Item of Interest: Hidden Treasures

The latest Item of Interest post comes from Alexandra Wade (Preservation Project Assistant), who tells us about the treasures that have been uncovered during conservation work being carried out on Lambeth Palace Library’s manuscript collection.

This year in the conservation studio I have been working on a National Manuscript Conservation Trust (NMCT) funded project to clean and re-package our early manuscript collections to prepare them for the move to the new library in 2020. This collection is made up of the libraries of Archbishops Bancroft and his successor Abbot, and contains the bulk of our medieval manuscript collection. I have been dry cleaning the books using a combination of a rubber smoke sponge and a series of soft brushes. Once the book is cleaned it is boxed in a new complete enclosure. We custom make these boxes in-house using a Zund production machine and acid free, archival card.

MS 573 in custom made storage box
MS 573 in its custom made storage box.

Whilst sampling this material I often come across many unique and interesting items that hold hidden treasures. An example of this is MS 573, simply titled: Arabic Manuscript. Initially the book appeared to be an average volume, bound in an oriental, red leather binding with paper leaves, it wasn’t until I opened it that I found a few treasures waiting for me.

MS 573 binding
The gilt stamped binding of MS 573.

Each page has a basic illumination around the edges of the block of text, which is usual for the Arabic texts that Lambeth holds. In comparison, the Western texts tend to have images which are illuminated rather than creating marginalia. There are odd words or phrases highlighted in gold throughout MS 573 and these are recitational markings for the pieces that are to be vocalised.

It is noted in David Wilkin’s catalogue of 1720 that:

MS 573 David Wilkins catalogue entry (002)
David Wilkins’ catalogue entry.

“The solution to the difficult terrain of tradition about the issues (Books) directions were recorded by Mahmoud Ebn-Seder Esharia, authors Obeid Allah, Ebn-Masuud Ebn-Esharia Tagus.”[1]

We can also see an inscription inside of MS 573 in the hand of Archbishop William Sancroft, providing an earlier description given by Edmund Castell (1606 -1685):

The religion of Arabia. The Meslimis. Concerning the purification of fasting, the prayers of the pilgrimage of faith, teaching of those who make profession of the religion of muhammedici.”[2]

The ownership inscription indicates to us that Archbishop Sancroft owned this text and that it was gifted to him by John St. John in 1679. We know from our records that John St. John presented a series of Arabic Manuscripts to Archbishop Sancroft in 1679 and again in 1680 from his personal collection.

Upon working through the text, I discovered two small, loose inserts that had been placed inside of the book. The red images are inked onto a very thin piece of parchment and in both cases, they are partial images with some areas missing. The first appears to be part of the Muslim Star of David with some inscriptions present within it.

MS 573 Star of David
Inscribed insert depicting the Star of David.

The six-pointed star is actually a common symbol throughout many different religions, including Islam. Muslims know the hexagram as the Seal of Solomon— both Solomon and David were prophets, and both are mentioned in the Islamic holy book, the Quran. The hexagram appears in Islamic artefacts and mosques worldwide.”[3]

The other piece is more faded but depicts a series of circles that also has inscriptions within it. There is debate around the intended purpose of these pieces of parchment, were they meant to add context to the main text? Were they precious keep sakes, or even book marks? The missing sections are interesting and the straight edges suggest that the piece was deliberately cut either before the ink was laid or after.

MS 573 inscribed insert
Inscribed insert with circular design and inscriptions.

It is important that we preserve these decorative pieces to add to the provenance of the text. Through research and the dedication of time we will be able to decipher the writing and add some context to the images. To keep the items in good condition I create custom fit wallets from age compatible paper which is an acid free substance that adds little bulk to the overall text but maintains a more rigid structure than tissue. I enclose all edges around the insert and I also write on the MS number so that in the unlikely event that it was separated from the main text it could find its home again. These little envelopes are placed back into the text at the place they were found so that the provenance of the text is not disturbed.

