscape dominated by lordly displays of power (see also Settings). Such ambitions could be impermanent (Jones, et al. 1997).

  • Creighton, Oliver H. Castles and Landscapes. Power, Community and Fortification in Medieval England. 2d ed. London: Equinox, 2005.

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    Quick appearance of second edition affirms the continuing attraction of castle studies. Justifying its title as consistent with 12th-century writers on the ideal setting of a castle, argues that buildings symbolized “power and influence”; bands of Roman tile and colored stone hinted at imperial glory. Fishponds and deer parks supplied food appropriate to the castle’s lord, but also provided a view across the land and resources that he owned.

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  • Graham, Alan H., and Susan M. Davies. Excavations in the Town Centre of Trowbridge, Wiltshire, 1977 and 1986–1988. Wessex Archaeology Report 2. Salisbury, UK: Wessex Archaeology, 1993.

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    Excavation report on part of a manorial site, enclosed within a modest bank and ditch, with a stone church and graveyard. This was succeeded by a much more substantial ditch, enclosing the church as well as a motte, encroaching on the graveyard but allowing part of it to stay in use—a significant example of the importance assigned to situating a castle within an existing settlement.

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  • Jones, C., Graham Eyre-Morgan, Stuart Palmer, and Nicholas Palmer. “Excavations in the Outer Enclosure of Boteler’s Castle, Oversley, Alcester, 1992–93.” Transactions of the Birmingham and Warwickshire Archaeological Society 101 (1997): 1–98.

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    Earthwork motte-and-bailey castle of the early 12th century had structures, ditches, and graveled tracks inside its outer bailey that look as though they were part of a planned market settlement, with house plots laid out by the owner to attract tenants. Politics intervened, however; the castle was slighted, and the people moved out in the first half of the 13th century, even though general expansion was the trend at that time.

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  • Lowerre, Andrew. Placing Castles in the Conquest: Landscape, Lordship, and Local Politics in the South-East Midlands, 1066–1100. British Archaeological Reports, British Series 385. Oxford: Oxbow, 2005.

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    Although a survey of only four Midlands counties, this analysis of the reasons for siting castles has wider implications, not least because of its application of Geographical Information Systems. “Viewshed analysis” allows assessment of what could be seen of a castle from roads and rivers, and what an owner could see of his property. Placing a castle where an Anglo-Saxon thegn’s house had been emphasized new ownership brutally.

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  • Oram, Richard D. “Royal and Lordly Residence in Scotland c. 1050 to c. 1250: A Historiographical Review and Critical Revision” Antiquaries Journal 88 (2008): 165–189.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0003581500001372Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Added Scotland to recent discussion about castles and the ways in which their settings expressed their meanings. Focused in particular on the extent to which castles were “imposed” by a king and a few of his supporters seeking to achieve Anglo-Norman “feudalism” or were instead developed from existing Gaelic tradition.

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  • Stamper, Paul. “Excavations on a Mid Twelfth-Century Siege Castle at Powderham, Bentley, Hampshire.” Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society 40 (1984): 81–89.

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    Excavation to confirm the date of a slighted earthwork proved that it was one of two placed at either side of a castle held by an opponent in the wars of Stephen and Matilda. Not wanted after the Anarchy, the earthworks were never heard of again, though not until recent times did anyone bother to obliterate them physically.

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Great Towers

Within the castle, the great tower was often the focal point. It is still not proven that there was anything in the Anglo-Saxon world at thegns’ residences more imposing than stone bell towers (McAleer 1998), and so anything more substantial represented a major visual change. Nevertheless it was quickly constructed earthen ringworks and mottes-and-baileys that spearheaded the Norman Conquest. Even the White Tower in London was probably not begun until some years after a large bailey had been secured (Impey 2008), and Chepstow tower, long thought to date from the 1060s, has been shown to have been built later (Turner, et al. 2004). The great tower remained the dominant characteristic of a castle into the 15th century, as at Tattershall, Lincolnshire, where Lord Cromwell built one in brick with stone dressings, the interiors elaborately decorated with coats of arms to show his connections. The Duke of Buckingham would probably have built one at Thornbury, Gloucestershire, if Henry VIII had not chopped off his head for presumption in 1521 (Guy 2006).

  • Guy, Neil. “Thornbury Castle—Renaissance Palace or Stronghold of a Feudal Baron?” Castle Studies Group Journal 19 (2006): 205–234.

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    Detailed study of the south Gloucestershire residence that the Duke of Buckingham was building in the first twenty years of the 16th century. His Tudor family connections were not enough to save him from Henry VIII’s distrust, although the author argues that the castle, if completed, would not have presented an effective military challenge to the state’s power, its license to be a “fortilace or castle” merely reflecting its owner’s social position.

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  • Impey, Edward, ed. The White Tower. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008.

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    Fine study of England’s most visited castle, with contributions by several authors. It is argued that building of the tower was probably begun in about 1075 and not finished until about 1100. The apsidal projection on one corner, for the chapel, is based on the plan of a castle in Normandy—not, as scholars have long thought, on Colchester, where the apse is founded on a Roman temple. In his chapter, Philip Dixon discusses major changes made to this and other towers in the late 12th century.

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  • McAleer, J. P. “The So-Called Gundulf’s Tower at Rochester Cathedral. A Reconsideration of Its History, Date and Function.” Antiquaries Journal 78 (1998): 111–176.

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    Useful résumé of the evidence for free-standing stone towers of the Anglo-Saxon period, excavated and still standing. What is now the west end of Lincoln Cathedral could have started in this way. Rochester’s may be post-Conquest but is likely to predate the cathedral built by Bishop Gundulf after 1075.

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  • Turner, Rick C., with J. R. L. Allen, N. Coldstream, C. Jones-Jenkins, R. K. Morris, and S. G. Priestley. “The Great Tower, Chepstow Castle, Wales.” Antiquaries Journal 84 (2004): 223–318.

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    Argues that the stone tower on the cliff overlooking the River Wye was not the work of the Earl of Hereford who died in 1071, because architectural details indicate a slightly later date, when the castle was in royal hands; the accommodation included a grand receiving room for the king’s state visits. Later concepts of what was appropriate caused owner-barons to change the interior, with little effect on the imposing external appearance.

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Luxury Living and Display

Castles had to shelter a lord and his family, and therefore there was always an internal tension between defensive and domestic needs. Castles were also settings in which their owners sought to impress. Terminology reflects growing sophistication, and new building ranges provided much greater comfort than did cold towers (Ashbee 2004). Tournaments were important occasions, and kings were expected to provide lavish ones; knights pretending to be Arthurian led to “round tables” (Biddle 2000, Munby, et al. 2007; for other literary allusions, see Literature).

  • Ashbee, Jeremy A. “The Chamber Called ‘Gloriette’; Living at Leisure in Thirteenth- and Fourteenth-Century Castles.” Journal of the British Archaeological Association 157 (2004): 17–40.

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    A word used of chambers in various castles hints at continental connections and aspirations to a life of comfort, leisure, and hunting. Window seats provided views over the moat, the fishponds, and the deer parks. Borrowing a word from Romance literature hinted at a different world from the mundane.

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  • Biddle, Martin. King Arthur’s Round Table. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2000.

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    The round table in the great mid-13th-century aisled hall in Winchester Castle is painted with the Tudor Rose and figures, probably for Henry VIII’s visit in 1516. Dendrochronology (tree-ring dating), however, has shown that it may instead have been constructed for a royal tournament planned in Winchester in 1290 by the martial Edward I, who probably sought to emulate King Arthur and the fellowship of his Round Table.

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  • Munby, Julian, Richard Barber, and Richard Brown. Edward III’s Round Table at Windsor: The House of the Round Table. Arthurian Studies 68. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2007.

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    Edward III in the 1330s and early1340s needed to bolster his support, and so he held jousts and promised to create a “Round Table” for 300 knights; a pavilion-like structure was begun at Windsor Castle and may already have been roofed when work was stopped. After Edward’s victory at Crécy, he did not need so many supporters and instead created the Order of the Garter for a mere twenty-four knights who had been with him at the battle.

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Planning and Licenses to Crenellate

The roles and functions of 11th- and 12th-century castles have been debated in polite manner, but discussions about the later ones have been heated. From King Richard I’s reign at the end of the 12th century, licenses were granted by the king to give his subjects the right to do such things as to build a deer park or to crenellate a house, the latter because battlements symbolized a castle (so towns wanted them too, for their walls and gates). Some people were too grand to feel the need for a license; others may have carried on without one regardless; and anyway the documentation on them is probably incomplete, although they have usefully been listed by Davis 2006–2007. Controversy has raged over whether the documents mean what they say about helping to defend the realm, or whether the license was no more than a status symbol; what was actually built were houses with exaggeratedly militaristic features, but not really strong defenses (Johnson 2002). A historian’s response to this approach is expressed by Platt 2007; archaeologists’ return fire is delivered by Creighton and Liddiard 2008. This debate may run into the ground without some new approaches, such as that developed from “access analysis” (Mathieu 1999). Meanwhile, it is salutary to note that owners did not necessarily have a very clear idea of what they wanted (Hislop 1996).

  • Creighton, Oliver, and Robert Liddiard. “Fighting Yesterday’s Battles: Beyond War or Status in Castle Studies.” Medieval Archaeology 52 (2008): 161–168.

    DOI: 10.1179/174581708x335477Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Historians should not ignore new ideas about castle building: castles were for the display of power, not just places for passive defense. Too much attention has been paid to a few castle–houses in the south of England, usually surrounded by picturesque stretches of water, at the expense of a more rounded view. A response to Platt 2007.

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  • Davis, P. “English Licences to Crenellate, 1199–1567.” Castle Studies Group Journal 20 (2006–2007): 226–245.

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    Motives behind the applications to have a house that could be considered defensive are variously expressed: some solemnly declaimed that they want to help the king against his enemies, others that they viewed it as a reward for past loyalty. Of course it was important not to give the impression that rebellion was the motive, or more subtly that the defense was needed because the king was failing to protect his people.

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  • Hislop, Malcolm. “Bolton Castle and the Practice of Architecture in the Middle Ages.” Journal of the British Archaeological Association 149 (1996): 10–22.

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    Analyzes the 1378 agreement between Sir Richard Scrope and a mason about locations and sizes of the castle’s rooms. If nothing had survived, this information would allow it to be reconstructed—wrongly. What was actually built differed from the contract. Careful analysis of the visible fabric shows that there were four different phases of construction, not far apart in time, but all altering the agreement.

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  • Johnson, Matthew. Behind the Castle Gate. From Medieval to Renaissance. Oxford: Routledge, 2002.

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    Not “behind” in the sense of what happens behind closed doors, but what ideas lie behind top-heavy machicolations, gun ports that do not point in sensible directions, and moats that can be drained by opening a sluice gate. Inscription on Brougham Castle, “This made Roger,” has a double meaning—Roger built it, but ownership enhanced his status. Conflict and the need for protection are not denied, but are only part of the whole.

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  • Mathieu, James R. “New Methods on Old Castles: Generating New Ways of Seeing.” Medieval Archaeology 43 (1999): 115–142.

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    Developed “access analysis,” in which plans are used to see how people could get around a building—which parts were most private and cut off, and to which did everyone need access? Passages and staircases are spaces to be negotiated, just like rooms, and people would have been regulated by how the space was “ordered.”

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  • Platt, Colin. “Revisionism in Castle Studies: A Caution.” Medieval Archaeology 51 (2007): 83–102.

    DOI: 10.1179/174581707x224679Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Take care if you challenge a historian’s documents; they may disguise meanings but they do not misrepresent if properly interpreted. It was not only those with status aspirations who built castles and took licenses to crenellate in the dangerous late Middle Ages; many builders were well established. The castles in southern England may look prettier than those in the north, but they were just as necessary for protection in emergency.

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Fighting and Artillery

Despite all their other roles, castles still had to face up to the threat of siege. How effective a siege would be depended partly on the resolve of the two contestants, and partly on what weapons they could use for attack and defense. An open battle was the same in those respects, but some weapons were too slow to deploy. Mounted knights were the main shock troops, and they needed horses (Davis 1989). Archaeologically, arrowheads survive, with heavier bolts introduced as armor became more difficult to pierce (Jessop 1997). Armor hardly survives except in the specialized context of tournament suits, but riders’ spurs are quite often found (Ellis 2002). Siege engines of various sorts are really only known form documents, even if castles developed stratagems like battered wall bases to resist their impact; otherwise, an occasional stone suitable for use as a projectile is all that is found. The introduction of gunpowder does not become directly apparent until the 1360s, when gun ports began to appear in defensive walls. A few cannon or “bombards” survive from the 15th century (Nossov 2005), and urban “bastille” towers, free-standing or attached to the town’s walls, began to appear. By the early 16th century, nonresidential castles were built away from towns on threatened coasts where they could bombard an enemy ship unrestricted by surrounding buildings (Saunders 1989, Coad 1997).

  • Coad, Jonathan. “Defending the Realm: The Changing Technology of Warfare.” In The Age of Transition. The Archaeology of English Culture 1400–1600. Edited by David Gaimster and Paul Stamper, 157–170. Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph 15. Oxford: Oxbow, 1997.

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    Paper presented at a conference hosted by the societies for Medieval Archaeology and Post-Medieval Archaeology. The Sultan’s heavy guns alone did not cause the fall of Constantinople in 1453, but they certainly helped. The French had already developed a lighter gun that fired cast-iron shot, but wrought iron was not strong enough for better powder, and so the blast furnace’s introduction to England in the 1490s was a crucial innovation even if it did not immediately lead to one-piece cannon casting.

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  • Davis, Ralph H. C. The Medieval Warhorse: Origin, Development, and Redevelopment. London: Thames and Hudson, 1989.

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    In retirement, a great historian turned to a medieval aristocratic preoccupation, the breeding, raising, training, and care of the living machines that bore the increasing weight of a knight’s armor into battles and jousts. Bone evidence shows that the animals were not the predecessors of modern shire horses, but of the smaller cobs. They derived ultimately from North Africa, via Spain.

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  • Ellis, Blanche M. A. Prick Spurs, 700–1700. Finds Research Group AD700–1700, Datasheet 30. 2002.

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    Spurs were symbolic of knighthood—having them cut off was to lose honor. The straightforward goad to urge on a horse was not completely replaced by the showy turning rowel on the end of a long shaft.

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  • Jessop, Oliver. Medieval Arrowheads. Finds Research Group AD700–1700, Datasheet 22. 1997.

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    Typology and explanation of different forms of iron arrowhead, some of which were for more than one purpose, others specifically for hunting, or for doing damage to a late medieval soldier protected by plate armor. Bolts were probably more likely to be used with crossbows; those with barbs to increase accuracy and flight were used by archers, but the different types were interchangeable.

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  • Nossov, Konstantin S. Ancient and Medieval Siege Weapons: A Fully Illustrated Guide to Siege Weapons and Tactics. Staplehurst, UK: Spellmount, 2005.

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    Useful account of all the torsion-powered or muscle-driven equipment used against castles and towns, which were not replaced by cannon until the mid-15th century. Only then were those weapons powerful enough to be effective at battering walls rather than at killing people and horses—and often their users. Mons Meg, preserved at Edinburgh Castle, is made of forged iron strips bound together to make the barrel.

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  • Saunders, Andrew. Fortress Britain: An Artillery Fortification in the British Isles and Ireland. Liphook, UK: Beaufort, 1989.

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    Goes well beyond the Middle Ages, but is the best introduction to the progressive introduction of gunports rather than arrow slits into castle and town walls, followed by special-purpose towers, as at Norwich and Southampton, and then by a few down-river towers to prevent ships getting up to a port, as on the River Dart. Henry VIII’s provision of a state-run defensive system had long-term consequences.

