James Friell a.k.a. Gabriel a.k.a. Jimmy Friell a.k.a. Field pt.2

Earlier this year Special Collections & Archives hosted two student interns with the generous support of Kent’s Work-Study scheme. Becca and Emily worked on our James Friell collection from the British Cartoon Archive, helping to sort, repackage and list this large collection of cuttings and original artworks. In this second of two posts written by Becca and Emily, they give an overview of their time with us:

Introductions

Hello! We are two interns, working with the Special Collections and Archives, as part of the Work-Study scheme.

I am Becca, a final year Classical and Archaeological Studies undergraduate student. Although my interests are mainly in a far earlier period than is covered by the Friell collection, I’ve found the cartoons both interesting, funny, and in some cases, still relevant – they clearly stand the test of time!

I am Emily, a final year History undergraduate student. The Friell collection has been fascinating to work with, largely my historical interests and expertise surrounds modern political history, as such the collection has helped me with my studies and vice versa.

The Collection

The Friell collection primarily contains newspaper cartoon cuttings and original artwork of the late political cartoonist, James Friell, also known by his ​Daily Worker ​pen name, Gabriel. The University of Kent has one of the biggest cartoon archives in the UK and the pieces in their Friell collection easily numbers in the thousands. The collection also features personal items such as small biographies written by Friell himself, personal greetings cards sent to friends, and rough sketches. It’s fantastic to work with a collection as complete as this, where we can read about Friell’s life in and outside of cartoons, and see not only the published work, but the original concepts and artwork, too.

The Task

Before and after: the original folders and boxes for the cuttings are on the right, and the repackaged on the left.

Our first task with the collection was to sort through the thousands of cartoon clippings from both ​The Daily Worker ​and The Evening Standard. ​This involved date ordering the clippings and repackaging the collection to conservation grade standard. Our next task was to then research the original artwork in order to date the pieces, as well as cross referencing with the cartoon clippings we had previously worked with, to organise the artwork and make it accessible for readers.

What were the main challenges with working with this collection?

Newspaper cutting from the Friell collection

One of the biggest challenges of working with the Friell collection was also one of the best parts: it is completely uncatalogued and little work had been done on it until we began. Whilst this meant that we had a mammoth task of sorting the collection from scratch, it was also great to know that when we finished the project, we would’ve been responsible for sorting and caring for an entire collection from start to finish.

The biggest challenge came from working with the original artwork within the collection. Whereas with the cuttings, the date was often written on the cartoon or printed on the newspaper, the majority of the original artwork was both undated and in no discernable order – cartoons from ​The Daily Worker ​in 1948 mingled freely with those from 1957, where Friell had begun signing his work with his surname, rather than the familiar Gabriel. The only way we had to date these artworks was to search through the cuttings to find the corresponding date that the cartoon had been printed. When faced with thousands of cuttings and thousands of original artworks, you can forgive us if there were tears! Nevertheless, we powered on and in just a few weeks, had the majority of the original artwork listed, dated, and linked to their corresponding newspaper cutting.

What has been the best thing about working in Special Collections & Archives?

Our Templeman exhibition cases in the Templeman Gallery

We have loved the variety. Whilst caring for and sorting the Friell collection was our primary project, we had the opportunity to help install the Our Templeman exhibition in the Library’s Gallery space, including cases dedicated to the Maddison collection and David Drummond Pantomime collection. This not only taught us the practical handling and displaying skills necessary for exhibition work, but also gave us the opportunity to work with varied collections outside of Friell.

David Drummond Pantomime exhibition case

The whole experience has been fantastic, the Special Collections & Archives team are so lovely to work with and the feeling of completing a task the size of the Friell collection was amazing. Most of all, this internship has provided us with invaluable experience, which has meant that we both have either secured a place in further education or a graduate role within the archive sector, something that seemed unattainable without this role.

Women on Stage and in Society : 1850 – 1915

part of the British Theatre History exhibition

part of the British Theatre History exhibition

On Wednesday 6th April the yearly exhibition by second year students of the British Theatre History module launched. Whilst this has been an annual event for several years, this time the students faced a bigger challenge than ever: the size of the Templeman exhibition space. This is only the second exhibition to be held in the new space, and asking first time exhibition makers to fill it was initially concerning, but the students rose to the challenge admirably.

