Lexis of cloth and clothing: Medieval Royal Wardrobe accounts

Lead Research Organisation: University of Westminster
Department Name: Faculty of Social Sciences & Humanities

Abstract

Summary

The overall aim of the present project is to offer a way for school-children, students and interested members of the public to engage with a number of facets of Britain's medieval past, its language, manuscripts, and the clothing worn by the royal family and nobility. Specifically, the proposal is to offer an attractive and accessible entry point to the resources of the project Lexis of Cloth and Clothing in Britain c. 700-1450: origins, identifications, context and change (LexP). This was a major five-year research project that received funding from the AHRC in 2006 for a trans-disciplinary study with the purpose of collecting together the terms for medieval dress and textiles in use in the British Isles across the Middle Ages in the form of a searchable database, illustrated by images of clothing from manuscript art and statues.

A new entry point into the LexP will be provided through a website which will include brief descriptions and summaries of manuscripts of the Royal Wardrobe accounts for the reigns of Edward I, Edward II and Edward III. These are documents which record the textiles bought to make the clothing (manufactured in Britain or imported) and the garments that were made out of them, together with the costs and the payments to tailors, embroiderers, button-makers, etc. The summaries will be accompanied by an index to all words for cloth and clothing in the accounts and information about these words will be provided via links to the LexP database. There will also be links to records of cloth and clothing in Discovery, The National Archives' catalogue. The new project's website will also feature images of the manuscripts held in The National Archives so people can see the handwriting and gain a sense of the look of these medieval documents. In addition, the website will include an artist's impressions of the clothing described in the Royal Wardrobe accounts and images of the royal family, to compare the clothes worn by modern royals for state occasions with those worn in the Middle Ages.

A further aim of the project is to produce a guide to the clothing and textiles in the records held at The National Archives. This treasure store of manuscripts is freely available to the public, but again, an entry point is needed to make the information contained in the manuscripts accessible and to instil a sense of ownership in this heritage.

Planned Impact

Impact Summary

The project aims to offer a way for school-children, students and the general public to engage with various facets of British heritage: its language, the documents of its medieval past, and the history of what the royal family wore for state occasions as well as who made the clothes and where the fabrics came from (manufactured domestically or imported). The project thus offers an accessible entry point to engagement with medieval documents and the original languages in which they were written.

For many pupils, their encounter with the project will be enhanced by visits to their schools by members of the project team who will introduce them to the materials and set projects and activities which will follow up on their encounter with medieval manuscripts and handwriting. It is hoped that this will offer them a new way into the world of history and of books and, it is hoped in some cases, to visits to The National Archives to see the manuscripts for themselves: they may attend the exhibition at The National Archives or go on school outings.

There is evident public interest in the clothing and documentation about it that remain to us from Britain's medieval past, and these has proved a source of inspiration for artists, for example, the fashion designer, Juliana Sissons, whose residency at the Victoria and Albert's medieval and renaissance galleries resulted in her 2011 collection of knitted pieces inspired by the armour collection and images depicting armour in tapestries and sculpture. At present, the Magna Carta exhibition at the British Library is drawing record numbers - around 800 per day - and the artist Cornelia Parker will unveil a new work inspired by the Magna Carta in May 2015. The summaries of the Royal Wardrobe accounts and the artist's impressions on our project website will spur investigation into the documents and the sources of the words for the garments worn in medieval Britain.

There is a public appetite for information about the history of the English language and its vocabulary. The Lexis of Cloth and Clothing in Britain offers information about these and many other questions about the vocabulary of cloth and clothing in medieval Britain. It is also the first (only?) multilingual dictionary resource and offers its users an insight into the multilingual situation in medieval Britain which is still not part of the story of the history of English told in most standard textbooks on the subject.

