Saturday, 10 December 2011

The past is a foreign country -

but do they really do things very differently there?

William Fitzstephen, writing in the late twelfth century:
'The only problems that plague London are the idiots who drink to excess and the frequency of fires.'

Student life in Oxford and Paris is described in a biography of Richard Wych, bishop of Chichester, born in 1197: 
‘Such was his love of learning that he cared little or nothing for food or raiment. For, as he was wont to relate, he and two companions who lodged in the same chamber had only their tunics, and one gown between them, and each of them had a miserable pallet. When one, therefore, went out with the gown to hear a lecture, the others sat in their room, and so they went forth alternately. Bread and a little wine and pottage sufficed for their food. Their poverty never allowed them to eat meat or fish except on a Sunday or some solemn holy day, or else in the presence of companions or friends. Yet he has often told me how he never afterwards, in all his days, led such a pleasant and enjoyable life.’

At Westminster School in the thirteenth century, in the morning the boys were required to say their prayers ‘without shouting and confusion …. Whether they are standing or sitting in the choir let them not have their eyes turned aside to the people, but rather toward the altar; not grinning or chattering or laughing aloud; not making fun of another if he does not read or sing psalms well; not hitting one another secretly or openly or answering rudely if they happen to be asked a question by their elders. Those who break the rules will feel the rod without delay…. Again whoever at bedtime has torn to pieces the bed of his companion or hidden the bedclothes, or thrown shoes or pillow from corner to corner, or roused anger or thrown the school into disorder, shall be severely punished in the morning.

And when John Bond was contracted to build a house for Thomas Bloxwych in Temple Balsall Warwickshire in 1415, ‘sometimes he came to his work around prime (early morning) and sometimes around sext (midday).’


  1. How interesting ! I guess nothing really ever changes .

    Lovely blog Jackie. I really enjoying reading it.

  2. Hi Anu, glad you managed to find your way here.

    I think I like the quote about the boys at Westminster School best - that is exactly how little boys behave, isn't it!