A sign for The Lamb and Flag is seen as the Grade-II listed pub is forced to close, after more than 400 years of business, following outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in central Oxford, Britain, January 25, 2021. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh – RC21FL975VBS
Not the famous pub where the Inklings, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, Hugo Dyson, and others, regularly met back during the 1930s and 1940s. That was the Eagle and Child. But still a 450-Year-Old Oxford institution, owned by St. John College abd much frequented by Tolkien, Lewis, Thomas Hardy, and many other famous Oxonians, it has been announced is another casualty of COVID-19 lockdowns.
Archaeologists working in Stoke Mandeville to prepare for HS2 [a High-Speed Railway] have begun the excavation of the remains of the medieval church of St Mary.
They have also discovered some unusual stone carvings, medieval graffiti and other markings.
Two stones with a central drilled hole from which a series of lines radiate in a circle have been uncovered at the site of St Maryâ€™s.
Historians consider these markings to be â€˜witchesâ€™ marks, created to ward off evil spirits by entrapping them in an endless line or maze.
There are several well-known examples of these across Britain both in churches as well as houses and sometimes even on furniture. However, they can also be interpreted as early sun dials, used by the church to divide up the day into morning prayer, midday prayer and evening prayer.
These â€˜scratch dialsâ€™ as they are known, are usually found close to the southern door of the church as it is a position better suited for a sun dial.
At St Maryâ€™s, one example of the markings was found low down in the west buttress close to ground level which has led archaeologists to question its purpose.
The position of the stone would have meant that it wouldnâ€™t have served a purpose as a sun dial. This has left the possibility that it was there to ward off evil spirits or could have been a stone from a sun dial re-used as part of the church building. …
Archaeologists from Fusion JV working on behalf of HS2 Ltd at the site were also given the rare opportunity to excavate and carefully deconstruct the remains of the medieval church â€“ something that has not been done in Britain since the 1970s.
The old church was built to serve the manor house and was located some way from the village centre. It was replaced in 1866 by a new church built closer to the village.
Though it was known that the church had been demolished, the method and extent of demolition had not been recorded and it was therefore a surprise to the archaeologists to discover, that beneath the rubble the church survived to a height of almost 5ft with floors intact.
Detailed research into the structure of the church has allowed archaeologists to piece together a history of the development of St Maryâ€™s.
The church started off as a chapel built in about 1070, shortly after the Norman Conquest and may have been at first the private chapel belonging to the lord of the manor at that time. The church was soon extended, and an aisle added in the 1340s.
Archaeologists These new additions seem to mark a transition from a chapel used for private prayer to a church that was used by the local villagers.
Work to dismantle and excavate the church will continue into next year and archaeologists are looking forward to answering many more questions concerning the church and its architecture including discovering whether there may be a Saxon church lying beneath its floor.
What is being excavated is a heap of rubble, all that remains of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in the deserted village of the former Stoke Mandeville. The abandoned 11th or 12th Century Church was condemned and demolished in 1966.
Last month, a challenge from Durham University spurred bakers to whip up a soul cake, a bygone bun once integral to a medieval tradition of feeding the poor and honoring the dead. But, in the spirit of competitive baking reality shows, there was a catch: Nobody really knows how, traditionally, it was supposed to be baked.
We know generally what soul cakes looked like, and what was inside of them. We know that bakers crafted them into small, round, square, or oval bunsâ€”garnishing the top with currants in the shape of a cross. And we know its purpose: Giving a soul cake to someone in poverty allegedly freed a departed soul from Purgatory. But weâ€™re still in the dark about its intended taste and texture, and exactly how to go about concocting a soul cake in true medieval fashion.
â€œWe have a recipe from a household book from 1604 compiled by a certain Lady Elinor Fettiplace that includes a recipe for a soul cake,â€ says Dr. Barbara Ravelhofer, a professor of English literature at Durham University and facilitator of the soul cake challenge. â€œHowever, it doesnâ€™t give us the quantitiesâ€”nor does it tell us how long to bake it. So you have to work out for yourself what to do with the ingredients.â€ Spearheaded by Dr. Ravelhofer and the Records of Early English Drama North East team, the Great Northern Soul Cake Bake doubles as a competition and crowdsourcing project. By challenging the public to decode the bare-bones recipe, the research team hopes to understand and resurrect the original soul cakeâ€”as well as the tradition that surrounds it.
