Pre-Congress Tour: Hadrian’s Wall Country in the Early Middle Ages

Price: £595.00

Friday 29 June - Sunday 01 July 2018

Depart: Parkinson Steps, Friday 08.00
Arrive: Parkinson Steps, Sunday 19.00

Running from sea to sea, part of a frontier that stretched for 150 miles, Hadrian’s Wall is one of the world’s greatest monuments. This tour explores its continuing political, symbolic, and practical significance in the early Middle Ages. Many medieval sites to be visited were constructed using materials from Roman sources; archaeology increasingly demonstrates the post-Roman use of forts along the Wall. Some of our earliest written information about the Wall comes from Bede, who said that it had originated as an earthen rampart, built in the time of Emperor Severus, and that it had been reconstructed in stone after the end of the Roman government to counter incursions by the Irish and the Picts. Appropriately, therefore, the tour will include St Paul’s Church, Jarrow, which formed part of the monastery where Bede lived and worked 1300 years ago. In Bede’s day, Jarrow was one of Europe’s most influential centres of learning.

The tour will include a visit to the Open Treasure Gallery at Durham Cathedral - one of Europe’s greatest Romanesque structures - where visitors can enter previously hidden spaces.

This gallery is now the permanent home of the Treasures of St Cuthbert, which include his preserved wooden coffin and pectoral cross as well as other artefacts such as Anglo-Saxon vestments that were gifted to the shrine. At Hexham we shall examine the sculptural and architectural legacy of the Romanophile St Wilfrid. In c. 674 Queen Æthelthryth of Northumbria made a grant of land to Wilfrid, Bishop of York, to build a Benedictine abbey. The building has seen many changes, but the 7th-century crypt survives. In 2014, the abbey regained ownership of its former monastic buildings and has since developed them into a permanent exhibition and visitor centre.

Birdoswald Roman fort stands alongside the longest surviving stretch of the wall. The fort was of the standard ‘playing card’ plan; a near-complete circuit of the walls survives, along with substantial evidence for how the site was used after Roman rule in Britain ended.

The tour will visit the churches of St Cuthbert, Bewcastle, and Ruthwell to see the Bewcastle and the Ruthwell Crosses, the largest and most elaborately decorated Anglo-Saxon crosses to have survived near-intact.

The third day of the tour is largely devoted to Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island. Irish monks settled there in 635, founding one of the most important centres of early English Christianity. Now the remains of a modest 12th-century priory can be seen, as well as a select but impressive display of early medieval sculpture. The incoming tide will cover the causeway shortly after our arrival, creating an island for a few hours until the falling tide enables us to re-join the mainland.

Places are limited, so we recommend that you reserve your place on this excursion by completing the Registration Form as early as possible. Sensible footwear is recommended, as there will be a significant amount of walking on uneven surfaces and climbing steep stones steps. It would also be advisable to bring raincoats and sunblock.

This tour will be led by Richard Morris (Emeritus Professor for Conflict and Culture, University of Huddersfield) and Ian Wood (Emeritus Professor of Early Medieval History, University of Leeds).

The price of the tour includes expert guides, entry to sites, individual site guide books, and two nights’ accommodation (ensuite), with breakfast and dinner at the hotel, and packed lunches.

Post-Congress Tour: The Wars of the Roses - Medieval Castles and Battlefields of the Midlands


International Medieval Congress and the Royal Armouries

Friday 06 July - Monday 09 July 2018

Depart: Parkinson Steps, Friday 08.00
Arrive: Parkinson Steps, Monday 19.00

This year the IMC Post-Congress tour ventures to the ‘deep south’ of the English Midlands.

In search of medieval castles and battlefields we will discover that many of the sites we visit were associated with some of the great characters involved with the Wars of the Roses, from magnates and lords, such as William, Lord Hastings and Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick (the ‘Kingmaker’), to monarchs like Edward IV and Richard III. We also visit other sites associated with the Wars of the Roses, including two battlefields, that of Tewkesbury (1471), where Edward took control of the throne after defeating the army of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou, and Bosworth (1485), where Richard III, the last of the Yorkist kings, met his death. We will also see the spot where he was discovered in 2012 and his place of (re)burial at Leicester Cathedral.

These twelve sites range from a magnificent early Bronze Age hill fort to the splendid moated and fortified residences of the later Middle Ages. They include two of England’s finest castles, one now a ruin and the other a stately home. In between we will see the place where a saint killed a dragon and discover one of the finest surviving sculptures of medieval England, as well as visiting an abbey that has been described as ‘the Westminster Abbey of the feudal baronage’.

