Saturday 27 February 2016


It isn't OBOII.  It is DROIT.  The Norman French for a right or entitlement.  As in 'Dieu et mon droit' and 'droit de seigneur'.  It is simply the motto of the Tunstalls, so sits naturally above one set of their coat of arms.

Monday 22 February 2016

A tile tells a tale

This tile, found buried in the ground when the major part of St Michael’s was being built 1913-15, is set in an inside wall at the bottom of the church tower.  I have pointed it out vaguely as a mediaeval relic to people over the years - although I discover now that it is actually Tudor.  Hugh Winfield, who took the picture at the head of the previous post, took this ‘enhanced colour’ picture of it last week, and I’ve been paying proper attention to it for the first time.  I’ve found a lot in a very short period.

First, I’ve found some background information about the Tudor ownership of the Manor of Little Coates. 

I’d already been told that the seventeenth century antiquarian Gervase Holles records the 1421 Will of a Sir John Cotes of Little Coates and an example in a window in the church of an Inglethorpe coat of arms ‘who heyr Cotes marryed... The inheritance came after by marriage to Del See and from Del See to Hildyard likewise – Sr Christopher Hildyard now enjoyeth it, Ano 1634’.  He also records several sets of ‘Del See’ coats of arms in the church windows – all now long gone.

I haven’t been able to chase down a reference to either a Cotes-Inglethorpe nor to a Del See-Cotes marriage, but I have identified a late fifteenth century marriage of a Peter Hildyard to a Joan de la See, the parents of a Christopher Hildyard (1490-1538, this is a hundred years before the Christopher Hildyard who was Holles’ contemporary and owner of the Manor of Little Coates at that time).  I have also identified a grant to Joan’s grandfather Brian de la See in 1419 when he is described as being ‘of Parva Cotes near Grymsby’ (although his wife inherited the Manor of Barmston, near Bridlington, and it is there that their son Martin, Joan’s father, lived).

So it is at least clear that a Brian de la See lived at Little Coates, and, whether or not he held the Manor of Little Coates himself, the Manor had certainly come to his family by the time his granddaughter Joan married Peter Hildyard.  The Hildyard family, beginning with Joan and Peter’s son Christopher, continued to hold the Manor over a number of generations (but only as a piece of property – the Hildyards and all subsequent owners of the Manor of Little Coates lived elsewhere).

Secondly, I’ve found some background information about the tile itself.

I find the design actually appears all along in an art book we have (Medieval Floor Tiles of Northern England J Stopford 2005 page 242).  It was used by (and it was may have been commissioned by) this older Christopher Hildyard when building the Manor House in which he actually lived at Winestead, which is about ten miles from Little Coates albeit across the Humber. 

It shows the coat of arms of Brian Tunstall  (1480-1513) and his wife Isabel (c1483-1535).  They are of some significance - Brian was killed at the Battle of Flodden and was brother of the Cuthbert Tunstall who was a contemporary lawyer of Thomas More, a friend of Erasmus and a prominent conservative Bishop of London and then of Durham through the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I. 

This all links up because Isabel Tunstall’s mother was a de la See (a half-sister of the Joan de la See who married Peter Hildyard – which means Isabel, whose great-grandfather came from Little Coates and whose coat of arms is on the tile, was a cousin of the older Christopher Hildyard, who held the Manor of Little Coates and who had the tile made).

Thirdly, some remaining questions.

Was Gervaise Holles right to suggest that the de la Sees acquired the Manor of Little Coates by marriage with a Cotes sometime after 1423?  Brian de la See was already ‘of Little Coates’ in 1419 and his heiress wife was a Monceaux not a Cotes.  Perhaps Little Coates was part of her inheritance (she did inherit Lincolnshire property)?  Their son Martin’s wives were a Spencer and a Wentworth and it is at his death that it goes to his daughter Joan and her husband Peter Hildyard.

