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Medieval East Anglia

Medieval East Anglia

Edited by Christopher Harper-Bill
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 356
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  • Book Info
    Medieval East Anglia
    Book Description:

    East Anglia was the most prosperous region of medieval England; far from being an isolated backwater, it had strong economic, religious and cultural connections with continental Europe, with Norwich for a time England's second city. The essays in this volume bring out the importance of the region during the middle ages. Spanning the late eleventh to the fifteenth century, they offer a broad coverage of East Anglia's history and culture; particular topics examined include its landscape, urban history, buildings, government and society, religion and rich culture. Contributors: Christopher Harper-Bill, Tom Williamson, Robert E. Liddiard, P. Maddern, Brian Ayers, Elisabeth Rutledge, Penny Dunn, Kate Parker, Carole Rawcliffe, James Campbell, Lucy Marten, Colin Richmond, T. M. Colk, Carole Hill, T.A. Heslop, A.E. Oliver, Theresa Coletti, Penny Granger, Sarah Salih

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-413-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of illustrations
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xi)
    Christopher Harper-Bill
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)
    Christopher Harper-Bill

    THE PUBLICATION of this volume of essays presents an opportunity for a brief and necessarily selective survey of the progress of East Anglian medieval studies over the last quarter century, and to suggest avenues of profitable research for the future.¹ The chronological limits of this conspectus are largely limited by the editor’s own knowledge to the long period from the Conquest to the eve of the Reformation, and with a few notable exceptions, it deals only with books and excludes the voluminous, and often very valuable, periodical literature, much of it published inNorfolk ArchaeologyandProceedings of the Suffolk...


    • Explaining Regional Landscapes: East Anglia and the Midlands in the Middle Ages
      (pp. 11-32)
      Tom Williamson

      HISTORIANS have long recognised that the medieval settlement patterns and field systems of ‘greater East Anglia’ – here defined as Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and the eastern parts of Hertfordshire – differed markedly from those of the Midlands (Fig. 1).¹ The latter was essentially (although with notable exceptions) a ‘champion’ district: by the thirteenth century the majority of people lived in nucleated villages and farmed their land in extensive open-fields of ‘regular’ form, that is, in which holdings were evenly and sometimes very regularly spread throughout the territory of the vill, and in which one ‘field’ – a continuous area occupying...

    • The Castle Landscapes of Anglo-Norman East Anglia: A Regional Perspective
      (pp. 33-51)
      Robert Liddiard

      THE TOPIC of ‘castles and landscapes’ has seen much fruitful research in recent years, as scholars from several disciplines have sought to examine the impact of the castle on the landscape andvice versa. Research in this field is still in its infancy, but the welcome publication of a monograph explicitly dealing with the ‘landscape approach’ as a way of studying the medieval castle marks a significant stage in a subject still heavily influenced by military determinism.²

      This paper considers two aspects of castle-building and the landscape. The first concerns the relationship between castles and the wider pattern of settlement...

    • Imagining the Unchanging Land: East Anglians Represent their Landscape, 1350–1500
      (pp. 52-67)
      Philippa Maddern

      IN THE 1380s, John Trevisa, translating Ranulf Higden’sPolychronicon, produced an idyllic description of English landscape:

      For [th]is ilond is beest and bringe[th] for[th] trees and fruyt and re[th]eren] and o[th]er bestes, and wyn growe[th] [th]er in som place. [Th]e lond ha[th] plente of foules and of bestes of dyuers manere kynde; [th]e lond is plentevous … noble, copious and riche of nobil welles and of nobil ryueres wi[th] plente of fische.¹

      Higden’s sources, including Bede, Gerald of Wales, Pliny and Isidore of Seville, were equally complimentary about England’s waterways, surrounding oceans, and mineral wealth. The seas allegedly contained ‘margery...


    • Understanding the Urban Environment: Archaeological Approaches to Medieval Norwich
      (pp. 68-82)
      Brian Ayers

      NORWICH has been described as ‘the best case from Britain of archaeologists, in conjunction with historians, elucidating the early development of a town’.¹ This passage drew attention to a research policy where hypotheses had been formulated, tested, rejected where necessary and elsewhere developed, in order to increase understanding of the medieval city. It was a policy rooted in the work of the Norwich Survey of the Centre for East Anglian Studies at the University of East Anglia in the 1970s, and one which has informed much research since.

      The great walled city that was medieval Norwich by the mid-fourteenth century...

