From Wales to Dover

Lisa.Ford | May 12, 2012

St Mary in Castro, Dover Castle

People think scholars lead a quite sedentary existence, but research can involve a great deal of travel! The resources from which to write scholarly essays or Ph.D.s are rarely neatly contained in one location, and research on Northampton’s and Surrey’s monuments has proved no exception. In March, I presented a paper at Yale on Northampton’s monument for the Material Culture Study Group, whose theme for presentations this year was, appropriately, mobility. Certainly, Northampton’s monument has been as mobile as that of the other tombs we’re examining, and so have the various documents which relate to its creation and subsequent existence; in the process of researching and writing the paper, I traveled from Wales to Dover and several places in between! At the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, the personal papers of John Griffith, Northampton’s private secretary, contain correspondence, receipts and lists of tasks relating to the settling of Northampton’s estate, which include mentions of both monuments and their upkeep. At Mercers Company in London, the archives hold records pertaining to the tomb’s movement from St Mary in Castro at Dover Castle to Trinity Hospital in Greenwich, and receipts for Trinity Hospital relating to the rebuilding of the chapel there and repairs to the monument over the 17th and 18th centuries.

Coat of Arms at Trinity Hospital

At Trinity Hospital, I examined what appears to be a further component of the original monument, a brightly painted coat of arms embedded in the wall of the staircase leading up to the Warden’s apartments. At Dover Castle, I went to see the original space in which the monument was erected and the inscribed stone which relates its removal from there to Greenwich. I often tell people that research is very much like a jigsaw puzzle, or in a more contemporary reference, CSI for historians…tracking down all the bits that add up to give one the most complete picture possible of something that happened centuries ago.

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