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seventh century, the monastery of Repton, near Derby, was a flourishing school and centre of Christianity, from which St. Guthlac graduated to become a hermit in the Fenlands of East Anglia, and to associate his name with the wilderness of Croyland, like St. John the Baptist in the Wilderness of Judea.
St. Guthlac was born in 673, and migrated from Repton monastery in 699, and died at Croyland in 714. When St. Guthlac left Repton, Elfrida, the Abbess, ruled over the twofold community of men and women. She must have died shortly after, for before St. Guthlac's death she was succeeded by a royal lady named Eadburh, daughter of Aldwulf, King of East Anglia. This lady appears to have been personally acquainted with St. Guthlac, for during his life she sent him, from Repton, a leaden coffin and a winding sheet, and besought him, by the holy name of the celestial king, that after his departure hence they should place his body therein.
St. Guthlac is recorded to have said—" After my soul departs from my body then go thou to my sister, and say to her, and bid her that she place my body in the coffin, and wind it in the sheet which Eadburh sent to me. For love of the maid of Christ the gift which she sent me I will put to the purpose for which I have kept it, namely, when my body and my soul part let them wrap my body in the vestment and lay it in the coffin."
Felix dedicated his life of St. Guthlac to Aldwald, King of the East Angles, who died in 749.
St. Guthlac, the hermit, was the founder of that old time religious establishment at Croyland, and it is now claimed that this royal maiden, Eadburh, Abbess of Repton, was the foundress of an early school or monastery at Southwell, in which she was buried. She is the only lady of that name known to Anglo-Saxon scholars, and there is a unity of opinion among the best learned of to-day upon this detail. The date of the death of this royal lady Abbess in unknown, so the curtain must fall at St. Guthlac's death in 714.
From this date we have an interval of three centuries
which brings us to about 1014, when the curtain again rises with three, at least, copies of a pilgrim's guide to the shrines or burial places of the saints of England. One copy is treasured in the British Museum; another at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge; the third was destroyed in the Cottonian fire in the early part of the last century. Professor Liebermann, the great Anglo-Saxon scholar, who published a work on this subject, in Hanover, in 1889, says, "this pilgrim's guide bears internal evidence, in the form in which it reaches us, that it was written about 1000, and completed before 1030." Edward Bishop, in the Dublin Review of 1885, says, "it cannot go back in its present form earlier than 1013, but its first compilation may be earlier," meaning that it might be a corrected copy of an earlier guide. of an earlier guide. These precious documents inform us that the arm of St. Oswald was still enshrined at Bamboro (as in Beda); that the shrine of King Ethelred was at Bardney Abbey in Lincolnshire; St. Highbald's in Lindsey; St. Wistan's at Repton; St. Guthlac's at Croyland; and, what is of prime importance to us, St. Eadburh's at Southwell.
These manuscripts are written in Anglo-Saxon, and headed "The Saints of England." The passage relevant
to our county reads:-" There resteth Saint Eadburh, in the minster at Southwell, near the water called the Trent."
Edmund Bishop says:-"She was probably St. Guthlac's friend the Abbess of Repton; and Professor Liebersmann endorses this view.
We know from other sources that a Minster Church, collegiate in character, existed at Southwell long before the Norman Conquest; but we were in utter darkness about it being the shrine of an Anglo-Saxon saint-one of four only north of the Trent, viz.: St. Wilfrid's, at Ripon; St. John's, at Beverley; and St. Cuthbert's, at Durham.
The district we now call Nottinghamshire appears to have become, at some unrecorded date, part of the kingdom of Northumbria, and as the boundaries of kingdoms were the boundaries of Bishop's Sees, it became part of the
bishopric of York. It is possible that during the troubled times of the Danish incursions that Southwell suffered; but the ashes of St. Eadburh reposing there implies that it had a continuous existence, and under Christianity reasserted itself. By the conversion of the Danes, the Church, with its endowments, became the property of the Archbishops of York, in which form it appears on the page of history long before the Norman Conquest, ranking with Ripon, Hexham, and Beverley as outlying beacons of the mother Church of York.
