Thursday, September 20, 2007
I've been away on a research break/family holiday in Norfolk, hence the delay in posting.
This is me at Wymondham (pronounced Windham) Abbey near where we were staying.
Wymondham itself was once owned by the Bigod family, although the Abbey was originally built by an Albini in 1107 to house a community of Benedictine monks and the Abbey was at first a dependant Priory of St Albans Abbey.
The ruins of the earlier Abbey are attached to the 15thC church which is still in use and well worth a visit for anyone interested in exploring churches. There are some particularly fine carvings in the roof and a wonderful gilded reredos behind the high altar.
Roof of Wymondham Abbey Church
So, you may be asking. Why the title of this post? Well, It's all down to English Heritage's audio guide for Framlingham Castle. The staff were lovely and could not have been more helpful. Indeed, I was given a telephone contact and offered help with whatever I needed re getting the setting right. However, English Heritage itself has an audio guide that you use like a mobile phone to take you on a tour round the castle. Listening away as I walked along the walls, I was astonished to hear the narrator tell me that my Roger Bigod (II) had inherited the rebellion gene from his father and (the tone insinuated) was a thoroughly bad egg who filled his castle with all manner of thugs and neer do wells. Eh? That's not the Roger Bigod my research of the past year has revealed. 'My' Roger Bigod did everything possible to stay within the letter of the law and not to rebel. Indeed, he WAS a lawyer himself and was trusted by King Henry II, King Richard and King John, to sit on the bench at Westminster and hear cases and to go on the judicial circuit - called an Eyre - round the counties of England, hearing and judging cases. As a young man he fought on the royalist side against insurgents, including his own father at the battle of Fornham St Geneveive near Bury St. Edmunds. He served in the royal army regularly and was a valued, trusted royal servant. His one slip from grace was rebelling at the time of Magna Carta - but so did nearly everyone else and against a morally defunct king and the abuses of royal power. English Heritage has put their own spin on Roger's character for the tourists and cast him in the mould of 'big, bad, robber barron', when he was anything but. Perhaps they ought to hunt out a thesis in the British Library by Susan Atkin (University of Reading) The Bigod Family: An investigation into their Lands and Activities 1066 - 1306. It certainly comes closer to the truth than the audio guide.
Framlingham Castle is a lovely place to visit though and well worth it if you're in the region. Roger's father, the dreaded Hugh - who does deserve his dark reputation to some extent - was fined a large sum of money for his rebellion. Framlingham was taken from him and razed to the ground. The demolition crew's expenses still exist on the Pipe roll. When Roger had the Earldom confirmed to him in November 1189, he was also granted permission to rebuild Framlingham - and it is his endeavour - or the endeavour of the masons, builders and carpenters he employed, that make up the bulk of the castle's fabric today.
The interior of Framlingham, showing the remnants of the hall that my hero Roger Bigod and his wife Ida would have lived in for almost the first 20 years of their marriage. Note the Norman chimmneys (pale grey) with the darker Tudor extensions on the top. The chapel adjoining the hall is the section with arched window in the middle to the right of the chimmneys.
Entrance to Framlingham Castle, completed around 1213.