Monthly Archives: December 2019

30th Decenber, 2019 Pointing Heavenwards.

The photo above shows the west tower and lead-clad spire of St. Nicholas’ church Kings Lynn, Norfolk. Although looking like a ‘needle spire’ it is in fact a ‘broach spire’ evidenced by the triangular anchors at the base of the spire at each of the four corners (for further discussion on church spires see ‘Landmarks and Beacons’ in section three of this website).

St. Nicholas’ church is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, a charity part-funded by the government, by the Church of England and by membership and donations. The name C.C.T. was given to the charity in 1994 to replace its previous name Redundant Churches Fund which it had had since being formed in 1969, this setting-up being a response to the  Redundant Churches and Other Religious Buildings Act, 1969 and the C. of E.’s Pastoral Measure, 1968.

St. Nicholas’ spire (like all others) points ‘heavenwards’, or at least to the sky if one has a more circumspect view on such matters. Some might suggest that the very purpose for the construction of spires in the first place was to direct parishioner’s and traveller’s attention heavenward, this may, or may not, have been the case, what is clear is that church spires had no purely ecclesiastical function otherwise (again see article in Section 3).

(To be continued).

24th December, 2019 Misc. Article from ‘Landscape History’ 5.

The photo. above shows the south-facing façade of Burton Agnes Elizabethan/Jacobean Hall. St. Martin’s church stands nearby as do the remains of an earlier medieval manor house contemporary with the events recorded by Briony (s.p.b.s).

In concluding her article Briony makes various points;

She used a ‘combination of documentary, landscape and standing buildings evidence in order to explore issues of landscape, territory and common rights in medieval East Yorkshire’ (p.94).

From the time of the ‘two co-heiresses’ (s.p.b.s) the land of the pre-Norman territorial unit began to be divided-up which ‘resulted in a complex territorial and tenurial situation, characterised, from the fourteenth century onwards, by considerable conflict between neighbouring manorial families’ (p. 94).

Researchers need to think about ‘commons and common’s governance as always entangled in the broader politics of the parish’ (p. 95).

The article also raises the profile of female lords of the manor.

Two personal comments; (a) such strained land sub-divisions must have been common in early medieval history as the population is thought to have risen to about five million on the eve of the Black Death.

(b) The issue of how the common land of  a parish might have been divided between separate manors is interesting to ‘on the ground’ landscape studies – were fences erected and if so did they become victims of inter-manorial rivalry (as in the case of Hessle Common – see article in Section 3 of this website).

Section on Briony’s article finished.

Wishing any reader a Happy Christmas and a Healthy and Contented 2020.

22nd December, 2019 Misc. Article in ‘Landscape History’ 4.

Although I have read about it I am yet, personally, to visit St. Martin’s church, Burton Agnes and therefore reproduced above is a view of the church from the north-west copied from p. 15 of Christine Barker’s book Churches of the Yorkshire Wolds, 2 (s.p.b.). Of course Briony McDonagh writes of this church in her article (s.p.b.s). She writes in her concluding remarks ‘The similar programme (similar to the programme of extensions and monument creations at Harpham church a century earlier) of fifteenth-century building works undertaken by the Griffith family on the house and church at Burton Agnes … tombs, new chapel, tower and clerestory all underlined the Griffith’s wealth and status and the new tower and bells made a visual and sonic statement, projecting their vision out across the parish including within the moor’ (p.95). Thus in ‘reading’ a church’s history through a study of the styles evidenced in its building fabric and thinking of the broad idea of ‘fashion’ as reason for change we are generally overlooking more intimate factors central to local political life in the Middle Ages that drove building programmes. Briony’s research is a good example of this more in depth analysis.

Briony’s article includes a colour photo. also taken from the north side of the church but showing more clearly the architectural features of the north aisle, west tower and clerestory as well as the  once entrance arch off the north aisle to the chantry chapel (now demolished) which possibly originally housed some of the Griffith family monuments now seen in the Lady Chapel in the north aisle.

In such manner the Griffith family were ‘fighting back’ against the St. Quentin family in Harpham township/village and trying to re-claim their status across the whole of the Anglo-Saxon territorial unit and thus their entitlement to dictate the governance of the common land.

(One more blog due on this theme).

17th December, 2019 Misc. Article in ‘Landscape History’ 3.

Continuing immediately on the last blog, Alice had married into the Griffith family while Agnes the St. Quintin family. Surely both were the descendants of Norman knights and almost certainly in both the households of Alice and Agnes Norman French would normally be spoken, unlike in the households of the surrounding peasantry.

The picture above shows St. John’s church, Harpham viewed from the south. Although I have guided a couple of church visit parties to Harpham have never taken my own pictures (can’t do two things at once!) so this is from Barker C.R. Churches of the Yorkshire Wolds (2), (Hutton Press, 1985, p. 11). The fact that this medieval church is there shows that Harpham rapidly developed into an independent parish from Burton Agnes (this assumption would not be valid if the church were a chapel of ease, some such chapels even had burial rights e.g. Holy Trinity, Hull up to the 1660s).