MS 573 packaged insert
Insert safely packaged in an envelope and returned to the manuscript.

As I came to the end of the text I noticed that there were several notes added in to the margins of the pages. Although I am unable to read the text myself one can assume that the notes relate to the subject matter: the purification of fasting, the prayers of the pilgrimage of faith, teaching of those who make profession of the religion. Seeing additional notes like these remind us that we are intimately connected with the people of the past and provide insight into the everyday practices, thoughts, feelings, and priorities of those using this text.

MS 573 illumination
Example of an illumination from MS 573, with marginalia.

Interestingly, the last page also contains an illuminated image. Through research I have been able to determine that several Arabic texts feature this image on the final page. It is suggested by Julia Friedman that the:

“text is often placed within or adjacent to holy symbols; what may look like a visual decision may be primarily symbolic.”[4]

In this collection I have been unable to find another example of an early protective covering for an illumination. This works in the same way that a protective piece of tissue would be used in more modern books to protect plates and engravings. This one is made from parchment and is bound into the text block so that it is held in place.

MS 573 illumination with covering material
Early protective covering for an illumination.

Are you able to decipher any of the notes or writings on loose parchment? Do you have any more information about what the images or the illumination symbolise?  Leave a comment below to let us know what you think.



[1] Lambeth Palace Library, Calm View Record, [Website], 2008-2018,, (accessed 30 May 2018)

[2] Lambeth Palace Library, Calm View Record, [Website], 2008-2018,, (accessed 30 May 2018)

[3] Unknown, ‘The Star of David’, The Star of David in Islam, [web blog], 7 May 2016, (accessed 30 May 2018)

[4] Julia Friedman, ‘Hyperallergic’, Revisiting the 18th Century Illuminated Islamic Manuscript, [web blog], 13 April 2015, (accessed 30 May 2018)

Item of Interest: The Incorporated Church Building Society.

This month’s Item of Interest post was written by Vida Milovanovic (Archives Assistant) and celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Incorporated Church Building Society and its connection with Lambeth Palace Library.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Incorporated Church Building Society (ICBS) and to mark the occasion, a new publication ‘Free Seats for All’ by Gill Hedley will be launched on behalf of the National Churches Trust.

As the repository of the ICBS archive, Lambeth Palace Library is proud to showcase the collection and explore the history of the organisation.

Founded in 1818, the ICBS was the principal voluntary Society for promoting the building, enlargement, re-seating, and restoration of Anglican Churches throughout England and Wales. Set up by lay church-members, in response to a huge increase and redistribution in the population and because of a lack of state aid, ICBS was the foremost Society in building and restoring churches throughout the most active period of church building since the Middle Ages.

Image 1
ICBS 7232
St Mary Fishponds, Stapleton, Bristol
Alterations and additions, plan dated August 15, 1871.

A parallel initiative subsequently resulted in the government granting a million pounds towards the building of new churches under the guidance of the Church Building Commission.

The Society was incorporated by an Act of Parliament in 1828. Whilst it did not build churches, it donated generous grants of up to £500 towards new buildings and, perhaps more importantly, as many parish churches were in a state of disrepair and could not offer accommodation for the poor, supported the restoration and enlargement of existing churches. From 1830 onwards, state aid weakened, and the Society increasingly began to donate money towards the building of new churches. The extra accommodation built was designed and constructed on the principle that it was to be available free of charge so that it was suitable for the poor. The administration of the society was transferred in 1982 to the Historic Churches Preservation Trust, which has now been succeeded by the National Churches Trust.

Image 2
ICBS 7972
Holy Trinity, Ingham, Norfolk
Lithograph from The Building News from July 21, 1876 with groundplan, elevations and interior view.

The Society required building request applications to be submitted in a consistent and uniform fashion, with drawings and plans of the proposed work. As a result of such strict guidelines, a wealth of records pertaining to individual churches were created and, as a consequence, a voluminous archive collection was born.

