Thursday, 27 December 2012

Griffith ap Rhys- An important Welsh knight in early Tudor times

This week is the story of a powerful Welsh knight who was associated with Prince Arthur Tudor, the Cathedral, and the city of Worcester. Sir Griffith ap Rhys ap Thomas, the only legitimate son of Sir Rhys ap Thomas by his first wife Eva, was born circa 1470.  His father Sir Rhys ap Thomas played a pivotal role in the politics of the Wars of the Roses and under the patronage of Henry VII became the most powerful man in South Wales.
Griffith and Catherine. Copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

When in 1492 at the age of six. Henry VII's son Prince Arthur was sent to live at Ludlow Castle, Henry would have wanted his son surrounded by his most loyal supporters and Sir Rhys who was appointed his 'guardian'.  Griffith as Rhys's son was a obvious choice as companion for the young Prince of Wales.    Griffith seems to have been a close friend of Prince Arthur and served as his 'Master of the Horse'.    Griffith was created a Knight of the Bath during the wedding festivities.  He was also with Arthur when he returned to Ludlow with his new bride.

The tomb chest of Griffith ap Rhys in Worcester Cathedral. Copyright Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

Arthur died in 1502 and when his body was taken from Ludlow Castle to Worcester Cathedral, Griffith played an important part at the funeral.  Dressed in mourning habit, his horse draped in black, he rode at the head of the procession carrying the prince's banner.  And at the interment in Worcester Cathedral he offered at the Gospel the rich embroidered banner of his Lord's Arms.

His coat of arms. Copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

After Arthur's death Griffith continued to serve the royal family and Henry confirmed that Griffith should inherit his father’s honours on his death.  Griffith was also present, representing Worcestershire, when Henry VIII travelled to France for the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520. In the monastery’s accounts for 1521-22 is a reference to Griffith formerly owning a property in Birdport Street. No doubt it was a useful place where he could stay while visiting the region, and could facilitate trade between Worcester and Wales.

A Coat of arms on the tomb. Copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

Griffith died sometime between July and October 1521, predeceasing his father who died later in 1525.  It is not known how he died but as he died intestate it was probably a surprise or he would, have made a will. 

A Coat of arms on the tomb. Copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

Griffith married Catherine St John, daughter of John St John around 1507. 
The inlaid memorial brass plate of Griffith and his wife was already badly decayed by the seventeenth century and the present brass dates from the Victorian period.  The only child we can be sure of was one son, Rhys ap Griffith, who was later executed by Henry VIII for treason,  though if the Victorian brass is to be believed  they had 11 children, 7 girls and 4 boys all living to adulthood.  Catherine accompanied Griffith to France for the Field of the Cloth of Gold where she was in attendance on the Queen.  After Sir Griffith's death Catherine married Sir Piers Edgecombe. She made her will December 4, 1553, and died that month.  She is buried with Griffiths in his tomb which is located in the eastern choir transept in Worcester Cathedral below the tomb of the Arthur, Prince of Wales, eldest son of Henry VII. 

A Coat of arms on the tomb. Copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

Around the tomb is this inscription:  Here in this tomb lyeth buryed the Body of the Noble knyght, Sir Gryffyth Ryce Son of Syr Ryce ap. Thomas knyght, which Syr Gryffyth dessyd the xxix day of September in the xiiii yere of Kyng Henry the viii. And also of Lady Catheryne the Wyfe, Daughter of Syr John Saint John whych decessed the …... day of …. Anno Dom. Mcccc …. on whose Soules, and all Cristen Soules Jeshu have Mercy.  Amen.

by Vanda Bartoszuk.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Carolingian Writing Style

