Search for a Tudor carnation

Here’s a neat article from The Telegraph that caught my eye last week:

The grim and impressive ruined battlements of Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire seem an unlikely setting for a garden of fragrance. But if English Heritage’s latest restoration project goes to plan, visitors moving from the dank environs of the Norman Keep into the light will be greeted by a waft of spicy clove scent, just as Elizabeth I was when she visited in July 1575.

John Watkins, head of gardens and landscapes at English Heritage, is patiently unpicking the genetic profile of a prized carnation that will occupy pedestalled clay pots at the top and bottom of the stairs. His study of engravings of contemporary gardens by Dutchman Hans Vredeman de Vries revealed that urns bearing plant rarities appear in strategic spots – and in some he could discern a trelliswork of willow holding carnations at nose height.

“The carnation was very much a fashionable plant at the time, introduced in 1540,” says Watkins. “It came over from the Turkish court and was probably Dianthus caryophyllus, the true carnation found in mountains around the Mediterranean. The true carnation has a very distinct, spicy nutmeg-clove fragrance. The pinks we know today are much sweeter.”

Full article

Shakespeare’s first theater found

From the BBC:

An archaeological dig has recovered what is thought to be the remains of the theatre where Shakespeare’s plays were first performed.

The Theatre was found in excavations by the Museum of London at a site in Shoreditch, east London, being prepared for the building of a new theatre.

It was one of London’s first dedicated playhouses when it opened in 1576.

It was dismantled and its timbers taken to the South Bank, where they were used to construct The Globe in 1599.

A spokesman for the Museum of London said it had long been known that an open air playhouse, called The Theatre, stood in this area, but traces of its exact location had proved elusive.

Full article (with photo)

New ideas about why the Mary Rose sank

From The Telegraph:

Forensic examination of the crew’s skulls, which were found next the 16th century wreck in The Solent, has revealed that Henry VIII’s flagship was mainly crewed by foreign sailors, thought to be either mercenaries or Spanish prisoners of war.

Historians have always believed that the warship sank when it performed a sharp turn during a battle with the French in July 1545 and heeled so steeply that water flooded through the open gun ports.

But the new theory suggests that the gun ports may only have been open because the crew spoke little English and did not understand orders to close them as the ship’s commander, Admiral George Carew, took evasive action.

The theory has been put forward by Professor Hugh Montgomery, of University College London, whose research team was given access by the Mary Rose Trust to the remains of 18 crewmen.
Forensic anthropologist Lynne Bell examined their skulls to determine where they had lived, and discovered that about 60 per cent were of southern European origin.

Scientists can determine roughly which region a person grew up in by analysing the chemical composition of their teeth, which retain the type of water molecule they consumed while growing up.

Full article with a photo of Dr. Montgomery examining a skull

And another article, from The Daily Mail, with some photos of the ship.

More on the cannon from the Alderney shipwreck

From The Times Online

The barrel of the cannon had been plugged with a tampion of wood and sealed with candle wax by sailors more than 400 years ago.

The stale air of another age whistled out with a hiss when the seal was broken finally last week. Archaeologists gathered around the weapon could smell the gunpowder and hydrogen sulphide as it escaped.

The cannon is one of a set that comprises the first archaeological evidence of a revolution in weaponry that took place during the reign of Elizabeth I – a revolution upon which an empire would be built.

A replica is to be cast in iron, transported to a quarry in the Midlands and fired at a replica of the side of an Elizabethan ship.

Ballistics experts will measure its range. The archaeologists will examine its handling and recoil, and the damage that it could inflict.

Full article

Alderney wreck cannon raised

In a follow-up to a story that I’ve been keeping an eye on for a couple of years now, a cannon has been raised from an Elizabethan shipwreck off the coast of the Channel Islands.

The BBC has coverage, with a video:

A treasure trove of artefacts is being recovered from what experts describe as one of the most important maritime discoveries since the Mary Rose.

The late 16th Century shipwreck hails from a pivotal point in England’s military history.

The raised haul includes a 2m-long (7ft) cannon, which will give archaeologists an insight into Elizabeth I’s naval might.