Image 4
ICBS 7878
Plan of parish church of St Nicholas, Romersham, 1877, featuring floor tiles in colourful detail.

The ICBS archive includes over 15,000 files relating to applications by parishes for grants from the Society. Catalogue details are accessible online. The earliest file dates from 1818 and the latest from 1982. Individual files may include application forms, correspondence, plans, building specifications, engravings or artists’ impressions, certificates of satisfactory completion, parochial subscription lists, parish magazines, and from 1867 onwards, photographs. The files include over 12,000 plans, accessible online via the Library’s image database. The Library also holds a series of minute books, dating between 1818-1989, numbered 1-36, and additional volumes, numbered 37-42, including a volume relating to the foundation of the Society. The volumes record the proceedings of the ICBS committees and its Annual General Meetings.

Image 3
ICBS 3686
Lithographic print of the exterior view of St Matthew’s Church in the parish of Lyncombe and Widcombe, Somerset, dated 1847.

Since becoming available, the records of the Incorporated Church Building Society have been extremely popular with our readers and the collection continues to be one of the most heavily consulted. The ICBS archive documents the work of numerous architects in building new churches and also enlarging and altering existing structures, including some of the most prominent practitioners of their day. Some researchers are interested in the work of particular architects or architectural trends, but the archive constitutes a source on the built heritage of thousands of communities throughout England and Wales, and many enquiries are from local historians interested in a particular church.


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.’.

Reg Peckham f249v_cropped
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.

Reg Peckham f100v_cropped
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.

Reg Peckham f83r_cropped
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.

Reg Peckham f192r_cropped
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]. 

Reg Peckham f193r_cropped
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.

Item of Interest: Crisis at Christmas – 50th Anniversary

This poignant Christmas-themed Item of Interest comes from Emily Rumble (Archives Assistant at Lambeth Palace Library), who is exploring the historic link between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the charity Crisis.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the charity Crisis.

In 1967, in response to heightened public awareness about homelessness, the Crisis charity was founded by William Shearman and Iain Macleod. The charity is well-known for its campaigns to aid homeless people in finding shelter and employment. At the time, it was estimated that 13,000 single people were homeless, 1,000 of whom were sleeping rough.

Their most famous campaign is the Crisis at Christmas campaign, which began in the early 1970s. Its aim was to provide one day a year, on Christmas Day, when single homeless people could have access to food, shelter, clothes and companionship. The campaign has run every year since 1972.

The Archbishops of Canterbury’s involvement began in 1969 when, to raise funds, Crisis organised a ‘reverse pilgrimage’ from Canterbury to London. At 9:30am on Sunday 14 December, the walkers were joined by Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1961 to 1974, who saw them off at the beginning of their 65 mile trek to raise money for the charity.

This began the traditional ‘Bishops’ Walk’ which has taken place every year thereafter. Following Ramsey’s resignation from the role of Archbishop of Canterbury, his successor, Donald Coggan (in office from 1974 to 1980), continued to be involved in the annual pilgrimages. Even when he was unable to attend the event himself, the Archbishop would send a message to the walkers at the start of the pilgrimage. By 1977, the event had grown in size and 340 walkers set out from Canterbury Cathedral. At this time, the Gatehouse at Lambeth Palace was also being used as part of the campaign to house donations of food and clothing for Open Christmas, ready for use in the parish church of St Mary’s next door. A letter from the charity’s chair, Casper Wherly, indicates that Morton’s Tower became quite busy around Christmas time with the amount of donations they received on behalf of the charity.