Playbill for Society at the Prince of Wales

Playbill for Society at the Prince of Wales, currently on display

This module offers students the opportunity to learn about a hugely varied period of theatre history in Britain, ranging from Victorian pantomime through to suffragette plays. What’s unique about this module in particular, is that the student use Special Collections and Archives material to really come to terms with the time period, utilising Kent’s extensive Victorian and Edwardian theatre collections. The students look at a range of original material, such as playbills, play-scripts and theatre documentation, to learn about this exciting time.

The British Theatre History student exhibition

A section about living as an actress

This year was different than previously in other ways too. Firstly, the students usually work in groups to produce sections of a general exhibition on British theatre history. This time,

The exhibition launch

The exhibition launch

however, the students were challenged to work individually, and they did not disappoint! The other difference is that this time the students worked on a very specific theme: women. Within this theme the students looked at gender roles in pantomime, the representation of women in melodrama, influential female playwrights, theatre managers and actresses, and theatrical women as a political force. The result is a very well rounded, coherent exhibition, which catches the eye and the interest of passers-by.

Dick Whittington from the Melville Collection

Dick Whittington from the Melville Collection

 

The module draws heavily from theatre collections housed here at Kent. Firstly, the Melville Collection, which tells the story of a theatrical dynasty of actors and theatre managers. The Melville’s owned many theatres around the country, but particularly the Lyceum in London, from which we hold music, takings books, and administrative documentation concerning productions put on there, as well as publicity material and scripts.

A lithograph showing a scene from the Octoroon

A lithograph showing a scene from the Octoroon

 

 

Secondly, the students use the Boucicault Collections. Dion Boucicault was a playwright and actor who worked both here and in America in the 19th century. He was particularly well known for his melodramas, most famously the Octoroon, a controversial play concerning race and slavery. One student has produced a detailed section concerning this play.

Photograph of Nellie Farren, from the Milbourne scrapbook

Photograph of Nellie Farren, from the Milbourne scrapbook

 

 

Many of the students use sections from the Milbourne scrapbook. This scrapbook contains photographs (and some signatures) of famous actors and actresses of the time period, and also accurate depictions of costumes worn in theatrical productions. The costume images were originally black and white, but the scrapbook’s owner attended the productions featured in it, and faithfully coloured in the images to represent what was being worn on the stage.

 

Pettingell scrapbook, currently on display

Pettingell scrapbook, currently on display

Finally the students used our Pettingell Collection. Frank Pettingell was an English actor in the 20th century. He obtained the collection from Arthur Williams, who was an actor and playwright in the 19th century. The collection is made up of a huge selection of printed and handwritten play scripts, many of which were used as performance prompt copies. There are also a handful of theatrical scrapbooks in the collection, one of which is on display.

 

The exhibition is up until the 25th April.

Happy New Year!

With the last days of Christmas coming to a close, we hope that you all had a restful and enjoyable festive season. Special Collections & Archives is now open as usual again and we look forward to seeing you in 2016.

If you’ve been getting involved in social media over the festive period, you might have seen our very own celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas via @UoKSpecialColls. With only 140 characters in which to celebrate our wide range of collections, we had to be brief, but I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you more about some of the items we featured.

The first day of Christmas: an ancient Greek vase

Perhaps one of our most enigmatic items, this Greek vase has been part of Special Collections for a long time, and represents those stand alone items which are not part of any collection, but are unique, rare or valuable within their own right. Although the provenance of the vase is unknown, information with the item does suggest that this is an ancient treasure.

The second day of Christmas: two pantomime clowns

Still a staple of the festive season, pantomime was an important part of the theatrical tradition throughout the Victorian and Edwardian periods. The clowns were, of course, an early part of the pantomime genre, which evolved from the Italian comedia dell’arte. These two comedians are Dick Henderson and George Jackley, who regularly collaborated with the Melville family in their annual pantomimes. This image is from the 1923/24 production of Jack and the Beanstalk at the Lyceum Theatre.