    • Lawyers and Administrators: The Clerks of Late-Thirteenth-Century Norwich
      (pp. 83-98)
      Elizabeth Rutledge

      TRADITIONALLY the occupational structure of medieval towns has been considered as falling into two main categories, the merchant class and the artisan, with the addition of the ecclesiastical sector. Recently there has been more recognition that major provincial cities would have needed a professional literate class to function but, unlike the merchants and the artisans, the members of this class are difficult to recognise or to quantify.² However, an intriguing feature of Serena Kelly’s study of the economic structure of Norwich between 1285 and 1311 is the number of men owning property in Norwich who were described asclericior...

    • Financial Reform in Late Medieval Norwich: Evidence from an Urban Cartulary
      (pp. 99-114)
      Penny Dunn

      I WAS SURPRISED by something I read recently in the newCambridge Urban History of Britain.¹ In his general survey of towns in Britain between 1300 and 1540 Professor Barrie Dobson made the point that ‘no late medieval British borough seems to have produced a comprehensive cartulary of its holdings of real property’.² This caught my attention because the source I was working on at the time, the Norwich Domesday Book compiled around 1396, was exactly that: a late medieval urban cartulary.³ In the words of G.R.C. Davis ‘Cartularies are registers of muniments, that is to say of the title-deeds,...

    • A Little Local Difficulty: Lynn and the Lancastrian Usurpation
      (pp. 115-129)
      Kate Parker

      IN 1417 a royal inquisition into the troubles in Lynn described ‘divers dissensions, discords and debates which have continued for no small time and still do so daily’.¹ It admitted that King Henry V ‘… has so far been unable to induce the parties to compromise, negotiate and make a final agreement … or to obtain true knowledge of the cause’.² These troubles had by then been grinding on for a decade and would continue for another three years. By 1420 the parties had exhausted themselves and amodus vivendiwas adopted which finally seemed to suit both sides. However,...

    • Health and Safety at Work in Late Medieval East Anglia
      (pp. 130-152)
      Carole Rawcliffe

      EVEN at a distance of five hundred years, Alice Dymock emerges from the Yarmouth leet rolls as an unusually colourful character. The litany of presentments made against her begins unremarkably enough, in the mid 1480s with charges of petty larceny, quarrelling with her neighbours and selling ale against the assize, all of which were common misdemeanours.¹ Her light-fingered husband, however, was already keeping a disorderly house; and in 1491 she herself was amerced as a procuress. She incurred a similar fine two years later, when her lover, one John Robbins, also ran into trouble for almost murdering her husband. We...


    • Hundreds and Leets: A Survey with Suggestions
      (pp. 153-167)
      James Campbell

      ‘In the Domesday county there were twenty four and a half or twenty four hundreds.’ ‘In the modern county of Suffolk there are twenty one.’¹ This use of the present tense, in 1911, is noteworthy. The hundredal divisions of Suffolk and Norfolk are first known to us in Domesday Book. As centuries passed there were alterations and rationalisations. Nevertheless most of the divisions were still recognised eight hundred years later. Hundreds had no legal significance after 1879;² but their boundaries continued to serve for purposes of local government.³ The almost geological durability of such units is a tribute to the...

    • The Rebellion of 1075 and its Impact in East Anglia
      (pp. 168-182)
      Lucy Marten

      IN 1075 William the Conqueror faced one of the most serious threats to his kingship of the English people. It was a rebellion that threatened to combine the forces of three of William’s own earls across the breadth of England with a Danish invasion fleet. It was a challenge to the legitimacy of William’s position and it was the occasion for a battle, a long siege and months of troop mobilisation. According to Archbishop Lanfranc, acting in the absence of the king, there were still ‘three hundred heavily-armed soldiers supported by a large force of slingers and siege engineers’ outside...

    • East Anglian Politics and Society in the Fifteenth Century: Reflections, 1956–2003
      (pp. 183-208)
      Colin Richmond

      NOT 1952 as advertised I should say. In 1952 I was far too occupied with a first experience of unrequited love to spare a thought for East Anglian politics and society; indeed I had no idea where East Anglia was. The girl by the way was called Audrey Brewster and I have attempted to commemorate her and the dramatic summer of that year in a paper published inThe London Philatelistof 1992–93 entitled ‘Audrey Brewster, Rosa Luxemburg and Me’. The year ought rightly to be 1956, when in my first term at the then University College of Leicester...