Historical Re-Enactment and Living History groups represent a worldwide movement. They include costume-makers who regularly make use of academic resources to ensure that the clothes worn by medieval characters are as accurate as possible. They are frequently hired by film, theatre and television producers as well as museum curators. The project's website will offer an accessible way in to the resources of the LexP which include a gallery of images from medieval manuscripts and art in addition to the database and to those of The National Archives.

A further aim of the project is to produce a guide on clothing and textiles in the records held at The National Archives, and The National Archives' Discovery catalogue will also be linked to the new project, and thus to LexP. The National Archives' holdings are free to visit: it is hoped that the project will help to make them seem more accessible and foster a sense of ownership in them in addition to the enhancement to the catalogues.

The RA employed on the project will receive training and gain experience of creating and maintaining a website; s/he will write blog posts aimed at the general public and so, under the guidance of the PI, will acquire the skill of turning academic research into accessible and user-friendly, informative prose. Additionally, research on the Royal Wardrobe accounts will undoubtedly form the basis of future research in palaeography, codicology, lexis or cultural history, depending on the interests of the RA.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The team has conducted a series of school visits/workshops which have enabled teachers and KS3 students to explore and learn about the topic of medieval history through the study of medieval fashion. Students have reported a greater understanding of the topic - especially the importance of languages and manuscripts for understanding the past. They have demonstrated an increased understanding of the origins of global trade; and the history of medieval England's cultural and linguistic diversity. Students have displayed a new understanding of the similarities and differences between medieval and modern society and the importance of exploring these themes. The positive reception and impact of the workshops has been demonstrated through questionnaires and also the feedback of teachers through letters and emails.The work produced by the students has been showcased on the new project website; at an exhibition at The National Archives; and at the project launch - also at The National Archives. In addition to the school workshops the team has produced a new website; given presentations and workshops to diverse audience both inside and outside of academia; and produced teaching resources which can be downloaded from the website for the use of secondary school teachers.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Education
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description The National Archives 
Organisation The National Archives
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Surveyed the manuscripts of the Royal Wardrobe accounts held in The National Archives; transcribed selections from the manuscripts with hyperlinks to entries in the Lexis of Cloth and Clothing database; curated exhibition on display in the Keeper's Gallery December 2016-March 2017; designed and facilitated activities based on the manuscripts of the Royal Wardrobe accounts for a Family Day held at The NationalArchives; provided training in using the Lexis Project database, which has subsequently been used with school groups visiting The National Archives; will be contributing to a guide to medieval clothing in manuscripts held in The National Archives for public users.
Collaborator Contribution Provided expertise in selecting manuscripts for transcription; provided high-resolution images of manuscripts for the project website; hosted the exhibition and the launch of the project with a reception and display of manuscripts of the Royal Wardrobe accounts; advertised the project through their public website.
Impact Exhibition
Start Year 2015
 
Description Impact Talk at Postgraduate Study Day (IHR, London) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact In July 2016 project researcher Charles Farris gave a talk at the History Lab Plus, "Life After Your PhD" conference at the Institute of Historical Research, London. The talk was well attended by post-graduate students as well as some undergraduates and early career historians. Dr Farris' talk discussed academic impact exercise using the Lexis project as an illustrative example. The talk was well received and prompted live tweets which helped to promote the project - these also demonstrated audience engagement and interaction.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/getting-grants-getting-published-and-staying-sane-life-after-the-phd-...
 
