Work during lockdown

Working at home since lockdown began in March, Library staff have had to reprioritise work since access to the collections on site has not been possible. Although requiring new priorities, this has presented an opportunity to add content to catalogues; work on projects to enhance existing data; and disseminate existing data for wider access.

For example, you can now view additional images uploaded to our online system, including selected images from the Archbishops’ Registers which have been digitised. These include this striking image of the arms of Archbishop Pole.


From more recent times, we are also adding a fine collection of images from the 1960s created by the Church Information Office. You can also see images of selected artefacts within the collection, and read more about some of them in this blog post.

Access to images (now totalling some 24,500 across the manuscript, archive and printed book holdings) is also being enhanced by the addition of tags to the system, which will help users to browse images by format, type and collection. This project is ongoing. You can also access links to material within the collections which is accessible in ‘book’ format.

Work is also in progress to add links from the archives catalogue to the image management system where digitised images exist, to help guide users to relevant content – especially important as they cannot currently access sources on site. This also applies to content hosted externally, for instance sources relating to Australasia now available online, and early modern manuscripts (the Bacon, Talbot and Shrewsbury papers) which are now available on a subscription basis.

Enhancement of the catalogue has included additional data for the extensive archive of the British Council for Churches, founded in 1942 and covering a multitude of topics about ecumenical relations and social issues in the later 20th century.

Work has also been undertaken to add more links between the catalogue database and the complementary authority databases for personal and corporate names, and places. These authority records aim to guide users to key content within the collections, which has become increasingly important as, since its inception in 2002, the archives catalogue has now grown to nearly 750,000 descriptive records. For instance, the collections contain rich sources for the history of Lambeth Palace itself, but a search within the catalogue database would present an unmanageable number of results. Searching via the place authority record produces a more coherent set of descriptions.

Additions to the catalogue include parish names for the series of maps documenting changes to parish boundaries. This forms part of rich holdings of maps within the collections.


Staff have also taken the opportunity to export catalogue data from our own system to websites which allow researchers to search across data for numerous archive repositories, hence exposing our rich content to a wider user base. The Archives Hub site now hosts 214 of our collection descriptions, including holdings from both the Library and the Church of England Record Centre.

Work is also in progress to add detailed catalogues to the Discovery site hosted by the National Archives.

Other aspects of work will not be immediately apparent to users but will facilitate access to material in future. For instance, further work has taken place to populate the catalogue with data on the papers of Archbishop Carey which (aside from speeches and photographs, already available in the online catalogue) are due from release from 2022.

More than 100,000 printed books records have been upgraded during lockdown, almost half the total number of records in the printed books catalogue. Library staff have also updated 10,000 name and subject authority files, researched citations, and contributed to projects to report Lambeth Palace Library’s printed books holdings to appropriate union catalogues, such as the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC).

The lockdown has also provided an opportunity for staff to share their knowledge of the collections with each other via a series of briefings and presentations, some of which have also formed the foundation of blog posts.

Item of Interest: A mediaeval ‘whodunnit’ – the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd

This month’s Item of Interest post by Clare Brown (Archivist), tells a story of mediaeval murder recounted through manuscripts.

MS 6 f 167v

This small vignette from the St. Alban’s Chronicle (MS 6, f. 167v) purports to show the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, last native Prince of Wales, on 11 December 1282.  Although the image shows a formal execution scene with a priest in attendance, the text of the Chronicle relates that Llywelyn was killed in an ambush or scuffle: And when Ƿe prince Lewellin his broǷer Ƿat wist he was sore abashed for he had no power to may[n]teyn werre  And Ƿen he fled & wend wele to haue scapid but Thomas mortymer in a morning wt v. knightes met hym alone & hym clipped round about & toke hym and smote of his hed and it presented to Ƿe king. And Ƿus was Lewellyn hedid & he & his heires disherit for eu[er]more be rightfull Jugement.(f.169).  This short text differs from that found in other manuscripts of the Brut where Llywelyn’s killer is named as Sir Roger de Mortimer assisted by ten knights [The Brut, ed. Friedrich W.D. Brie, Early English Text Society, 1906, reprinted 1960, p.183].  The fate of Llywelyn’s head, which was exhibited crowned with ivy at the Tower of London, has an ironic, though possibly unconscious reference to the ancient Welsh ‘Tale of Branwen’, the second branch of the Mabinogi, in which the head of Brân the Blessed was taken to the White Hill in London to protect the country from invasion.  The St. Alban’s Chronicle is part of the core collection of manuscripts bequeathed to Lambeth Palace Library by Archbishop Bancroft.  It is a deluxe copy of the prose Brut, a popular mediaeval chronicle recounting the history of Britain from the legendary times of Brutus, great grandson of Aeneas.  MS 6 dates from the last quarter of the fifteenth century and was probably written by an English scribe; the text interspersed with illuminations relating to the action of the narrative probably produced in Bruges.   The entire manuscript has been digitised and is available in ‘turn the page’ format on the Library’s online image gallery.