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Great Houses

Houses can be great in scale, or great because they were built by great and powerful people. There is often no obvious distinction between a great house and a castle, other than when defense was very clearly a minor consideration. Such houses may have had no more than a wooden fence round them, for privacy and to keep unwanted animals out. Many were enclosed by a bank and ditch; the latter would be a moat if it held water, but many were dry except when rainwater or drain outflows ran down them. Emery 2007 is an introduction to greater houses, of which many survive in whole or in part. Such buildings led the way to the use of new materials, notably brick (Howard 1997). The way in which the households were run and what is known of the different functions of rooms and spaces is relatively well documented (Woolgar 1999), although less so for the early part of the period (Bartlett 2000).

  • Bartlett, Robert. England under the Norman and Angevin Kings, 1075–1225. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    Households revolved around the space called the aula, “hall,” usually a ground-floor room open to the ceiling, with a central hearth. In the 12th century, they were normally detached from other chambers; integration developed during the 13th century. Formality can be seen in traces of “high ends,” a raised dais, and access to the lord’s apartments behind.

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  • Emery, Anthony. Discovering Medieval Houses. Princes Risborough, UK: Shire, 2007.

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    Having produced a set of three well-illustrated gazetteer volumes on the greater houses of England and Wales, with introductions to each region setting out aspects of ownership, chronology, and materials, author here writes an accessible and affordable summary. Stresses that many 14th- and 15th-century owners were arrivistes, who used building as a means of expressing and solidifying their newly achieved positions.

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  • Howard, Maurice. “Civic Buildings and Courtier Houses: New Techniques and Materials for Architectural Ornament.” In The Age of Transition: The Archaeology of English Culture, 1400–1600. Edited by David Gaimster and Paul Stamper, 105–113. Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph 15. Oxford: Oxbow, 1997.

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    Explains how increasing importance was assigned to surface decoration; brick allowed new colors to be exploited, and glass was more available, making flatter facades more welcome. New Italian-derived sculpted ornamentation was used, with painted stucco both inside and out.

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  • Woolgar, Christopher M. The Great Household in Late Medieval England. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999.

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    Comprehensive explanation of behavior patterns and expenditure reconstructed from household accounts of food and drink consumed, journeys undertaken, and recreations pursued. By the 15th century, even some well-to-do people, not just the great aristocrats and ecclesiastics, kept records. Some of the buildings and something of their fittings, including wall hangings, survive.

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Royal Palaces and Bishops’ Palaces

“Palaces” is a term hardly used in the Middle Ages, but it is convenient to use for the grander royal houses and those built by bishops. The latter did not have wives and immediate families to consider and so had less need of suites of private apartments. The best introduction is James 1990. This draws heavily—and rightly—on Brown, et al. 1963, but gives a more rounded chronological perspective. It also uses its author’s experience of working at Clarendon, Wiltshire. Similarly, Keevill 2000 drew on his excavation work at the Tower of London. The grandest palace was Westminster, inextricably bound up with the abbey; it has been the subject of a recent summary (Thomas, et al. 2006), as well as numerous special monographs on particular aspects (e.g., Horsman and Davison 1989).

  • Brown, R. Allen, Howard M. Colvin, and Arnold J. Taylor, eds. The History of the King’s Works. Vols. 1 and 2, The Middle Ages. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1963.

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    Records of royal expenditure on houses survives patchily but informatively. Henry III (r. 1216–1272) cared more about building than ruling, and spent lavishly; others were more parsimonious, or more interested in castles, like Edward I (r. 1272–1307). These two volumes contain primary source material, but the introductory chronological chapters are still very useful.

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  • Horsman, V., and Brian Davison. “The New Palace Yard, Westminster and Its Fountains: Excavations in the Palace of Westminster 1972–4.” Antiquaries Journal 69 (1989): 279–297.

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    Fountains running with wine is a cliché, but spiced wine really was supplied for Edward II’s coronation. Excavations found an octagonal fountain base, built largely on the remains of a late-12th-century one in Purbeck marble, a very expensive stone, and part of an impressive ensemble of great gate, towers, and hall—but construction of an underground car park for MPs destroyed most of all this without excavation or record.

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  • James, Thomas Beaumont. The Palaces of Medieval England. London: W. A. Seaby, 1990.

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    Kings needed appropriate settings in which to conduct business as they traveled around their kingdoms. Some of the most important 12th-century legislation was formulated at Clarendon, outside Salisbury, excavated to indifferent standards in the 1930s and rescued from oblivion largely by the author’s efforts. After the 12th century, government became more focused on Westminster and London.

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  • Keevill, Graham. Medieval Palaces. An Archaeology. Stroud, UK: Tempus, 2000.

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    After the first chapters, this book focuses more on the archaeological evidence; methods of building such as beech piling for foundations shows the scale of effort involved in construction work. The author worked for English Heritage at the Tower of London, which receives much attention, but some useful discussion is also given of the Welsh princes’ llys sites.

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  • Thomas, Christopher, Robert Cowie, and Jane Sidell. The Royal Palace, Abbey and Town of Westminster on Thorney Island: Archaeological Excavations (1991–8) for the London Underground Limited Jubilee Line Extension Project. MoLAS Monograph 22. London: Museum of London Archaeological Service, 2006.

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    Henry II (r. 1154–1189) moved the Treasury from Winchester to London and then Westminster, setting it on its way to becoming the center of government, with the Exchequer, principal law courts, and subsequently Parliament. Excavation taking opportunities offered by new electricity ducts and other minor works shows how much more is now being learned because of new planning conditions.

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Settings

The extent to which lords wished to display their power by the ways in which they presented their residences, whether formally called castles, palaces, or houses, has become a topic of debate, with Bodiam Castle in East Sussex the touchstone (Taylor, et al. 1990). Water features are one of the rich person’s means of providing fish for their table, but also a pleasant and enviable environment (Taylor 1989). To conclude that approaches to these buildings were created to force the visitor to admire them rather than to be overawed by them may be too extreme, however (Liddiard and Williamson 2008). Gardens ranged from vegetable plots, through herbaries, to flowerbeds and grassed lawns (Landsberg 1995, Rose 1994).

  • Landsberg, Sylvia. The Medieval Garden. London: British Museum, 1995.

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    Most accessible general book on a popular subject, by the designer of a replicated Norman garden within Winchester Castle, with its gravel paths, box-fringed beds for herbs and flowers, and grassy mounds for seats. A delight in summer for lords and ladies.

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  • Liddiard, Robert, and Tom Williamson. “There by Design? Some Reflections on Medieval Élite Landscapes.” Archaeological Journal 165 (2008): 520–535.

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    Suggests that some medieval archaeologists have begun to overplay the extent to which the landscape around some great houses and castles was manipulated to set them into a special context. Views across deer parks, moats, fishponds, and mills were all part of the display of lordship, but creating vistas to impress passersby was not a medieval concept.

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  • Rose, Peter. “The Medieval Garden at Tintagel Castle.” Cornish Archaeology 33 (1994): 170–182.

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    Sensitive consideration of the enclosed walled space at the castle that Richard of Cornwall built in a dramatic setting on the headland where Merlin and Arthur stories had been located by the mid-13th century. Such a private space made an ideal trysting-place for lovers, but could also symbolize separation from the normal world and religious purity, just as flowers grown in it could be allegories, as the lily became for Mary.

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  • Taylor, Christopher C. “Somersham Palace, Cambridgeshire: A Medieval Landscape for Pleasure?” In From Cornwall to Caithness: Some Aspects of British Field Archaeology. Papers Presented to Norman V. Quinnell. Edited by Mark Bowden, Donnie Mackay, and Peter Topping, 211–224. BAR British Series 209. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, 1989.

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    Shows how moats, fishponds, and paths created a pleasant setting for one of the Abbot of Ely’s principal residences. Some houses in the present village, built over the remains of ridge-and-furrow, may have been deliberately removed from an area considered too close to the palace. Kenilworth Castle, and Malmesbury Abbey, with its eighteen-hectare garden, had comparable settings.

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  • Taylor, Christopher, Paul Everson, and R. Wilson-North. “Bodiam Castle, Sussex.” Medieval Archaeology 34 (1990): 155–157.

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    Short but much referred to note on field survey of the surroundings of a low-lying late-14th-century castle that has become the focus of debate on the intentions behind the construction of new castles, often by owners new to the district, in the late Middle Ages. Providing a sequence of views of the delightful building was more important than defense. Liddiard and Williamson 2008 advocates that that interpretation is too extreme.

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Lesser Rural Houses and Buildings

Distinctions between one of a great lord’s more private houses and the manor house of a moderately prosperous estate lie not in the accommodation so much as in the role that the latter may have had as an administrative and processing center, with barns for storage perhaps the most obvious evidence (Page, et al. 2005). In the other direction, there is little between a small manor house and a well-to-do farmhouse (Roberts 2003). The distinction breaks down on construction methods as well; carpentered joints created framed buildings but not necessarily uniformity in methods, and skilful use was made of curved as well as straight timbers. Some methods do not seem to have gone socially lower than manor-house level, in particular the “base cruck,” which is a curved timber rising from the wall to halfway up the roof slope, where it is jointed to a collar beam that links it to its matching pair on the other side of the building. The “full” cruck that goes from the ground up to the apex of the ceiling, where it is jointed into its matching pair, does not seem to have risen higher socially than the farmhouse and the barn (Alcock 2007). The base cruck spanned an open hall, clearing the space of internal aisle posts; the full cruck could create a similar appearance, by omitting the usual tie beam and bracing the collar but it could not achieve the same width, so it would never be useful for the rich. Aisled halls, however, were not beyond the means of people who were below manorial level, for instance, in Essex (Stenning 2003). If this all seems overly elaborate, turn to Grenville 1998. (See also Houses and Halls.)

  • Alcock, Nat W. “The Origins of Crucks: A Rejoinder.” Vernacular Architecture 37 (2007): 11–15.

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    Part of a debate: did the “full” cruck derive from stone arches, or from the base cruck, or was it developed independently of either? The earliest known “full” crucks date from the late 13th century, up to fifty years later than the base variety, but earlier ones may not have survived. The issue is not solely technological, but relevant also to the source of ideas, whether they can be created at a low social level or whether emulation is invariable.

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  • Grenville, Jane. Medieval Housing. Archaeology of Medieval Britain. London: Leicester University Press, 1998.

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    Account of all the issues involved in the study of houses, urban or rural, grand or slight. Ideas about the “syntax” of houses are explained—how people experienced them as they moved from one room or space to another, understanding which was the high end of the hall for the owner and family, and who had access to other inner spaces.

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  • Page, Philip, Kate Atherton, and Alan Hardy. Barentin’s Manor. Excavations of the Moated Manor at Harding’s Field, Chalgrove, Oxfordshire 1976–9. Thames Valley Landscapes Monograph 24. Oxford: Oxford University School of Archaeology, 2005.

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    Rare opportunity to investigate the whole of a fairly modest manorial complex that was established some time in the 12th century, to which a moat was added in the 13th century. A rubble-stone hall was updated in the early 14th century; a long range at right angles was added, as was a porch. This upturn in the site’s fortunes is matched by some of the finds, including some glass that is probably Italian in origin, and bones that show a more luxurious diet.

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  • Roberts, Edward. Hampshire Houses 1250–1700. Their Dating and Development. Winchester, UK: Hampshire County Council, 2003.

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    Single-county study, but a model of what can be achieved. Tree-ring dating (dendrochronology), carried out by Dan Miles, gave absolute felling dates for many of the timbers used. Both cruck and box-frame construction were used in the county. The farmhouses of the later 15th and earlier 16th centuries attest to the rise of prosperous farmers renting estates from great lords. Inns were another late-medieval investment.

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  • Stenning, D. F. “Small Aisled Halls in Essex.” Vernacular Architecture 34.1 (2003): 1–19.

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    Another county-only study but also showing how much can be learned from longer-term investigation as opportunity for access arises. Enough houses had datable oak timbers to show that aisled halls were built by people with quite small farms, from the early 13th century. Surprisingly, elm and ash were often used, woods generally less of an investment than oak, a small hint of the purchasing power of their builders.

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Materials and Functions

At peasant level, documentary evidence provides only incidental information about how people used their houses and what was inside them. Insights can be gained from lawyers’ investigations into causes of death (Hanawalt 1986), but archaeological evidence has to sort out not just the sizes and internal divisions of houses and other peasant buildings but, if possible, how they were used. Excavation evidence used to be construed as indicating that most peasants lived in flimsy houses that were constructed with impermanent materials and therefore frequently needed to rebuild them; reappraisal of excavation results at Wharram Percy corrected this view (Wrathmell 1989). Even buildings without foundations can be solid (Beresford 1975). Another reappraisal has concerned plans (Gardiner 2000). Very different from most is the approach taken by Johnson 1993, building on Lawrence 1983.

  • Beresford, Guy. The Medieval Clay-Land Village: Excavations at Goltho and Barton Blount. SMA Monograph 6. London: Society for Medieval Archaeology, 1975.

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    Buildings do not need to have framed posts and carpentered joints if they do not have to be very wide; nor must materials be costly. Clay, chalk, or other earth can be mixed with cow hair as a binder and probably dung for a bit of vegetable matter and, if kept dry, the wall will last for years once set. Intermittent posts may provide a bit of vertical binding.

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  • Gardiner, Mark. “Vernacular Buildings and the Development of the Late Medieval Domestic Plan in England.” Medieval Archaeology 44 (2000): 159–179.

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    Excavation called this into question the assumption that most peasants lived in “long-houses,” with animal stalls at one end. Only if there is clear evidence of stalls, as in some northern and western sites, can a “long-house” be claimed. The standard farmhouse plan of hall+cross-passage+end chamber(s) probably derived from small manor houses in the 13th century; timber framing created bay divisions between the solid, well-spaced posts.

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  • Hanawalt, Barbara A. The Ties That Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1986.

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    Unexpected death, whether by violence or accident, had to be investigated. Many people were killed by fire, when ashes from an open hearth spilled onto straw on the floor and spread. Evidence of falls from ladders suggests that upstairs space was used for storage rather than sleeping. Sometimes fights became too violent, but the records show that most interaction was more neighborly.

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  • Johnson, Matthew. Housing Culture. Traditional Architecture in an English Landscape. London: University College London Press, 1993.

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    Although based on a single county (Suffolk), attempted to show vernacular architecture students what they should be doing, or perhaps what they had unknowingly been doing all the time, stressing that houses not only demonstrate where people fit into their world but also that they influence how those people structure their lives. “Conservatism,” “emulation,” or desire for privacy or self-improvement should not be assumed.

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  • Lawrence, R. J. “The Interpretation of Vernacular Architecture.” Vernacular Architecture 14 (1983): 19–28.

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    Argues that buildings should be seen as more than a series of different roof types or chronological sequences. What they meant to the people who built, owned, or observed them is more important than typology and regional difference. Social explanations, what people wanted from their buildings, go beyond questions of what they could afford. Their houses were spatial organizations, affecting their social roles and rhythms. They might not have been literate, but they could read the grammar of a house.

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  • Wrathmell, Stuart. Wharram: A Study of Settlement on the Yorkshire Wolds. Vol. 6, Domestic Settlement 2: Medieval Peasant Farmsteads. University of York Archaeological Publications 8. York, UK: University of York Department of Archaeology, 1989.

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    By taking a second look at the excavation data, the author showed convincingly that what had been interpreted as wholesale rebuilding of peasant houses was in fact evidence of repairs and updating. Better-off 13th-century peasants were using substantial timber, with carpentered joints, a very different level of investment from one that obliged them to live in thin cob walls with the roof rafters lashed into place.