0600662

Information about the Theatre Collections.

The third day of Christmas: three cute koalas

3714This lovely image is of Hewlett Johnson, Dean of Canterbury Cathedral from 1931-1963. A contraversial figure in his lifetime, owing to his stalwart support of Communist regimes including Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China, Johnson travelled widely. This photograph is from an album celebrating Johnson’s visit to Australia in 1950 as part of a global tour giving speeches at Peace Rallies. Having travelled via Rome, Karachi and Calcutta, Johnson then visited Sydney and Darwin, arriving in Melbourne on 15th April. The photograph was taken at  Lone Pine Wildlife Sanctuary, Brisbane in Queensland.

Information on the Hewlett Johnson Papers.

The fourth day of Christmas: the voyaging Beagle

The Jack Johns Darwin Collection includes a wealth of early and rare editions of Charles Darwin’s work, including a first edition of the ‘Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty’s ships Adventure and Beagle, between the years 1826 and 1836‘. Johns became fascinated with Darwin while volunteering at the museum of the Darwin family home, Down House in Kent. This 1839 edition comprises four volumes: two written by Fitz-Roy, the captain of the Beagle, one by Philip Parker King, the naturalist on the voyage, and the third volume by Charles Darwin, whose official role on the voyage was as companion to the Captain. Following Darwin’s later fame, later editions of The Voyage of the Beagle comprised just this third volume.

Information about the Jack Johns Darwin Collection.

The fifth day of Christmas: five Portuguese windmills

F184298The Muggeridge Collections include a variety of photographs of mills and other rural subjects, which date from 1904 onwards. William Burrell Muggeridge and his son Donald were fascinated by the vanishing rural life in Britain and across the wider world. Donald’s role in the Second World War gave him the unlikely opportunity of photographing mills across Europe, and he later supplemented this collection on family holidays. The set of images of mills in Portugal were taken in April 1966: this photograph is of a group of tower mills at Abelheira near Esposende. As well as documenting lost architecture and ways of life, the Muggeridge father and son were also innovative in their use of developing photographic technology.

Information about the Muggeridge Collections.

The sixth day of Christmas: six Stand-Up comedians

Stand-Up_LogoSince the autumn of 2014, the University of Kent has hosted the nascent British Stand Up Comedy Archive, which was founded with the deposit of materials from comedians Linda Smith and Mark Thomas. This archive includes a wealth of audio visual materials and is growing rapidly. Alongside the collections of another four comedians, materials include records of venues, interviews with comedians and some magazines relating to the early Stand Up Comedy scene.

Information on the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive.

The seventh day of Christmas: seven bad girls of the family

Melodrama was a hugely popular genre on the stage throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. One of the last series of hugely popular melodramas were the so-called ‘Bad Women’ dramas written and produced by the brothers Fred and Walter Melville, during the first two decades of the 1900s. These included such evocative titles as ‘The Girl Who Wrecked His Home’ and ‘A Girl’s Cross Roads’. One of the novelties of these productions were the use of female villains, usually with a male counterpart, who often had dubious morals and plotted to ruin the heroine. Although Walter Melville was acused of being a ‘woman hater’, these roles would have offered the actresses in the company an unusually rich character to portray. This publicity postcard comes from a set for ‘The Bad Girl of the Family’, produced around 1909 at the Adelphi Theatre, London.

M699937e

Information about the ‘Bad Women’ Dramas.

The eighth day of Christmas: eight Melville children

The Melville Collection contains gems from a theatrical dynasty which started with George Robbins (1824-1898), who alledgedly ran away to join the theatre, changing his surname to Melville. His son, Andrew Melville I continued the theatre tradition, and had eight children with his wife, Alice, all of whom went on to become performers, playwrights, theatre managers and owners. Of the eight, Jack died young, but the four daughters went on into the profession and married performers. Fred and Walter became successful theatre managers in London, owning the Lyceum Theatre and building the Prince’s theatre in 1911, which is now the Shaftesbury. Andrew Melville II was an actor and manager outside London, with the Grand Theatre in Brighton on his circuit. It was the widow of Andrew Melville II’s son who donated the collection to the University.

