Skeleton 16 excavated at Hulton Abbey outside Stoke on Trent in the early 1970s has become something of a celebrity. Traditionally identified with a member of the Audley family who were patrons of the Cistercian house, the remains have more recently been identified as those of Hugh Despenser jr, executed in 1326 during the campaign which led to the deposition and murder of Edward II. The skeleton, missing its skull, a thigh bone, hands and feet, has also been argued to represent one of the only skeletons so far identified as having been subject to the judicial process of quartering.
This year’s Thelma Lancaster Memorial lecture at the The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery was given by Philip Morgan, and reviewed the historical evidence for the identification with Hugh Despenser, as well as some of the written evidence for the process of such executions and the later recovery of the remains. In the image on the right an illustration for Jean Froissart’s chronicle shows Despenser’s execution in Hereford.
The audience, members of the Stoke-on-Trent Museum Archaeological Society, included many of the members who had been involved in the original excavation, not least David Thomas who dug up skeleton 16, and generously shared an image of the bones in process of being uncovered. The lecture is due to be published next year.