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Settlement and Landscape

Rural settlements were of three types: villages, with perhaps twenty or more houses in close proximity to each other; hamlets, with three to twenty households; and single farmsteads. There were also a few isolated woodland cottages, parkers’ houses, and in upland areas, “shielings” or “hafods,” used in summer to oversee grazing stock that were taken down to lower ground in the winter. These varieties reflected the agriculture practiced, nucleated villages being most suitable where plough lands predominated; people living close together could more easily share equipment and make decisions about controlling the farming that was practiced, but could also be more easily overseen by their lords’ stewards. Conditions changed, markets developed, and in the 14th century the balance between the demand for food and that for “secondary products” such as wool shifted, particularly after population numbers decreased dramatically; wages increased, in turn creating a market for higher-quality food. Wheat was therefore more likely to be bought than barley or oats for bread; and more meat could be eaten that came from young, tender animals.

Categorization and Classification

What the countryside looked like, who shaped it, and for what purposes—farming, grazing, hunting, or transport—are fundamental issues clouded by the adherence of many to Hoskins 1955, a beguiling book that hinted that those who looked at what survives can deduce what once was. That is even less true now than fifty years ago, since so much surviving ridge-and-furrow, field hedging, and cottage gardening has been usurped by modern development, but a storm was set off by a critique of this romantic view (Johnson 2007). The land as a thing of beauty, representing God’s bounties, informed by literary texts, was a medieval concept (see Literature), but could also be horrific, a place of isolation and fear (Golding 1996). More prosaically, classifications can vary; some prefer to divide the countryside according to the number of nucleated villages found in a particular area, particularly if they are surrounded by open fields taking up 80 percent of the land; Roberts and Wrathmell 2000 and Roberts and Wrathmell 2002 have detected what they call a “Central Province,” flanked west and east by others in which settlements are smaller and more widely scattered. This has been progressively more criticized (e.g., Rippon 2008), and others prefer to consider regions according to geology (Thirsk 2000).

  • Golding, Brian. “The Hermit and the Hunter.” In The Cloister and the World: Essays in Medieval History in Honor of Barbara Harvey. Edited by John Blair and Brian Golding, 94–117. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

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    Corrective to the much-quoted passage on the beauties of Manorbier Castle in wild Wales, and other eulogies on fruitful terrains. Much of the waste was vast and on the edge of civilization, all right for outlaws and those who sought “death-in-life” as hermits, but not for the rest. Farmland increasingly encroached on forests and hills.

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  • Hoskins, William G. The Making of the English Landscape. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1955.

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    Written by an author whose slow Devon accent made him a popular broadcaster because it seemed to come from an ancient past that lent him a deeper understanding of and affinity with it than the standard voices of historians. This made his book hugely popular, and it certainly had much value in showing that the landscape could be explored as a different sort of historical document.

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  • Johnson, Matthew. Ideas of Landscape. Oxford: Blackwell, 2007.

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    The suggestion that Hoskins 1955 was a Romantic in the tradition of William Wordsworth, and that he seemed to advocate field observation at the expense of library work, would never succeed among people who enjoy looking for themselves. In fact, Johnson is not advocating that going outside is pointless, but that landscape needs to be seen in terms of the social conflicts, economic demands, and opportunities that shaped it.

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  • Rippon, Stephen. Beyond the Medieval Village: The Diversification of Landscape Character in Southern Britain. Medieval History and Archaeology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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    Summarizes author’s important fieldwork on the wetlands of the Severn estuary, and the investment that went into creating sea banks and artificial drainage channels. Essex, another of his specialist areas, had a good deal of wood-pasture—widely spaced trees in which stock could graze, a form of farming little understood today. Rivers and watersheds may have been more important as creators of regions than was nucleation of villages.

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  • Roberts, Brian K., and Stuart Wrathmell. An Atlas of Rural Settlement in England. London: English Heritage, 2000.

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    Sumptuous atlas to accompany Roberts and Wrathmell 2002. Various maps, based on 19th-century surveys, are used to argue that a “Central Province’ of medieval nucleated villages ran from the south coast through the Midlands and up to Yorkshire, dominated by extensive farming in huge fields divided into furlongs and strips. The southeast, west, and north are different “provinces” composed predominantly of dispersed hamlets and single farms.

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  • Roberts, Brian K., and Stuart Wrathmell. Region and Place. A Study of English Rural Settlement. London: English Heritage, 2002.

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    Examines farming practice, especially “common field” in the “Central Province”; everyone in the community had to sow the same crops as did their neighbors, turn their animals out to graze at the same time, and not separate their selions (strips) from their neighbors’ with fences. Although fertile, clays needed draining, and so each selion had a deep furrow on either side. Subsequent enclosure led to the grassing of much of this “ridge and furrow” for grazing.

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  • Thirsk, Joan, ed. The English Rural Landscape. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    Topography and geology form regions—downland and wolds are zones that have more similarities to each other, even if geographically separated, than they do to marshes, fenlands, or moorlands. Exploitation of woodlands and wood pasture shares practices and patterns despite distance. These divisions are primarily based on geology and soils. Another approach focuses on river valleys and how they may create difference.

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Villages, Hamlets, and Farmsteads

Expansion of existing places and the creation of new ones was a continuing process, as was contraction and abandonment; the latter became much more marked as population numbers fell in the 14th and 15th centuries. The effects of such changes in reducing the numbers of settlements remains an issue (Dyer 1997), but much excavation has focused on them; the best-known site is Wharram Percy, Yorkshire, where work began simply to prove that places that had been viable settlements might now be marked by no more than a single farm. The simplistic explanation was that the Black Death in 1349 had wiped out all the inhabitants; however, it was shown that the process was much more complex. As the work progressed, many other issues became apparent: What sort of houses did peasants live in? How did the church grow and shrink? What social and economic differences existed within the community (Beresford and Hurst 1990)? Because of availability, most work has focused on abandoned or almost abandoned places (e.g. Ivens, et al. 1995, Dyer 2010), but this creates a bias—are they typical, or a self-selecting sample of the least viable? Villages that are still inhabited may have been the richest in the Middle Ages, where evidence might be of a different sort from that produced by excavations of now-empty sites. Long-term projects have been developed to explore this (Gerrard 2007). Circumstances varied widely, of course; in Wales, for instance, transhumance affected settlement patterns (Roberts 2006).

  • Beresford, Maurice, and John Hurst. English Heritage Book of Wharram Percy Deserted Mediaeval Village. London: B. T. Batsford, 1990.

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    Authors began a collaboration in the 1950s that led to more than forty years of work at a deserted medieval village site on the Yorkshire Wolds, developing such questions as how the village plan was created, and how did the presence of two separate manors, each with a manor-house, affect the layout, and what happened when one manor bought out the other. A convenient summary, showing how ideas changed as more evidence emerged.

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  • Dyer, Christopher. “Peasants and Farmers: Rural Settlements and Landscapes in the Age of Transition.” In The Age of Transition: The Archaeology of English Culture 1400–1600. Edited by David Gaimster and Paul Stamper, 61–76. Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph 15. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

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    Proceedings of a conference hosted by the Society for Medieval Archaeology and the Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology at the British Museum, London, 14–15 November 1996. Still a relevant and convenient starting point for educating oneself on late medieval change as evident from various excavations. No single pattern emerges; some sites flourished well into the 15th century when others had been reduced to single farms. In Hertfordshire, new barns seem to indicate storage of grain for the London market; elsewhere farms amalgamated and arable land was converted into grazing land.

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  • Dyer, Christopher, and Richard Jones. Deserted Villages Revisited. Explorations in Local and Regional History 3. Hatfield, UK: University of Hertfordshire Press, 2010.

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    Multiauthor review of the results of forty years of work. No single answers apply to the questions; regions varied, the power of lords over tenants was not uniform, the peasants’ experience was different even if they lived quite close to each other, and open-field agriculture suited some people and areas better than others.

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  • Gerrard, Christopher M., with Michael Aston. The Shapwick Project, Somerset: A Rural Landscape Explored. Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph 25. Leeds, UK: Society for Medieval Archaeology Press, 2007.

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    Excavating small “shovel-test” pits in gardens, to see what pottery is found, or the site of a new house after the old one is demolished, can unearth archaeological information about villages still inhabited. Another new technique is analysis of metals within field soil. Shapwick was not “typical”; its original medieval church was some way from the village and was relocated in the 13th century.

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  • Ivens, R., P. Busby, and N. Shepherd. Tattenhoe and Westbury: Two Deserted Medieval Settlements in Milton Keynes. Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society Monograph 8. Aylesbury, UK: Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society, 1995.

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    Because of the government’s decision to establish a new town, the opportunity arose for unusually large-scale excavations, including two deserted rural sites whose histories differed up until the time of their near-abandonment. Westbury began in the Anglo-Saxon period and overlay some Roman enclosures, but Tattenhoe was not established until the late 11th century, and its layout and croft sizes were always more regular.

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  • Roberts, Kathryn, ed. Lost Farmsteads: Deserted Rural Settlements in Wales. CBA Research Report 148. York, UK: Council for British Archaeology, 2006.

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    CADW-sponsored summaries by various authors on different parts of Wales, detailing excavation results, palaeonvironmental data, and buildings. Settlements had open fields, but grazing predominated, and the upper slopes were used as summer pastures; temporary shelters used by shepherds and vaccary watchers while they oversaw the flocks and herds often became permanent farmsteads, especially in the 13th century.

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Farming

Most discussion of later medieval agriculture revolves around interpretation of documentary evidence, the bulk of which comes from the records of great and lesser monasteries and priories (Miller 1991). Archaeology by nature contributes with an egalitarian attitude—there is nothing approaching an inbuilt bias against the rest of society. What species of crop were grown and how big were the animals reared are issues that only physical survival records (Astill and Grant 1988). This includes not only the obvious such as sheep rearing (Dyer 1995), but also rabbit breeding (Williamson 2007). Plowing is more visible in some areas than others, for light chalk and gravel do not need deep furrows between individual strips, unlike clays (Liddiard 1999). These themes are taken up in Gardiner and Rippon 2007. Keeping soil fertile was a major problem, especially if increased cultivation reduced the amount of grazing and hay available, so manuring was important (Jones 2005). Most “assarting,” the clearance of land for cultivation, took place in dribs and drabs; the forest equivalent was “purpresture.” In that such land had usually been left as rough grazing because it was the poorest soil (Shepherd 2007), it would not sustain good crop yields for long without a lot of effort. Higher ground in particular could have been susceptible to climate change (Buckland, et al. 1996).

  • Astill, Grenville, and Anne Grant, eds. The Countryside of Medieval England. Oxford: Blackwell, 1988.

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    Still-useful scene-setting essays, setting out the range of data. The chapters on animal resources (Grant) and plant resources (Greig) in particular show what survives in the physical record and how it should be approached in relation to the documentary. Editors’ final chapter has not been entirely superseded by later debate on the effect of lordship on production and consumption.

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  • Buckland, Paul C., T. Amorosi, L.K. Barlow, A. J. Dugmore, P. A. Mayewski, T. H. McGovern, A. E. J. Ogilvie, J. P. Sadler, and P. Skidmore. “Bioarchaeological and Climatological Evidence for the Fate of Norse Farms in Medieval Greenland.” Antiquity 70.267 (1996): 88–96.

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    Has implications for Britain because it shows the effect of cooling temperatures on settlements at the extreme margins of cultivation—they succumbed in the early 14th century. Apart from the Highlands in Scotland, Britain would not have felt the effects quite so severely, although reduction of the length of the growing season and wetter summers may have made arable lands unviable in some upland areas.

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  • Dyer, Christopher. “Sheepcotes: Evidence for Medieval Sheepfarming.” Medieval Archaeology 39 (1995): 136–164.

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    Approaches the question of agricultural efficiency from an archaeological dimension, focusing on the small buildings that were used to house sheep over the winter, of which earthworks remain, although only a few have been excavated. Some sheep cotes were the last vestiges of deserted villages, as though to justify moralists’ laments that sheep had eaten up the people.

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  • Gardiner, Mark, and Stephen Rippon, eds. Medieval Landscapes. Bollington, UK: Windgather, 2007.

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    Various useful essays, including some on towns, on underlying geology, surface soil types, cultural, and topography as key factors in determining farming practice. Midlands clay needs deep furrows for drainage, and meadowland for grazing was scarce, making the hay crop even more important. The flatter land of Norfolk and north Suffolk had small common fields and much pasture, unlike sloping ground in south Suffolk and Essex, with more arable land and land held in blocks.

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  • Jones, Richard. “Signatures in the Soil: The Use of Pottery in Manure Scatters in the Identification of Medieval Arable Farming Regimes.” Archaeological Journal 161 (2005): 159–188.

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    Shows how dung-spreading can be detected from the broken pottery shards picked up in field-walking, dating back to the 12th century, but not earlier; it was more intensive closer to settlements, as carting is time-consuming. A reduction in the number of late medieval pot shards indicates, if not an overall contraction of arable land, at least that manuring was much less intensive.

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  • Liddiard, Robert. “The Distribution of Ridge and Furrow in East Anglia; Ploughing Practice and Subsequent Land Use.” Agricultural History Review 47 (1999): 1–6.

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    Shows cogently how practices differed; the lighter soils of East Anglia did not benefit from deep drainage channels, and so the ridge and furrow still so evident in much of the Midlands never developed. The same is true of most chalkland.

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  • Miller, E., ed. The Agrarian History of England and Wales. Vol. 3, 1348–1500. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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    One of a series in which historians draw on (mostly ecclesiastical) estate records to discuss what crops were grown and stock kept, and what the documents tell about the breaking-in of new plowlands, and the vacating of holdings in the later period. Consequently agricultural history is dominated by a particular type of consumer; most others, and all the producers, are scarcely mentioned.

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  • Shepherd, Colin. “Medieval Fields in North-East Scotland.” Landscape History 29 (2007): 47–74.

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    Evidence of medieval field systems in Scotland is sparse, and layouts are very much affected by the topography where the slopes are steep. Eighteenth-century maps are used to “read” backward (pollen sequences were not very helpful) and author argues that planned systems can be recognized. Open fields were run from nucleated villages in the 12th and 13th centuries. As population declined, some arable land was switched back to it prior function, cattle grazing.

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  • Williamson, Tom. Rabbits, Warrens, and Archaeology. Stroud, UK: Tempus, 2007.

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    Introduced to England in the 12th century, the rabbit was initially a food that added variety to the tables of the rich, and was carefully looked after in artificial “pillow-mounds” and enclosures. During the 14th and 15th centuries, especially on the chalklands, some owners and tenants earned more profit from rabbits than sheep, because both their fur and meat were in demand from a wider market, notably London.

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Assarting, Water Management, and Draining

Water-course management is best-known from monastic management (see Church Estates), but the quantities of mills and the status derived from a supply of fresh fish meant that most manors exercised control over their water resources (Treen and Atkin 2005). Artificial enhancement of water meadows may have begun late in the Middle Ages (Cook, et al. 2003). More drastic management involved reclamation of fens and marshes; recent studies in Romney marsh (Kent and East Sussex) have shown how late medieval land may have been lost because labor shortages reduced the amount of possible river maintenance (Eddison and Gardiner 1995).

  • Cook, H., Kathy Steane, and Tom Williamson. “The Origins of Water Meadows in England.” Agricultural History Review 51.1 (2003): 155–162.

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    One way to enhance the nutrients in valley soils and to shelter them from frost is to run shallow water over them. This was done in 12th-century France and is hinted at in a few English documents, but “catchworks”—leats to carry water along the contour of a valley side so that the water could be released to flood over the fields below—have not survived. The investment may not have been seen as worthwhile.

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  • Eddison, Jill, and Mark Gardiner, eds. Romney Marsh: The Debatable Ground. Monograph 41. Oxford: Oxford University Committee for Archaeology, 1995.

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    Although more recent monographs examine particular aspects of the marshes that could be made valuable for sheep grazing, this book remains the best overall summary of work on a particular example of marshland. Some land dried out naturally, some of it because natural creeks were straightened, speeding up water flow. Some large blocks known as “innings” were created by church landowners.

