Summer update from the Library and Record Centre

Lambeth Palace Library and the Church of England Record Centre regularly embark on new projects and acquire and catalogue new material, from rare books and manuscripts to modern publications.  These posts provide a brief update on some of our latest acquisitions, projects and upcoming events, to keep you up-to-date with our most recent news.

New books!

Enjoy reading one (or more!) of our recently acquired new books. Highlights include:

Magazines and journals

magazinesLambeth Palace Library also collects a variety of magazines and journals. You are very welcome to visit the Reading Room to consult these too. Some of our recently received titles include:

Anglican and Episcopal History
Church Monuments
English Historical Review
Families First
Historical Research
Modern Believing
New Directions
Parliamentary History
The Prayer Book Society Journal

newspapersWe also receive the following papers and magazines weekly:

The Church of England Newspaper
Church Times
TLS (The Times Literary Supplement)

Upcoming events

Lambeth Palace Garden Open Days with Great Hall entry and exhibition

Every first Friday of the month until September, 12 noon to 3pm
Next Open Day: Friday 2 August 


An opportunity to visit the Palace’s beautiful gardens and see the progress of the new Library building! Refreshments and entertainment are provided in the garden and there will be plants for sale. The 17th century Great Hall will also be open throughout the Open Days, with a chance to view displays of some of the Library’s collections. Do come along and bring your friends and family!

There is an entrance fee of £5, which will go to a chosen charity each month, and there is no need to book.

New Library update

As of July, the Library project remains on time and on budget. The Archbishop topped out the building in May.


The brickwork is nearing completion and is gradually being revealed as the scaffolding comes down.


Over the summer and Autumn most of the work is concentrated on the inside of the building as all the mechanical work progresses inside.


Staff are now heavily involved in planning for the big move of all the archives from the Library and CERC which will be taking place between June to December 2020.

Archive news

Clare Brown awarded The Lanfranc Award for Education and Scholarship

clareThe Library is delighted that Mrs Clare Brown, Archivist, was awarded The Lanfranc Award for Education and Scholarship by Archbishop Welby at the Lambeth Awards 2019, for her work in guiding readers through the archives of the Church of England, and for her exhibitions and scholarly expertise in support of Lambeth Palace Library and three Archbishops of Canterbury. In April, we bid Clare a very long and happy retirement after seventeen years of service at the Library!

Clare’s contribution over the years is too vast to summarise briefly, but we hope to give a sense of her many accomplishments. On joining the Library, Clare completed cataloguing of the papers of Archbishop Ramsey, and then led cataloguing of the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) archive. She led work on the collaborative projects on the Library’s important collection of Greek manuscripts, with an exhibition in 2006 and the launch of the catalogue in 2016. She contributed to understanding of the Canterbury Archbishops’ Registers alongside work undertaken by the Borthwick Institute on the York Registers. Her knowledge of the history of ecumenical relations contributed to displays for visitors to the Archbishop from other churches, and her extensive knowledge of the collections and of Church of England history have benefited many Library readers and NCIs colleagues over the years. This is evidenced, not least, by the amount of enquiries Clare answered during her time at the Library – almost 3,700!

We will all greatly miss Clare’s incredible knowledge, helpfulness, her willingness to share her expertise with Library readers and colleagues alike, and especially her sense of humour.

Archival collections news

Papers from 1988 have been released for research, including some 500 files from the papers of Archbishop Runcie and further material on Anglican-Roman Catholic relations from the records of ARCIC II. Descriptions can be searched on the Library’s online archives catalogue.

Further newly-catalogued material includes records of the Lambeth Diploma and Vacation Term for Biblical Study, two initiatives founded in the early 20th century to provide theological and scriptural training for women. Library staff are also adding detail to descriptions of various series of news cuttings and photographs relating to Archbishops Benson (cartoon pictured below), Davidson, Lang and Fisher, which complement correspondence and other papers in the main series. Photographs of Lambeth Palace and garden by Sue Snell are also now catalogued.


An annotated Bible belonging to John Taylor Smith, Bishop of Sierra Leone, was donated to the Library. The Library also received a set of playing cards produced by the Mothers’ Union.

Watercolours from the Library collections can now been seen on the new Watercolour World website.


Recent blog posts have covered a printed work on music from the Sion College collection; a further report on records of the Court of Arches; and a conference on Anglo-Saxon manuscripts.

A digitised version of Herbert Bosham’s life of Thomas Becket incorporating folios from the Library’s MS 5048 detached from the parent manuscript held in Arras is now available.


