Monday, December 9, 2013

Recreating Howard/Tudor Tombs in Norfolk

Again, from The Daily Mail, comes this story about the tombs built for Thomas Howard and his son-in-law, Henry Fitzroy, the Duke of Richmond:

Technology used to understand distant planets has helped reconstruct two ornate Tudor tombs that were destroyed during King Henry VIII's anti-Catholic offensive.

The tombs were commissioned by Thomas Howard, the third Duke of Norfolk, in the 16th century for Thetford Priory in Norfolk and when the priory was dissolved in 1540, some parts of the tombs were salvaged while others were abandoned in the ruins until they were excavated in the 1930s.

The Space Research Centre, part of the Leicester Department of Physics and Astronomy used these artefacts, along with drawings and 3D computer scanning technology that is currently used to construct how planets would have looked, to virtually reassemble two of the Howard Tombs.

Thomas Howard, the Third Duke of Norfolk, was one of Henry VIII's most ambitious nobles: he was scheduled for execution on charges of treason when Henry VIII died. His son was executed on the same charges, but Howard survived through the reign of Edward VI and into the reign of Mary I.

As British History Online describes, Thetford Priory was a Cluniac House dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the last prior hoped for survival, based on the Howard connections, and Thomas Howard had the same hope, based on Tudor connections:

On 26 March, 1537, Prior William wrote to Cromwell, in answer to his application for the preferment of his servant, John Myllsent, to their farm of Lynford. They begged to be excused, as their founder (patron), the Duke of Norfolk, had the custody of their convent seal. (fn. 49)   

The Duke of Norfolk, the powerful patron of Thetford Priory, naturally looked with dismay upon the approaching destruction of this house and of the church, where not only his remote but more immediate ancestors had been honourably interred. His father, Sir Thomas Howard,earl of Surrey and duke of Norfolk, who died on 21 May, 1524, was buried before the high altar of the conventual church, where a costly monument to himself and Agnes his wife had been erected; whilst still more recently, in 1536, Henry Fitzroy, duke of Somerset, had been buried in the same place. As a means of preserving the church and establishment, the duke proposed to convert the priory into a church of secular canons, with a dean and chapter. In 1539 he petitioned the king to that effect, stating that there lay buried in that church the bodies of the Duke of Richmond, the king's natural son;the duke's late wife, Lady Anne, aunt to his highness; the late Duke of Norfolk and other of his ancestors; and that he was setting up tombs for himself and the duke of Richmond which would cost £400. He also promised to make it 'a very honest parish church.' At first the king gave ear to the proposal, and Thetford was included in a list with five others, of 'collegiate churches newly to be made and erected by the king.' Whereupon the duke had articles of a thorough scheme drawn up for insertion in the expected letters patent, whereby the monastery was to be translated into a dean and chapter.The dean was to be Prior William, (fn. 50)  and the six prebendaries and eight secular canons were to be the monks of the former house, whose names are set forth in detail. The nomination of the dean was to rest with the duke and his heirs. The scheme included the appointment by the dean and chapter of a doctor or bachelor of divinity as preacher in the house, with a stipend of £20. (fn. 51) .

But the capricious king changed his mind,and insisted on the absolute dissolution of thepriory. The duke found that further resistance was hopeless, and on 16 February, 1540, PriorWilliam and thirteen monks signed a deed ofsurrender. (fn. 52)  Two months later the site and the whole possessions of the priory passed to theDuke of Norfolk for £1,000, and by the service of a knight's fee and an annual rental of£59 5s. 1d. The bones of Henry's natural son,and of the late Duke of Norfolk and others, together with their tombs, were removed to anewly erected chancel of the Suffolk church of Framingham, and the grand church of St.Mary of Thetford speedily went to decay.

From: 'Houses of Cluniac monks: The priory of St Mary, Thetford', A History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2 (1906), pp. 363-369.

As The Daily Mail article goes on to point out, quoting the leader of the project:

‘Our exhibition studies the catastrophic effects of the Dissolution of Thetford Priory and of Henry VIII's attempted destruction of Thomas Howard, third duke of Norfolk, on the ducal tomb-monuments at Thetford,’ said Dr Phillip Lindley, of the University of Leicester’s Department of the History of Art and Film.

‘Using 3D laser scanning and 3D prints, we have - virtually - dismantled the monuments at Framlingham and recombined them with the parts left at Thetford in 1540, to try to reconstruct the monuments as they were first intended, in a mixture of the virtual and the real.

‘The museum is a few hundred yards from the priory site where the tomb-monuments were first carved nearly five hundred years ago.'

The museum referred to is The Ancient House Museum in Thretford, Norfolk and this exhibition is part of the Representing Re-Formation project:

The Howard Tombs are key works in the development of sculpture in England and may well have been produced by sculptors from across the channel: certainly, they have been described as ‘outstanding examples of Franco-Italian sculptural influence’. Building on the foundations established by earlier scholars, we shall deploy conventional art-historical techniques – study of form, style and subject matter – supplementing them with a battery of approaches drawn from the humanities (specifically history and archaeology) and scientific techniques – such as 3-D scanning, XRF, and Raman spectroscopy, in a collaborative enterprise comprising researchers drawn from three universities and from English Heritage.

We aim to reconstruct the monuments’ original context at Thetford and to recover the Howards’ strategies to commemorate themselves and their predecessors during the reigns of the Tudor monarchs Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I. We shall study how the monuments were constructed, which components are missing and why, and will use digital interpretive media to display and interpret these complex 3D historical objects for a range of audiences. Together with the other research groups and with the assistance of Jan Summerfield of English Heritage and Oliver Bone and his team from the Norfolk Museums Service, we will be organising an exhibition in the Ancient House Museum in Thetford.

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