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  • Treen, C., and Malcolm Atkin. Wharram: A Study of Settlement on the Yorkshire Wolds. Vol. 10, Water Resources and Their Management. York University Archaeological Publications 12. London: Society for Medieval Archaeology, 2005.

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    One aspect of the project on the deserted village of Wharram Percy was the extremely wet and muddy investigation of its stream, across which a chalk and earth dam had been constructed, creating a pond. The dam had a channel through it as the leat for a mill, but this fell into disuse in the 13th century. The pond was maintained thereafter, as it was essential for use as a sheep dip. Fieldwork showed that the stream had been dammed in other places.

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Processing

Drying crops in the British climate is always problematic, particularly for wheat. Field kilns for oats and rye have been found in Wales (Britnell 1984), and in northern England as part of a managed estate center (Roberts, et al. 2007). On Dartmoor, where large ovens built into farm buildings were excavated (Beresford 1979), their use has been questioned. Most ovens were for malting, however, to stop grain—usually barley, for ale—from further germinating, though such ovens may also have been sometimes used for parching grain so that it would grind more easily and not gum up the mill-stones or quernstones. Excavations at Great Linford stand for many; the same site had the emplacement for a windmill (Mynard and Zeepvat 1992). Despite a recent claim, windmills were probably neither invented in England nor introduced before the end of the 12th century. Archaeology has a very few watermills to set alongside the abundant historical records of investments and disputes (Langdon 2004, Graham 1986).

  • Beresford, Guy. “Three Deserted Medieval Settlements on Dartmoor: A Report on the Late E. Marie Minter’s Excavations.” Medieval Archaeology 23 (1979): 98–158.

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    Upland sites that used more stone for building than did their lowland counterparts, where timber was readily available, are often better preserved. This report on farm-houses and outbuildings in a small hamlet has proved contentious, in terms of both the date and the reason for abandonment. Worsening climate was originally blamed, but cultural factors resulting from demographic change are generally now singled out instead.

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  • Britnell, William. “A 15th-Century Corn-Drying Kiln from Collfryn, Llantsantffraid Deuddwr, Powys.” Medieval Archaeology 28 (1984): 190–194.

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    Opportunistically dug into the side of an old enclosure bank to save digging a pit, this circular oven was stone-lined and had a long stone-lined flue leading into it, with a stokehole beyond. Field kilns like this did not have oven domes to cover them, but were left open. Oats and two different types of wheat were found, so that the drying was probably to parch the grain before it was ground, not to stoop germination of grains wanted for brewing.

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  • Graham, Alan. “The Old Malthouse, Abbotsbury, Dorset: The Medieval Watermill of the Benedictine Abbey.” Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society 108 (1986): 103–125.

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    Remains of medieval watermills have usually been swept away by later replacements, so survival within monastic complexes is more usual, as here. It may be that Marie de France was referring to the mill at Abbotsbury in a 12th-century poem. What survives is the 14th-century water-wheel pit, which, at 8 feet wide, is likely to have contained two vertical wheels, fed through timber chutes with water from a pond above (“overshute”).

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  • Langdon, James. Mills in the Medieval Economy. England 1300–1540. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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    Explores the effect of technology on production, not just of grain but of cloth-making and metalworking. Watermills led to many court cases about flows and floods. Post-mills and horse-mills were expensive; the former were vulnerable to fire and gales. Social conflict was caused by lords who forced their bond tenants to use these mills and pay a fee, and a custom-dominated society’s reluctance to apply innovative technology must be considered.

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  • Mynard, Denis E., and Robert J. Zeepvat. Excavations at Great Linford, 1974–80. Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society Monograph 3. Aylesbury, UK: Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society, 1992.

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    Another complex excavated because of the new town at Milton Keynes. A manor house had a hearth, malting-kiln, and oven, for brewing, as did some of the peasants’ crofts. Brewing was a useful by-employment for women as a small-scale and intermittent domestic activity. A post-mill set on cross-timbers on a low mound, with 13th-century radiocarbon dates, was probably the landlord’s investment, dismantled in the 15th century.

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  • Roberts, I., C. G. Cumberpatch, and H. E. M. Cool. “A Late Saxon Estate Centre at Laughton.” Medieval Archaeology 51 (2007): 286–292.

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    Interesting sequence of grain-drying kilns: an 11th- to 12th-century one was a shallow round pit with a clay floor and a wattle and daub superstructure. Its late-12th- to early-13th-century successors were much more elaborate, with larger, stone-lined pits, and flues to draw hot air from stoke pits alongside, so that the air circulated through ventilated floors on which the grain was stacked.

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Other Uses of the Land

Prominent in the medieval countryside were sources of food that were not agricultural; lords saw to it that they and their guests could eat differently from their tenants and workers. Large areas of legal forest were a cause of tension between kings and landowners. Parks were enclosures in which deer were stocked, to supply their owners’ tables (Mileson 2009). Also for the table were the products of fishponds, of which traces can often be seen (Aston 1988, Serjeantson and Woolgar 2006). Ponds also attracted wildfowl, and swans could be bred on them (Sykes 2004). Different sorts of ponds were those that fed mill streams, and their weirs were good places to catch eels. Both of these took up land that could have had other use, the latter notably for valuable meadow. Even townhouses usually had a bit of backland on which a few vegetables could be grown, and the peasants’ rural tenements were probably intensively used, though the evidence is hard to gather; orchards for fruit and enclosed gardens where herbs could be tended are best known from monastic documents (for pleasure gardens, see Settings).

  • Aston, Michael, ed. Medieval Fish, Fisheries, and Fishponds in England. British Archaeological Reports British Series 182. Oxford: BAR, 1988.

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    Wide-ranging review of both freshwater and sea-fish, and the means of catching and transporting them. Fresh fish were welcome presents—gift exchange was important in the Middle Ages, creating networks of alliances. Ponds took up land and restricted water flow. Artifacts such as net sinkers and smoking pots count among the archaeological finds, as do shoreline traps, and the bones of eel, tench, bream, and pike, with carp a late introduction.

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  • Mileson, Stephen A. Parks in Medieval England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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    Looks at both the archaeological and documentary evidence on parks, mostly set up for the newly introduced fallow deer. By the time of the early 14th century, extensive use of land by the more than three thousand parks was another cause of social tension, as were restrictions on preventing the deer from eating crops. Many “pales”—earth banks with inner ditches so that deer could jump in but not out—survive, though not the expensive timber fencing also needed.

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  • Serjeantson, Dale, and Christopher M. Woolgar. “Fish Consumption in Medieval England.” In Food in Medieval England: Diet and Nutrition. Edited by Christopher M. Woolgar, Dale Serjeantson, and Tony Waldron, 102–130. Medieval History and Archaeology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    Domesday Book records a few fishponds, which became increasingly a feature of gardens and parks, the reserves of the aristocracy. Pike were the main delicacy, with bream and roach also bred, and carp appearing in the 15th century. Eels, too, came from ponds, but were also trapped, as were salmon. The former were more numerous and widespread, the latter were a delicacy only for rich tables.

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  • Sykes, Naomi. “The Dynamics of Status Symbols: Wildfowl Exploitation in England AD 410–1550.” Archaeological Journal 161 (2004): 82–105.

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    An increase in the numbers of wild bird bones at sites owned by aristocrats show that the Normans increasingly kept such foodstuffs exclusive to themselves, rather than allowing plover, teal, heron, and partridge to be caught by anyone and sold in markets; the numbers in towns fall away to almost nothing. Hawking was a pastime that ladies were allowed to practice. Swans were a particular delicacy.

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The Sea

Fishing was of great importance, not least because rules on fasting increased demand. Sea fishing was already a commercial pursuit by the 11th century, even quite probably in the Orkney Islands (Barrett 1997). The fishbone record does not truly reflect the huge quantities of salt and smoked herrings transported in barrels inland from the coast, or the coastal trade from ports like Yarmouth (Serjeantson and Woolgar 2006). That town’s problems are shown by its expensive defenses, the costs of 14th-century war, and other problems allowing fishermen from rival towns, notably in the southwest, to break into the trade (Kowaleski 2000). Less commercial were catches and strandings of sea-mammals (Gardiner 1997). Fishing is well recorded in some documents; the archaeological and documentary evidence of the species involved do not necessarily tally (Coy 1996).

  • Barrett, James. “Fish Trade in Norse Orkney and Caithness: A Zooarchaeological Approach.” Antiquity 71.273 (1997): 616–638.

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    Short summary of a major research project investigating fish remains in northern Scotland and the Orkney Islands. One midden is reinterpreted as the debris of fishing for local consumption, but different ways of gutting, and removal of heads, can indicate when the work was on a bigger scale, with the fish smoked or salted to be taken south. Net fishing replaced line fishing as systems of supply became able to meet increased demand.

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  • Coy, Jennie. “Medieval Records Versus Excavation Results: Examples from Southern England.” Archaeofauna 5 (1996): 55–63.

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    More species were caught and eaten as net-trawling developed, and fish were brought from farther away. Southampton customs records and guild purchases show trade from Brittany and the Channel Islands as well as from English ports. Bone evidence suggests that more plaice and other flatfish were eaten than the documents reveal, probably because they were locally caught and less likely to have been traded as a commercial product.

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  • Gardiner, Mark. “The Exploitation of Sea-Mammals in Medieval England: Bones and Their Social Context.” Archaeological Journal 154 (1997): 173–195.

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    Bones show consumption of porpoises: because they came from the sea, they were considered to be fish that could be eaten on fast-days, even though its flesh was thought to taste like pork-meat (the name derives from the French porc-poisson). The blubber of whales cast up on the shore was used for oil, but the flesh became a reserved food; their bones are found almost exclusively on castle and religious sites.

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  • Kowaleski, M. “The Expansion of the South-Western Fisheries in Late Medieval England.” Economic History Review 53.3 (2000): 429–454.

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    Although not an archaeological study, a valuable summary of the context of an important food source, which shows up in isotopic analyses of human bones, as well as in the direct record provided by the bones of the fish themselves. It also has implications for ships and shipping, as southwestern sailors became more adventurous and boats dealt with bigger catches.

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  • Serjeantson, Dale, and Christopher M. Woolgar. “Fish Consumption in Medieval England.” In Food in Medieval England: Diet and Nutrition. Edited by Christopher M. Woolgar, Dale Serjeantson, and Tony Waldron, 102–130. Medieval History and Archaeology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    Because St. Peter and St. Andrew were fishermen, fish was a “holy” food. By numbers, herring was the most commonly traded sea-fish, but cod had much more meat, and its bones survive better —but are rarely found on rural sites, even when the deposits are sieved. Isotopic evidence from human bones from Wharram Percy confirms that not much fish was consumed by the peasants there.

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Farmed Food, Cookery, and Eating

What people ate depended on their wealth, what could be acquired or grown, and ideas about what consumption meant in terms of the balance of the humors in the body, and the avoidance of acquiring the undesirable characteristics of a bird or animal by eating its flesh—partridges were believed to be particularly rampant sexually, so were only to be eaten sparingly, for instance. The most complete examination of food’s meaning and availability is provided by the essays in Woolgar, et al. 2006. Hadley 2005 considers the importance of feasting, and the display that went with it. Of a large number of studies of individual places, the work done in York stands out as a model (Bond and O’Connor 1999). All food had to be cooked; many books have been published giving recipes, of which Brears 2008 is the liveliest.

  • Bond, J. M., and Terry O’Connor. Bones from Medieval Deposits at 16–22 Coppergate and Other Sites in York. Archaeology of York Series 15/5. York, UK: Council for British Archaeology, 1999.

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    Despite survival bias, animal bones are our best evidence of what meat was eaten in towns like York. Some sites have more pig than others, possibly because some houses still had backyards where the animals could be fattened. Ecclesiastics ate more meat from younger animals, presumably for their delicacy. Cattle and sheep had reached the end of the useful parts of their lives as milking stock, plough-pullers, or wool-bearers before they were butchered.

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  • Brears, Peter. Cooking and Dining in Medieval England. Totnes, UK: Prospect, 2008.

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    If an archbishop requires you to prepare a medieval feast for him, this is the book you need, because the author has done it. Hints on such things as skinning peacocks is helpfully given and illustrated. Much attention is paid to the layouts of great houses and how supervision of the servants’ activities was controlled. The range of equipment needed is discussed, and the practicalities of its use demonstrated.

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  • Carlin, Martha. “Fast Food and Urban Living Standards in Medieval England.” In Food and Eating in Medieval Europe. Edited by Martha Carlin and Joel T. Rosenthal, 27–51. London: Hambledon, 1998.

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    Noting that excavations have shown that the smallest urban houses had no room for a hearth or an oven, the author looks at what the poorer townspeople ate and does not find it very attractive—pie-sellers have given us the word “unsavory” for good reason. The absence of cooking equipment in many inventories is significant, and reduction of demand for cooking pots must have affected the potters’ market.

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  • Hadley, Dawn M. “Dining in Disharmony in the Later Middle Ages.” In Consuming Passions: Dining from Antiquity to the Eighteenth Century. Edited by Maureen Carroll, Dawn M. Hadley, and Hugh B. Willmott, 101–119. Stroud, UK: Tempus, 2005.

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    Uses documentary evidence to show how much disorderly behavior disrupted the social harmony that eating together was supposed to engender. Then moves on to the material culture, much still surviving, required for polite behavior, such as hand-washing vessels, though jugs with bearded faces may have signified virility and encouraged male bonding, excluding women.

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  • Woolgar, Christopher M., Dale Serjeantson, and Tony Waldron, eds. Food in Medieval England: Diet and Nutrition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    Contributors draw on archaeological and documentary evidence to explore what was consumed by whom, and when, why, and how it affected them. Cattle and sheep were the two main meat-bearing animals, with pig, although kept in towns, declining overall. Cereals were the basic nutrient, with vegetables and fruit important. Domestic fowl and sea-fish gave variety to the poor, wildfowl and game to the rich. Cheese was safer than fresh milk.

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Drink

Water in the countryside is perfectly safe to drink if it comes from a clean well or spring, so preference for ale, which has to be boiled, must have been cultural. In towns, foul water was more of a problem. Ale was low in alcohol, so large quantities could be and clearly were drunk, though the record is documentary rather than archaeological; the brewing process destroys much of the calorific benefit of the grain, so apart from inducing a degree of indifference that probably made repetitive work more tolerable though also less well-performed, ale drinking did little for the consumer. Matters began to change with the introduction of hops in the 14th century; not only was the drink stronger, but the keeping qualities were better, so it was worth brewing more in a single session, if it could be afforded. This in turn was to alter the nature of production, from the ale-wife intermittently adding to the family income, to the full-time and usually male specialist. London was where this change seems to have begun, and it can be seen in pottery, at first with drinking vessels much smaller than the previous norm being imported from the Rhineland, since that was where the first beer came from (Unger 2004, Galloway 1998; see also Clay). Transporting wine barrels to the king’s houses was a source of much documentation. Barrels were nearly always bound with withies, not iron hoops, and only survive if finally used to line well-shafts. As they were not fully watertight, the wine turned sour quickly. Spicing helped to disguise the worst (Brears 2008). Although associated with the wealthy, it was available in taverns.

  • Brears, Peter. Cooking and Dining in Medieval England. Totnes, UK: Prospect, 2008.

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    Practicalities of brewing ale and beer, all the different sorts of wine, and the vessels that they were served in are among the many topics covered (see also above).

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  • Galloway, James A. “Driven by Drink? Ale Consumption and the Agrarian Economy of the London Region, c. 1300–1400.” In Food and Eating in Medieval Europe. Edited by Martha Carlin and Joel T. Rosenthal, 87–100. London: Hambledon, 1998.

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    Malting ovens show barley (mostly) being heated to stop germination, but they do not reflect the numbers of recorded brewers, in their hundreds in London, with taverners probably also brewing as well as selling wine. Outside London, the capital’s demand affected what crops were grown, with estates near at hand more responsive to the market for barley.

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  • Unger, Richard W. Beer in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.