Description KS3 Workshop Durham 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The team hosted a workshop (entitled Royal Fashion in Medieval England" for 30 KS3 school students at Palace Green Library, University of Durham. This was organized in cooperation with the University of Durham Educational outreach department. Students learned about medieval fashion, society and language through a program of activities, talks and competitions. Feedback was collected through questionnaires for pupils and their teachers - both of which expressed strong interest in future events. Feedback and discussion with pupils demonstrated that they had a much better understanding about medieval society (and clothing) and the importance of language in understanding the past. Students also expressed great interest in pursuing university education.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Key Stage 3 School Workshop (London) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact In October 2016 forty Key Stage 3 students from a London secondary school attended a half-day workshop at the University of Westminster for a workshop entitled "Royal Fashion in Medieval England". Students explored the subject through a series of interactive presentations and team activities using the Lexis Database. At the end of the day students demonstrated all they had learned by producing posters of a medieval outfit complete with annotations which described design,materials, what the clothing was for, who it was for and what it tells us about the person. Certificates were awarded to the winning team and project bookmarks were given to all participants. Student participation was outstanding and demonstrated interest, learning and understanding. Feedback forms demonstrated that the students had really enjoyed the activities and learned a lot from the day. Teacher feedback was also very impressed and expressed an interest in future events and using the database in teaching. Feedback was also very useful in continuing to refine the workshop structure for future events.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Manchester Dress and Textile Discussion Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Project researcher Charles Farris gave a presentation to the 'Manchester Dress and Textile Discussion Group' at the University of Manchester. The group consisted of academics, enthusiasts and postgraduate students. The talk was well received and the audience reported that they had learned a great deal about medieval accounts from the presentation. Dr Farris has since agreed to adapt his talk for publication in the Medieval Clothing and Textiles journal.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Medieval Family Day - The National Archives 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact In September 2016 The National Archives held a medieval family day entitled "a knight's tale" which explored the topic of medieval history and the archive's medieval records collections. Project Researcher Charles Farris worked closely with staff at The National Archives helping to organise the day: choosing illustrative material; designing children's activities and answering the questions of family groups. The day was well popular and well received and promoted the Lexis database and the medieval collections of The National Archives. Children of all ages designed medieval clothes and shields which demonstrated what they had learned about medieval fashion and heraldry. Members of the education team at The National Archives were extremely grateful for the help of the project and expressed the usefulness of the Lexis database in teaching using medieval manuscripts. The experience was also invaluable in helping to design future workshops - giving special insight into the interests of children of different ages.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://local.mumsnet.com/richmond-upon-thames/summer-holidays/541131-a-knights-tale-medieval-fun-da...
 
Description Medieval Fashion Workshop for Adult Groups (London) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The team organized one and a half hour workshops for adult groups at the University of Westminster where participants learned about medieval fashion, the lexis database and medieval sources. After an introductory talk, participants had the opportunity to use the Lexis database to complete exercises using copies of medieval manuscripts and answer questions on them. Feedback was collected through a Q&A session and questionnaires. Feedback made important suggestions including the use of more images for the presentations and producing clothing items to look at (both of which were acted upon for later workshops). Participants particularly enjoyed looking at the manuscripts and the challenge of deciphering them. The majority of participants expressed interest in future events and provided contact details to do so - each of these were immediately contacted by email with thanks for their feedback and interest.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentation about Project at Conference within Impact Round Table 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The round-table was on the last day of the 2017 Fifteenth Century Conference at the University of Essex (2 September 2017). Dr Farris spoke about the Lexis Project as part of a round-table session entitled 'Valuing the Middle Ages: how does impact work in medieval research projects?' The session was organized by Dr Jessica Lutkin of the University of Reading. The event was well received and several attendees commented that this was very useful in helping them understand how impact could work within research projects. We have a letter from the conference convenor stating that Dr Farris' examples (the Lexis) were particularly useful.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Presentation for Primary School Children (London) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact In July 2016 forty key stage 2 students attended a visit to the University of Westminster at which Dr Charles Farris(working with the University outreach team) made a presentation to the students about the project and studying at University. This sparked a number of questions about the project and students were interested in how academics from different disciplines come together to study a subject. Students commented that they had not considered before why language was so important for historians. Dr Farris was very impressed by the comments of the students which demonstrated the extent of their interest and attention in the project and the subject. A large number of students expressed a wish to attend university on the strength of the visit - this was very rewarding considering at the start of the visit many stated they had not considered attending university. The event was also invaluable in helping to design the workshops which were to be held in the following Autumn.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Project Exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The team designed a project exhibition in cooperation with The National Archives to showcase the project and the Lexis database. The exhibition included images of manuscripts, illustrations by Maggie Kneen, examples of the posters made by school students during workshops and details about the project and Lexis database. The exhibition was at The National Archives in the Keeper's Gallery from December 2016 until March 2017. The exhibition generated further interest in the project and use of the Lexis database.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
URL http://nationalarchives.gov.uk/about/visit-us/whats-on/keepers-gallery/
 