Interestingly, Lambeth Palace Library also holds a key source for the circumstances surrounding Llywelyn’s death, the Register of John Pecham, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1279 to 1292.  Archbishops’ Registers contain copies of important documents that record much of the ecclesiastical administration and political affairs that the Archbishop, as a senior churchman, was involved in. At the very end of Pecham’s Register (ff. 242-249v) is a series of documents relating to a diplomatic journey Pecham made to parts of Wales in 1282 on behalf of Edward I to try to bring about some sort of settlement of his very bitter dispute with Llywelyn and his followers.  The last of those documents is a brief report relating to Llywelyn’s death, headed ‘Report of the death of Llywelyn at the hands of the men of Edmund Mortimer, son of Roger Mortimer, and the death or flight of his army.’.

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Reg. Pecham f. 249v. (detail)

As the Register is not compiled chronologically but by recipient or author of a document, or by type of business for instance institutions of clergy or visitations of religious houses, it is not immediately clear that the Register contains more information about Llywelyn’s death.  However, the three volume Rolls Society edition edited by C.T. Martin and published in 1882-1885 shows that it does.

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Reg. Pecham f. 100v. (detail)

This image shows a letter from Pecham to Edward I, written in Norman French on 17th December 1282 from Pembridge in Herefordshire, the Thursday after St. Lucy’s Day.  By this time Llywelyn was dead, apparently on the Friday before St. Lucy’s Day.   The text, as translated by C.T. Martin, is as follows: ‘To my lord the King.  To his very dear lord Edward, by the grace of God king of England, lord of Ireland, duke of Aquitaine, friar John, by the permission of God, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England, greeting in great reverence.  Sire, know that those who were at the death of Llywelyn found in the most secret part of his body some small things which we have seen.  Among other things was a treasonable letter disguised by false names.  And that you may be warned, we send a copy of the letter to the Bishop of Bath, and the letter itself Edmund Mortimer has, with Llywelyn’s privy seal, and these things you may have at your pleasure.  And this we send to warn you, and not that anyone should be troubled for it.  And we pray you that no one may suffer death or mutilation in consequence of our information, and that which we send you in secret. Beside this, sire, know that lady Maud Longespée prayed us by letter to absolve Llywelyn, that he might be buried in consecrated ground, and we sent word to her that we would do nothing if it could not be proved that he showed signs of true repentance before his death.  And Edmund de Mortimer said to me that he had heard from his servants who were at the death that he asked for the priest before his death, but without sure certainty we will do nothing.  Besides this, sire, know that the very day he was killed, a white monk [a Cistercian] sang Mass to him, and my lord Roger de Mortimer has the vestments…’  The rest of the letter goes on to ask Edward to protect the clergy, especially those in Snowdon.

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Reg. Pecham f. 83 (detail)

In Pecham’s letter to Robert Burnell, Bishop of Bath and Wells (f.83) the treasonable letter is described as having been found by E[dmund] de Mortimer ‘in bracali L[ewelini] quondam princips Walliae’ that is, in his breeches.

