Sunday, May 20, 2012

Roman Weekend, Chester, UK, June 2nd-3rd 2012

Come and see the Romans in Chester's Grosvenor Park on June 2nd-3rd!  We're setting up on the Friday afternoon, and when I say 'we' I mean the Roman Army and their civilians, and their subject peoples (aka the Little Brits), and a bunch of traders selling anything from lovely Roman beads to dried meat, to candy floss! (judging by last year).  By Saturday morning, we shall be resplendent in a our Roman gear - the blokes in shiny helmets and armour, and the women in saggy baggy old tube dresses elegant gowns! 

The might of the Early Imperial Army will be there, with contingents from all over the country, and indeed the wider Roman Empire. In lesser numbers (maybe reflecting the smaller army of the later Empire?) also appearing will be the Late Romans - no, just because they wear sensible trousers and long sleeved tunics they are NOT Vikings ;) There are some even later Romans too, all the way from Constantinople (it's a jolly long way to come from there just for the weekend, methinks.)

My partner and I will be with the Late Romans (aka Britannia), but since we're aged and close to being pensioned off (some hope!), we're confined to camp and work on crafts such as antler working and maybe mosaic making. Oh, and there will be cavalry, courtesy of Romanorum.  There'll be plenty of action in the nearby amphitheatre, including Roman drill, gladiators and even a bear!

More up-to-date, but writing stories about Romans, are a bevy historical novelists, who will be haunting the Roman Camp.  Those attending are: the delightful Ruth Downie, Robert Fabbri , Ben Kane, Anthony Riches (who once did me the honour of pronouncing my specialised archaeology reports 'abstruse'), and Russ Whitfield.  They will be happy to talk about their books, and will no doubt sell them to you and sign them for you.

For further details of timings go to this website.

York's Big City Read July - September 2012

Here's an extract of the historical novel/historical research events going on in York over the summer:
In Conversation with Susanna Gregory
Susanna Gregory will be reading from her book Mystery in the Minster, written especially for this year's Big City Read event.
Wed, 25 Jul 2012
Literary Luncheon with Susanna Gregory
Join Susanna Gregory for an intimate buffet lunch to find out more about her writing.
Thu, 26 Jul 2012
Rory Clements
Rory Clements talks about his historical thrillers.
Tue, 7 Aug 2012

York 1212 - The City, the Charter and the King
Join historian, Dr. Sarah Rees-Jones and take a trip back to York during the reign of King John.
Sun, 12 Aug 2012
An evening with Elizabeth Chadwick
Elizabeth Chadwick joins us to talk about her fascinating experiences of turning medieval history into fiction.
Thu, 16 Aug 2012

Alison Weir: A Dangerous Inheritance
Alison's talk will be largely factual. She will also discuss the writing of historical fiction, and how historical sources can be used to create a novel like this.
Wed, 22 Aug 2012
A Treasury of Stained Glass - York Minster
Sarah Brown talks about York Minister's stained glass.
Thu, 30 Aug 2012
The World in 1212 - Professor Robert Bartlett
Professor Bartlett talks about the world in 1212 and medieval views of the earth.
Tue, 4 Sep 2012

An evening with Karen Maitland
Karen Maitland talks about her latest book, Falcon of Fire and Ice.
Thu, 6 Sep 2012
Medieval Literature
An introduction to medieval literature.
Thu, 13 Sep 2012
Medieval Murderers
Michael Jecks, Ian Morson and Susanna Gregory talk at the final event of the Big City Read.
Thu, 20 Sep 2012

Meat Tile Anyone?

Bit off the beaten ceramic tile track, but arguably gets into the 100 and 1 uses for brick and tile book: a short article on the Historical Novel Society webpages, copied from Bloody Good Read blog.  Tile as food eh? ;)

Monday, April 23, 2012

York Big City Read

The York Big City read for this year is Susanna Gregory's Mystery in the Minster.  It's the 17th chronicle of Matthew Bartholomew, and is set in the 14th century.  I'm forward to seeing the author when she visits York in July. According to this review, the Vicars Choral are causing trouble - no change there then!  And mention is made of the St Leonard's Hospital red roof, so at some point I must have a look at the book meself, especially as I was involved in recording the brick and tile from that site ;)

Sunday, April 01, 2012

The Bone Thief by V M Whitworth

This is another in my occasional series of brick and tile in novels.  Since this book is set in 900 AD, you may think that the author is erroneous, but ...    First a little about the story itself:

Synopsis (from

900 A.D. A time of turmoil. A kingdom in dispute. An unlikely hero...

Edward, son of Alfred the Great, has inherited the Kingdom of Wessex and achieved a precarious set of alliances through marriage and military conquest. But the alliance is uneasy and the kingdom of Mercia has more reason than most to fear the might of Wessex. Their Lord is elderly and perhaps mortally sick, and his wife fears that she does not have the power to withstand hostile takeover. She also knows too well what her neighbour is capable of - after all, King Edward is her brother.

The chance to rescue St Oswald's bones, beloved patron saint, to consecrate her new church and unite the people behind her, is too good an opportunity to miss. But they are rumoured to be buried a long way north - outside Lincoln, deep in hostile territory. Her secretary, Wulfgar, groomed for the priesthood since he was a boy in the elegant cloisters of Winchester cathedral but a naïve in the ways of the wider world - is surprised to be sent on this mission. It will prove an incredibly dangerous journey, requiring resources and courage Wulfgar did not know he had, and support from surprising allies along the way including a maverick priest and a Viking adventuress whose loyalties are far from clear...

Now the scene is set, what about the tiles, you may ask?   There were a couple of mentions.  On page 162:

"It [Leicester Cathedral] had been made of golden stone and russet tile ..."

Edge of the seat stuff for the tile-kind ;)  But does the phrase russet tile mean ceramic tile?  Ah, now.  I think the author is playing a canny game here.  It's simply not made clear.  The word 'tile' is often used interchangeably - it could be ceramic, stone or even wood.  In this case, maybe it's a brown or red sandstone flaggy sort of tile.  If she meant ceramic then it's a bit contentious as the mere mention of 10th century ceramic tile in England is liable to evince a fainting fit in some quarters of the archaeological specialists gang.  I think we might have 10th century roof tile at Coppergate in York, but publication of that before I snuff it is very unlikely, so according to some it's an urban myth (fair enough till the evidence is presented).

Crashing on - we have on page 269 a refence to a floor:

"[...] the inside of the Spider's Hall.  Smoke-darkened plaster, tiled floor."


"... scars in the tiles ..."

It's the same situation as the russet tiles - we're not quite sure if these tiles are stone or ceramic.  This then, rather than an author showing their historical knowledge, is a lesson in what is important in a story.  We don't need to know whether the tiles are ceramic or not. The story is the important thing.  Whitworth has ensured her novel has an authentic feel in so many other ways, that we can trust her.

And a very interesting novel it is too. I heartily recommend it as a good read.  I have the honour of reviewing it for the Historical Novel Society, but can't put the review on this blog until it's published by the HNS.  I'm not sure when that will be as unfortunately the review went it late due to the deadline clashing with one of my university essay deadlines. But I can say that if you're interested in early 10th century, you'll probably enjoy this book!  Congratulations to V M Whitworth on a marvellous debut novel.