Picture quiz 9 answer

This matula, or urine sample bottle, can be found in the Museum of London. Ancient civilisations including the Sumerians used urine to diagnose illness and by the medieval period it had evolved into a branch of medicine called uroscopy – or put another way doctors reckoned they could tell which of your four humours was out of balance simply by studying your urine. All they needed to do was look at the colour, the smell and, horror of horror, the taste of the medicine. They even had a handy chart to help them.


Picture Quiz 9

This week, there was no quiz last week, I’m giving you a picture of the whole thing. What is it’s purpose – and it’s not for that bunch of flowers you’ve picked from the garden!

The Museum of London

Calendar Houses

Bedstone Court calendar window

Bedstone Court in Shropshire was built by Sir Henry Ripley whose grandfather started Bowling Dyeworks in Bradford in 1806. I discovered on Monday, thank you Janet, that he purchased Bedstone Court in the 1870s and turned it into a calendar house – something I’d never come across before.

It has 365 windows, 52 rooms, 12 chimneys and 7 external doors. And it turns out that in the hall are 52 stained glass windows with include the signs of the zodiac and the labours associated with each month of the kind that you might find on a medieval calendar in a psalter or a book of hours.

It turns out that the Elizabethans introduced the calendar house in the sixteenth century – it was about the device that demonstrated your learning. Knole House in Kent built the year after Elizabeth I’s death boasts seven court yards and an eye watering 52 stair cases.

Scout Hall near Shibden in West Yorkshire is another calendar house – though in a state of ruin. It was built by John Mitchell, a silk merchant, in 1681 and boasted 365 panes of glass and 52 windows.

In the Midlands Bradgate House built by Henry Grey (yes it is that family) built a calendar house with 52 rooms, 12 chimneys and 365 windows – no, you can’t go and see it as it was demolished in 1925.

There’s not many of them – the investment and the attention to detail would have been huge but I think they’re absolutely fascinating.

Country Life Magazine

Picture quiz 8 – answer

The Museum of London – Charles I’s undershirt

Charles I wore this shirt on the 30th January 1649. It is made from knitted silk and he asked for it to prevent him from shivering. He did not want people to think that he was afraid to go to his execution.

Tudor podcast

After a little delay the Tudor podcast is now available for a gallop through the sixteenth century covering Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I.


With many thanks to Andrew Durrant of This is Distorted


And the legal bit:

This podcast uses sounds from free sound which are licensed under creative commons:

Beheading SFX by Ajexk at https://freesound.org/s/271984/

Medieval field measurements

Image from the Luttrell Psalter held by the British Library

An acre comes from the Latin word ager meaning field which led to the Old English aecer.  Originally an acre was the strip of land that could be plowed in one day by a team of oxen pulling a plough.      Ideally there would be a team of 8 oxen in a team, but it could be four or fewer depending on your wealth and whether your neighbour would lend you his. Clearly the more oxen you owned the more land that you could work and the more likely you were to be able to have surplus supplies. So far so good. Beyond that point it becomes a bit more complicated. Weights and measures were not standard – think of it more as a rule of thumb.

You could then divide every acre into 4 roods (1 rood = ¼ of an acre)  and each rood contains 40 perches or 40 rods.  The perch comes from the Latin name for a measuring pole whereas a rod comes from the Old English rod or goad that the ploughman used to encourage the oxen on – or put another way, if I’ve got it right – a rod, a pole and a perch are exactly the same thing and are the name given to the device by which the land was measured and which again was initially dependent on where you were as to what size it actually was! These days a rod is 5.5 yards and this seems to have been typical of a medieval ox goad.

Acres could also be divided into long-furrows or furlongs – each furrow ran the length of the acre strip of land. This was the distance that the ploughman ploughed before turning the plough = ideally it should be 40 rods or 220 yards if you prefer yards to rods, poles or perches.  

Acres were standardised in 1878 to 4840 square yards and because of the practical fact that fields were all sorts of shapes rather than neat strips the acre is now any shape you would like it to be. If you’re looking at a tithe map you’ll often see meansurements in acres, roods and perches.

If you just had the one ox rather than a team then an oxgang was the amount that a single oxen could plough in one season – or between 15-20 acres…again the rule of thumb kicks into operation.

And just when you were feeling as though you might be getting a handle on things I’m going to add the fact that in medieval times the unit used for measuring land for taxation purposes and to identify social status was the hide. A hide was deemed sufficient to support one family. Depending where you lived, and the quality of the land, the hide was a movable feast varying between 40 and 1000 acres.