The shrine of St. Eadburh being in Southwell nine hundred years ago records the existence of an Anglo-Saxon minster of which we constructively know nothing, except it be in the sculptured tympanum that now acts as a lintol over the Norman doorway in the north-west angle of the north transept. When this minster disappeared in favour of the present one, the shrine of St. Eadburt disappeared also, and the record of this saint was lost to memory. This is a loss not easy of explanation, for the offerings of pilgrims at Holy Shrines were sources of great revenue, as instanced at Ripon, Durham, and Beverley, but more particularly at Bury St. Edmund's, and later at Canterbury. The want of a saint at York was severely felt, which in the end was supplied by a one-year Archbishop of no special eminence who died in 1154, and was canonized as St. William.
Southwell Minster, from Norman times downwards, was a shrineless Church, and St. Eadburh's of old has been forgotten until our day. I must not take to myself the credit of this interesting discovery further than of bringing it home to the Rev. Canon Smith, of Southwell, and to yourselves, in whose hands I am confident it will be treasured. The discovery was made known to me by my eldest son, the learned editor of "The Records of the Borough of Nottingham," a monumental work which will long keep his memory green in this his native city.
Did time and opportunity serve I would dwell upon the Church history of the county at the comparatively recent
date of the Norman Conquest-a subject and a period to which I have given a considerable amount of study; but this cannot be. These notes by no means exhaust the subject of the Anglo-Saxon Churches of the county, some of which, as at Littleboro, are with us to-day. Another at Misterton is reflected in its place-name, which is recorded in Domesday as Minster-ton.
The late Rev. James Raine, Vicar of Blyth, in this county, a relative of my late venerable friend Canon Raine, of York, who wrote "The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Blyth," in 1860, says, on page 16 of this work :— "The prefix 'Minster' carries us back to a period of remote antiquity antecedent to the formation of our present parochial system, when the Church at Misterton was the only Church throughout a large district in which the ministration of religion could be obtained."
These early Churches were chapels or oratories of the Christianised lords of the more ancient manors, accessible to their subjects, and to the inhabitants of the neighbouring manors, whose lands (as in the instance of Wiverton to Langar) contributed to the support of permanent chaplains. Their growth into rectories and their multiplication were but the work of time-a process oft repeated in the modern history of this ancient City.
It is curious to note how history repeats itself even in such a detail as Nottingham being called a City. King Ethelstan was at Nottingham in 930, nine hundred and sixty seven years ago, he then endowed the church of York with the Hundred of Agemunderness, in Lancashire, and recorded in the charter that "he executed it in a city well known to all men, which is named Nottingham." (Whitaker's History of
Richmondshire, vol. II., p. 417.)
In conclusion, I beg to offer my thanks to the officers of this Society for conferring upon me the honour of reading the first paper at this the first meeting of your Society, a task I fear I have but imperfectly performed.
THE WORK WE HAVE TO DO.
By W. P. W. PHILLIMORE.
The subject of antiquities is a very wide and comprehensive one, and unless we recognise that fact, and take steps to organise our archæological studies, there is always some danger lest an antiquarian society may become the mere instrument of providing a pleasant summer outing such as we regretfully bring to a conclusion this evening. Therefore, I am sure that members will pardon me if I say a few words on "The work we have to do."
"Many men, many minds," is as true of an antiquarian society as it is of the world at large. The man who can tell us all about the prehistoric stone age, or the period of the bronze workers, not to mention so comparatively modern a date as the day of the Roman or Danish occupation, may care little for such things as church architecture, mediæval tombs and houses; perhaps, he may in his inmost heart almost despise, for example, as a matter but of yesterday, the study of our great rebellion, of which the two most striking incidents took place on Nottingham soil, at Nottingham, our civil capital, henceforth to be known as a city, and at Southwell, which but a few years since became the chief seat of our newly-founded bishopric. The converse holds good; those who are students of our records, and our monuments may think slightingly of such subjects as urns and pavements and stone implements, as being matters about which we can know but little; unlike records, monuments and buildings whose history and age is known, which, associated with our forefathers, may have a definite personal interest for us.
Therefore, the object of such an association as ours, it seems to me, is largely to aid and direct the energies of its members in their respective channels.