M600671Information about the Melville family.

The ninth day of Christmas: nine worthy women

IMG_2012Alongside our archival collections, Special Collections also holds a number of rare books. Written by Thomas Heywood, this 1690 edition of The exemplary lives and memorable acts of nine the most worthy women of the world does not include the woodcuts present in the Cathedral Library’s copy. Considering the lives of ‘three Jews, three Gentiles and three Christian’ women, Heywood includes the Biblical Deborah, Judith and Esther, before considering three ‘heathens’, one of whom is Boudicca, called ‘Bonduca’ in this text. The three Christian women are ‘Elphleda’, daughter of Alfred the Great, Margaret of Anjou, queen of Henry VI, and, of course, Queen Elizabeth. Bringing together this range of women shows just how diverse Early Modern precedents for behaviour and virtue could be.

Information about the rare book collections.

The tenth day of Christmas: ten tins of talc

The British Cartoon Archive celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2015. Alongside the many cartoonists represented within this still growing collection, the well loved Giles artwork is a perennial favourite. As cartoonist for the Daily Express, Giles produced satirical political cartoons, but it is for his eclectic family of characters, including the mischevious children and irascible Grandma which he is most commonly known. This cartoon was published on 29th December 1964, proving that the post-Christmas sale is no new thing! Alongside the published version, the Archive holds the artwork and it was also included in the 1964 Giles annual. These annuals are still produced each year, with materials from the Giles Collection at the Cartoon Archive.

Information about Carl Giles materials in the British Cartoon Archive.

The eleventh day of Christmas: eleven Ken Smith poems

Modern literature is well represented in the Collections, with our Modern First Editions including poetry and prose. Alongside the reconstructed library of poet Charles Olson (collected and deposited by Ralph Maud), first editions of Brideshead Revisited and a number of works by E. M. Forster, we have small print press items which are regularly used in teaching. This volume is by Ken Smith, a major voice in world poetry, who died in 2003 and whose archive is at Leeds University, which Smith attended and where he also became tutor as Yorkshire Arts Fellow 1976-78.

Information about the Modern First Edition and Modern Poetry collections.

The twelfth day of Christmas: twelve William Harris letters

William sent his letters home via his friend Mr Hunter, who lived in Paris.

As with the ancient Greek vase, this small collection of letters represents gems in the archive which do not necesserily link with a wider range of materials. As successive blog posts have shown, however, the Harris correspondence offers insight into the adventures of an architect exploring Europe in the early nineteenth century.

Information about the William Harris letters.

If you’d like to know more about any of our items or collections, do take a look at the website, or contact us.

Going on a Summer Holiday? 11: an unexpected discovery

By the spring of 1823, William Harris Junior had experienced adventure, excitement and astonishment as he journeyed through Europe on a late version of the Grand Tour, extending his architectural studies. He and his small band of architects, gathered en route, had hoped to travel to Greece to take in the antiquities there, but the continent was hardly a tranquil place in the aftermath of Napoeonic War and Greece was out of bounds. Because of this, Harris and his remaining friends journeyed next to Sicily, and on the 1st February 1823, William wrote to his father from Selinunte. This detour, however, was no disadvantage, as he explained to his father;

“The antiquities of Sicily are generally passed over much too hastily by professional men but the reason is perhaps that they mostly travel here after having visited Greece where the remains are undoubtedly of a higher class.”

Indeed, William considered it best to have visited Sicily first, believing that the studies he made there would shorten the time it was necessary for him to spend in Greece.

Image of an early 19th century map of Regent's Park and surrounds, London.

The pleasant surroundings of Norton Street (far right) were a contrast to William’s accomodation on his travels.

In spite of the excitement of the journey thus far, and the strange and intriguing practices which William had experienced since leaving London in 1821, he still found life on the road a challenge. His father lived in the fashionable area of Norton Place (modern day Bolsover Street) in London, while William was appalled to hear that his sister and her family were having to move out of the capital. During his journey, however, William had to make do with what accommodation he could find; one night on the road, the small group were forced to “sleep on mattresses only in an uninhabited palace”. On 16th December, William and his friends stayed in the Ducal palace of Castel Vetrano, “but I can assure you we have not been worse off in Sicily than on the night of our arrival”.