    • Twelfth-Century East Anglian Canons: A Monastic Life?
      (pp. 209-224)
      Terrie Colk

      THE TWELFTH CENTURY was a time of reform and renewal: a renaissance, which some historians believe changed essential conceptions of a Christian life.¹ For monasticism, it was a time of new reforms, new writings and a new challenging of old practices. In this desire for change, new religious orders, splintering away from main groupings, grew in number and variety. In this paper, I intend to consider a regional dimension of one of these new orders, the Augustinian canons regular, which flourished in the eastern counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire. This region is representative of Augustinian England in its...

    • ‘Leave my Virginity Alone’: The Cult of St Margaret of Antioch in Norwich: In Pursuit of a Pragmatic Piety
      (pp. 225-245)
      Carole Hill

      THE LATE MEDIEVAL period was a dangerous time, physically and spiritually, for women in childbirth. Naturally, they took this risk very seriously and the time of confinement was approached with some trepidation and spiritual preparedness. That is, they confessed their sins and were absolved, and they invoked suitable spiritual intercessors, the better to ensure the physical safety of their child and their own survival; or if the worst should happen, they at least died shriven.

      Wemen that here wyt chyld al-so,

      Thu mot teche how thai sall do,

      Wen ther tyme es nere to comme.

      Byd tham do thus all...

    • Swaffham Parish Church: Community Building in Fifteenth-Century Norfolk
      (pp. 246-271)
      T.A. Heslop

      THE REBUILDING of the nave and west tower of Swaffham parish church in the second half of the fifteenth century was an ambitious project which is also very well documented. The aim of this paper is to explore it from two perspectives, broadly speaking architectural and historical. In doing so, I seek to bring out the particularities of the building aesthetically and as a community enterprise. The first section introduces some key issues in the historiography of fifteenth-century architecture in England in order to question some assumptions which, I suggest, still bedevil the subject. The second section focuses on Swaffham...


    • Battling Bishops: Late Fourteenth-Century Episcopal Masculinity Admired and Decried
      (pp. 272-286)
      Andrea E. Oliver

      TWO battling bishops – one real and one imaginary, one East Anglian and one not – feature in this paper. The former is the somewhat bellicose Henry Despenser, bishop of Norwich 1370–1406, whilst the latter is Bishop Turpin, the epitome of muscular Christianity and the hero of theSege off Melayne, a late-fourteenth-century Middle English verse romance. The aims of this paper are two-fold – to consider Despenser’s portrayal in the chronicles in the light of Turpin’s characterisation in the romance, and to explore the possibility that theSege off Melaynecould have served a purpose as propaganda for...

    • Social Contexts of the East Anglian Saint Play: The Digby Mary Magdalene and the Late Medieval Hospital?
      (pp. 287-301)
      Theresa Coletti

      UNLIKE the late medieval biblical dramas of Chester, York, and Coventry, whose textual survival is accompanied by a rich documentary record of the contexts and occasions of their performance, extant dramatic texts representing the varied theatrical traditions of East Anglia are not so conveniently situated in historical and social frameworks.¹ Although records of medieval performative activities in the region yield evidence of local habits of staging and theatrical organization, such as theaters in the round and multi-community productions, no surviving notices of East Anglian theatrical endeavor can be linked to extant East Anglian dramatic texts. Paradoxically, the richest regional tradition...

    • Devotion to Drama: The N-Town Play and Religious Observance in Fifteenth-Century East Anglia
      (pp. 302-317)
      Penny Granger

      IT IS SOMETHING of a commonplace that the N-Town Play is the most liturgical of the four Middle English cycle plays.¹ In what follows I examine the liturgical material in the play, assess its likely impact on the play audience, and suggest the extent to which it can inform our knowledge of religious observance in late medieval East Anglia. This is part of a larger project on the liturgical content of the N-Town Play and other fifteenth-century dramatic works. The present article focuses on why the liturgical material was there – both in terms of what pieces were used and...

    • Two Travellers’ Tales
      (pp. 318-332)
      Sarah Salih

      AMONGST the basic interpretative strategies of cultural studies is the principle that, in Albrecht Classen’s words, ‘the examination of [the] highly problematic clash between self and other represents a major vehicle to gain deeper insight into a people and its culture’.¹ In recent studies of medieval history and culture, this examination has typically been undertaken with reference to extremes of otherness, either to the pagans, werewolves and monsters who inhabit the edges of the world or to the enemies within, in the shape of lepers, sodomites and Jews.² However, a study of encounters with more mundane forms of otherness can...

  12. Index
    (pp. 333-341)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 342-342)