Waltham was a great royal religious foundation

How very nice to read the following written by The Rt Rev’d Lord Chartres,

Interpretation of what the Great Abbey of Waltham might have looked like.

the former Bishop of London:-

“Wilton, Waltham Holy Cross, and Westminster were the three great royal religious foundations of the Anglo-Saxon period.”

Richard Chartres has written a review of a new book about Westminster Abbey, and he begins the review with the words quoted above.    We know that Waltham’s rich history and its patronage by medieval kings and queens makes it very special, but it is good to have its importance confirmed like this.

Published in: on April 21, 2020 at 2:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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Compline for a Coronation

The first event of our KH 950 celebrations at Waltham Abbey is on Wednesday 6th January Medieval monks in Abbeywhen we shall mark King Harold’s coronation with a service of Compline in the Abbey Church at 5.00 pm.

Waltham, like the other monastic houses, would have kept the canonical hours, the eight divine offices each day, with the last one being Compline just before retiring to bed.

This daily pattern would be well known not just to the canons but to King Harold and his court, who would regularly have been at the church for Compline.

It is fitting then that we commemorate Harold’s coronation which took place at Edward the Confessor’s new West Minster Abbey by holding this service of Compline at Waltham Abbey, Harold’s own monastic foundation.

All are welcome at this service, especially those who are interested in King Harold II, in his great monastic foundation at Waltham, and in the story of the last Anglo Saxon King of England.

Wednesday 6th January 2016

5.00 pm    Service of Compline 

The Abbey Church, Waltham Abbey, Essex, EN9 1DG. 


Published in: on January 3, 2016 at 3:52 am  Comments (2)  
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On General Election day here’s a look at medieval elections

We tend to think that elections are a relatively modern Medieval elction of a Popeoccurrence, but in fact they were used frequently going right back into history.  

We have quite a bit of evidence of elections in medieval times, from Kings to Abbots and Bishops, but those elections, of course, did not have to take notice of any Representation of the People Act or its Corrupt and Illegal Practices! King Henry II of England is said to have written to the canons of Winchester, who were about to elect a new Bishop: “I command you to hold a free election, but I do not want you to accept anyone but my clerk Richard, archdeacon of Poitiers.”   And it would be a brave man who would disregard an order like that from a medieval King.

Here’s an interesting article by Professor Björn Weiler of Aberystwyth University in which he looks at some of these elections.

Published in: on May 7, 2015 at 8:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Medieval river wall found at Houses of Parliament

Exciting news today that a previously undiscovered part of the Medieval wall in Black Rod's Gardenmedieval Palace of Westminster has been found.

Practically all the medieval building disappeared in the great fire of 1834, with only Westminster Hall, the Undercroft Chapel, the Cloisters and Chapter House of St Stephen’s and the Jewel Tower surviving. After the fire the present gothic-style building was erected.

Now work going on to construct a new basement transformer room in Black Rod’s Garden, (at the House of Lords end of the site), has uncovered some exciting discoveries.   The Museum of London Archaeology experts have found a medieval river wall.   The stone wall dates from about 1300 and stands  about nine feet high.   Then in front of the stone wall were the oldest finds, timber beams from a waterfront retaining wall dating from before the 13th century. 

Both the stone wall and the timber remains are in quite good condition and, having been recorded, have been re-covered using sand. 

Here’s the whole story.


Published in: on April 28, 2015 at 1:35 am  Leave a Comment  
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Medieval devotional panel found by Thames

This wonderful medieval devotional panel was found on the River 14 century devotional panel found in ThamesThames foreshore in London.   It is an outstanding example of  the kind of  decorative religious object sold at pilgrimage sites in the medieval period to commemorate and venerate saints and martyrs.   So it could well be that similar things were on sale at the monastic church at Waltham, particularly the Great Augustinian Abbey as the panel found dates from the 14th century.

The devotional panel is now on display at the Museum of London.   Depicting the capture, trial and execution of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, political rebel turned martyr, the object was discovered by archaeologists from MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology), whilst excavating by the River Thames in  London.

You can read the whole story here.

New information board marks the “Thing” on the Wirral

News today that a Viking Parliament site has been officially marked Thingwall - Viking parliament placeon the Wirral, north west England.   The site in the village of Thingwall is one of the earliest known assemblies or parliaments.

Professor Steve Harding of the University of Nottingham and Professor Judith Jesch, Director of the Centre for the Study of the Viking Age, have been researching the Viking heritage of the area for many years.   They have worked with local councils and heritage groups to make the Viking legacy more visible to the modern population.

The Vikings arrived on the Wirral in AD902 and even today their presence remains in the genes of Wirral families with up to 50% of their DNA being of Norse origin. 

Professor Harding has now unveiled an historical information board to mark the Viking “Thing” or open air assembly place in the village of Thingwall.   It tells the story of the Viking arrival and settlement and their influence over the area, using pictures and maps.   The board faces Cross Hill, which is most likely to have been the site of the Thing Assembly, a place both for deciding policy and law and for meeting old friends.

It is now hoped to build a heritage trail from the board to the top of the Thing mound.  

You can read the whole story here.

Moaning Monks

Most people moan about their work from time to time.   Even those who really love the job, or whose hobby is their job, occasionally have bad days. And medieval monks were no different.illuminated medieval manuscript

The Western Daily Press has highlighted a number of comments and complaints that monks, toiling in the Scriptorium copying ancient manuscripts, added in the margin of their work.

The language may be old, but the sentiment could be of today.   Here are a few of the best:-

“Writing is excessive drudgery. It crooks your back, it dims your sight, it twists your stomach and your sides.”

“I am very cold.”

“Thank God, it will soon be dark.”

“St Patrick of Armagh, deliver me from writing.”

This is the link to the Western Daily Press article where you can read the whole story.



Published in: on January 17, 2015 at 10:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Harold and William in animation

An animation of the Bayeux Tapestry, yes really!   Many thanks to our Committee Member, Tony O’Connor, for finding it and passing it on to us.

It has been about since 2009 apparently, but we have only just heard of it.       

The Animated Bayeux Tapestry was created as a student project while at Goldsmiths College.    Just as the historic original embroidery does, the animation depicts the lead up to the Norman Invasion of England in 1066.   It starts about halfway through the original work at the appearance of Halley’s Comet and ends at William’s victory at the Battle of Hastings.   Marc Sylvan redid the soundtrack to include original music and sound effects.

Here’s the link to the video.

Animation by David Newton;                  Music and sound design by Marc Sylvan.

England’s Heroic Age

On this St George’s Day, also called England Day, we were very pleased to find this moving tribute to the great Saxon and Viking heroes of England.

Click here to watch it.

And a Happy St George’s Day to all Englishmen and Englishwomen.

Published in: on April 23, 2013 at 3:50 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Mead Oath

There are probably others, but this is the best known by which the Anglo-Saxon Englisc Fyrdsmen (militia), Thegns (NCOs) and Huscarls (Officers) would swear their oath to fight for their King or Lords;

“I swear before this company that I shall fight to the death for my King. If my King or my Lord shall die, I shall take his place and fight as he would have fought.  If any man here see me taken with weak heart and run away he shall remind me of this pledge made here before my kin.”

Such was the oath that saw the most loyal, the Huscarls, die to a man upon Senlac Hill even after King Harold had fallen.


Published in: on April 7, 2013 at 12:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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