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    Charts the process by which water is turned into an alcoholic drink, by various different levels of craft production. Much was domestic, by ale-wives, and the large households brewed their own. Hopped beer was imported in the 14th century, but some migrants began to brew in England and native Londoners took up the trade. Hops were an extra cost, but unlike ale beer could be stored. Brewing became a more specialized craft, with a guild.

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Towns, Ports, and Cities

Estimates of the ratio of town dwellers to rural in the Middle Ages vary from about 10 percent to 20 percent; the higher figure allows for underrecording in tax returns, suburban houses that might get accounted as part of a village but whose occupants worked in the town, and those places whose status hovered between town and large village. They were therefore a substantial part of the social and economic fabric, but social status came primarily from the possession of land, and fulfillment of the military obligations to the king that went with it. Merchants and other townspeople were therefore not part of the “feudal system,” and indeed by their accumulation of money could in theory have become a challenge to it. In practice, the richest were supplying the wine, clothing, jewels, and other luxuries that the aristocracy consumed, and so were an integral part of the social system; some at least aspired to acquire rank, if not for themselves then for their children. Consequently profits might go into buying estates, building country houses, and providing dowries, as well as endowing churches and making charitable gifts and bequests; reinvestment for capital growth was not a major ambition. At a lower social level, however, towns created job and marketing opportunities, and offered the possibility of personal freedom. They were therefore more dynamic than much of the agricultural sector, at least until the 14th and 15th centuries, when new opportunities became available to farmers.

Overviews

Urban archaeology has been a focus since the 1930s, but after World War II, with the awareness that redevelopment might destroy important historical remains, excavations were undertaken in a few towns such as Canterbury and London before rebuilding took place. Gradually also, awareness of what was being lost by redevelopment plans in the 1950s and 1960s stirred many towns to seek all archaeological evidence of their histories before wholesale destruction of relevant sites was begun to make room for new shopping complexes and other structures. Because most medieval towns grew in size and new ones were established until the end of the 13th century, and some continued to hold their own and even expand thereafter, particularly London, the potential for archaeological excavations has been huge. Much work has taken place, and a fair number of reports have has been published. Summaries include Schofield and Vince 2003. Integration of archaeological and documentary evidence is achieved in Palliser 2000; Waller 2000 focuses on the physical fabric—towns have their own characteristics but form part of wider landscapes (Gardiner and Rippon 2007). Recent summaries by Astill 2009 and Dyer 2003 explore urban dynamics.

  • Astill, Grenville. “Medieval Towns and Urbanization.” In Reflections: 50 Years of Medieval Archaeology: 1957–2007. Edited by Roberta Gilchrist and Andrew Reynolds, 255–270. Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph 30. Leeds, UK: Maney, 2009.

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    Reviews the implications of the early medieval origins of towns for the later period and whether the economy should be seen as embedded within social networks at least until the end of the 13th century. An economy based fully on use of money developed as a precursor of capitalism, and the larger towns at least shed their role as primary suppliers to “feudal” structures. In Wales, towns were still part of the colonizing movement and of new aristocratic control systems.

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  • Dyer, Christopher. “The Archaeology of Medieval Small Towns.” Medieval Archaeology 47 (2003): 85–114.

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    Important contribution to research on the possible economic and liberating influence that the six hundred or so smaller towns had on their localities. Archaeology shows how some expanded and then contracted, how some tenement plots were never taken up, and that small ports, especially in eastern England, created an extensive local commerce, as well as feeding into bigger networks.

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  • Gardiner, Mark, and Stephen Rippon, eds. Medieval Landscapes. Bollington, UK: Windgather, 2007.

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    Towns have to fit into landscapes but differ from the countryside, shaping it but retaining their own character: the townscape. Essays therefore examined the urban as well as the rural: plans, tenements, and buildings; the ways in which town plans can show blocs, or “plan-units” that reveal different periods of expansion and preexisting boundaries; and identities and how towns defined themselves by their seals, walls, and ditches

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  • Palliser, David, ed. The Cambridge Urban History of Britain. Vol. 1, 600–1540. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

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    Large, multiauthor volume, with the range of topics expanding as the chronology progresses and documentary evidence increases. Two sections divide the book at c. 1300, the end of the most expansionist period. Topics include the economy, and towns’ cultural and social influences. London is the focus of two chapters, and regional surveys consider Scotland and Wales as fully as England. Ranking lists at different periods are provided.

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  • Schofield, John, and Alan Vince. Medieval Towns: The Archaeology of British Towns in Their European Setting. 2d ed. London: Continuum, 2003.

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    The authors were urban historians and archaeologists who worked together in London in the 1980s to provide an overview of the physical constructions of houses, streets, and drains, as well as material residues such as pottery and animal bones. Begins with a Europe-wide perspective, locating Britain within this setting. Strong sections on tenements, waterfronts, and crafts.

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  • Waller, Philip, ed. The English Urban Landscape. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    Although most of the essays deal with the post-medieval period, useful as a continuum from the Roman period to modern times, and for Derek Keene’s essay on the 900–1540 period; this author, particularly known for his work on Winchester and London, here adopts a broader perspective.

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Houses and Halls

The needs of people who lived in towns differed somewhat from those of their country cousins, not least the need to live within a more restricted space—tenement widths varied, but one perch (16½ feet) was fairly typical. This might allow a narrow passage along the side of the house, although this was sometimes an enclosed corridor so that the space above could be built over. Rich merchants obviously had standards of living of the highest order, and their 12th-century urban houses, built of stone with warehousing below their halls and chambers, ornamented with carved windows and fireplaces, ranked with anything in a royal castle. From the end of the 13th century, timber-framed houses begin to survive; for most, an open ground-floor hall was considered essential, but terraced rows began to be built, with no more of a hall than a chamber above a shop (Quiney 2003). Where did new ideas about jettying and planning arrive from, and in particular were townhouses merely rural ones adapted for a small space, or did innovations first appear in towns (Pearson 2005)? London may have set the pace, but little now survives; what can be pieced together is shown by Schofield 1995. Other urban buildings include inns and guildhalls (Giles 2000; Samuel 1989). Towns in eastern England may have seen the first houses in which the open hall was divided horizontally to create a continuous first floor; elsewhere, tradition was stronger (Leech 2000).

  • Giles, Kate. An Archaeology of Social Identity. Guildhalls in York c. 1350–1630. British Archaeological Reports British Series 15. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2000.

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    Introduction and wide-ranging discussion of theoretical approaches; advocates postprocessualism and thinking in terms of multiple meanings: style is not just fashion, but a means of giving order and structure. Guilds were both trade organizations and religious fraternities; formal meals in their halls were supervised by the seniors at the high table, and their chapels emphasized their internal hierarchy by processional and seating precedence.

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  • Leech, Roger H. “The Symbolic Hall: Historical Context and Merchant Culture in the Early Modern City.” Vernacular Architecture 31 (2000): 1–10.

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    In towns, hall-houses had ground-floor halls, open to the roof, attached to other rooms; the “shop-house” was tiered, with chambers above a shop. The first floor might be called a hall but was not really the same category of space. Why were the better-off citizens of Bristol reluctant to do away with the traditional ground-floor hall? It was the place where they entertained, and displayed their plate and arms, the latter implying that they had the status to defend their city and their nation.

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  • Pearson, Sarah. “Rural and Urban Houses 1100–1500: ‘Urban Adaptation’ Reconsidered.” In Town and Country in the Middle Ages: Contrasts, Contacts, and Interconnections, 1100–1500. Edited by Kate Giles and Christopher Dyer, 43–63. Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph 22. Leeds, UK: Maney, 2005.

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    Argues that new construction methods such as jettying (projecting an upper story forward from the frontage, for show), full-height first-floor chambers, and distinctive plans such as the “Wealden,” which has a central open hall with jettied end-blocks, were all pioneered in towns; towns also were the first to abandon the traditional open hall with central hearth. Prosperous—rather than the richest—townspeople were the dynamic part of society, untrammeled by notions of status derived from ancient practice (see also Lesser Rural Houses and Buildings).

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  • Quiney, Anthony. Town Houses of Medieval Britain. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003.

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    Beautifully illustrated, and with an authoritative text, this book starts with a geographical overview before moving on to building materials, and the different functions and social roles of urban houses. Stone houses appeared in the 13th century: two-story blocks with a warehouse on the ground floor, and perhaps a timber hall behind. Semisunken undercrofts came in the 13th century, some used as ale houses. Terraced rows became an urban feature.

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  • Samuel, M. “The Fifteenth-Century Garner at Leadenhall, London.” Antiquaries Journal 69 (1989): 119–153.

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    London acquired a useful property in 1411, on which in 1439 it built a granary. Parts of the courtyard complex survive. A produce market was held in it, to help to ensure that Londoners could buy fresh food. The upper floors were for grain storage—the construction had to be particularly strong, but the interest lies as much in the ideas of a benefactor, who was concerned to keep prices down for the poor.

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  • Schofield, John. Medieval London Houses. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995.

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    The Great Fire of 1666 destroyed many of London’s medieval houses, and 19th- and 20th-century redevelopment took nearly all the rest. We are left with street plans, documents (a few contracts and regulations on what materials were to be used, many more on bitter legal disputes between neighbors), drawings, prints, a few photographs, an extraordinarily detailed early-17th-century survey and, increasingly, excavation records.

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Waterfronts and Defenses

A distinctive feature of the archaeology of ports has become the investigation of the development of their facilities for landing goods (Milne and Hobley 1981, Good, et al. 1991). Excavations at several have shown that water logging preserves an unusual amount of evidence, even if such things as cranes are known only from documents. London has led the field (Milne 2003). Urban investment needed protection, but was expensive (Turner 1971, Creighton and Higham 2005).

  • Creighton, Oliver H., and Robert Higham. Medieval Town Walls: An Archaeology and Social History of Urban Defense. Stroud, UK: Tempus, 2005.

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    Enclosing a town meant more than just creating a defense; it entailed an internal, exclusive area, into which access could be controlled by gates. Many Welsh towns were stone-walled appendages of castles, an instrument of colonization. Ports vulnerable from the sea had to find means to make provision for gunnery. All this was expensive, and most towns did no more than put a bar across their roads.

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  • Good, G. L., R. H. Jones, and M. W. Ponsford. Waterfront Archaeology: Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Waterfront Archaeology, Held at Bristol, 23–26 September 1988. Council for British Archaeology Research Report 74. London: Council for British Archaeology, 1991.

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    Because of its venue, this volume has a strong West Country element. Bristol’s Redcliffe Street waterfront from the 12th to the 15th century saw a sequence of river walls and slipways, and buildings constructed over the reclaimed foreshore. York developed in similar ways, but the Ouse became too narrow, so that Hull became the principal Yorkshire port by 1300. On a smaller scale, Dorset’s Wareham was largely supplanted by Poole.

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  • Milne, Gustav. The Port of Medieval London. Stroud, UK: Tempus, 2003.

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    Summarizes the author’s quarter-century experience of working on London’s Thames frontage. Redevelopment sites have shown that reclamation involved dumping rubbish within planked boxlike “caissons,” heavily braced from outside to prevent the weight from forcing the structure outward. This was done piecemeal, as individual property owners sought to extend their plots. The public landing places like Queenhythe were left behind as indents.

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  • Milne, Gustav, and Brian Hobley, eds. Waterfront Archaeology in Britain and Northern Europe: A Review of Current Research in Waterfront Archaeology in Six European Countries, Based on the Papers Presented to the First International Conference on Waterfront Archaeology in North European Towns Held at the Museum of London on 20–22 April 1979. Council for British Archaeology Research Report 41. London: Council for British Archaeology, 1981.

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    Not often can anyone claim to have discovered a whole new topic, but as a result of this conference the potential of many towns to investigate their harborages was realized. Summaries of excavations were conveniently brought together in this volume, such as the paper on Portsmouth and the first royal dockyard.

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  • Turner, Hilary L. Town Defenses in England and Wales: An Architectural and Documentary Study, AD 900–1500. London: John Baker, 1971.

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    First comprehensive study of a topic on which very large sums of money were spent in the Middle Ages; even digging an earth bank and ditch costs money, and thereafter the ditch must be scoured and the bank kept from eroding. Stone gates took this expenditure farther, stone walls and mural towers another step again. Later chapters provide a gazetteer.

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The Jews

Hardly known in England until after the Norman Conquest, the Jews were part of the social fabric of towns because restrictions on them as well as their own religion required them to live within circumscribed bounds (Edwards 1998). That did not mean that there were ghettos, and they had Christians living alongside them. For archaeologists, they are of interest because of their different cultural practices, which are revealed in some ways more than in others (Hinton 2003). Burial involved separate cemeteries and different ways of treating the body (Lilley, et al. 1994). Other rituals included bathing (Blair, et al. 2007).

  • Blair, Ian, Joe Hillaby, Isca Howell, Richard Sermon, and Bruce Watson. “The Discovery of Two Medieval Mikva’ot in London and a Reinterpretation of the Bristol ‘Mikveh.’” Jewish Historical Studies 37 (2007): 15–40.

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    Recent excavations in the City of London have located two stone structures within the area known as Jewry. Both were stone-lined pools filled with natural water for purity; in one, several steps leading down into it still survive. Both were close to side streets but well back from prying eyes in Cheapside. The authors suggest that a recently discovered well with a Hebrew inscription outside Bristol is likely also to have had a ritual function for bathing.

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  • Edwards, J. “The Church and the Jews in English Medieval Towns.” In The Church in the Medieval Town. Edited by Terry Slater and Gervase Rosser, 43–54. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1998.

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    Allegations that Christian boys had been murdered by Jews began to circulate in the second half of the 12th century, encouraged by the Church, which declared some of the children to be saints and martyrs. As long as the Jews lent money to kings, they had some protection, but heavy taxes imposed on them steadily reduced their wealth, Henry III became hostile, and after other tribulations, the remainder were expelled by Edward I in 1290.

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  • Hinton, David A. “Medieval Anglo-Jewry: The Archaeological Evidence.” In Jews in Medieval Britain: Historical, Literary, and Archaeological Perspectives. Edited by Patricia Skinner, 97–112. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2003.

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    Jews were distinctive in customs, costume, and appearance. Some of the stone houses in Lincoln and other towns may be attributed to them, but not on any distinctive architectural grounds. A discreet niche on a first floor may hint at a synagogue, but generally these were kept behind street frontages to avoid offense. A few objects, notably a fine copper-alloy bowl with an inscription, can be attributed to them.

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  • Lilley, J. M., G. Stroud, D. R. Brotherwell, and M. H. Williamson. The Jewish Burial Ground at Jewbury, York. Archaeology of York 12; Medieval Cemeteries 3. York, UK: Council for British Archaeology, 1994.

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    Excavation of this site provided the first opportunity in Britain to examine a medieval Jewish cemetery, though examination of the skeletons became a fraught issue. The cemetery was outside the city walls, but close to the royal castle for protection (York’s Jews sheltered inside it in 1190, but were driven out and massacred). The graves were aligned, not quite North–South but certainly not West–East as in a Christian cemetery.

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Transport and Trade

By land, river, and sea, people and goods moved around medieval Europe, with varying degrees of cost and discomfort. Pilgrims and armies required ships to transport them, if only across the English Channel, but much farther if crusading or visiting the Holy City. For these, cost was less of a factor than zeal; similarly, if kings, churches, and aristocrats required goods, cost was beneath their notice. Marketed commodities were subject to market prices, however, and the distances that goods traveled and the means of their transportation were crucial to the determination of their cost. Until foodstuffs could be taken over long distances without adding so much to their price that they could not be afforded by wage-earners, an industrial economy was impossible.