Image 1
Lambeth Palace Library: Coggan 51, f.130

By 1979, the campaign to raise funds and collect resources for Open Christmas had reached further heights as homelessness continued to increase. The launch was an interdenominational affair, with not only the Archbishop pledging his support and making an appearance, but also the Archbishop of Southwark, the Rev. Richard Hamper of the Free Church Federal Council, and the Rev. Lord Soper, representing the Methodist Church. It was believed that the uniting of the Anglican, Catholic, Methodist and Free Churches would raise awareness of the campaign, and the event was attended by the press, television and radio services. The Archbishop gave a short statement at the launch event, in which he highlighted in particular the problem of homelessness amongst young people and those in their 60s and 70s who found themselves without a fixed abode and unable to find work because of it.

Image 2
Lambeth Palace Library: Coggan 80, f.61

On 6th December 1980, nine months after being installed, Archbishop Robert Runcie walked the first mile with the walkers from Canterbury, continuing the tradition of involvement by his office. In 1981 Runcie made particular reference in his message about the effects of the recession on young people, and the three million unemployed people in the UK, commenting on how he hoped the walkers felt the momentary discomfort of blisters on their feet was worth it to help fund “a little comfort and good cheer to others” (Runcie/MAIN/1981/182).

Image 3
Lambeth Palace Library: Runcie/MAIN/1981/182

By 1982, the Archbishop was asked to be vice-president of the charity. In 1985, 530 people had made the pilgrimage, and the last we see of the annual tradition is Archbishop Runcie agreeing again to start the walk in 1986, but at this point, unfortunately, our collections of the Archbishops’ Papers are closed under our 30 year closure policy, so we are unable to track the Archbishop’s role in the campaigns any further for the time being.

We do, however, know that Archbishop Runcie’s wife, Lindy Runcie, entered into the spirit of Christmas to help fund the campaign. Amongst our photograph collections we find this image of Mrs Runcie clearly enjoying the opportunity to dress up as Father Christmas!

Image 4
Lambeth Palace Library: Runcie/Photo/80

Item of Interest: the H. H. Willmore Collection

Today’s Item of Interest post comes from Lizzie Hensman, Archive Assistant at the Church of England Records Centre (CERC), who will be talking about the collection of Henry H. Willmore .

Church 2
Window detail of South West Spire

The stage section of the warehouse at the Church of England Record Centre holds a whole range of aging files of obscure origins. Although the Record Centre now only accepts records from the central bodies of the Church of England, we have some collections donated by members of the public.

The Henry H. Willmore Collection is one such donation. Composed of 14 files, it forms a near complete encyclopaedia of church spires in England which was donated to us in 1960 by his widow M. Kathleen Willmore after the Dean of Gloucester made a request for guidebooks to churches. From 1935 to 1940 Willmore visited over 800 churches all over the country, in preparation for publishing a guidebook with a working title of “Stone Spires in England (Including Brick & Stone Examples) With Some Relevant Observations on Towers, Parapets etc.”. He travelled from the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Truro to the parish church of Ambleside in Cumbria. In fact the only counties with no churches included in the main body of his work are Kent, Northumberland and County Durham. Unfortunately Willmore died in September 1940, before managing to complete the work, but what he did do is very impressive.

Church 1.1
Window Detail of Central Spire

The entries for each church include a description of the spire, some history of repairs carried out on it and gorgeous sketches of the windows and ornamentation. It feels like you should be able to play guess the church with some of the more well-known cathedrals. However, some of the drawings are of such small detail that it would seem almost impossible if you didn’t know the church architecture and history well to be able to identify them. So I’ll be very impressed if anyone can work out which cathedral the images here refer to.

Church 3
Window detail of North West Spire

The building of the cathedral in question commenced in 1880, but two of the spires weren’t finished until 1910. The architect was John Loughborough Pearson (although it was completed by his son Frank) and it is one of only two English cathedrals to have three spires.

Have you guessed yet?

For anyone wondering, the cathedral was Truro.

As well as entries for almost every stone spired church in England and Monmouthshire, Willmore’s book would have contained a history of architecture in England, focussing, of course, on the use of spires; and explanations of their construction and distribution around the country – making it a remarkable work for a retired Naval Officer with a side interest in architecture.

This collection is available on our online catalogue here.