The 100th anniversary of the Church Assembly, predecessor of General Synod, occurs in 2019. Aside from the main archive held at the Church of England Record Centre, there are further voluminous sources in the Library collections.

An edition of the household accounts of Archbishop Laud has been published; the original document is held at the National Archives, but complements sources relating to Laud in the Library collections. Readers may be interested in a Salvation Army blog post on the history of Christianity in China; the Library also holds material on the church in China.

In the Conservation Studio

Earlier in the year, a group of students from the Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts South-East England (CHASE) visited the Library as part of their ‘Material Witness‘ training programme, which examines physical objects in the digital age. The visit was organised by Teresa Lane, PhD student at the Courtauld Institute of Art, who recently completed a six-month CHASE internship working on the Library’s illuminated manuscripts. It gave participants a behind-the-scenes look in the conservation studio and an opportunity to learn about the different approaches and techniques involved in preserving fragile books.


Lara Artemis, Senior Conservator at the Library, led the sessions on medieval manuscripts, examining their materiality and chemistry, as well as their history and provenance. The group were shown the stunningly illuminated 13th-century Lambeth Apocalypse (MS 209) – one of the Library’s treasures – and looked at the kinds of pigments used by the artists. The students even had a go at mixing pigments and painting their own illuminations on vellum afterwards!


The photographs above are taken from the Material Witness blog about the student’s visit to Lambeth Palace Library, which gives plenty more fascinating insights into manuscripts and their conservation.

In other news, we continue to make strides in our boxing and preparing the collections for the move. We’ve now completed around 25,000 boxes for vulnerable items in the collection, including completing the job of cleaning, measuring, boxing and organising the vulnerable Sion College Library collections stored in the Blore, one of our Library storerooms.


Sion College Founder’s Day at Lambeth Palace

Fellows and members of Sion College celebrated its Founder’s Day at Lambeth Palace on Tuesday 9 July. This year’s event included a lecture by Baroness Manningham-Buller, former Director General of MI5, who spoke on the topic of “Intelligence and Ethics”. Evening prayer in the Chapel was followed by a drinks reception in the Great Hall where attendees were able to view an exhibition of some of the newly catalogued items from the Sion College collection, now housed in Lambeth Palace Library. Also on display were books and manuscripts relating to the lecture’s theme, including Reginald Scot’s Discovery of witchcraft (1654) in which the author denounced the prosecution and torture of those accused of witchcraft as un-Christian and irrational, and a 1584 caricature of Thomas Norton, whose ruthless and enthusiastic punishment of English Catholics led to his being nicknamed the “Rackmaster-General”.


Don’t forget – you can also keep up-to-date with our news and events, and enjoy glimpses of some of the treasures in our collections, by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Henry and the Tides of Time

The latest blog post comes from Arendse Lund, a doctoral candidate at UCL, who will spend 6 months at Lambeth Palace Library cataloguing the legal manuscripts as part of a LAHP-funded project titled “Descriptive Variances in Lambeth Palace Library’s Law Manuscripts.”

Although the Anglo-Saxons didn’t leave many written histories behind, the Venerable Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, along with the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, are rare exceptions. This deficit posed a problem to early scholars. But by the beginning of the 12th century, a retrospective writing of such historical accounts came into vogue. By that time, William of Malmesbury had finished both his Gesta regum Anglorum and Gesta Pontificum Anglorum. Eadmer of Canterbury had composed his Historia novorum, which subsequently became one of the sources for the Chronicon ex chronicis by John of Worcester. Simeon of Durham chronicled the continuity of the clerical community of Durham despite viking and Norman invasions in his Libellus; he also later wrote the Historia regum Anglorum et Dacorum. Suddenly England was rich with learned Latin chronicles detailing the history of the English.

Into this zeitgeist enters Henry of Huntingdon (c. 1088-1157), who begins writing his Historia Anglorum. Henry was a 12th-century English historian and the archdeacon of Huntingdon. While his greatest accomplishment was the writing of what was supposed to be a single book on the history of the English, it eventually spiralled into numerous volumes covering everything from the Roman invasion of England to the miracles of English saints and ending with an (incomplete) version of the reign of Stephen of Blois.