 

“There was no kind of inn in the town and all the accommodation the palace afforded was wretched mattresses, damp and dirty, and this on a cold winter’s night. I preferred lying down in my cloak”

The gentlemen had better luck the following evening, however, when a local man known to Mr Ingham, an English merchant they had met on the road, provide bedding to lessen the austerity of the ducal quarters.

Elsewhere, they enjoyed better hospitality; amused “by the contrast between Sicilian and English manners”, William related their attendance at a ‘conversasione’ at Castel Ternisi, with a friend of Ingham’s:

“Ladies are rarely present at these parties, the Sicilians being of a very jealous turn and in this instance their places were supplied by a row of colored French portraits of the Beauties of different nations arranged around the walls. Several of the party wore white nightcaps among others an old Sicilian Baron but this practice is very general in Sicily.”

William had a habit of discovering friends on his travels. By the time of this letter, he was still in company with Mr Brooks, with whom he had travelled since France (the gentleman had turned up late at Calais), Thomas Angell and Mr Atkinson. In addition to Ingham, the group travelled from Gingenti with a Sicilian lawyer, who “afforded us some amusement on the road”. A “very timid horseman”, this lawyer got into difficulties when fording a river:

“he allowed his beast to lie down…skipping from his back [to a stone in the river]…. The animal no sooner found himself at liberty than he began to roll and completely bathed the saddle bags while the poor man hardly thinking himself safe on his little island desperately waded to shore.”

Harris and his friends, now seasoned travellers, were evidently highly amused by this escapade.

The front of William's letter from Selinunte

As with previous letters, William crammed as much writing as he could onto one sheet of paper.

Even this far into the journey, after exploring the Mer de Glace of Mont Blanc and scaling Mount Etna, William still found new sights awe inspiring:

“About an hour before arriving at Palermo the heights command a fine view of the rich plains in which the city is built. A Theatre of mountains encircles it which running out into the sea form the two points of the Bay. The promenade at Palermo extends nearly a mile along the seaside. It surpasses even that of Naples and is by far the finest I have ever seen.”

Although the stay in Palermo proved short, William evidently liked the town, which abounded with convents and monasteries, many of which he described as occupying the upper stories on buildings, with shops on the lower floor. With palaces, Public Gardens and a fine promenade for both walking and driving, Palermo would have been a comfortable holiday destination, but William and his friends were seeking more adventure. Once they had their supplies, they set off for Segista: William and Atkinson on foot.

It was by damp, newly ploughed ground, that they found their way to Trapani, a town he described as ‘very singular being nearly surrounded by the sea’. It had, William added, ‘the appearance of an encampment’, due to its pyramids of salt heaped around its environment. The salt trade served William and his friends well, as one of its key merchants, a Mr Woodhouse, “received us in the most hearty manner”.

Image of quotation extract from the letter.However, it was the ruins of ancient Selinus which had been the object of all this travel, a site which William explained comprised six temples: three on one hill and three on another. The original plan had been to lodge in Castel Vetrano and journey to study the site each day, but the architects’ enthusiasm soon made them begrudge the amount of time they had to spend travelling to and from their studies. With the permission of the Cavaliere, they thus moved into a small house ‘within a stone’s throw from the temple’. It was largely unfurnished, but the Cavaliere permitted the architects to take furniture from Vetrano, and the gentlemen soon took on a cook and a servant, one to take care of the house and the other to visit the market at Castel Vetrano each day. This, William explained, enabled the gentlemen to ‘employ all our day light to the most advantage’.

These quarters were ‘not so comfortless as we expected’, perhaps in part due to their experiences thus far on their travels. In any case, William explained to his father in London, although the windows had only shuttered, having never been glazed, the Sicilian weather made this quite bearable. “By this you may see how totally different is the climate of Sicily from that of our foggy atmosphere.” And in any case, the location enabled the William, his friend Angell and the rest, to make some exciting discoveries.