A number of castles had their roots in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest as the Normans extended their control over England. Deddington Castle, for example, was the site of the base of William I’s half-brother Odo. Many sites in this part of England are noted for their formidable earthworks and their surviving stonework, the latter often of local stone, such as limestone and sandstone. The later use of brick, in the 15th century, will also be found at Kirby Muxlowe.

And, as ever, the tour provides an opportunity for you to explore and compare these evocative castles in one trip.

Ashby de la Zouch Castle

This castle takes its name from the Zouch family. In 1464 Edward IV granted it to William, Lord Hastings, who was unceremoniously executed in 1483 by Richard, Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III. Although now mostly ruinous, it reveals fascinating domestic details, particularly the layout of its kitchens and the impressive 27.4 m (90 ft) four-storey ‘Hastings Tower’, one of the best surviving examples of a late-medieval tower house. The castle also has its own underground passage, connecting cellars to the kitchen.

Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre

The Centre stands on Ambion Hill, which formed part of the battlefield of Bosworth on 22 August 1485. It was here that Richard III was killed, and Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, gained the Crown to become Henry VII, the first of the Tudor monarchs. This date has been regarded by many as the ‘end’ of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the English Renaissance. On display at the centre are many of the finds, including pieces of shot from the battle. Here the largest concentration of shot from any European medieval battlefield was found, enabling the site of the battle to be identified with certainty in 2010.

Kenilworth Castle

This castle gave its name to Sir Walter Scott’s great romantic novel of 1821. This mighty ruin still retains much of its grandeur amidst the remains of artificial water defences and causeway, upon which tournaments were staged. The first castle, built on this site around 1120, was expanded by King John to become one of the largest royal castles in England in the early 13th century. The castle was not just about ‘show’; it survived a six-month long siege in 1266.

The Norman tower dominates the site and the later Great Hall, with its huge windows, shows how the residential aspects of the castle overtook any defensive requirements. The reconstructed Elizabethan garden, which opened in 2009, illustrates the magnificence of such settings. Scott’s novel about Sir Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and Elizabeth I is set in the latter part of the castle’s history, at the time of the famous reception held here in 1575.

Tewkesbury Abbey, Battlefield, and Medieval Townscape

Tewkesbury Abbey, begun in 1121 on the site of an earlier 8th-century Saxon monastery, is the second largest parish church in England. The 45 m (148 ft) Norman tower still dominates the town; it was reputedly from here that Margaret of Anjou watched the total defeat of her Lancastrian army at the battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. In the aftermath Edward IV notoriously entered the abbey and brought out some 13 Lancastrian nobles, including the Duke of Somerset, who had sought sanctuary and had them publicly beheaded in the town marketplace. The Abbey contains much 14th-century stained glass, depicting nobles such as the De Clares, Despensers, and Beauchamps, many of whom are buried here and are marked by their surviving monuments. One of the finest is that of Edward Despenser (c. 1375), which still retains much of its gilding. The alleged remains of Richard III’s brother George - ‘false, fleeting, perjured Clarence’ - are also buried in a vault at Tewkesbury.

Minster Lovell Hall and Dovecote

There has been a manor house on this site since the 12th century, but the ruins of Minster Lovell Hall that stand today are the remains of the hall built in 1430s. Later in the 15th century it became the home of Francis, Viscount Lovell, a close friend of Richard III, who reputedly visited the property in 1483. Lovell was one of three supporters of Richard, whose badge was the boar, named in the famous doggerel: ‘The Catte, the Ratte and Lovell our dogge rulyth all Englande under a Hogge’. Following the Yorkist defeat at Bosworth, the Hall became property of the Tudor Crown, and Lovell seemingly disappeared after the battle of Stoke in 1487. The hall was eventually abandoned and demolished in the late 18th century, but the remains include traces of its fine hall, tower, and 15th-century dovecote.

Deddington Castle

This castle is famed for being the alleged site of the abduction of Piers Gaveston by Guy de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, before his execution in 1312. The castle began to be used as a quarry in the mid-14th century; now all that survives is the impressive, 15 m (49 ft) high Norman earthwork rampart of the outer bailey and some associated fish ponds to the east. Its other chief point of interest is the sheer scale of its enclosure, some 3.2 hectares (8 acres), which reflects the rank and position of Bishop Odo, half-brother of William the Conqueror, who built the Norman castle on this site not long after 1066 and used Deddington as his Oxfordshire base.