Successive generations of the St. Quintin family were lords of the manor of Harpham from the early 14th century to the 19th century and the earliest of a famous cluster of monuments, inscriptions and engravings dedicated to members of the family and housed at the east end of the north aisle is for William St. Quintin who died in 1349. His majestic alabaster tomb may be roughly contemporary with the rebuilding of much of the church, the simple reticulated tracery seen in the south aisle windows (see above) being one part of the evidence to support this hypothesis. This assumed, by the mid 14th century Harpham had been pushed forward and was, through the patronage of the St. Quintin family, asserting greater independence from the traditional mother church and parish of Burton Agnes. Bryony (s.p.b.s) writes of this process.

The dedication of Harpham church is not from the Evangelist but from St. John of Beverley who founded the first Anglo-Saxon monastery on the site where Beverley Minster now stands. John died in 721 and was praised by the Venerable Bede as Bishop of York. John was not canonised until the early 11th century.

(to be continued).

16th December, 2019 Misc. Article in ‘Landscape History’ 2.

Bryony’s map from her article (see above) shows the parishes of Harpham and Burton Agnes with the site of their churches and their dedications labelled. It also shows two historic townships to the east of Burton Agnes and a third township Gransmoor to the south, this last entirely on The R. Hull valley floodplain. The shaded area shows the extent of the historic common land, much disputed during the Middle Ages (such a situation was not unusual, for another example see my History of Hessle Common in section three of this website).

Bryony tells us that medieval Burton Agnes was a multi-township, multi-manor parish, Harpham, like Gransmoor, Haisthorpe and Thornholme (see above) was a township of Burton Agnes, albeit the largest one. Burton Agnes and Harpham developed as villages while the other three remained hamlets, these facts confirmed by the Poll Tax returns of 1377 and by the Hearth Tax returns of 1674, by which time the nucleated hamlets had contracted in area and in population totals.

As is commonly the pattern with parishes along spring lines at the base of the dip and scarp slopes of the Wolds escarpment in Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire four of our townships spanned the lower wold slope and extended onto the floodplain thus potentially benefitting from a variety of topographies,  soils and natural vegetation (for a study of a very similar situation see Aspects of the History of the Low Villages in section three of this website).

At the time of ‘Domesday Survey’ Burton Agnes was at the centre of a large estate which included berewicks and sokeland ( for some attempt at a definition of the former see History of Hessle Common in section three of this website in relation to the berewick of Myton). The whole territorial unit had, before the Norman Invasion, been owned by Morcar, a late Anglo-Saxon baron. The last single Norman baron to own the whole unit died in 1199 leaving in his will the estate split between two sisters Alice and Agnes which, as might be expected, is when the territorial disputes began!

(to be continued).

12th December, 2019 Misc. Article in ‘Landscape History’

Again apologies for break in service – changing to Windows 10 plus bad bought of sickness followed by chest infection.

Following the last blog about Hessle Local History Society another article of interest was printed in the latest edition of Landscape History (the twice yearly journal of the Society for Landscape Studies) – interesting because it deals with a number a basic elements of landscape studies and because the case study focuses on two spring-line settlements on Yorkshire Wolds (and onto a northern section of the River Hull valley). The article is entitled ‘Landscape, territory and common rights in medieval East Yorkshire’ and was researched and written by Briony McDonagh of the University of Hull (

This, and a couple of subsequent blogs, summarises Briony’s research and conclusions along with some comments of my own. The two modern parishes in question are Harpham and Burton Agnes.

My very old edition of the English Place Name Society, Vol. XIV states that ‘burton’ may be derived from the Anglo-Saxon for ‘fortified farmstead’, the word being a derivative of ‘Burtona’ as recorded in the ‘Domesday Survey’ of 1086. The ‘Agnes’ word does not occur in surviving records until the 13th century. Vol. XIV states that ‘Agnes (was) from Agnes de Percy, who was associated with the place in the middle of the 12th century’. The article suggests another Agnes however.

The meaning of Harpham, despite being also Anglo-Saxon and recorded in the ‘Survey’, seems to be more problematic although it seems to have involved a harp, ‘harper’s homestead’ or possibly ‘the homestead where the harp was played’ (VOL. XIV, p. 90).

Bryony tells the reader that originally the unit of Burton incorporated the whole area and was probably a pre-Conquest ‘territorial unit’ which survived as one estate until the late 12th century when it was divided between two heiresses, a division which led to later disputes.

As to her sources of information Bryony cites; surviving documents and manorial records plus surviving buildings, especially churches, and landscape evidence ‘to articulate territorial claims’.

(To be continued).