The incipit for Historia Anglorum (MS 118, f.1r)

Lambeth Palace Library has two early copies of the Historia Anglorum: MS 118 and MS 327. The first, MS 118, is a beautiful 12th-century copy written in a protogothic script on clean vellum in a neat two-column format with large margins on three sides. There are consistent incipits and explicits demarcating individual books within the manuscript, many of which are accompanied by rubrication and functional, but well-formed, initials.

The compilation of many later copies of the manuscript are based on this one. MS 118 is divided into 12 books; unlike other manuscripts, such as the British Library’s MS Arundel 48, there are nearly 11 folios consisting of the laws of Cnut inserted into the middle of the sixth book. The old epilogue of MS 118 functions as a new introduction to book eight and Henry further inputs three epistoles, noting in his typically understated manner that the epistoles’ inclusion at this point would be neither “useless” nor “disagreeable.”

In contrast to MS 118, MS 327 is a well-worn and frequently-used vellum copy of the text. The manuscript itself is from the late 12th or early 13th century and written in later protogothic script with a much more pointed hand. The scribe is much sloppier and there are frequent scribal and reader corrections throughout. There are irregular margins at the top, perhaps due to its rebinding, and the scribe slightly but consistently runs over the ruling lines into the right-hand margins.

There are several much later hands in evidence adding readers’ marks and context to the manuscript. A later reader added a list of the rulers of England up until Henry IV at the beginning of the manuscript. Then a 16th-century hand expanded the list to Elizabeth I with a notation that the she was still on the throne. Later, the 17th-century Archbishop Sancroft wrote in a title for the manuscript on the first folio. Another reader came through and drew crosses on multiple pages, added book numbers and now faded notes.

MS 118, f. 93r


The same excerpt in MS 327, f. 94r


Bishop Alexander of London (1123-48) requested that Henry write these chronicles and therefore Henry addresses his prologue to him. Writing in a high brow manner, Henry uses rhetorical flourishes and historical allusions to flaunt his learnedness and classical education. He quotes Horace as an example of the heroic men that history records, cites Moses, Oziah, and Miriam as teaching morals, and references Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica to show his involvement with sources from the not-too-distant Anglo-Saxon past.

Henry also uses the prologue to pat himself on the back for committing to such an undertaking. He argues that it is the knowledge of past events that form the “main distinction between animals and rational creatures” and informs the reader that “there is nothing in this world more satisfying than to clearly tell the history of people.” In an obsequious manner, he declares that he writes this history in obedience to Alexander’s commands and rains praises upon the prelate. In the main body of the Historia Anglorum itself, Henry retreats behind the chroniclers and sources he invokes in compiling this massive history; his prologue becomes his chance to front his own involvement. Considering how incredibly time-consuming the Historia Anglorum turned out to be — unsatisfied and adding additional sections, Henry worked on it for the rest of his life — let’s give him credit where credit is due.

King Cnut commands the waves to halt their advances (MS 118, f. 105r)

Henry’s work is organized around a simple theory: There have been five large invasions of England and each was a punishment from God for the sinfulness of the people. These five invasions are: 1) the Romans, 2) the Picts and the Scots, 3) the Angles and the Saxons, 4) the vikings, and finally 5) the Normans. Henry draws on both Old English and Latin sources to describe each of these invasions and the subsequent effects upon the island and its people.

Alongside translations of Old English sources, Henry works in several entertaining stories, although of uncertain origin. Henry tells how the Danish King Cnut (r. 1016-1035) wins the English throne, marries King Æthelred’s widow, conquers Norway, makes a pilgrimage to Rome, and dies in 1035 at Shaftesbury. This leads up to probably the most well-known story Henry records — that of King Cnut and the tide. As Henry tells it, at the height of Cnut’s power, the king goes to the seashore and commands the incoming tide to halt. He orders the tide to wet neither his feet nor his robe, announcing that as he is the master of the land, so must the tide listen to him. Unsurprisingly, the tide continues to rise regardless. Cnut decrees that the power of kings is limited; after all, the earth, sea, and heaven only obey divine law. Henry lauds Cnut and remarks that “there was never so great a king of England.”

Henry uses this scene to depict the wisdom and humility of Cnut, demonstrated through the king’s understanding of the futility of commanding nature. The story has been since distorted in retellings to falsely represent the naivety of Cnut in attempting to control nature. However, this contorted reading has turned Cnut’s humility into a show of pride. The noble king from Henry’s version has become a vain and foolish monarch and, as such, the story has experienced a great and lasting success as a memorable anecdote.

A library stamp on the final folio under a reader’s later notes on the text (MS 118, f. 206v)