If Brian de la See and John Cotes were both ‘of Little Coates’ (one or other holding the Manor) at about the same time (1419 and 1423), where did they live?  There is no surviving identifiable Manor House site.  Perhaps, in the same way that the Barnardistan Manor House at Great Coates gradually disappeared after they ceased to use it in the seventeenth century (although we know where it was), any Little Coates Manor House gradually disappeared two centuries earlier when there ceased to be a resident holder of the Manor there?  Those who have discovered impressive dressed stone near Toothill speculate about a lost church building there – but just perhaps these stones come from a lost Manor House instead?  Or does the total isolation until a century ago of Little Coates Church make more sense if there was in fact a lost Manor House and/or village nearer to it?

Why would Christopher Hildyard use tiles with the coat of arms of a cousin?  He must have wanted very badly to parade his link with the Tunstall family.  Was it because his cousin Isabel’s husband was a famous war hero?  Was it rather because the war hero’s brother (Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall – not a direct relative of his at all) was one of the great men of state?  If so, would this have been about personal patronage and loyalty (we know that Christopher’s brother Richard was the Bishop’s Chaplain for a period)?  Or would this have been about strong religious conservative party affiliation in the years leading up to the Act of Supremacy (1534) which was only finally enacted four years before Christopher Hildyard died?

How did the tile end up in the ground?  There is an obvious general link since the same tile was being laid at Winestead Manor not too far away and its owner held the Manor of Little Coates.  But more specifically?  Were there (in addition to the de la See coats of arms in the church windows) de la See monuments in the church or churchyard?  Might the sorts of changes which resulted in the loss of the windows have also resulted in the breaking up or replacing of some floor tiling relating to any of these?  Might what we assume from a major date stone on the outside must have been a major restoration of at least the chancel in the 1690s have been a possible occasion for this?

What does OBOII above the coat of arms mean?

Saturday 20 February 2016

Bury this

In a post in October I noticed

This month’s government adjustments to things like local authority’s discretion in procurement and investments (that is - the outlawing of local authority’s previous ability to chose to avoid contracts or investments on ethical grounds - those who are involved in anything from the arms trade to settlements in Palestine are the cited examples) is fundamentally disabling; reminding people about the impact of boycotts of South African goods in the past doesn’t make any difference...  [and] this month’s admission to the Common’s Foreign Affairs Committee by the Foreign Office's Permanent Secretary that increasing exports (our economic well being) is now a greater priority and that protecting human rights (the tackling of global injustice) has less of the ‘profile it did in the past’ is equally disabling; holding up a placard saying ‘Not in my name’ hardly makes a difference either.

Three quite different things in the last week pull this picture into sharp focus.

The first is the striking fact that the government’s further announcements about local authority’s liability if they pursue ethical procurement and investment policies was made not just in London but also in Tel Aviv.  A general government point is that ‘there is only one government foreign policy and local authorities should not be promoting alternative foreign policies’ – but the choice of venue for the announcement appears to say very specifically this is about supporting a particular military ally in its opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and in promoting the economic well being of the colonies it continues to establish in the territories it occupies.  The Prime Minister had, of course, already spoken out against BDS when invited to address the Knesset a couple of year's ago.

The second is the reminder, from newly released thirty-year old government papers, of just how little sympathy earlier Conservative government did actually have for the campaign to boycott South African goods and sport.  When the Prime Minister was told about her Foreign Secretary that ‘in Sir Geoffrey’s view the problem is that, because of our vigorous and persistent public opposition to comprehensive economic sanctions, many Commonwealth leaders now see us as the main defender of the South African government  and of apartheid’ the words ‘bury this’ were written on the note.

The third is the intention to forbid charities which receive government grants from using such money to criticise or campaign against government policy.  A general government point is that ‘it is absurd for government to pay for lobbying against government’ – but no allowance is apparently to be made for the fact that those who deliver government financed work might want to reflect back the impact they see that delivery having or the ways in which they find regulations unhelpfully restrict such delivery.

Sharply in focus is a situation in which our government does not just want to promote and follow through its own increasingly explicitly non-ethically based policy but wants to restrict any ethically-based publically funded alternative voices and actions.  I can’t see why they should think that is so self-evidently an obviously straight forward and sensible thing to do.