According to William, there was some material published on three of the temples by an architect named Wilkins ‘who formally lived in New Cavendish Street’, but this was ‘full of errors’. The rest, nearest to the sea shore (one no more than ¼ mile from it) had, Harris stated, ‘never been published at all certainly not in England’. This, then, was an exciting opportunity for the young architects.

Ground plan of three temples (O, C and D) on the Western Hill at Selinunte

Ground plan of three temples (O, C and D) on the Western Hill at Selinunte, drawn by William Harris. From the British Museum Collections.

“They are all a heap of ruins but all the points may be form[e]d or nearly so with a little trouble. By the help of a little excavation we have able to form (I hope) tolerably correct ideas of their plans and proportions. The advantage of being on the spot has perhaps never been possessed by any travellers before.”

 

In closing the letter, William detailed the architects’ plans for the following months, begging his father for an extension to his trip – adding that Angell had already received just such a dispensation from his father. He explained: “a year’s study at the end of a tour is certainly more valuable than two at its commencement”. There was still much, after all, to see: Naples, Pompeii, Herculaneum and, he still hoped, Greece. Harris intended to begin his homeward journey in the spring of 1824, via the Venetian States, to arrive in London at the end of June. By then, he would have been away from home for 3 years, and have experienced much on his journey. But these plans were never to come to fruition. In the excavations at Selinus, Harris and Angell discovered far more than they ever bargained for, and their youthful enthusiasm would result in a rather sudden journey home for just one of the pair: the other would never return to London.

In a postscript, William adds the note “I am really sorry to hear you have lost poor Dick” – this was the horse whose illness had provoked much comment in previous correspondence between father and son. Having been lamed but undergone an operation, it seemed that Dick had never recovered. William noted: “he was an excellent animal and I fear you will with difficulty find one to suit your purpose so well”.

Recently, there’s been an exciting development in this tale: drawings by Harris and Angell, deposited at the British Museum are now being catalogued and digitised. I hope you’re as excited as me about this: you can see more on the BM’s Collection Online pages.

An intriguing precedent

As you might expect, there are all sorts of unexpected and intriguing materials held in Special Collections. What you might not expect, is that we don’t often have the time or opportunity to delve into them in as much detail as we might like to. This post is the tale of one of those intriguing items, and how I finally got to explore it!

Spine of the item, reading 'Selection of Precedents'The book itself is rather unassuming: in a plain, half leather binding, with gilt edging and title which reads ‘Selection of Precedents’. Inside, it’s rather more interesting, with manuscript list, contents and index in a late eighteenth or early nineteenth century hand. So far, you might think, so archival, and I must admit to not having much expertise in legal history, with which this tome is so heavily concerned: ‘precedents’, in this case, referring to the legal sense. Something else, however, caught my eye: amongst the names listed on the first few pages, beneath their respective kings, are some key players in medieval politics including Hugh Despenser, Alice Perrers and Thomas Monatcute, the Earl of Salisbury.

Book plate for the volumeThough I knew this item was interesting, it wasn’t until we looked at cataloguing it that we really began to look at it in more depth. As I sat with Rachel, looking at the provenance suggested by the unusual bookplate (a Knight of the Garter, and most likely a Scottish earl), my enthusiasm for all things medieval got the better of me. With Rachel’s background in Classics, we thought that it might be best for me to take a look through, to find out just what this book was!

Initially, I was intrigued to see the name William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, under the reign of Henry VI. If you didn’t know, Henry VI proved a rather ineffectual king, and became overly reliant on various favourites. One such unlucky favourite was de la Pole, who successfully negotiated a Henry’s marriage to Margaret of Anjou, but ended up ceding the regions of Maine and Anjou back to France in return, after they had been conquered by the English during the Hundred Years’ War. This made Suffolk hugely unpopular with the Commons (both in Parliament and in the wider country) and so, according to the Selection of Precedents, he demanded that the ‘infamous charges rumoured against him’ should be openly exhibited, so that he could offer a defence. What followed was wrangling between Lords and Commons, and between rivals: although the Commons did eventually impeach the Duke, the king refused to have him executed and instead banished him. According to the Selection of Precedents, the Commons launched a protest as soon as the new Parliament opened in 1451, demanding that the Judgement of Attainder should stand. Their only slight obstacle was the fact that Suffolk was already dead. A laconic note adds:

N.B. Between the time of his banishment and of the above petition, the Duke was murdered

In fact, he took a ship to France but was met en route by ‘pirates’ (although many English gentlemen and soldiers were at this time engaged in piracy as warfare against France) and beheaded. His body washed up on the beach at Dover shortly afterwards.