The Carolingian writing style was first established by the Carolingian Empire, an Empire which spanned France, Germany, northern Italy, northern Spain and later Bohemia. It existed and expanded during Charlemagne’s reign (768-814) but did not survive long after his death. During his reign, he established representatives of the state in each region but maintained control and uniformity throughout his empire by holding annual assemblies. He introduced many reforms; most notably in education and religion.
A significant part of Charlemagne’s educative reforms was the introduction of a standardised writing style; the Carolingian style. This was a crucial act both then and now as it is this style which establishes Charlemagne firmly in the history and study of palaeography as it forms the basis of our modern writing style today. Its purpose was twofold; it was designed to make writing easier to read and much quicker to produce. Its initial style can be characterised by the large, rotund characters, vertical ascenders and descenders (often clubbed) and the wide gaps between the words. The latter definitely distinguishes it from the likes of other writing styles at the time when words were often difficult to separate due to their proximity to one another.
There are a substantial number of Anglo-Saxon characters in the Carolingian writing. This is because Charlemagne believed that the Anglo-Saxons held superior literary and literacy skills and so wished to ameliorate the Empire’s literary standing by commissioning certain great scholars to reside in and influence his establishments. For example, it is known that he commissioned Alcuin to visit his own court. This suggests that the presence of Anglo-Saxon characters is due to the influence of Anglo-Saxon scholars.
In the image below, quarto 28 in the Worcester Cathedral Library, the writing style is that of Carolingian miniscule. This scribe has an unsteady hand, however, as one can see that the ascenders and descenders tend to tremble slightly and are not exactly vertical (as encircled on image). This is a quarto from Eusebius’ Historia Ecclesiastica.

Figure 1 Quarto 28, Eusebius' Historia Ecclesiastica. S.X This image is copyright the Dean and Chpater of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

This writing style was introduced to England in the mid 10th century. Potential reasons for its transference from the Continent to England could be due to associations between great libraries of England and the Continent but also the travelling of monks. We know that one monk (and later Bishop of Worcester), Saint Oswald, departed for Fleury monastery, as he was in search of a better monastic life, and returned in 958. There are two early manuscripts which originate from the Continent in Worcester Cathedral Library, one of which is pictured above, and it is likely that they travelled along with Oswald on his return to England. Thus, it is primarily through these two means which the Carolingian style was brought to England, copied by scribes and henceforth, instigated as a popular writing style in the English monasteries and establishments.
Since its establishment in England, the Carolingian writing style underwent some major alterations; most noticeably were the gradation from large to small characters and the reducing spaces between the words. In the two images below one can see these alterations embodied.

Figure 2 Folio 173, Sacramentary. S.XI 1/4 This image is copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)
The differences between the above and below images reveal the transformation of the Anglo-Caroline hand. Figure 2 illustrates a skilled Anglo-Caroline scribing hand, scribed in the first quarter of the 11th century whereas Figure 3 depicts an English protogothic hand with some features of Anglo-Caroline, dating from the 12th century. The latter has undergone numerous alterations in its scribing hand; the characters, while equally rounded, are much closer to one another and have been scribed with a thicker nib. Furthermore, there is less space between the words and the lines, rendering the page to have a much more filled visual aspect.
Figure 3 Folio 92, Homilarium. S.XII This image is copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)
Regardless of these alterations, one can see the contingencies this writing style has with the original Carolingian style and also with our modern way of scribing letters; a fundamentally rotund character style and proximity of words. The way we write today is founded upon this style - although we might hope it is in a more legible manner!

Colette Davies

Monday, 17 December 2012


In this week’s blog we look at the life of a brave Scottish soldier from the civil war era buried in Worcester Cathedral. William Hamilton was born on 14th December 1616. In 1651 he was a senior commander in the Royalist army which fought at the Battle of Worcester, and died of his wounds after the battle.
An engraving from the cathedral collection

If you visit Worcester today you will find a memorial that was erected to the Duke in September 1913, in addition to his existing gravestone near the High Altar. During his short life, William was initially part of the Royalist cause but in 1642 he was sent to Scotland to assist his brother in attempting to prevent the Scots from favouring the Parliamentarians in the war. They failed and on their return to Oxford, they were thrown into prison. William escaped and decided to return to Scotland and change sides. He became one of the Scottish commissioners appointed to treat with the king in prison. The commissioners failed to persuade the king to establish Presbyterianism is England, but William was horrified to see the king then handed over to the English. He called this: “the Judas-like sale of the King for pieces of silver.” He converted back to being a Royalist. After the execution of Charles I, he went into exile. His brother James was tried and sentenced to death on the scaffold, some two months after the king.  James’ title passed to William.