Land Transport

Carrying goods by cart and packhorse increased the costs of marketed goods, but even pots were taken overland for several miles if water was not available. The roads were not as bad as they were to become when narrow iron-tired wheels became the norm for passenger transport; medieval carts usually had two wheels, but a few households traveled in four-wheel carriages, like the one shown carrying ladies in the Luttrell Psalter; up to five horses were used for these. They were not so uncomfortable that 25 miles or sometimes more could not be covered in a day. River crossings might have to be by ferry, but many bridges were in place (Harrison 2004). These affected road lines, which often deviated from established routes; metaling was haphazard and no planned system existed (Taylor 1979), though certain types of map were appearing (Millea 2007).

  • Clark, John, ed. The Medieval Horse and Its Equipment, c. 1150–c. 1450. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1995.

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    London evidence of the use of horses comes from their bones, the iron shoes fitted to them, and occasional finds of spurs, curry combs, bridle bits, a few leather straps, stirrups, and heraldic pendants worn for display. Horseshoes are not a reliable guide to a horse’s size, but heavier ones demonstrate 13th-century awareness of the importance of weight for traction. The meat was not eaten except surreptitiously during famines.

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  • Harrison, David. The Bridges of Medieval England: Transport and Society 400–1800. Oxford Historical Monographs. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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    Good argument that flat-decked timber bridges were used in the 12th century, but that many had been rebuilt with stone vaults by 1250, which put them well above flood level. A town that built or improved a bridge might draw in traffic at the expense of a nearby rival. Costs were offset by toll revenues, but those could hinder trade; at Bedford, for instance, pottery made south of the river rarely crossed it.

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  • Langdon, John. Horses, Oxen and Technological Innovation: The Use of Draught Animals in English Farming from 1056 to 1500. Past and Present Publications. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

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    Classic study of how horses replaced oxen for plowing, at least on lighter soils, and for hauling carts. They were not as strong, but were much quicker and therefore could bring crops in from the fields more speedily at harvest time, and get goods to market more efficiently. The latter of these advantages may have particularly benefited those peasants who could take their produce to market, sell it, and return home within a single day.

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  • Millea, Nick. The Gough Map: The Earliest Road Map of Great Britain? Treasures from the Bodleian Library. Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2007.

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    East, toward Jerusalem, is at the top, but this mid-14th-century map does not show the pilgrims’ road from London to Canterbury, any more than all the traders’ roads to ports and the great fairs. It could be based on a map drawn up for Edward I, expressing his imperial ambitions. Geographical Information Systems work has related it to the modern map, with very close correlations, but only in some areas. Scotland was an unknown quantity.

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  • Taylor, Christopher. Roads and Tracks of Britain. London: Dent, 1979.

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    Still the most readable account, with a strong topographical approach. The roads inherited from prehistory and the Roman and early medieval periods remained the basis of such networks, some becoming more or less useless if a town failed to develop. Transhumance routes in Wales and Scotland are also considered.

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Waterways, the Sea, and Ships

An excellent introduction is Unger 1980, with McGrail 2001 authoritative on sailing and technology, and Hutchinson 1994 comprehensive on specifically British evidence. Direct evidence for medieval ships is thin; survivals are mostly of lengths of planking still attached to ribs, reused as revetting—examples include Westminster (Thomas et al. 2006). A few other craft are known from the Thames in London (Marsden 1996). The other survivals are from the River Severn (Nayling 1998). Ship building is not much more in evidence than the products (Watkins 1994). Inland waterways included artificial canals (Blair 2007).

  • Blair, John, ed. Waterways and Canal-Building in Medieval England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    Multiauthor volume in the “Medieval History and Archaeology” series. Subjects include salt transport, place-names that reveal landing places and the archaeological evidence for them, the Thames and its effects on the towns along its banks, monastic investment, canals and navigable channels in marshlands, and royal purveyance records and terminology. Navigability at different times of year of various watercourses remains debatable.

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  • Hutchinson, Gillian. Medieval Ships and Shipping. Archaeology of Medieval Britain. Leicester, UK: Leicester University Press, 1994.

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    Mine of information on cargoes, ports, and installations, navigation methods, and warfare—Henry V’s triple-planked Grace Dieu, now mud-covered but partly intact, is claimed to be the first vessel specifically built in England for the king’s wars. The reader is guided through the terminology and the sources.

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  • Marsden, Peter. Ships of the Port of London, Twelfth to Seventeenth Centuries AD. Archaeological Report 5. London: English Heritage, 1996.

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    At the Customs House, sides of boats dated by dendrochronology to c. 1160–1190 were reused to revet late-13th- and 14th-century waterfronts. They had fairly pointed ends and flat bottoms, and at only some 10 meters long, were probably rivercraft. They were made of overlapping oak planks—”clinker” building. Two clinker-built vessels at Blackfriars were longer but also flat-bottomed, and may have been “shouts,” or river barges.

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  • McGrail, Seán. Boats of the World, from the Stone Age to Medieval Times. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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    Temporal and geographical scope is awe-inspiring. The medieval longship or “Nordic” tradition becomes the focus after consideration of everything from skin boats to dugouts; then it morphs into an authoritative statement about the different sailing and other capacities of the sea-going vessels of northern Europe—the hulks, cogs, and other cargo carriers that made international bulk trade possible.

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  • Nayling, Nigel. The Magor Pill Medieval Wreck. Research Report 115. York, UK: Council for British Archaeology, 1998.

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    On an unexpected discovery of a substantial part of a boat, built c. 1240, according to dendrochronological dating, and sunk in marshland on the Welsh shore of the River Severn. The keel and planks were oak, with lines like a longship’s with pointed ends, but this was no raiding vessel. Its thick timbers suggest that it was constructed to be especially sturdy because of the Severn’s high tidal range and strong currents. Its final cargo was iron ore.

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  • Thomas, Christopher, Robert Cowie, and Jane Sidell. The Royal Palace, Abbey and Town of Westminster on Thorney Island: Archaeological Excavations (1991–8) for the London Underground Limited Jubilee Line Extension Project. MoLAS Monograph Series 22. London: Museum of London Archaeological Service, 2006.

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    Work at Westminster discussed under Royal Palaces and Bishops’ Palaces revealed foreshore reclamation and landing places, including a revetment that builders constructed by setting part of the side of a boat behind posts driven into the mud. Enough survived for Damian Goodburn to identify a seagoing vessel known as a “cog,” a short, sturdy vessel with a fairly flat bottom that rode quite low in the water and could therefore take bulky cargoes.

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  • Unger, Richard W. The Ship in the Medieval Economy, 600–1600. London: Croom Helm, 1980.

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    Outstanding because it stresses costs and crews, rather than technical details. Discusses all vessels from the Viking-style longships to cogs, without losing sight of the implications of change for carrying capacities and acceptable risk levels, and the need for crews to be able to defend themselves. Bigger ships meant greater costs, and shared enterprises developed to spread the risks.

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  • Watkin, David R. The Foundry: Excavations on Poole Waterfront 1986/7. Monograph Series 14. Dorchester, UK: Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society, 1994.

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    Evidence of medieval ship-building is very scarce; much of the wrights’ work was done on foreshores, and all traces of ephemeral structures have eroded away. The discovery of preserved oak and elm timbers in a waterlogged site in Poole is therefore highly unusual. They had probably been put into a tidal pond on the beach, to be kept moist.

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Trade

By and large, the goods traded internationally do not survive in the archaeological record: expensive furs, silks, cloths, and linens, and the costly dyes that embellished them, are mostly known from ecclesiastical robes. Wine and spices were consumed, while cavalry horses and the best armor are hardly recognizable among the bones and fragments. Spanish and Swedish steel is presumably incorporated in knife blades. Limestone from the quarries at Caen, Normandy, was the “royal stone.” The rich elites used sumptuary laws to ensure that they could express their status through what they were permitted to wear and eat, showing that they could acquire what was denied to others. Already before the 14th century, changes were becoming evident; some Baltic exports, such as timber and fish, were being carried in sufficient quantity to make up for shortfalls in western Europe, and a few wooden panel paintings have been shown to have come from the north; fish bones would not be distinguishable from native catches, however. Grain and malt carried in exchange have disappeared (Hybel 2002). Another difficulty is trade carried out through fairs (Moore 1985). For Britain, trade in salt became international when bigger boats could transport it in large quantities from southern France, where production required less fuel than the land’s supply of that resource (Hurst 1997, McAvoy 1994). Otherwise, volume demand only began to be a force in everyday foreign trade when beer, stoneware, and a few other commodities entered the market in the 14th and 15th centuries. Some minor items are an exception, being imported earlier than this (Crosby and Mitchell 1987).

  • Crosby, D. D. B., and J. G. Mitchell. “A Survey of British Metamorphic Hone Stones of the Ninth to Fifteenth Centuries A.D. in the Light of Potassium–Argon and Natural Remanent Magnetization Studies.” Journal of Archaeological Science 14.5 (1987): 483–506.

    DOI: 10.1016/0305-4403(87)90034-3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Norwegian ragstone used for small knife-sharpeners was shown chemically to have come from Eidsborg in southern Norway; purple phyllite may have come from Norway also, but other sources are possible. The former remained quite common throughout the Middle Ages in Britain, enough for the question to be asked whether it was a traded product, perhaps sought after because hones were carried on belts and were visible, and so a shiny stone was eye-catching.

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  • Hurst, J. D., ed. A Multi-Period Salt Production Site at Droitwich: Excavations at Upwich. Research Report 107. York, UK: Council for British Archaeology, 1997.

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    Excavation report on discoveries at the brine springs in the Salwarpe Valley, which are stronger and purer than most and so require less processing. In the 13th century, a well shaft was dug to bring the brine up by a winding gear. Coal began to replace wood as the fuel for the boiling hearths. The 1420s saw pipes for a pump inserted; one still had traces of an iron piston inside. The challenge of imported salt may have caused this investment.

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  • Hybel, N. “The Grain Trade in Northern Europe Before 1350.” Economic History Review 55.2 (2002): 219–247.

    DOI: 10.1111/1468-0289.00219Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Not an archaeological paper, but one with archaeological implications. Bigger ships could carry foodstuffs overseas, and so industrial areas could expand because they could rely on long-distance supplies. East coast ports were well placed to exchange goods with the Baltic and the Low Countries, which is a factor in the material prosperity visible in Lynn, Yarmouth, Boston, Hull, and Newcastle. Potential was not fully realized because of wars.

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  • McAvoy, Frank. “Marine Salt Extraction: The Excavation of Salterns at Wainfleet St Mary, Lincolnshire.” Medieval Archaeology 38 (1994): 134–163.

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    Salt production took place wherever there were tidal marshes, even as far north as the Firth of Forth: seawater was trapped, the pools were raked, and the sand piled up into banks. The salt was then filtered out of the sand, at this site by passing it through peat. The brine might dry out in the sun, but in Britain nearly always had also to be boiled in lead vats—traces of hearths were found.

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  • Moore, E. W. The Fairs of Medieval England: An Introductory Study. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1985.

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    Much trade was carried out in seasonal fairs, which by dint of their impermanence do not produce buildings, streets, and evidence of human occupation in a way that can be identified archaeologically. They facilitated circulation, and their regulations about the use of overseas coins that had a lower silver content than that in English pennies show that peasants were quite capable of dealing in complex systems.

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Artifacts, Crafts, and Technology

Inventories and other medieval documents show the very large sums of money spent by kings, aristocrats, and rich citizens on gold and silver plate, jewelry, and clothes, bedding and hangings. Most of the plate was melted down and the jewelry reshaped, and the textiles were organic and prone to rot. Surviving objects are therefore predominantly ceramics, which were mostly of low status, but give some indication of the spending power of different ranks within medieval society. Demand for very expensive objects promoted trade along with employment for a few. Most craftspeople worked for a wider market, the size of which fluctuated according to population size, wages, and custom. The application of technology was limited by the cost of initial investment and ability to transport finished products to market.

High-Status Objects

A few special objects have survived in church and college treasuries; three major exhibition catalogues have excellent photographs and descriptions; their titles become an increasing tribute to the emerging nation-state (Zarnecki, et al. 1984, Alexander and Binski 1987, Marks and Williamson 2003). One work that deserves a whole book to itself is the Wilton Diptych (Gordon, et al. 1997). Aristocratic life is represented by the Lewis chessmen, because chess was an appropriate activity for those with time for leisurely activities. It required skill as well as time to play. It had satisfying suggestions of a court structure centered on king and queen and could be played between the sexes (ladies were expected to show their inferior talents by losing). Another board game was Hnefatafl, and some of the pieces could have had a dual function (Caldwell, et al. 2009).

  • Alexander, Jonathan, and Paul Binski, eds. Age of Chivalry: Art in Plantagenet England, 1200–1400. London: Royal Academy of Arts, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1987.

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    Great buildings came to have huge windows and delicate tracery; stained glass threw color everywhere; even floors turned into programs of colored tile. People fastened their richly dyed gowns with gold brooches and played chess with elaborate pieces. They had expensive armor and fearsome swords. An indulgent smile is allowed at the peasants’ pathetic attempts to ornament clay pots.

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  • Caldwell, David H., Mark A. Hall, and Caroline M. Wilkinson. “The Lewis Hoard of Gaming-Pieces: A Re-Examination of Their Context, Meanings, Discovery, and Manufacture.” Medieval Archaeology 53 (2009): 155–204.

    DOI: 10.1179/007660909X12457506806243Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Challenges long-held view that the ninety-three walrus ivory objects found on the Isle of Lewis had been lost by a shipwrecked 12th-century merchant on his way from Norway to Ireland or Chester. Authors show that the style of the costume carved on some of the pieces dates from the early 13th century, and that such high-status possessions imply a cemented Norwegian relationship in the traditional manners of gift-giving and feasting.

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  • Gordon, D., L. Monnas, and C. Elam, eds. The Regal Image of Richard II and the Wilton Diptych. Studies in Medieval and Early Renaissance Art History Series. London: Harvey Miller, 1997.

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    Most of papers presented at a 1993 conference at the National Gallery during a special exhibition focus on implications for Richard II’s kingship, the secret messages in the badges, and his courtly cliques. The Wilton Diptych is iconic for its radiant blues and shimmering gold; look closely at the king’s robe and the badges sewn into it, and look at the white hart on the necklace round his neck, which the Virgin Mary and the supporting angels also wear while they present him with the royal standard. Marvel, and then shiver at his fate.

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  • Marks, Richard, and Paul Williamson, eds. Gothic. Art for England 1400–1547. London: V & A Publications, 2003.

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    Oh to be in England now that Perpendicular’s here, Chaucer is writing in English, and despite the Wars of the Roses and a few episodes against the French, everyone can build grand houses, endow colleges with plate so that its Fellows will remember to remember the donors, and be very pious both privately where God will see but also in public where everyone else will see. Peasants don’t get a glimpse.

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  • Zarnecki, George, Jane Holt, and Tristram Holland, eds. English Romanesque Art 1066–1200: Hayward Gallery, London, 5 April–8 July 1984. London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1984.

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    Three-dimensional work, carving in stone and ivory, and casting in copper alloy, distinguish the Romanesque, with enamels increasingly presenting colored surfaces, followed by stained glass. Manuscript paintings seem flat in comparison. Illustrations of churches show the contexts in which the sculptures appeared. Jewelry was mainly for showing off stones, and seals miniaturized architecture down to personal use.

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Products and Materials

Most studies of objects focus on a particular category, or on the materials from which they were made. Two important compendia on production industries, in which references to specialized work will be found, are Crossley 1981 and Blair and Ramsay 1991. Whether “industries” is the correct word is arguable, because few individual businesses employed more than a few journeymen and artisans; they did not accumulate much capital or concentrate several processes within a single building. The norm was for individual masters to work in their own premises, concentrating on a single activity—the weaver sold his piece to the fuller, who might sell it afterward to the dyer. Many of the works on artifacts recently have emanated from archaeological units, particularly using data from towns (see Assemblages); few museums now feel that they have any responsibility to make their collections available in catalogue form, but the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum is a very honorable exception (e.g., Saunders 2001). To be fair, however, many museums now have websites with lots of pictures, although not always with adequate descriptions. Hinton 2005 sought to give an overall perspective.

  • Blair, John, and Ramsay, Nigel, eds. English Medieval Industries: Craftsmen, Techniques, Products. London: Hambledon, 1991.

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    Very useful surveys of the materials used to make everything from buildings to belts. Several contributions are singled out in the categories below; others not separately listed include leather by John Cherry, and antler, bone, and horn by Arthur MacGregor.

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  • Crossley, David, ed. Medieval Industry. Research Report 40. London: Council for British Archaeology, 1981.

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    Although inevitably much in this conference proceedings volume has been overtaken by later discoveries and research, it is still useful, particularly on iron (below), but also for explanation of how mills came to be used in Dartmoor tin production, on smelting lead, on glass, about medieval mills, and on different types of sheep wool.

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  • Hinton, David A. Gold and Gilt, Pots and Pins: Possessions and People in Medieval Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    Second half of this book considers the 11th century to the 16th century, and what artifacts can say about social and economic conditions and changes. Inventories and taxation records offer much information about the property of the richer people; the very poor were not taxed, and so their goods were almost never valued. Pottery, the archaeologist’s most common find, was nearly always not worth valuing, unlike metal vessels.

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  • Saunders, Peter, ed. Salisbury Museum Medieval Catalogue Part 3. Salisbury, UK: Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, 2001.

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    Third of a planned four-part series (see also Spencer 1990, cited under Badges, Souvenirs, Love Tokens, Seals), brings together a number of authors to describe and discuss objects in which they have specialized. Different methods have created most museum collections; here, many came from Salisbury in the 19th century, when the town’s open gutters were cleared from the streets, many from 20th-century excavations of varying standards.

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Assemblages

Large urban excavations have produced thousands of finds, and the challenge of making them known has been met in different ways, including site excavation reports where their significance may not be fully recognized. One approach, taken by London, groups the objects according to their use (e.g. Egan and Pritchard 1991, Egan 1998). Winchester discussed the functions of crafts as well as objects in a composite two volumes (Biddle 1990); York generally focuses on the materials, but has a compendium volume (Ottaway and Rogers 2002). Two essays that take different approaches to the meanings of urban assemblages are Egan 2005 and Hall 2005. Quite extraordinary is the range of material from a coastal site at Meols, at the end of the Wirrall peninsula (Griffiths, et al. 2007).

  • Biddle, Martin, ed. Object and Economy in Medieval Winchester: Artifacts from Medieval Winchester. Winchester Studies 7.2. Oxford: Clarendon, 1990.

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    Two volumes in a multipart series, an ambitious project yet to be fully completed. These two volumes were quickly produced because a number of specialists came together and produced their reports without undue delay. The arrangement is interesting, because it makes possible not only the cataloguing of a wide range of objects, but also consideration of the different crafts that made them.

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  • Egan, Geoff. The Medieval Household: Daily Living c. 1150–c. 1450. Medieval Finds from Excavations in London 6. London: Stationery Office, 1998.

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    Drawing largely from the excavations undertaken on London’s waterfront, pulls together a wide range of artifacts that were used in the later medieval city’s houses and shops. Locks and keys figure prominently, as does cooking equipment (other than what was made of pottery). A few luxury items appear, such as imported glass and a carved ivory panel, some of which may have been merchants’ losses in transit rather than detritus.

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  • Egan, Geoff. “Urban and Rural Finds: Material Culture of Country and Town c. 1050–1500.” In Town and Country in the Middle Ages: Contrasts, Contacts, and Interconnections, 1100–1500. Edited by Kate Giles and Christopher Dyer, 197–210. Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph 22. Leeds, UK: Maney, 2005.

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    Particular study of finds from London ranges widely to consider the question of whether objects found in towns are in any significant ways different from those found in rural sites. Although preservation conditions mean that lead, pewter, and wood are more likely to survive in the former, overall there was an “essential homogeneity.”

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  • Egan, Geoff, and Frances Pritchard. Dress Accessories c. 1150–c. 1450. Medieval Finds from Excavations in London 3. London: Stationery Office, 1991.

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    People wore metal fittings like buckles on belts, which could be very plain or highly decorative; in London, the market increasingly offered a wide choice, much of it cheaply made. Some were practical, but many were simply embellishments. Few people could afford gold or silver, but pins and lace-ends show that their clothes were likely to be stylishly cut in the later 14th and 15th centuries, despite Church strictures about waste, lust, and greed.

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  • Griffiths, David, Robert A. Philpott, and Geoff Egan. Meols: The Archaeology of the North Wirrall Coast: Discoveries and Observations in the 19th and 20th Centuries, with a Catalogue of Collections. Monograph 68. Oxford: Oxford University School of Archaeology 2007.

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    Large range and quantity of objects have been retrieved from exposed sand dunes, where no port would have been feasible. Only traces of floors and buildings suggest any sort of infrastructure, and documents do not reveal a beach market where tolls were regularly collected, but the quantities of coins hint at illicit trading; alternatively, soldiers awaiting transit to Ireland were big spenders.

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  • Hall, Mark A. “Burgh Mentalities: A “Town-in-the-Country” Case Study of Perth, Scotland.” In Town and Country in the Middle Ages. Contrasts, Contacts, and Interconnections, 1100–1500. Society for Medieval Archaeology 22. Edited by Kate Giles and Christopher Dyer, 211–228. Leeds, UK: Maney, 2005.

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    Insofar as Scotland had a capital city, it was Perth rather than Edinburgh, at least ceremonially. Consequently, it had an international culture, reflected in the range of pilgrims’ badges, among other things. A knife handle carved with a “green man” suggests May Day celebrations with processions. Robin Hood stories were told, and plays were performed on the Corpus Christi feast (see also Hall 2005, cited under Literature).

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  • Ottaway, Patrick, and Nicola Rogers. Craft, Industry, and Everyday Life; Finds from Medieval York. Archaeology of York 17/15. York, UK: Council for British Archaeology, 2002.

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    York has adopted the fascicule approach; publication can take place whenever someone has completed work (e.g., Morris 2000, cited under Glass and Wood), and gradually a series will build up. This volume discusses some excavations undertaken not long before its publication, as well as covering a very wide range of objects. It shows the changes that occur after the Anglo-Scandinavian period—there are hints that the city was slower to take up new ideas than London.

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Textiles

Woolen cloth production was a British mainstay, and probably a principal export in the 12th century and certainly in the 14th and 15th centuries. In the archaeological record, it is indirectly manifested in the relative wealth invested in buildings in different parts of the island. Directly, it is less visible; most of the production processes leave behind little trace, and the products decay. The same is true of linen, more of which was imported, because flax grows only in damp areas. From picking or shearing through to fulling and dyeing, a series of operations was performed, each by a different person (Walton 1991). Traditionally, spinning was women’s work, turning their wooden spindles and stone or bone whorls while moving among their other chores and talking to their neighbors. The introduction of the spinning wheel during the 13th century did not entirely replace the older mode, and unfortunately no study shows whether the number of whorls found declines—many more survive than of organic spindles. Earlier on, the horizontal loom, probably increasingly used in the 11th century, changed weaving into a predominantly full-time, male craft; Certainly the warp-weighted vertical loom became obsolete—there are almost no loomweights in 12th-century and later contexts—the vertical two-beam loom does not leave that sort of trace, but the tools associated with it are not found on 12th-century and later sites either. The range of what survives is best shown from the excavations in London (Crowfoot, et al. 1992), York (Walton Rogers 1997), and Winchester (Keene 1990).

  • Crowfoot, Elisabeth, Frances Pritchard, and Kay Staniland. Textiles and Clothing, 1150–1450. Medieval Finds from Excavations in London. London: Stationery Office, 1992.

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    Waterlogged deposits in which some organic materials survived have revealed how different weaves can sometimes be identified. Mediterranean dyes were particularly expensive. Silk was also imported. Tailored clothes came to necessitate sewing and the use of buttons. Knitting was introduced. Linen for undergarments is probably underrepresented.

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  • Keene, Derek. “The Textile Industry.” In Object and Economy in Medieval Winchester: Artefacts from Medieval Winchester. Edited by Martin Biddle, 200–214. Winchester Studies 7.2. Oxford: Clarendon, 1990.

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    A wide range of practices, including high-quality embroidery, is known from early medieval Winchester, which in the 14th century was making coarse cloth for the domestic market; even that trade was lost in the 15th. Consequently, excavation in the lower part of the city, where there were running streams, has shown many changes. Particular craft activities can be linked to particular tenements according to the distribution of different types of artifact, catalogued after the discussion.

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  • Walton, Penelope. “Textiles.” In English Medieval Industries: Craftsmen, Techniques, Products. Edited by John Blair and Nigel Ramsay, 319–354. London: Hambledon, 1991.

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    Excellent short presentation of the different stages involved in producing woolen and linen cloth, and finishing imported silk. Flax retting, sheep shearing, spinning, weaving, fulling, and dyeing are all explained. Maps show the major cloth-producing towns and areas at different times, as demand fluctuated—sometimes there was a wider market for cheaper products, but the biggest profits were made at the luxury end.

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  • Walton Rogers, Penelope. Textile Production at 16–22 Coppergate. Archaeology of York 17.11: The Small Finds. York, UK: Council for British Archaeology, 1997.

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    Major excavations spanned the Anglo-Scandinavian and subsequent periods, and so this report has a useful continuum of evidence; and because of anaerobic conditions, organic materials survived, such as wooden bale pins used to transport cloth by packhorse—their quantity at the site may indicate repacking. Iron spikes show that linen was being “heckled” and wool combed—the wool card was a technological innovation of the 13th century.

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Clay

Pots, bricks, and floor and roof tiles were the main products using baked earth. Broken potsherds are ubiquitous, and a few whole pots are found at the bottoms of wells. It is usually assumed that they fell in when being filled with water, but a few might have been used to carry ale up to the well for binge session at a public gossiping-place. There has not been a single, comprehensive book on medieval pottery for many years, but there have been some excellent museum productions (e.g., Jennings 1992), syntheses of excavation finds (Vince 1985), and many regional studies; emphasis now is on marketing systems, because pots are one of the only ways in which to explore peasant trading (e.g., Mellor 2005). Clay had other potential uses: Britain imported a few stoves from Germany (Gaimster and Nenk 1997), but these efficient house-heaters did not replace the open hearth in most halls, and side fireplaces and chimneys were a preferred alternative. Other clay products were crucibles (see Metals), roof and floor tiles (Cherry 1991), and bricks (Moore 1991).

  • Cherry, John. “Pottery and Tile.” In English Medieval Industries: Craftsmen, Techniques, Products. Edited by John Blair and Nigel Ramsay, 189–210. London: Hambledon, 1991.

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    Fired clay was not only used for pottery, but also for roof tiling and decorative floors. Skilled itinerant craftsmen working on specific, usually church, floors, using white clay from the 1240s in some very fine work, were gradually copied in mass production of inferior standard at a few fixed centers until either the market had been filled or was too depressed by economic conditions. The craft revived, with skilled work resumed in the 15th century.

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  • Gaimster, David, and Beverley Nenk. “English Households in Transition, c. 1450–1550: The Ceramic Evidence.” In The Age of Transition. The Archaeology of English Culture 1400–1600. Edited by David Gaimster and Paul Stamper, 171–195. Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph 15. Oxford: Oxbow, 1997.

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    German and Low Countries immigrants affected the late medieval culture of England, especially in the eastern counties. Alien craftsmen included brick makers, but their main impact was in textile production. Contacts with their homelands stimulated the import of a range of drinking cups, tin-glazed altar vessels, ointment pots, and floor tiles. Also imported were a few stoves, seemingly only adopted in monasteries and rich people’s houses.

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  • Jennings, Sarah. Medieval Pottery in the Yorkshire Museum. York, UK: Yorkshire Museum, 1992.

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    Popular, very well-illustrated booklet with plenty of color photographs, reproductions of the (few) medieval manuscript pictures that show pots in use—including one in the Luttrell Psalter showing a jug being broken over someone’s head—and enough line drawings to satisfy the expert. Most of the pottery came from within a 30-mile radius of York, from various known and unknown kilns, a typical market pattern.

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  • Mellor, Maureen. “Making and Using Pottery in Town and Country.” In Town and Country in the Middle Ages. Contrasts, Contacts and Interconnections, 1100–1500. Edited by Giles, Kate and Christopher Dyer, 149–164. Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph 22. Leeds, UK: Maney, 2005.

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    Author has studied the pottery in and around Oxford, a study area used in the 1950s and 1960s by Martyn Jope to try to show that different regions in England had distinct regional characteristics, making “culture-regions” recognizable. The distribution of a particular shape of pot does not correlate with that of a method of timber-framing, however, and attention has therefore focused on marketing and how potters adapted to new demands.

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  • Moore, Nicholas J. “Brick.” In English Medieval Industries: Craftsmen, Techniques, Products. Edited by John Blair and Nigel Ramsay, 212–236. London: Hambledon, 1991.

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    Cheap today but not in the Middle Ages, bricks were used in a few contexts such as town walls in eastern England where stone was expensive, and Beverley and Hull ran commercial enterprises. Costs were high because skilled bricklayers expected high wages. Transport from kilns to sites was also costly, so 15th-century use of brick was nearly all on grand houses, college gateways, and the like, where display was important.

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  • Vince, Alan. “The Saxon and Medieval Pottery of London: A Review.” Medieval Archaeology 29 (1985): 25–93.

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    Pottery from excavations with good dating evidence, and the study of existing collections, allowed a chronological sequence to be established for London. The city was an international market, so pottery could range from a luxury jug to a basic cooking jar, although in practice little was in the former category, mostly late medieval tin-glazed wares from Italy, Spain, and the Low Countries.

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Glass and Wood

Wood was fundamental for buildings, tools, and many things that today would be made in metal or plastic (Munby 1991); archaeologists are lucky to find any artifacts, and the best assemblages are from York (Morris 2000) and London (Keys 1998). Glass could be either a very expensive import, or a lower-quality material used for windows and such vessels as urinals; production in England restarted in 13th-century Kent (Tyson 2000, Welch 1997).

  • Keys, Lynne. “Wooden Vessels.” In The Medieval Household: Daily Living c. 1150–c. 1450. Edited by Geoff Egan, 196–216. Medieval Finds from Excavations in London 6. London: Stationery Office, 1998.

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    Turned bowls for serving drink and food were much commoner than survivals indicate; the potters could have offered competition, but rarely did so until stoneware and other beakers became preferred for drinking, in London from the late 13th century onward. Was the reason that clay was an earth material and therefore perceived as “dirty,” or that medieval preconceptions eschewed direct competition?

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  • Morris, Carole A. Wood and Woodworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York: Craft, Industry, and Everyday Life. Archaeology of York 17, fasc. 13. York, UK: Council for British Archaeology, 2000.

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    Timber for wooden products had to be carefully selected, and although in theory anyone could whittle out a spoon, specialist expertise was needed for turning a cup on a pole-lathe, splitting roof shingles, selecting the right poles for basketry, or fitting the staves together to cooper a barrel. This fascicule ranges far beyond York. Turners were sometimes using maker’s marks long before a London regulation required it of them in 1346.

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  • Munby, Julian. “Wood.” In English Medieval Industries: Craftsmen, Techniques, Products. Edited by John Blair and Nigel Ramsay, 379–405. London: Hambledon, 1991.

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    Masterful summary of the material used for roof timbers and wall posts, carts, and virtually anything that did not absolutely have to be made of metal. The raw material was bulky to transport, but not prohibitively; oak was being imported from the Baltic by the 13th century.

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  • Tyson, Rachel. Medieval Glass Vessels Found in England c. AD 1200–1500. CBA Research Report 121. York, UK: Council for British Archaeology, 2000.