Details of Thomas de Berkeley's caseWith my interest piqued by this sorry tale, I have been spending time looking through other cases detailed. On such details the complaints of Edward III’s mistress, Alice Perrers, about her loss of land and liberty, towards the end of Edward’s reign, and the beginning of Richard II’s. Thomas de Berkeley was examined in 1330 on suspicion of the murder of Edward II; although cleared of committing the crime himself, he was considered culpable since the king was in his custody at the time. In the reign of that unfortunate Edward II, Hugh Despenser came to Parliament to claim lands from the deceased Earl of Gloucester and Hereford, by right of his wife. In terms which would have been headline news in the later Victorian law courts, the debate was whether the Earl’s wife had been pregnant when the Earl had died: if not, and the child was illegitimate, then Despenser stood to gain. Other cases detail extortion, treason and pardons of the basis of having been impeached ‘by the hatred of his neighbours’, in one Hugh Fastolf’s case. Following this case, in 1376, the Commons requested that the king should not pardon anyone impeached in that Parliament, ominously identifying ‘any one great or small who have been of his privy Council’. The king in question was Edward III, identified by many as the greatest medieval monarch. His answer rather sums up the relationship between the king, justice and the Commons at this point:

The King will do as shall seem best to him

Later, following the Civil War and Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, members of the Commons were once again pondering the power of the king to pardon or intervene in legal matters. By that stage, Parliament was a far more powerful force than it had been three centuries earlier, and there was concern that any judgements could effectively be halted and the accused set free by the prorogation or closing of that Parliament by the king. This would protect the king’s favourites and, far from Edward III’s motto of doing as he saw best, the idea was no longer acceptable to the Early Modern Commons.

Opening list of casesThe Selection of Precedents records that in 1673, under Charles II, a Committee reported:

…“That businesses depending in one Parliament or Session of Parliament have been continued to the next session of the same Parliament, and the proceedings thereupon have remained in the same state in which they were left when last in agitation

This meant that no-one would be set free or allowed to enjoy assetts removed while under judgement even between Parliaments; it removed from the king the power to halt such proceedings. Of course, this was not the end of the matter. New cases came forward over the years and during the reigns of successive monarchs. In 1791, the Lords were again debating this issue, pointing out that laws did not lapse between Parliaments, and questioning why judgements be any different.

In each of these debates, according to British law, precedents were sought to bolster the cause for the contiuation or cessation of judicial proceedings between Parliaments. Drawn from the Parliamentary Rolls and the Journal of the House of Lords, the accounts in this Selection of Precedents are just such an excercise: detailing cases which continued between Parliaments from the reign of Edward I, right up until that of George I and the impeachment of the Earls of Oxford and Mortimer for high treason.

Annotations on the precedents in red inkIt is not clear why this book was put together: its extracts evidently come from learned sources, and the notes in red on some verso pages comment on the proceedings with an expert knowledge. In the case of Salisbury and Peterborough, in 1690, the commentator writes:

The report in this case is in several instances inaccurate and unintelligable – and untrue

I haven’t yet got to the bottom of this mystery, and it would probably take someone more expert in legal history than I am to give a full account of this item. But I like to think that this books was part of a gentleman’s legal training, looking into precedents and commenting upon the processes used in the arguments. Stretching to 73 handwritten pages, it would have been a considerable undertaking and the care taken in rebinding the pages suggest that it was a valued item. Although the content may be duplicated elsewhere, in official government sources, perhaps the owner treasured this volume for the study he remembered and the enjoyment in his meticulous research.

Perhaps he even enjoyed putting it together as much as I have enjoyed reading it!