So who killed Llywelyn ap Gruffudd?  Though the sources do not agree on the actual killer, they indicate that responsibility lay with the Mortimer family and, of them all, Edmund is chiefly implicated by the documents in Pecham’s Register.  The Mortimers were no strangers to Llywelyn but close kin; Roger Mortimer’s mother Gwladys Ddu was a daughter of Prince Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (Llywelyn the Great), so he and Llywelyn were first cousins.  Among their other cousins was Maud Longespée, daughter and heiress of Walter, 3rd Lord Clifford and his wife Margaret, the daughter of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, whose concern that Llywelyn should receive Christian burial prompted her to intercede with Pecham.

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Reg. Pecham f. 192 (detail)

Though her letter has not survived, it is clear from Pecham’s response (f.192) that he took her request seriously: Friar John, by the permission of God, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England, to the lady of great worth, Maud Longespée, greeting and the blessing of Jesus Christ.  My lady, your prayer agrees with pity and reason.  But know that Llywelyn, who was prince of Wales, cannot be absolved unless he showed signs of repentance at his death to amend and leave his follies. Therefore if this is certain that he was repentant at his death, and ready as far as was in his power to make amends to Holy Church, and this is proved before us, we will do what is right about it, for otherwise, without doing wrong, he cannot be absolved.  Therefore we approve that you and his other friends should labour about this, that some of those who were at his death should come in time before us and show the signs aforesaid, for in any other manner we can do nothing. [C.T. Martin’s translation]. 

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Reg. Pecham f. 193 (detail)

However on the next page of the Register is a memorandum that a letter had been sent on 28 December to the Archdeacon of Brecon asking him to certify before the Feast of the Epiphany (6 January) that Llywelyn had been buried in the church of Cwm Hir, a Cistercian Abbey near Llandrindod Wells.  No response is recorded in the Register, but tradition accepts that Cwm Hir was indeed Llywelyn’s burial place and a modern memorial slab has been placed in the ruins.

Code it be Magic: References for Archbishops’ Papers

Why do the Library’s collections of material for Archbishops of Canterbury have such a varying array of reference codes, often including abbreviations, names, numbers or slashes? What lies behind this array of identifiers, each of which should be unique for an orderable archival object, and how do they reflect the collections’ long history?

The earliest records of the administration of Archbishops of Canterbury are the Archbishops’ registers, which don’t have a reference code as such, so the register of Matthew Parker (1504-1575) is Reg. Parker for example. More extensive official papers of Archbishops, which exist from the mid-17th century but not in great quantities until the mid-19th, were traditionally bound into volumes and referenced by the Archbishop’s name and then the volume number, from eighteenth century material for Archbishop Thomas Secker (1693-1768) such as ‘Secker 2’ to more modern material such as ‘Coggan 31’ which includes requests for Archbishop Coggan to pray for rain during the long hot summer of 1976.

Currently work is progressing on the papers of Archbishop Robert Runcie (1921-2000), and his material is housed in archive quality folders with each file having an alphanumeric code which identifies the series of which it forms a part. This could be the so-called ‘main’ section, which reflects the main filing system used within Lambeth Palace at the time or series relating to specific activities, such as Anglican Communion visits (ACV). Some material was not managed as part of these series, so has a reference which reflects that; examples include photographs (PHOTO) and diaries (DIARIES). Further such material relating to senior staff from the period will be added to the catalogue in due course.

From 1933-1982 the Council on Foreign Relations served as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s ‘foreign office’ and its papers were managed separately. Cataloguing work on these is ongoing and the material has the reference CFR. From 1982 its functions were merged into the main Palace administration, so relevant material is within the Runcie papers.

For many earlier Archbishops, some papers which might be considered to be their official material are within the Library’s sequence of manuscripts, which have the reference MS. Often these are items which have entered the Library well after the period of office of the relevant Archbishop. A good example is MS 3274, which are papers of Archbishop Charles Manners Sutton (1755-1828), and which include letters from numerous bishops and politicians. They were acquired through the help of the Friends of the Library in 1984.

The best way to identify relevant material within the Archbishops Papers is to use our online catalogue of archives and manuscripts, where relevant references should be visible in the ‘Order No’ field. But don’t be surprised if they take a variety of forms.