Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Angel & Richard III

Quite a few years ago in a tiny bookshop in Evesham I purchased a copy of "The English Inn Past & Present", written by A. E. Richardson & H. D. Eberlein. It was published in 1925 and describes the architecture, surroundings and history of inns as found in their research tour of the country. Under a subheading "The Fifteenth Century Inn" they imagine the scene in 1420 on a walk in London, eventually arriving at The Angel in Grantham.

Which is the part I thought might be of interest since, without getting into personalities, they describe what that scene may have been in October of 1483. The following is an excerpt.

"With our minds centered on the aspect of the fifteenth century, we looked upon the stone front of The Angel at Grantham with feelings of respectful enquiry. It stands in the middle of the town, facing the Market Square and the ancient cross, a guardian of the North Road from the late fourteenth century, a silent witness to the momentous events of peace and war. Gone are its more ancient glories, the galleries and external stairways, the timber-built wing to the right of the front, the rambling barns at the back. There have been many later additions, interesting as relics of travel and having a place in the sequence of the life of the house, but at this stage we are concerned with its aspect on the night of the 19th of October, 1483, when Richard the Third was housed within.

Seated in the oriel window of the room on the ground floor to the left of the entry we speculated on the former character of the house, and endeavoured to reconstruct the development that had taken place in social life between the years 1420-1483. It was assumed that few changes had occurred in the matter or manner of building during these sixty-three years. The monasteries were intact, so were the pilgrim inns and "Royal houses" in various parts of the country. In London at this time rumours were toward of the movement against Richard, The Duke of Buckingham had the sympathy of the people; but it is in the long room forming the first floor of the "Maison du Roi" that a significant incident in history was enacted. We thought of a pack train approaching the town, making for York, the merchants discussing political events; the packmen, and the dogs, already six days on the road, sore tired, the gloom of the North Road having affected both man and beast. Perhaps it is a matter of urgency that the train enters Grantham before dusk and inns at The Woolpack, for The Angel this day are closed to ordinary men. As these ruminations were continued, we thought of the King signing the death warrant of the Duke of Buckingham in the room above. We had a picture of the town in the gathering dusk of the October evening with the twinkling of the torches, the assembly of men-at-arms, archers and crossbowmen, of soldiers billeted in the houses of the townspeople, of the King's archers standing at the entry of The Angel the open doors of which reveal horses and messengers. How little has changed , and yet how much! The torchlight of 1483 lit up the embayed façade and flicked the tracery before us; it showed up in the deep recessing and the regal integrity of the building. In the fifteenth century, suspended from a heavy oak frame, there was a painted sign of an angel with a flaming sword. From the adjoining buttress projected a stave, at the end of which was carved the sign of a bush. We pictured the house as it appeared to the entourage of the King lodged in the neighbouring buildings. We thought of the knights and officers who used this room, of the rush-strewn floor, the log fire, the ceiling beams, the grotesque heads, and the tapestried walls. The apartment in which the King lodged then extended the whole length of the first floor. There are still to be seen the two stone mullioned bay windows, following the lines of those below, one at each end of the room. At the center is the semi-circular oriel with a raised seat, from whence can be viewed the Cross in the Market Square. We pictured Richard the Third and his attendants, the halberdiers on guard and the firelight showing up the tapestried scenes of biblical subjects.

It would be impertinent to attempt to dramatise the scene or to give personality to the characters. They must remain hazy and indistinct, but we can imagine the scene, the marshalling of the troops, the stopping of the pack trains till the King and his following have departed, the splendour of the cavalcade, and the pageantry of the mediæval setting. It is above such things that the gilded angel has cast its sightless eyes .... "