When the Saxons claim to collect tax for Danegeld then worked on the principle of 120 acres = 1 hide. In 1086 when William the Conequer’s Domesday Book was completed the same premise was applied. And just so we’re clear a hide has the same area value as a carucate.


A hundred – an administrative area set up by the Saxons to subdivide a shire was the equally of a hundred hides in size. Across the border into Danelaw the hundred is identified as a wapentake. And of course if a hide supports one family then every hundred would be capable of supplying 100 fighting men – who all presumable arrived with the family rod, perch or pole if they didn’t have a sword or spear.


So from this happy little list of imperial measurements – 12 inches to the foot, 3 feet to the yard, five yards and one foot and six inches to the rod (or pole or perch), 4 rods (or poles or perch) to the chain, 10 chains to the furlong, and 8 furlongs to the statute mile I have omitted a chain.

A chain is 22 yards or 4 rods, poles or perches. A chain is the width of the medieval acre.

And I think that is more than enough for one day- and whichever way you look at it the medieval farmer was required to do an awful lot of walking!

History Challenge 18

This week and next week will be the last history challenges until September – based on the fact I need to come up with some new challenges. I shall continue with the picture quiz and there will as, British rail would say, be a replacement service along shortly.

This week I should like you to identify as many famous bishops, archbishops and cardinals as you can you have been associated with governing England from 1066 until 1745 which are completely arbitrary cut off dates but a frame is something that I have discovered to be very useful unless you want a cast of hundreds.

History Jar Challenge 18

Clement VII

For a complete list of popes in reverse order please follow this link:


There are, it turns out, rather a lot of them – 265 at current count.

The first pope was St Peter and he was, of course, crucified upside down. The next 31 popes were also martyrs and saints.

My first encounter with English History that involved a pope was the tale of St Gregory the Great. Gregory I began his papacy in Ad 590 and died in 604. He’s the pope who say Angle slaves in the market and said that they looked more like angels, on the back of which he set about reintroducing Roman Christianity into England. In 596 he sent St Augustine to Kent.

King Alfred the great was four when he went with his father to Rome in 853. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reported that the future king was confirmed by Pope Leo IV. Alfred returned to Rome two years later.

In 1066 Pope Alexander II blessed William the Conqueror’s intended invasion of England by declaring it a crusade. England had an unfortunate habit of appointing its own bishops. The pope thought that the papacy ought to hold that particular right. William had already developed his links with the papacy. He had required a papal dispensation in order for his marriage to Matilda of Flanders to be legitimated. Essentially the papacy wished to extend it’s power base outside Rome and Italy. It assumed that William the Conqueror, if he was victorious would tow the line. Unfortunately a later pope – Gregory VII discovered that William was not prepared to become the pontiff’s vassal.

Henry I continued the argument, refusing to allow his bishops to travel to Rome to be invested with their authority.

In 1154, Nicholas Breakspear became Pope Adrian IV — the only English Pope. Usually he is blamed for giving Ireland to Henry II – the papal bull identifying the king as the Lord of Ireland is open to question in terms of authenticity.

Unfortunately for the papacy English kings continued to take the view that they had the right to appoint bishops and abbots to vacant posts. This contention simmered to the surface during the reign of Henry II and resulted in the death of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. Superficially this resulted in the ascendency of the papacy who required Henry to do penance. In reality the king and the pope rubbed along with a series of compromises.

In 1209 Pope Innocent III excommunicated the whole country thanks to the shenanigans of King John after he refused to recognise Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1213 John agreed to pay feudal dues and effectively became the Pope’s vassal …on paper.

In 1378 there were two popes thanks to the Avignon Papacy. Schism resulted in popes and counter popes. You chose the one who would give you want you wanted. This coincided with the Hundred Years War.

From 1529 onward Henry VIII’s minister Thomas Cromwell worked to restrict the pope’s power in a bid to ensure his master’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon. In 1534 the Act of Supremacy was passed which made Henry the head of the Church in England. Pope Clement VII had tried to delay the inevitable but given that he was a prisoner of Catherine of Aragon’s nephew at the time he wasn’t really ever going to give Henry what he wanted.

Fletcher, Stella (2017) The Popes and Britain: A History of Rule, Rupture and ReconciliationHardcover

Picture Quiz 8

I think this one might be quite straight forward but I would like to know what it is? Who’s is it? And when it was last used?

Picture Quiz 7 – Queen Elizabeth’s ring

The Chequers Ring

This very personal item once belonged to Elizabeth I – hence the E. There is a hinge and a portrait inside the ring. No one knows who the woman is but given the head dress it is not unreasonable to suppose that it’s Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn.

I’ve posted about the ring before https://thehistoryjar.com/tag/the-chequers-ring/ So if you would like to read more follow the link.