5. Antiquarian Recording

Recent scholarship has demonstrated the significance of both individual antiquarians and organisations such as the Society of Antiquaries in the development of the archaeological discipline in the UK (Pearce 2007; Royal Academy of Arts 2007; Sweet 2004). In particular, early antiquarians such as Leland, Stow and Dugdale have been shown to have been of crucial importance in the recording of medieval monuments and buildings, often subsequently destroyed in the Reformation or Civil War (Gerrard 2003; Gilchrist and Reynolds 2009). The development by antiquarians of systematic approaches to the description and recording of medieval buildings has been shown to be crucial to the development of the discipline and methodologies of buildings archaeology (Morriss 2000; Rodwell 2005). However, although antiquarian records have often been used to inform the reconstruction of lost architectural features or decorative schemes, the potential of antiquarian sources to shed light on how to understand and interpret medieval art and architecture is rarely exploited by modern archaeologists. This article seeks to develop an approach to using antiquarian records to reconstruct a palimpsest of understanding of medieval wall paintings (Giles 2007). It demonstrates that by considering the specific historical context, intellectual preoccupations and working methods of antiquarians from the 16th to the 20th century, new insights into the interpretation, preservation and conservation of painted schemes such as that at Stratford-upon-Avon, can emerge. The development of such a methodology not only enhances the perceived significance of the scheme for medieval archaeologists and art historians, but also provides a model for the innovative use of digital heritage technologies within the discipline of historical archaeology in an international context.

5.1 Sixteenth-century antiquarians

5.1.1 John Leland

John Leland (c. 1503-1552) is often thought of as one of England's first antiquarians. He was possibly born in Lancashire and was educated at St Paul's School and Christ's College, Cambridge. During the 1530s he secured the patronage of notable aristocrats and, according to his own writings, in 1533 secured some form of commission from Henry VII to explore the contents of monastic and college libraries, which he published in 1549, entitled The Laboryouse Journey. Although he was not the King's Antiquarian, Leland does appear to have played a role in the re-formation of the royal library in the 1530s and 1540s. From 1539 onwards he embarked on a series of five tours or visits to different regions of the country, where he sought to document and describe major topographical and natural features as well as major monuments, castles, churches, monasteries and colleges (Dictionary of National Biography). Although Leland's Itinerary was only published after his death, he exerted a profound influence on subsequent scholars and antiquarians.

Leland's visit to Stratford occurred less than 50 years after the rebuilding of the Guild Chapel, and is published in Part IV of Toulmin-Smith's edition of the Itinerary (Toulmin Smith 1964). Interestingly, Leland appeared to draw on both his own knowledge of Hugh Clopton as Lord Mayor of London and on local memory in his discussion of the latter's charitable works:

'Wherapon in tyme of mynde one Cloptun, a great rich marchant, and Mayr of London, as I remember, borne about Statford, first making a sumptuous new bridge and large of stone, wher in the middle be a vi. Great arches for the maine streame of Avon, and at eche ende certen smaul arches to bere the causey, and so to passé commodiously at such tymes as the river risith.
The same Clopton made in the middle of the towne a right fair and large chapelle, enduing it with 50. li. lande, as I hard say, by the yere, wher as v. prestes doth syng. And to this chapel longgith a solemne fraternite. And at such tyme as needeth, the goodes of this fraternite helpith the commune charges of the towne in tyme of necesite.' (Toulmin-Smith 1964, 49).

5.1.2 John Stow

John Stow (or Stowe) (1524/5-1605) appears to have been a self-taught scholar and historian and one of the most knowledgeable record collectors of the 16th century. He collected a wide range of manuscripts including chronicles, charters, ecclesiastical and municipal records, wills, and treatises, many of which are now deposited in the British Library (Harley Collection), the Bodleian Library , Lambeth Palace Library and the Folger Institute Library. Stow is also argued to have pioneered systematic research into historical records and in his lifetime published over 21 chronicles of England, including his most famous work, The Survey of London (1598). Stow was greatly influenced by scholars such as Leland and his manuscript copy of 1958, 30).

It is not clear why or how Stow came to know about the Guild Chapel's Dance of Death paintings. Later scholars, including Wilfrid Puddephat (1958, 30) who rediscovered the paintings, presumed that they had been whitewashed by John Shakespeare in 1563, as part of the Protestantising of the chapel. It would be easy to overplay this Shakespearean connection within the project. The possible survival or reappearance of these paintings has long fascinated Shakespearean scholars (Wynne-Davies 2003). However, it is also worth considering whether the supposed redundancy of the Chapel during the 1540s and 1550s described by Bearman (2007, 98) may have enabled paintings other than those of the Holy Cross in the chancel to have escaped destruction until the 1560s or 1570s.


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