Warwick Castle

For many the exterior of Warwick Castle is the epitome of what a ‘real’ medieval castle should look like. Although much altered internally, it still exudes magnificence. The present castle encloses its earlier Norman motte-and-bailey of 1068. In 1268 the castle passed to the Beauchamps and, in the 14th century, a major redevelopment of the castle began. Following the death of the Warwick ‘the Kingmaker’ in 1471, the castle passed to the Duke of Gloucester, who would become Richard III in 1483. His works include the low artillery tower along the north side. The residential suites overlook the river to the south, and the undercrofts date to the 14th century. The interiors were much altered through the intervening centuries until it became the stately home it now is, standing within a landscape created by ‘Capability’ Brown.

Uffington Castle, White Horse, and Dragon Hill

Although not medieval, these three prehistoric sites illustrate the myth and legend at the heart of England. Built in the 7th century BCE, Uffington ‘Castle’ is actually one of the best preserved Iron Age hillforts in Britain. The large 220 x 160 m (722 x 525 ft) enclosure atop ‘Whitehorse Hill’ is surrounded by a 12 m (39 ft) wide rampart and would have contained round-houses. This in turn is enclosed by a 3 m (10 ft) deep ditch and an outer rampart. It was entered by a causeway on its western flanks. The famed ‘White Horse’, which is 111 m (364 ft) long, is probably the oldest chalk-cut hill figure in Britain at over 3000 years old. Its significance is still a mystery, but local legends associate the horse with St George, and ‘Dragon Hill’ marks the spot where he slew the dragon - its spilt blood so poisonous that flowers never grow on its summit.

Donnington Castle

Once a fashionable 14th-century fortified residence, Donnington Castle had a striking twin-towered gatehouse, now the only substantial remains of the castle left. It was built in the 1380s for Sir Richard Apperbury, Queen’s Chamberlain and a knight who served the Black Prince. The gate passage is elaborately vaulted. The castle was bought by Thomas Chaucer, son of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer, and Speaker of the House of Commons, although he probably never lived there. It was heavily damaged in 1646 after a lengthy 20-month siege.

The Beauchamp Chapel, Collegiate Church of St Mary’s, Warwick

The world famous Chapel of Our Lady, commonly known as the ‘Beauchamp Chapel’, contains a number of military effigies, including the stunning life-size gilt-bronze figure of Richard Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick (1382-1439), depicted in full mid 15th-century Italian armour. His son-in-law Richard Neville, ‘Warwick the Kingmaker’, appears as one of the ‘weepers’ on his tomb-chest. Described as the finest piece of English 15th-century bronze sculpture, the figure is also encased in a rare original medieval hearse. Also in the chapel lies Sir Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester (1533-88), favourite and suitor of Elizabeth I, whose seat was Kenilworth Castle.

Kirby Muxlowe Castle

With its fine decorative diaper-pattern brickwork, Kirby Muxlowe, although never completed, still stands as one of the finest example of 15th-century brick castles. Begun by William, Lord Hastings, in 1480, some £1,088 was spent on the construction of this fortified and moated residence. However, after the execution of Hastings in 1483, building work ceased. The Hastings family lived on in the unfinished castle apartments but left in the 16th century. The remains of the castle contain a number of surviving gunports.

Richard III Visitor Centre and Leicester Cathedral, Leicester

In 2012, the skeleton of Richard III was discovered in the grounds of the now demolished Church of the Greyfriars. Despite local folk tales of its desecration, the hurriedly prepared grave was kept intact and now forms part of a centre which tells about the life and death of Richard III as well as the amazing story of the skeleton’s discovery. Meticulous scientific studies confirmed he was indeed Richard III, before he was finally laid to rest in a new tomb at the heart of Leicester Cathedral in March 2015, an event that was televised around the world.

This tour will once again be led by Kelly DeVries, Professor of the Department of History, Loyola University, Maryland, and Honorary Historical Consultant to the Royal Armouries, and Robert C. Woosnam-Savage, Curator of Armour and Edged Weapons, Royal Armouries, Leeds and a member of the Greyfriars Research team that discovered and identified the remains of Richard III.

We recommend that you reserve your place on this excursion by registering as early as possible. Sensible footwear is recommended, as there will be a significant amount of walking on uneven surfaces and climbing steep stone steps. It would also be advisable to bring raincoats and sunblock.

The price of the tour includes entry to sites, individual site guidebooks, transport, three nights’ accommodation (ensuite), with breakfast and dinner at the hotel, and packed lunches.

The programme may be subject to change.