Medieval documents go online

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A collection of thousands of the oldest documents in Scotland’s history has been made publicly available online in a new digital database charting life in the Middle Ages. The People in Medieval Scotland project, run by experts from the University of Glasgow, the University of Edinburgh and King’s College London, has catalogued 8,600 records written between 1093 and 1314.

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The majority of the documents were written for the attention of another individual and can therefore be used to explore the social relationships between all known people in the country during the period. As well as browsing the collection by details including name, title, institution and occupation, researchers can also search for individual entries within a specific period of time.

Dauvit Braun, professor of medieval Scottish history at the University of Glasgow and leader of the project, said: “This was an age where many of the methods and means of governing a country that we take for granted today were evolving, and the Scotland of today was being forged. Understanding these documents is therefore hugely important in detailing the foundations of modern Scotland, and how the name of Scotland and Scots came to apply to a distinct country and people.”

  

Archaeaologists uncover Richard III burial church

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A team of archaeologists searching for the remains of Richard III have uncovered what they believe to be the church in which the king was buried. The project, which was launched at the end of August, is being carried out by experts from the University of Leicester in association with the Richard III Society, and has involved excavating three trenches in a Leicester car park. A two-metre-wide tiled passageway, discovered at the site at right angles to a building also featuring evidence of a tiled floor, is thought to be part of the Fransiscan friary where the monarch’s body was taken following his defeat at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

Richard Buckley, the project’s lead archaeologist, said: “The size of the walls, the orientation of the building, its position and the presence of medieval inlaid floor tiles and architectural fragments makes this almost certainly the church of the Grey Friars. The next step – which may include extending the trenches – will seek to gain more information on the church in the hope that we can identify the location of the choir and high altar. Finding the choir is especially important, as this is where Richard III is recorded as having been buried.”

The high level of interest in the ongoing project means that the site will now be open to the public from 11am until 2pm on Sunday, 8 September, offering an opportunity to view some of the artefacts that have already been discovered by the survey team.

  

New study explores Iron Age tar

A team of experts from the British Museum is analysing historic trees to learn more about the ways in which Iron Age people bound and waterproofed commonly used objects. The scientists, led by Dr Pauline Burger, have created a database of the characteristics of wood samples from 14 species, all of which have been heated to create a sticky tar-like residue. This substance, thought to have been used to create and protect baskets, ships and riggings, will now be matched against museum artefacts to explore variations in its use across date and location.

The study will also explore tar used to create the Newport Ship, a wrecked vessel discovered on the banks of the River Usk in south Wales. The craft is thought to date from the 15th century and was uncovered during the construction of a new arts centre in 2002.

  

Anne Frank’s diary to be released as app

The Diary of Anne Frank will be available to explore digitally when an interactive app is launched later this year. The new version of the journal, originally published in 1947, will feature archive material, copies of original pages and audio extracts read by actor Helena Bonham Carter. 

The release marks the 70th anniversary of the start of the diary in 1942, and has been produced by Penguin’s Viking imprint and authorised by the Anne Frank Foundation. Frank died of typhoid and malnutrition in Bergen-Belsen in 1945 following two years hiding from Nazi forces in a house next to the Prinsengracht canal in Amsterdam.

  

Medieval timber-framed barn open to the public

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A timber-framed medieval barn has opened to the public for the first time following extensive restoration work. The structure, at the Great Dixter estate in the East Sussex village of Northiam, was constructed in approximately 1450 and is thought to be one of the oldest of its kind to survive in the south-east of England. The four-year project has been carried out by local craftsmen with help from a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and included repairing rotten timbers, preserving the remains of a cattle-feeding trough and restoring three 19th-century oast houses and parts of the main house itself.

Victoria Williams, project and administrative director at Great Dixter, said: “There are not that many barns that the public can still see in all their glory, because most have now been converted. Opening the barn and oast houses means that people can see evidence of the various uses that they have been put to throughout the past 500 years, from the pens for livestock to the kilns and drying floors.” 

The Dixter Estate was home to horticulturalist Christopher Lloyd for several decades during the 20th century until his death in 2006, and the barn’s opening marks the centenary of the Lloyd family moving into the house in 1912.

  

Efforts to salvage ship’s bell abandoned

A project to recover the bell from a sunken Second World War battlecruiser has been called off after ten days due to adverse weather and deep currents. The attempt to reach HMS Hood, which has lain at the bottom of the Denmark Strait between Greenland and Iceland since it was sunk by the Bismarck on 24 May 1941, has been licensed by the British government and sponsored by US philanthropist Paul G Allen. Project organisers hope that the bell can still be recovered in order for it to be displayed at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth in 2014.

Thatcher suits sell for £73,000 at auction

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A collection of suits worn by Margaret Thatcher during the 1970s has been sold at auction for a total of £73,125. The outfits, including a jade green suit worn by Thatcher on the day that she was confirmed as leader of the Tory party in February 1975 (pictured left), were put up for sale by a private collector and are thought to be the first of the politician’s clothes to be made available at a public auction.

Other items on offer at the sale at Christie’s in London, held to mark the Diamond Jubilee and London Olympics, included a medal from the first modern Games in Athens in 1896, street signs from the City of Westminster and a 1966 Routemaster double-decker bus. 

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Image credits: University of Leicester (Richard III); Carol Casselden (Great Dixter); Christies Images Limited 2012 (Thatcher suit)