To most people who don’t know me, my academic research may seem a bit incongruous with the rest of the work that I do and my interest in politics. I see it as a logical next step in my on-going and higher education process. I am not just looking at history – or rather architectural history – but I am thinking about the political economy, motivation, and institutions of that time period. And not in the least it is the time of the rise of merchants (or really entrepreneurs) who are making money and becoming patrons.
In the last week, my research has taken a rather strange turn. I came across a chapter in a book (written by an American) citing a testimony document from the Court of Augmentations. In looking at this closer, it appears that Commissioners from the Court of Augmentations were asked in intervene in widespread looting of Hailes Abbey in the years immediately following the dissolution (1540s). The result is a wonderful collection of documents which are pages and pages long.
Hailes Abbey is/was located near Winchombe, Gloucestershire, and was a major pilgrimage site owing to the fact that they had a pro-ported vial of Christ’s blood. The Cistercian community at Hailes even built a church with an ambulatory area for pilgrims to walk around and view or pray to the vial. This was a massive departure from traditional Cistercian design as seen at sites like Fountains or Rievealux which adopted the traditional Cistercian church design as laid out in their rules.
All of this is interesting, by why does it matter? In looking at documents and archives one just never knows what is ‘out there’ or really what is buried beneath maps and other administrative documents not yet poured through by researchers. These documents have had a little bit of research on them, but nothing compared to other sites and locations from the dissolution. With great luck I discovered that a contemporary-to-the-documents map of Hailes exist to show who lived where at the time of these interviews. All really fascinating and hopefully illuminating too.
(Photo: Hailes Abbey by English Heritage)