Immigrants and Agincourt: An election special on ‘Englishness’? 18 April

On Saturday 18 April we host our annual visit by the Ranulf Higden Society. This year’s meeting is topical to say the least, but one of the papers on  ‘immigrants’ is not from a UKIP campaign, but rather deals with England’s resident aliens between 1330 and 1550. The recently completed project England’s Immigrants contains a database of 64000 people! Dr Jonathan Mackman (who also worked on Keele’s Gascon Rolls project) and Dr Jessica Lutkin will present some of the original records from which the database was derived.

In the same session Professor Anne Curry will discuss records relating to one of England’s iconic moments, the battle of Agincourt, the six-hundredth anniversary of which falls this year.  The two papers raise interesting questions about what it means and has meant to be English. For further details contact Dr Philip Morgan –

Higden day


The day school runs from 10.30 to 3.30 in the Claus Moser Research Centre.


Commemorating the Great War: Frank Tomkinson of Tunstall

In 1989 a small group of adult students attended a monthly Saturday class on the First World War, organised by Keele’s department of adult education, and taught by a visiting academic, Dr (later Professor) Richard Holmes who would drive to Keele from Sandhurst. Two of the students, the late Anne and Frank Senior from Leek undertook research into the short life of Frank’s uncle, Frank Tomkinson of Pittshill near Tunstall who had been killed in FrancSenior pamphlete in 1918 at the age of 25. Frank had inherited many of the letters written by his name-sake. They presented their findings to a meeting of the class and spoke for about twenty minutes. The course fee, for eight six-hour classes, was £20, and Dr Holmes gave up the whole of one of his Saturdays each month for what must have seemed a derisory fee. Some years later, famous for a series of TV programmes include War Walks, he could have commanded a substantial fee and attracted a much larger audience, but in fact he remained available to those with a genuine interest in the experiences of the first world war.
This year, the anniversary of the start of the first world war, an expanded text of the Seniors’ brief talk has been edited by Paul Anderton and published by The North Staffordshire Historians’ Guild, together with illustrations from the letters. Frank had worked at Whitfield Colliery and served in the Royal Field Artillery, training first at Markyate in Bedfordshire and then on Salisbury Plain. In 1916 they were sent to Ireland, and Frank attended a memorial service for Lord Kitchener in Dublin cathedral. In 1917 the battery left for France and Frank served there until his death in May 1918. The booklet is then a series of memorials, to the author of the letters, the two students and their tutor who sought to recover the voices and experiences of those who had fought in the first war, and indeed to Keele’s adult-education tradition which the University abandoned in the 2000s.
Details of the booklet can be had from The North Staffordshire Historians’ Guild

Students, Lawyers and all that: An edition of a thirteenth-century record

Most students never imagine that their work will be published. But, for over a quarter of a century Keele University has hosted an annual summer school for the study of Latin & Palaeography, a week during which students learn how to read pre-Reformation documents in their original language and handwriting. Over the years many students have gone on to edit and publish medieval and early-modern records, using the skills which they gained at Keele. The latest is the first volume of an edition produced by Margaret Lynch, a regular student at the school,  of the crown pleas of the Lancashire eyre of 1292, a record of over 1050 entries relating to criminal cases in Lancashire over the previous twenty years.  This volume provides the introduction. The project began life as the materials used to teach seminars at the Keele Summer School between 2002 and 2004, and was then adopted by the Ranulf Higden Society (itself founded by the Universities of Liverpool, Keele and Manchester). If one takes but one crime, that of homicide, then most Lancashire killers were men, although eight women were accused of aiding and abetting. Women were more common as victims, but only rarely killed by members of their family; most murders were committed within neighbouring communitires, and most within the same occupational groups. Rubbing along was all too frequently ‘rubbing against’ and the weapons were those already at hand, rakes, iron forks and staves. The edition provides a fascinating insight into a different world, but the cover illustration, taken from the manuscript, shows a bird with a man’s head. The man wears a close-fitting cap, a coif, part of the emerging costume of a serjeant at law. This then is a satirical and early drawing of a lawyer.  The volume is published by the Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire

Lancashire Plea Rolls.