The memorial brass placed in the cathedral in 1913

As Duke of Hamilton, William returned to England with Charles II and fought in the battle of Worcester in 1651. He showed great courage, but was wounded as he led his regiment against Cromwell’s infantry and died at the Commandery a few days later.
The gravestone of the Duke of Hamilton
In the cathedral library there is also what is thought to be the tip of a standard that was found in the Victorian era near the duke’s coffin. The archive also holds a Victorian sketch of the lead coffin in which the Duke’s body was placed.
The tip of a standard found near the body

All images are by Mr. Chris Guy and are reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester cathedral (U.K.)

Mary Somers

Friday, 7 December 2012

Bishop Henry Parry and Virginia

This week brings you an unusual connection between a Jacobean Bishop of Worcester, the colony of Virginia and some books in the collection. Henry Parry was Bishop between 1610 and 1616. He was present at the death of Queen Elizabeth I, and as her chaplain he gained the important confirmation from her that she died as a Protestant.

Henry Parry's monument in Worcester Cathedral. Image is reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral.

In Anthony Wood’s Athenae Oxonienses (1691), Parry was described as being the son of Henry Parry, and grandson of William Parry of Wormbridge, Herefordshire. Bishop Parry was born in Wiltshire on 20th December 1561. He became a scholar of Corpus Christi College, Oxford on 13th November 1576. He was made a probationer on 23rd April 1586, and gained his MA. He later read Greek at the same College.

King James I was greatly impressed by Parry’s preaching skills. In 1606 the King of Denmark, who was visiting King James, gave Parry a ring as a reward for the quality of his sermon. Later, as Bishop of Worcester, Parry paid for a pulpit in the cathedral. He wrote at least two books and translated two more, and generously gave a sum of money to the University of Oxford. It was in 1612 that Bishop Parry invested £13 6s 8d in a company set up to support the establishment of the colony of Virginia. 

In the cathedral library, are a set of books by a Church of England clergyman, Samuel Purchas. Purchas compiled Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas His Pilgrimes: Contayning a History of the World, in Sea voyages, & lande-travells, by Englishmen & others...etc (1625). This work combines research of fellow clergyman Richard Hakluyt and that of his own on exploration around the world. It includes an early map of Virginia first engraved in 1606, as well as some accounts of life in the early seventeenth century colonies including Virginia.

Map of Virginia 1606. The  image is reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral

In book nine, chapter fifteen is the list of provisions recommended for every person who would be going to live in Virginia. These included enough food to sustain a man for a year- eight bushels of meal, two bushels of pease, two bushels of oatmeal, a gallon of aqua vitae, a gallon of oil, and two gallons of vinegar, as well as clothing, and weapons. The weapons required were light armour, a five or five and a half foot musket, sword, sword belt, bandolier, twenty pounds of gunpowder, and sixty pounds of shot or lead for bullets. 
A family of six were required to bring with them axes, hand saws, whip-saws, hammers, shovels, spades, augers, hatchets, nails, pickaxes, various other tools and kitchen utensils. These books were published after Parry’s death, but perhaps as an investor he had access to some of the early accounts of life in Virginia.
New France, New Scotland, New Foundland, and New England c.1625. The image is reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral. 

Parry died of a stroke on 12th December 1616 at the Bishop’s Palace in Worcester, and was buried in the North Quire transept. His monument was later moved to the south nave aisle together with a plaque. Another plaque to him is in the St. George’s chapel placed there in 1872 by a descendant.

The brass monument to Bishop Parry. The images are reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral.