The Churches Conservation Trust Online Lectures Series – October 2020

The Churches Conservation Trust lectures are all free to get involved with and we Livestream them via our Facebook page, this allows you to really engage with the talk and to submit your questions live. These lectures are recorded and will be available to watch afterward.

Thursday 1st October, 1-2pm: Dr Gabriel Byng – Construction, Change and Crisis: Church building in the shadow of the Black Death

In the middle of the fourteenth century, about half the population of England was killed when a new pestilence swept across Eurasia. Historians continue to discuss – and to dispute – the effects of this extraordinary disaster on the continent’s culture, economics and politics. This talk does not try to make parallels between events today and in the past but rather to suggest how we can think about major events like the arrival of Covid-19 using the ideas and approaches of historians. It asks how church builders after the Black Death – the period with the single greatest number of surviving examples before the Victorian era – responded to what happened in their buildings, using architecture to shape local society.

Dr Gabriel Byng holds a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship at the University of Vienna, where he works on Viennese church building in the Middle Ages. Before this, he was a Research Fellow at Cambridge University. His first monograph was published by Cambridge University Press in 2017 and he won a Dan David Scholarship for his work on macrohistory in 2019.

Here is the link to the online lecture.

Thursday 8th October, 1-2pm: Prof. Paul Binski – A Tomb with a View: Medieval Death

This pre-All Hallows Eve talk will be about some of the most famous images of Death, how they came about and how they worked, looking especially at Christian attitudes to the body, the role of fear, and the way art itself comes up with ideas.

This talk is given by Professor Paul Binski FBA. He is Professor of the History of Medieval Art at Cambridge University. He has written and lectured extensively on the art and architecture of Western Europe in the Gothic period. After achieving his PhD in History of Art from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge in 1984, he stayed on as a Research fellow until 1987. He has since taught at Princeton, Yale, Manchester, but returned to a post at Cambridge in 1995. His publications include Gothic Wonder: Art, Artifice and the Decorated Style 1290-1350 (2014), which won 2016 the Historians of British Art Book Award for Exemplary Scholarship on the Period before 1800; and Westminster Abbey and the Plantagenets (1995) which won the Longman-History Today Award.

He is a Fellow of the British Academy, the Society of Antiquaries, and of Caius College, Cambridge. He gave the Paul Mellon Lectures, 2002-2003, at the National Gallery, London and Yale University. He was Associate Editor of the periodical Art History, 1992-1997, and is presently serving as a Foreign Advisor for the International Center of Medieval Art, The Cloisters, New York. An enthusiastic musician, organist and harpsichordist, in his spare he chairs a charity devoted to propagating performance knowledge of organ music, the Cambridge Academy of Organ Studies.

Here is the link to the online lecture.

Thursday 15th October, 1-2pm: Dr Cindy Wood – A Medieval Guide to Escaping Purgatory: The practices of the late Medieval Cult of the Dead

The medieval concept of Purgatory as the Third Place led to a number of ways that medieval men and women attempted to mitigate its expected horrors. This lecture will consider how they were able to do this, in life and after their own deaths. Many physical remains of this belief survive, but are not often recognised as being founded for this purpose. This lecture will explore the options open to different sections of society in the later medieval period, often classified as one obsessed with the ‘Cult of the Dead’.

This lecture is given by Dr Cindy Wood who returns to give us a second fascinating lecture. Dr Wood is a Senior Lecturer in Medieval History, at The University of Winchester, teaching both subject-specific and generic historical themes. These include, the Crusades; material culture; monasticism; local history; medieval death and the late medieval period in general. Her research areas are religion in the late medieval period, intercession, churches and the late medieval royal family. She is also involved in a local project collecting and collating graffiti in Winchester Cathedral with students with the Winchester Research Apprenceship Project (WRAP) and has links with the Hampshire Field Club Graffiti Group. She is also on the editorial board of the Southern History Society, as Hon. Membership Secretary and also Secretary of the Friends of Clarendon Royal Palace.

Here is the link to the online lecture.

Thursday 22nd October, 1-2pm: Dr Francis Young- Macabre Church Lore: Ghosts, Witches and Monsters in England’s Churches and Churchyards

England’s churches and churchyards have long been the focus of unsettling popular beliefs, from the monstrous black dog known as the Churchyard Grim to spectral appearances and the sinister machinations of witches, while even churches themselves sometimes housed sinister objects, such as a magical sword in a Norfolk church which had the power to cause the death of any woman’s unwanted husband. Churches and churchyards are full of bizarre and macabre folklore, which is explored in this talk by folklorist Francis Young.

Dr Francis Young is a historian and folklorist, the author of 14 books, and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

Here is the link to the online lecture.

Thursday 29th October, 1-2pm: Suzie Lennox – Raiders of the Grave: Macabre tales of Bodysnatchers & what churches did to stop them

Between 1742 and 1832, men of the lowest form of character targeted Britain’s churchyards for perhaps one of the most macabre practises you’ll ever come across. Resurrection men or body snatchers, plagued our churchyards and stole our dead all in the name of science. Providing a fresh and steady supply of cadavers for the anatomy schools of London and Edinburgh and everywhere in-between. But how did we go about stopping them?

This lecture will look at the different forms of body snatching prevention that developed in a sometimes futile attempt to keep the resurrection men at bay. After briefly discussing why such large number of cadavers were needed for the teaching of anatomy, we will address the modus operandi of the body snatcher, hearing of a few not so successful attempts along the way. But just how efficient were body snatchers when it came to raiding our graveyards and what did parishes and loved ones of the deceased do to try to stop them? From simple watch houses to the more elaborate caged lair, this will be a tour of Britain that you perhaps won’t see in the travel guides. We’ll look at some of the more famous examples to lesser known artifacts, demonstrating just how prolific body snatchers had become before their world would start tumbling down with the arrests of the now infamous duo, the murderers Burke and Hare. Dipping our toes into locations throughout Britain, join this whirlwind tour of all things macabre just before the eve of All Hallows.

Suzie Lennox studied History at Teesside and completed her Master’s degree in Archive Administration in 2011 before leaving the sector in 2015. She has been researching all aspects of body snatching for over fifteen years, after writing about the legal implications of the trade for her dissertation at university. Her book ‘Bodysnatchers: Digging Up The Untold Story of Britain’s Resurrection Men’ was published by Pen & Sword in 2016. She has recently returned to university to focus on a new career in Crime Scene Science.

Here is the link to the online lecture.


Published by Roisin Astell

Roisin Astell received a First Class Honours in History of Art at the University of York (2014), under the supervision of Dr Emanuele Lugli. After spending a year learning French in Paris, Roisin then completed an MSt. in Medieval Studies at the University of Oxford (2016), where she was supervised by Professor Gervase Rosser and Professor Martin Kauffmann. In 2017, Roisin was awarded a CHASE AHRC studentship as a doctoral candidate at the University of Kent’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, under the supervision of Dr Emily Guerry.

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