Medieval and Early Modern Studies PhD student, Lucy Splarn, contributes to research behind the second series of Sky History’s River Hunters and features in the upcoming episode, ‘Canterbury Murders’ on Monday 26 April at 9pm.
The six-part series sees presenter Rick Edwards and YouTube river detectorist, Beau Ouimette, swim in search for historical artefacts across unexplored rivers throughout the UK. Each episode focuses on a significant period of history in a new river, combining underwater archaeological discoveries with a splash of humour along the way.
Keep a close eye out for the Canterbury episode which airs on Monday 26 April at 9pm, where the duo glide along the clear waters of the River Stour which runs through the city centre. The Stour is an important waterway that was crossed by thousands of pilgrims visiting the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral since the late-twelfth century.
We caught up with Lucy to find out a little bit more about her PhD and how she found herself involved in the making of the show. Prior to her PhD, Lucy obtained her MA in Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Kent. Lucy shares, “I went on to work as an Archive and Library Assistant at Canterbury Cathedral, which holds an impressive collection of UNESCO historical documents dating to the 8th century, before undertaking my PhD.”
Could you tell us a little bit about your PhD research?
My research focuses on the art and iconography of medieval pilgrim souvenirs, which are tiny hand-held objects made from lead-alloy. They are usually found in rivers during archaeological excavations and my research examines how they can provide insights into the ordinary pilgrims who once owned them.
How did your involvement in the second series of River Hunters come about?
I was invited to talk about the local collection of medieval pilgrim badges relating to Saint Thomas Becket for the upcoming Canterbury episode of River Hunters, a historical programme on Sky History where host Rick Edwards, river-searcher expert Beau Ouimette and underwater archaeologist Gary Bankhead dive into unexplored rivers to find treasures from the past. We discussed the importance of Canterbury Cathedral as a World Heritage Site, the brutal martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket, the crowds of pilgrims that travelled to the city and the pilgrim souvenirs they collected along the way.
Do you have any future exciting plans involving your research?
I plan to work closely with the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge in Canterbury ahead of their upcoming Thomas Becket exhibition due to open on 29 May 2021, where some of the local collection of pilgrim badges will be on display. You can also take a listen to a short discussion I had with Mitch Robertson, Programming & Collections Manager at the Beaney for a new behind-the-scenes feature on BBC Radio Kent with Dominic King. Read about Becket pilgrim souvenirs on Canterbury Cathedral’s Picture This blog series.
Tune in to River Hunters episode 4, ‘Canterbury Murder (Henry II and Thomas Becket)’ on Monday 26th April at 9pm.
If you’re interested in following Lucy’s research, you can find her on Twitter @LucySplarn.
IMAGE: Medieval pilgrim souvenirs. Image reproduced courtesy of Canterbury Museums and Galleries