The wreck, discovered 30 years ago, is situated off the coast of Alderney.

Dr Mensun Bound, excavation leader and marine archaeologist from Oxford University, said: “This boat is really grade A in terms of archaeology – it is hard to find anything that really compares with it.”

Full article with video

Official site for the wreck

A couple of follow-ups to older stories

An Elizabethan shipwreck off Alderney in the Channel Islands that I wrote about back in September 2006 is being excavated to recover a cannon and other items.

From PRWeb:

Great guns on Alderney! It has taken over 400 years but soon the Tower of London is going to get some of its guns back. On May 25, archaeologists will begin work on the recovery of cannon from a sunken Elizabethan ship that went down off the coast of Alderney in the Channel Islands in 1592. The Duke of York is behind the work that aims to conserve, replicate and test-fire the weapons found on this important wreck.

Excavation director Mensun Bound of St Peter’s College, Oxford, says, “We are not just bringing up cannon, but also muskets, grenades, swords, rapiers, body armour and helmets. This was a ship that was supplying an English army fighting in France to prevent a second Armada-style invasion by Spain.”

The full press release is here. Conservation work on the recovered items will be done at the Tower of London and people will be able to watch the process. Neat!

And the other follow-up has to do with remains of Henry VII’s chapel found at Greenwich which I wrote about here and here back in January 2006.

From 24hourmuseum:

Designed by Christopher Wren, the Old Royal Naval College has played a key role in both the history of Greenwich and Britain.

A Royal Palace once stood on the site. Henry VIII and his daughters Mary and Elizabeth were born there, and it was one of the King’s favourite places. In 1694, a Royal Charter saw it turned into a hospital for sick seamen – the first of whom arrived to the grand building in 1705. In the following years, illustrious architects including Hawksmoor and Vanbrugh completed Wren’s design.

Now, a new £5.7m centre will tell the story of the site from these days through to its use as the Royal Naval College, which moved out in 1998.

A Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £1.9 million towards the total cost has just given the go-ahead for The Greenwich Foundation, which is behind the project, to proceed with the creation of the centre.

The centre will include a display of evocative objects from the 18th century, including items discovered during excavations of the palace, and architect’s models and trial pieces from the design of the hospital. Greenwich armour from the Royal Armouries will be on show, together with objects from the collections of the National Maritime Museum and the Museum of London.

Henry VIII’s Royal Chapel will also be reconstructed, with its tiled floor uncovered in 2005.

Full article

Although the story above calls it “Henry VIII’s Chapel” (which is technically true), the original articles on the discovery call it “Henry VII’s Chapel”. I just feel I have to stand up for one of the Tudors who tends to get overshadowed by Henry VIII (and Wives) and Elizabeth I. 🙂

Here’s a link to the Discover Greenwich page at the Old Royal Naval College website. You can download a PDF there with a lot of information on their plans.

Shakespeare’s London church found

From “The Independent”

Shakespeare’s “lost” local church in London may have been found – beneath some flower beds and cracked paving stones. New research has pinpointed the site of the old church of St Leonard, which was the centre of worship and burial for many of the leading actors and personalities of the Shakespearean stage, including the Bard himself. A study of archive material has revealed that much of the building may still exist, buried underground in an extraordinary time capsule.

… The church was also local for the playwright-spy Christopher Marlowe, and later Ben Jonson, the Bard’s friend and rival. Edmund Shakespeare, the playwright’s infant nephew who died when only a few days old, was baptised at the church.

… Among those buried at St Leonard’s were many of Shakespeare’s friends and associates, including Richard Burbage, who first played the roles of Hamlet, Othello and King Lear.

Full article

[I thought I had posted this over a week ago, but I just noticed it sitting in my post list as a ‘draft’!]

The Mary Rose gets funding for a new museum

From the BBC:

The world’s last surviving 16th Century warship has been awarded a £21m grant.
Henry VIII’s flagship the Mary Rose, housed at Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard, was raised from the bottom of the Solent, in 1982.

Fears the national treasure would be sold for firewood if the funding bid failed clouded the 25th anniversary of the ship’s raising last October.