The picture was taken this week in St Michael’s (obviously not by me having still not been able to retrieve my camera’s memory card from the inner workings of my computer, although a new memory card is now to hand) but by Hugh Winfield (North East Lincolnshire Regeneration Partnership’s Archaeologist); the head is so tucked away in one corner of the Lady Chapel that I’ve never been able to get a decent picture of it myself.

Monday 15 February 2016

Levels of incompetence

A highlight at the moment is the Methodist Modern Art Collection, most of which is on display for Lent in the Cathedral Chapter House  (we went to see it last week), five pictures from which are the basis of a Lent Course provided jointly by the diocese and the Methodist District (which we begin this evening).

The Lent Course is astonishingly poor.  It is clear it has been cobbled together at the last moment.  At the beginning, the front cover of the booklet has four pictures only one of which is used in the course, while the three others remain unidentified and unacknowledged.  At the end, the last session hasn’t been proofread (for example, where it says that ‘there is something First World’ about a picture, I’m pretty sure it means ‘something First World War’).  And there is much more like this in between.
But the main concern is that the course evidences an alarming distrust in the power of the pictures and neglects the importance of allowing the participants to respond to them – the pictures are not available in any size, there is no suggestion in the study material that participants should take time to look at the picture at all let alone with sustained attention, and two thirds of the discussion questions could actually be answered without reference the pictures at all.

So I’ve been working away at trying to develop and design something better to use in this parish.  I enjoyed working with the Youth Group on a trial run short while ago getting them to pay real attention to Eularia Clarke’s The five thousand which is the first chosen picture (and the origin of which the study material misrepresents, probably having misunderstood the official guide to the collection’s reference to a different picture of hers commissioned for the Catholic Chaplaincy of the University of Southampton).

Part of the discussion material turns on the way all four Gospels say ‘five thousand andres’ (andres or males - hence androgynous or ‘male like’) not ‘five thousand anqrwpos (anthropos or people - hence anthropology or ‘the study of humans’).  Matthew alone adds ‘not counting women and children’.  So the early statement in the study material ‘to feed... five thousand people appears in all four gospels’ is another careless mistake.  It is possible that three of the evangelists did think no women and children were present, but it is much more likely that they didn’t think they ‘counted’, in which case saying John ‘omitted’ them (as the study material does) isn’t quite what was going on and distracts from the potentially interesting question about those we overlook and devalue even when they are under our noses.  We’ll see in which direction the discussion goes this evening.

I note that the title of the painting is not ‘The Feeding of the Five Thousand’ at all and the Youth Group noticed that the person possibly speaking and presiding doesn’t look like Jesus at all – so discussion might go quite another way.

Meanwhile, my own level of incompetence is also pretty close to a diocesan level at the moment: I have posted my camera’s memory card apparently irretrievably through the wrong (large) hole in my computer.  So the picture is an old one: a stone from Barlings Abbey built into the wall of the church at Southrey which we visited last September.

Tuesday 2 February 2016

The next building worry

Investigation has discovered that there doesn't appear to be much securing the rafters of the south aisle at St Nicolas' to the nave arcade, so we are having to stop using that particular bit of the church (a builder is about to come in an put some props in against the theoretical eventuality that the ceiling might come in) and we need to get our act together to apply for a Government funding stream especially for church roofs; I think I remember that about a dozen out of about fifty Lincolnshire churches got grants from an earlier round of applications for the money 'left over' in an under spent fund intended to repay VAT on repairs to historic fabric.

Different pictures and problems with the aisle have featured here before.  The outward inclination of the south wall as the result of gradual pressure over the centuries isn't that strange (St Michael's south wall is also out of true) but it appears to have been dragging the roof timbers with it.  Interestingly the way they are secured to each other (drawn here by out surveyor) appears to have been adapted at different times - the 1860s Fowler restoration would be one and the later insertion of a ceiling would be another but there will be complicated earlier history as well - so a later bolt appears to be what is holding an earlier construction in place at the moment.