Soul cakes are connected to Britainâ€™s early Christian celebrations known as All Saintsâ€™ Day and All Soulsâ€™ Day, Halloween-like festivities commemorating the recently departed. On November 2nd, beggars would weave their way through the chilly darkness, rapping on wealthy homeownersâ€™ doors in exchange for a soul cake. But obtaining it was no cake walk. To successfully soul, one had to sing for sweets.
Whether it be musical or theatrical, souling required performance in exchange for a cakeâ€”a tradition that looks a lot like modern-day trick-or-treating. And, though itâ€™s impossible to definitively claim souling as the progenitor of tricking and treating, Dr. Ravelhofer says theyâ€™re certainly connected. However, she points out, there are key differences. â€œA soul-caker was somebody who did something to obtain something,â€ she says. â€œWhereas trick-or-treating strikes me as, â€˜Give me something or else Iâ€™ll do something.â€™â€
Demanding candy door-to-door, she posits, is a â€œslightly degenerated, commercialized formâ€ of the All Soulsâ€™ Day transactions of medieval Europe. Souling, Dr. Ravelhofer adds, also had a strong connection to charity and memoriam. The act of doling out freshly baked goods, while thinking of a â€œpoor, departed soul,â€ filled two needs with one deed, giving to the hungry and freeing a soul in question from Purgatory in one fell swoop.
While vestigial remnants of this practice can still be found in some parts of England, the tradition of souling, and the cakes that came with it, have since disappearedâ€”until now.
To more fully understand the history and tradition of All Souls Day, Dr. Ravelhofer and her team devised the bake off. The technical challenge (the first of a series of three) called for readers to recreate a successful iteration of the festive bun using only Elinor Fettiplaceâ€™s 17th-century recipe, which reads:
â€œTake flower & sugar & nutmeg & cloves & mace & sweet butter & sack & a little ale barm, beat your spice & put in your butter & your sack, cold, then work it well all together & make it in little cakes & so bake them, if you will you may put in some saffron into them or fruit.â€
Folks from across the globe responded, submitting recipes, photographs, and anecdotes via email, Facebook, and Twitter, with results ranging from wild successes to valiant flops.
â€œWe had proper food archaeologists who really got into the spirit of things, and then we had candidates who tried to microwave it,â€ says Dr. Ravelhofer.
David Petts, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at Durham University, posted about his soul cakes on his personal blog, likening them to â€œslightly dense hot-cross buns.â€ Another participant found that using a ruby or dark ale gave the cakes a soft, chewy texture. Yet another made a successful stoneground cake by adding rye, theorizing that medieval bakers may have used additional grains.
But cataloguing the failed cakes, Dr. Ravelhofer says, has been just as informative as admiring the more edible ones.
Understanding what doesnâ€™t work, and why, allows historians to do detective work when it comes to understanding what the recipe may or may not have looked like.
Gizmodo reports on the reconstruction of the face of a man who lived 700 years ago by Cambridge scientists.
[H]ereâ€™s what we know about Context 958.
He was just slightly over 40 years old when he died. His skeleton showed signs of considerable wear-and-tear, so he likely lead a tough and hard working life. His tooth enamel stopped growing during two occasions in his youth, suggesting he likely lived through bouts of famine or sickness when he was young. The archaeologists found traces of blunt force trauma inflicted to the back of his head, which healed over before he died. The researchers arenâ€™t sure what he did for a living, but they think he was a working-class person who specialized in some kind of trade.
Context 958 ate a diverse diet rich in meat or fish, according to an analysis of weathering patterns on his teeth. His profession may have provided him with more access to such foods than the average person at the time. His presence at the charitable hospital suggests he fell on hard times, with no one to take care of him.
â€œContext 958 was probably an inmate of the Hospital of St John, a charitable institution which provided food and a place to live for a dozen or so indigent townspeopleâ€”some of whom were probably ill, some of whom were aged or poor and couldnâ€™t live alone,â€ noted John Robb, a professor from Cambridge Universityâ€™s Division of Archaeology, in a statement.