The Heritage Lottery Fund grant will be used to complete its conservation and build a museum around the vessel.

Full article

The Guardian also has an article, with a link to a nice slideshow that has images of what the museum will look like.

Updated to add: Check out the official site for the Mary Rose to see more images of the new museum

New clue in the search for the Bosworth battlefield

From This is Leicestershire:

Archaeologists hunting the real site of the Battle of Bosworth may have found the most important clue of all.

They believe they could have found the site of the marsh, a key feature of the battle which forever changed the course of British history.

Full article

Interesting development! I thought I had blogged about the renewed search for the true site of the battlefield, but I couldn’t find anything in the archives. I think it may have gotten lost in the shuffle when I was inundated with a bunch of other news articles! Anyway, here is the archaeology page from the Leicester County Council’s page on the battle and what they are hoping to find.

Remains of medieval tower found at Edinburgh Castle

From The Scotsman:

Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of a medieval tower at Edinburgh Castle thought to have been lost forever.

Fragments of Constable’s Tower, which was destroyed by Elizabeth I’s army during a siege, were found during excavation work for the attraction’s new visitor centre.

The Constable’s Tower was built during the reign of Robert II and was the home of the castle’s constable – a powerful position appointed by the king to watch over and maintain the fortress in his absence. It was finally destroyed in 1573, after an epic siege which saw the castle garrison led by Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange hold out against Scottish forces loyal to the infant James VI.

After Elizabeth I sent troops and cannons to bombard the castle, the tower was destroyed and later replaced with its current portcullis gate facade.

Full article

Mary Rose wreck endangered by bacterial acid

From The Telegraph:

One of Britain’s greatest archaeological treasures, the Mary Rose, is facing the biggest threat to its survival since it was raised from the seabed 25 years ago.

In contrast to the towering French warships it faced as Henry VIII’s flagship, it is fighting a much smaller, though no less daunting, enemy. Scientists have discovered that bacteria growing on the timbers of the Tudor warship are producing a corrosive acid that could cause the hull to disintegrate.

Full article

Looking for the bones of Richard III

From the Leicester Mercury

The mystery has baffled historians for centuries – what became of the remains of Richard III?

Folklore and many history books claim that the king’s bones were dug up and hurled into the River Soar some 50 years after his death in 1485.

Others contend that they remain where they were laid.

Archaeologists may get the chance to find out when they excavate the site of the former Greyfriars Church, in St Martins, Leicester.

Full article

Design of the new Kenilworth Elizabethan Garden

From Kenilworth Today:

If planning permission is given the go ahead, planting will start this autumn and the rest of the architectural features including the fountain, aviary, terrace steps and arbours will be installed in spring 2008.
The first stage of the work will involve the formation of the terrace and layout of the paths.
English Heritage has spent the last two years carrying out research on the scheme, including two seasons of archaeological investigation on the site.
The excavations identified the overall dimensions of the original Elizabethan Garden as one acre, slightly smaller than the area of the Elizabethan-style beds laid out on its site in the 1970’s.

Full article, including picture of the planned design

Skull reconstruction of Catholics hanged in Elizabeth’s reign

This was an interesting article that came through on my news alerts:

Peter Snow and Ralph Grimston met a grisly end atop York’s Micklegate Bar.

The pair were last seen gazing down at passers-by in the street below. Their severed heads had been attached to spikes.


Four centuries later, after their skulls were found near Tadcaster, forensic experts from Dundee University have used computer software to reconstruct their faces.

Full article, including pictures, here

Elizabethan Shipwreck Discovery Made Public

From Dive Magazine

A team of British divers has discovered the wreck of an Elizabethan ship off Alderney in the Channel Islands. Cannon, muskets, swords, helmets and armour stamped with the monogram of Elizabeth I were among the objects found at the 400-year-old wreck, which sits at a depth of 26m to 30m.

The divers found the wreck in the early 1990s, but archaeologists decided to keep its existence secret to protect the find while excavation work was carried out. However, the charity set up to oversee the work said it has now decided to go public so it can raise money to continue the work.

Full article here

You can learn more about the wreck at their official website: The Alderney Elizabethan Wreck