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    Very thorough study and catalogue. Remains of soda-glass imported beakers and stemmed goblets are very special finds. In London, enameled beakers from Italy showed off rich merchants’ connections; even rarer were flasks from Syria and Egypt. Some lead glass was probably made in Germany, but English production from the 13th century was of less translucent potash glass, for urinals, hanging-lamps, and distilling equipment.

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  • Welch, C. M. “Glassmaking in Wolseley, Staffordshire.” Post-Medieval Archaeology 31 (1997): 1–60.

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    Coal could not be used for medieval glass-making, and so the earliest production centers needed access to plenty of wood, as well as to bracken or similar plants to make potash to mix in with silica. For Staffordshire and Shropshire furnaces, window glass was important; they are known to have supplied Westminster, though some churches stipulated in their contracts that English glass was not to be used.

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Stone

Building stone has been studied by a number of authors (e. g. Parsons 1990, Blair and Ramsay 1991, Tatton-Brown 2001). It was otherwise used for lamps, which were bowls in which a wick could float in oil or fat; touchstones for testing the purity of gold; molds for base-metal dress fasteners; brooches and badges; hones that everyone needed for sharpening their knives; millstones and hand querns; mortars, which quite often broke from pounding; and grinding stones (Allan 1984; and see Transport and Trade). When broken, larger stonesstill had a use as rubble-walling material; a mortar from which the bottom had cracked off was found recently reused as a drain.

  • Allan, John. Medieval and Post-Medieval Finds from Exeter 1971–1980. Exeter Archaeological Reports 3. Exeter, UK: Exeter City Council and University of Exeter, 1984.

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    Most excavations produce bits of stone artifact of one sort or another; 1970s work in Exeter produced a fairly typical range—lamps, several mortars, a mold, fireproof local slates, and quernstones. Hand querns and millstones were usually disc-shaped, but Exeter also had examples of the “pot-quern” with a heavier domed upper stone, and a greater curve to the grinding surfaces. The discs could also be set vertically and used as grindstones.

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  • Blair, John, and Ramsay, Nigel, eds. English Medieval Industries: Craftsmen, Techniques, Products. London: Hambledon, 1991.

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    A variety of different quarries was available, and rich aristocrats and churches would pay a lot for the best stone; some fine limestone was imported from Caen, the “royal stone” for Norman castles and cathedrals; dark Purbeck marble was very distinctive, and distribution maps of its use for columns, effigies, and tomb slabs attest to effective distribution systems. White alabaster from near Nottingham challenged it in the 14th century and later.

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  • Parsons, David, ed. Stone: Quarrying and Building in England A.D. 43–1525. Chichester, UK: Phillimore in Association with the Royal Archaeological Institute, 1990.

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    Quarrying restarted in the late Anglo-Saxon period because Roman ruins were no longer an adequate source as demand increased. Some was imported for its own sake, or arrived as ballast and ended up in port walls; many different quarries were exploited, such as west Yorkshire for slate, which was not solely used for roofs; and flint quarries were common in East Anglia.

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  • Tatton-Brown, Tim. “The Quarrying and Distribution of Reigate Stone in the Middle Ages.” Medieval Archaeology 45 (2001): 189–201.

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    Upper Greensand is easily cut and is therefore used for dressings in flint or other rubble walls, though it does not have as long a life as that of good limestone. The author used both archaeological and documentary evidence to show how a short cart journey would have transported stone to locations where riverboats could transport it on downstream to London. Some was used in the city, some reloaded onto coastal boats.

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Metals

So far as is known, gold was not extracted from Wales in the Middle Ages; there are occasional finds in Scotland, but they are incidental and unlikely to have provided any significant quantity. Silver, from Devon, Cumberland, the Peak District, and the Pennines, was usually found with lead, so was worth extracting if a vein appeared; it would not have been enough to sustain the coinage, however. Lead also came from the Welsh Marches. Tin was found only in the southwest and a very few other places in Europe. It is combined with lead to make pewter (Homer 1991). Copper was imported, and mixed with various combinations of tin, zinc, and lead; “bronze” is a specific alloy, and so “copper-alloy” is used to avoid precise categorization (Lewis 1987, Blair and Blair 1991). Evidence of metalworking is found in many towns; clay crucibles are found encrusted with molten metals (Bayley 1996). Iron was the least valuable metal, but could be decorative as well as functional, and the incorporation of hard steel into softer wrought iron was skillfully done (Crossley 1981, Cowgill, et al. 1987, Geddes 1991).

  • Bayley, Justine. “Innovation in Later Medieval Urban Metalworking.” Journal of Historical Metallurgical Society 30.2 (1996): 67–71.

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    The 13th century saw increasing guild and other regulations that tended to group craftworkers together, and so excavations in towns find decreasing evidence of metalworking scattered throughout them. Crucibles became bigger, and their flat bases responded to a new furnace design—previously, the crucibles sat in a bed of charcoal. Those used for refining changed from clay to bone-ash.

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  • Blair, Claude, and Blair, John. “Copper Alloys.” In English Medieval Industries: Craftsmen, Techniques, Products. Edited by John Blair and Nigel Ramsay, 81–106. London: Hambledon, 1991.

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    Husband-and-wife joint authorship quite often pairs names for publication, but father-and-son is rare. In this case, the coeditor was able to conscript a specialist in European armor to investigate evidence of extraction and processing. Most copper alloys involved casting, so the debris of molds and sprues shows where it took place. Roger Brownsword breaks into the family discussion with a contribution on metallurgical analyses.

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  • Cowgill, Jane, Margaret de Neergaard, and Nick Griffiths. Knives and Scabbards. Medieval Finds from Excavations in London 1. London: Stationery Office, 1987.

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    Makers’ marks began to be stamped onto knife blades in the 13th century, so that poor-quality work could be traced back to the cutler responsible. The cutler sold the blades on to someone who worked in wood or horn to fit the handles. Tailors’ shears and scissors were also made. Skills included welding softer but cheaper wrought iron to steel cores that could be kept sharp. Many scabbards were decorated, to enhance an owner’s belt.

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  • Crossley, David, ed. Medieval Industry. Research Report 40. London: Council for British Archaeology, 1981.

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    Several contributions on iron in this book are still useful: how ore is smelted to extract slags and leave a bloomery iron for the smiths; how water power came to be applied; and the introduction of the blast furnace in 1496 for making cast iron; a good basic explanation of steel and how it was used, for instance, in knife blades; and all the tools that blacksmiths supplied to farmers and craftsmen.

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  • Geddes, Jane. “Iron.” In English Medieval Industries: Craftsmen, Techniques, Products. Edited by John Blair and Nigel Ramsay, 167–188. London: Hambledon, 1991.

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    The author has made many contributions to the study of ironwork, much of it highly decorated, used as openwork screens, or as door and chest fittings. Everyday blacksmiths made tools, horseshoes, nails, and much else. Excavations have found a few smiths’ forges, but the residues of their hearths are often found scattered throughout settlements.

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  • Homer, R. F. “Tin, Lead and Pewter.” In English Medieval Industries: Craftsmen, Techniques, Products. Edited by John Blair and Nigel Ramsay, 57–80. London: Hambledon, 1991.

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    Useful summary of metals used to make small things such as pilgrims’ badges, with pewter plate becoming increasingly common in the 14th and 15th centuries, a sign of a rising market for a product that was seen as above the basic level of clay pottery. One section focuses on the Devonshire mines at Bere Alston, where subsequent work has been done.

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  • Lewis, John M. “Bronze Aquamaniles and Ewers.” Datasheet 7. Finds Research Group 700–1700, 1987.

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    The author worked at the National Museum of Wales, and so most of the vessels described are Welsh finds, showing how European modes spread widely by the 13th century. One ewer is personalized with an inscription, “I am the laver Gilbert. . . “; its intended function was thus to pour water over the hands for washing. Also for hand-washing were aquamaniles, cast animal bodies with pouring spouts in the mouth, or a tap in the stomach.

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Badges, Souvenirs, Love Tokens, Seals

The Wilton Diptych shows King Richard II wearing his White Hart badge suspended on a neck chain formed of broom cods, another badge that had come to be a play on the family name, Plantagenet (French plante à genet). Some idea of the fine and costly workmanship involved comes from the Dunstable Swan, a gold and enamel brooch perhaps worn by a lady at a tournament to show her support for a Lancastrian knight. Such display of political allegiance was the downside of such finery (Siddons 2009). Base-metal family badges are much commoner, but before those became familiar, people had become used to other sorts of badges—in particular, the Jews’ Moses tablets and the pilgrims’ signs, worn to show what shrines had been visited (see Pilgrimages and Shrines). These derived special qualities from their association; medieval belief allowed for physical objects to contain spiritual properties, and in particular for precious and semi-precious stones—and some things like flints believed to be thunder-stones—to be efficacious in particular circumstances, such as warning of poison. They might also affect the humors—blue sapphire was regarded as cold and therefore good for quelling passion. Incantations were inscribed on rings and brooches, as were amatory texts, usually in French (Evans 1922). That throws a question mark over literacy—how many could read a text, as opposed to recognize a few letters? Seals, although very widely used, cannot be taken as proof of secular knowledge of Latin, for instance (Adams, et al. 2008). At a lower level, secular badges might be indecent (Spencer 1990).

  • Adams, Noel, John Cherry, and James Robinson. Good Impressions: Image and Authority in Medieval Seals. British Museum Research Publication 168. London: British Museum, 2008.

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    “Great” seals authenticated the most important state documents with images of kingship on them: ruler as mounted warrior protecting his people, and as seated judge presiding over them. Institutions, from monasteries to towns, also presented their self-images through their seals. By the 13th century, even peasants needed seals. Many are found broken, to prevent illicit use. Lead was cheap, did not need to be cast, and could be recut easily.

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  • Evans, Joan. Magical Jewels of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Particularly in England. Oxford: Clarendon, 1922.

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    Although far older than anything else recommended in this bibliography, this book remains useful because it explains so much about the inscriptions and the meanings of the stones on finger rings and brooches, in gold, silver, and base metal. Some inscriptions were incantations, especially prophylactics against sudden death, the falling sickness, or epilepsy. Marriage and betrothal rings, with clasped hands, often carried sentimental inscriptions.

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  • Jones, Malcolm. The Secret Middle Ages: Discovering the Real Medieval World. Stroud, UK: Sutton, 2002.

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    Reveals all that could be believed, from the serious to the seemingly incredible, and how material culture was used to express it all: printing put erotica into circulation, as it could be seen in private without being displayed in public; and displays of sexual pudenda on sculptures were publicly visible, but were meant to be warnings against lust, not encouragements. Magical jewels, prophylactic incantations, and scurrilous badges are all considered.

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  • Siddons, M. P. Heraldic Badges in England and Wales. Vol. 1, Introduction. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2009.

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    First of a four-volume set, the one with pictures. Outlines the association of badges with heraldry. The plumes worn on helmets were one source of motifs, like the Prince of Wales’s ostrich feathers. Others were wordplay, like the Mowbrays’ mulberry. Some were mockery; the Duke of Orleans took a knobbed club, like a fighting wild man, and so the Duke of Burgundy adopted a plane, to take off his rival’s rough edges.

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  • Spencer, Brian. Pilgrim Souvenirs and Secular Badges. Salisbury Museum Medieval Catalogue Part 2. Salisbury, UK: Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, 1990.

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    Some badges crossed the divide between religion and politics. Thomas of Lancaster’s murder by Edward II made him an undeserving martyr who suited his family’s cause, and a surprisingly popular cult grew up around him. Lead was cheap and could be painted, so devices were widely worn to show allegiance to a great family. Others were favors given at harvest festivals and the like. Some are rude and scurrilous.

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Coins

A very large specialist literature exists on all aspects of coins and coinage; Spufford 1988 places developments into a European context, while papers in Wood 2004 give a good idea of the questions relating to British coins and their uses. Twelfth-century and later coinage was closely controlled except when the government was on the point of collapse in the civil war, but the silver pennies were no longer things of beauty; new kings did not always even bother to have the names changed on the dies, and the images were left unaltered. Gold coins were different; Henry III issued a few in the 1250s, but the metal was too scarce then for a currency in it to be sustained, and gold was reintroduced in 1351. The numbers of coins minted varied according to supplies as well as demand; the numbers of coins found dating from the second half of the 12th and the 13th centuries increases, with a surge in the second half of the 13th century, but this was also a period of low wages and fluctuating but often relatively high prices, and so the poor suffered. Debased pennies from the Low Countries sought to fill the demand for low-value coins in the 13th century—halfpennies were not struck in enough quantity and are not often found—and silver Venetian “galyhalfpens” arrived in millions in the 15th century, as did copper-alloy Nuremberg tokens. The volume of circulation is an archaeological issue—it is one thing to know the numbers issued by the mints, another to know how many regularly passed from hand to hand or were acquired and kept in store until needed to pay the rent (Dyer 1997, Allen 2007). Hoards are found, some with just a few coins, others with hundreds (e.g., Allen 2005); the 1460s have some with jewels that show the problems of the Wars of the Roses (Cherry 1973).

  • Allen, Martin. “The Fourteenth-Century Hoard from Chesterton Lane Corner, Cambridge.” British Numismatic Journal 75 (2005): 63–90.

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    A hoard of 1,805 silver and nine gold coins found in a fairly routine excavation of a site on the outskirts of Cambridge was highly unusual. The site was owned by a priory, and so the hoard was probably hidden by a tenant—presumably a merchant, not a farmer. The silver was 89 percent English, with a small number of Scottish, Irish, and continental coins—a typical random collection. All the gold was minted between 1353 and 1356.

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  • Allen, Martin. “The Proportions of the Denominations in English Mint Outputs, 1351–1485.” British Numismatic Journal 77 (2007): 196–209.

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    One of several useful papers by Allen on the quantities of different coins being issued at various times. The 14th and 15th centuries saw new gold and other high-denomination coins minted, but a shortage of halfpennies and farthings led to complaints that the poor could not get change for minor purchases like a farthing loaf. Considers hoards, but not single finds.

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  • Cherry, John. “The Medieval Jewellery from the Fishpool, Nottinghamshire, Hoards.” Archaeologia 104 (1973): 307–322.

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    Hoarding of coins, and after 1150 sometimes also jewelry, occurred intermittently throughout the Middle Ages, there being no safer banking system. Unlike earlier periods, no hoard has been found that contains gold and silver plate, or even spoons, although inventories show how much was owned. Two especially spectacular hoards were hidden in the 1460s, during the worst period of fighting in the Wars of the Roses.

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  • Dyer, Christopher. “Peasants and Coins: The Use of Money in the Middle Ages.” British Numismatic Journal 67 (1997): 30–47.

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    Coins excavated at rural sites would not suggest that very large numbers were used in them; the highest total found was at Westbury, Buckinghamshire, and that was only seventeen. But metal detecting has turned this on its head; literally hundreds of silver pennies have been found out in the fields, where most must have dropped out of peasants’ purses. In ratio terms, the dynamics are the same—considerable increase 1280–1350, thereafter a distinct drop.

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  • Spufford, Peter. Money and Its Use in Medieval Europe. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

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    Second half of this book looks at the later Middle Ages, stressing the ebbs and flows in coinage caused by mines where veins created a glut when newly discovered, but which caused deflation when they ran out. Northern European rulers sought to emulate Italian gold coins, for prestige and to fill their treasuries. The gold had to be exchanged for silver, causing another supply problem, but English “sterling” was maintained with a high silver content.

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  • Wood, Diana, ed. Medieval Money Matters. Oxford: Oxbow, 2004.

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    Considers the extent to which Britain had societies that used coins for exchanges such as buying commodities and paying rent, rather than relying on gifts, bartering, or paying in services and kind. Whether enough coins circulated for a fully monetary, rather than just a money-using economy, depended on the number of coins in circulation, the speed at which they changed hands, and the number of times that they were used.

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LAST MODIFIED: 12/15/2010

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195396584-0052

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