Strangely, he was buried face down, which is rare but not unheard of in medieval burials.
In The Story of a Norfolk Farm (1940), Henry Williamson recounts the story of his own less-than-successful efforts to straighten out the tangled business affairs of his bumbling brother-in-laws to be.
When Papa died, the Boys, as Loetitia called them, would have some money from the trustfund of their parents’ marriage settlement. One of them had an idea, How about trying to get some of that money now? Only a little part of it, of course, about one hundred pounds. It was fatiguing work, pushing on the treadle-lathe hour after hour. Now with a hundred pounds they could buy an oil-engine, and two more lathes, and turn out more work. Keen on the idea, they went to see a lawyer.
Certainly, said the lawyer, he would make inquiries on their behalf. The inquiries were so thorough that in less than a week he gave them the good news that much more than a hundred pounds could be arranged, if they liked. Why not sell all their reversions? Then they would have nearly three thousand pounds, with which they could enlarge their engineering shops more profitably. They thought him an awfully nice fellow to have taken such trouble for them, and agreed that it would be fine to have a big Works in the garden, right by the house, so convenient for business. So they signed the document; and a few months later, when Loetitia left to share the precarious life of an unknown and unconventional author, building began. They gave the job to a small local builder, to help them. There was no contract, no price agreed between them. When the building was finished, the little builder hired a cab, bought a barrel of beer, and drove around town visiting his friends. For a whole week the little man celebrated: the dream of his life had come true: suddenly he had a lot of money.
As for the Boys, inexperience and trust in human nature had resulted in a factory being erected with walls of only a single brick in thickness. Part of those walls fell down, and had to be rebuilt. Only the roof held them together. This had cost about Â£1600, but when the fire insurance inspector came to look over the completed building, he said that in the event of a total loss his company would indemnify them only to the full value of the building, which was Â£600.
A new app which tries to guess your regional accent based on your pronunciation of 26 words and colloquialisms will help Cambridge academics track the movement and changes to English dialects in the modern era.
Along with colleagues from the universities of Zurich and Bern, Cambridgeâ€™s Adrian Leemann has developed the free app English Dialects (available on iOS and Android) which asks you to choose your pronunciation of 26 different words before guessing where in England youâ€™re from.
The app, officially launched today on the App Store and Google Play, also encourages you to make your own recordings in order to help researchers determine how dialects have changed over the past 60 years. The English language app follows the teamâ€™s hugely successful apps for German-speaking Europe which accumulated more than one million hits in four days on Germanyâ€™s Der Spiegel website, and more than 80,000 downloads of the app by German speakers in Switzerland.
â€œWe want to document how English dialects have changed, spread or levelled out,â€ said Dr Leemann, a researcher at Cambridgeâ€™s Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics. â€œThe first large-scale documentation of English dialects dates back 60-70 years, when researchers were sent out into the field â€“ sometimes literally â€“ to record the public. It was called the â€˜Survey of English Dialectsâ€™. In 313 localities across England, they documented accents and dialects over a decade, mainly of farm labourers.â€
The researchers used this historical material for the dialect guessing app, which allows them to track how dialects have evolved into the 21st century.
â€œWe hope that people in their tens of thousands will download the app and let us know their results â€“ which means our future attempts at mapping dialect and language change should be much more precise,â€ added Leemann. â€œUsers can also interact with us by recording their own dialect terms and this will let us see how the English language is evolving and moving from place to place.â€
The app asks users how they pronounce certain words or which dialect term they most associate with commonly-used expressions; then produces a heat map for the likely location of your dialect based on your answers.
For example, the app asks how you might say the word â€˜lastâ€™ or â€˜shelfâ€™, giving you various pronunciations to listen to before choosing which one most closely matches your own. Likewise, it asks questions such as: â€˜A small piece of wood stuck under the skin is aâ€¦â€™ then gives answers including: spool, spile, speel, spell, spelk, shiver, spill, sliver, splinter or splint. The app then allows you to view which areas of the country use which variations at the end of the quiz.
It also asks the endlessly contentious English question of whether â€˜sconeâ€™ rhymes with â€˜goneâ€™ or â€˜coneâ€™.