Description Project Launch (The National Archives) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact In February 2017 we held a project launch at The National Archives which was attended by members of the general public, academics, undergraduates and postgraduate students. The event comprised of talks by members of the team which described the uses of the Lexis database and website and the project's various outreach activities. The event also featured a display of manuscripts chosen and illustrated by the project team in cooperation with archivists from The National Archives. The talks were followed by a wine reception which provided an opportunity to answer the questions of attendees and promote the projects findings. The event generated a number of "live-tweets" which helped to promote the project and demonstrated audience engagement.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Project Twitter Account 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The team set up a Twitter account (@WardrobeLexis) in order to promote the projects blogs and activities. The project has in excess of 100 followers on Twitter and it has proved a valuable way of promoting the projects activities. For example, one tweet promoting the project exhibition and the "churching dress" illustration by Maggie Kneen (December 2017) was seen by 7968 people according to Twitter analytics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
URL https://twitter.com/WardrobeLexis
 
Description Project Website (with Blog/Vlog) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We have designed a new website to act as a gateway to the Lexis database. In its current form, the website provides an introduction to the topic of medieval fashion; an introduction to the reigns of Edwards I, II and III (1272-1377); offers descriptions, images and transcriptions of a sample of royal wardrobe accounts - which contain hyperlinks taking the user to the Lexis database. In addition the website contains a schools section which showcases some of the work completed by the students during the project workshops. This also contains downloadable teaching resources for the use of teachers in secondary schools. The website also contains the project blog which features blogs and video blogs (vlogs) written by members of the project team and guest blogs by other researchers. The website has attracted a total of 1,158 views (figures taken on 07/03/2017) including 794 visitors. These have included 306 from around the United Kingdom; 167 from the United States; 16 from Canada; 13 and from Germany. Views have also been recorded from countries including India, Australia, Brazil, and Kazakhstan and Peru. All of the blog posts, in common with the content of the website contain hyperlinks taking the reader to entries in the Lexis database.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
URL https://medievalroyalwardrobelexis.wordpress.com/
 
Description School Visit and KS3 Workshop (Worcestershire) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact In November 2016 project researcher Charles Farris visited Malvern St James School in Worcestershire where he held a workshop for KS3 students. The workshop was adapted from the 'Royal Fashion in Medieval England' workshop for high ability KS3 students at the request of the school librarian who is responsible for their "gifted program". The workshop was very well received and feedback was very positive. Pupils wrote specially to thank Dr Farris for his visit and to express interest in future events. The teachers were also very pleased with the event and have expressed special interest in future events. They remarked how little opportunity there usually is to collaborate with universities - especially being so far from London - and were therefore very positive about the experience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description School Visits and KS3 Workshop (Durham) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The team visited schools in the Durham area to present workshops entitled Royal Fashion in Medieval England. These workshops had been modified thanks to the feedback questionnaires collected at earlier events - reducing the duration of "talks" and increasing the group activities. Through a series of talks, group activities and competitions the students learned about medieval society, clothing and language. Throughout the workshops students used the Lexis database to complete tasks. Feedback was collected through questionnaires from students and teachers. Feedback was very positive and demonstrated that the students had found the events informative and engaging - however they suggested that they would like to "make" medieval clothes not just design them.Teacher feedback was also very positive - but suggested more costumes for the students to try on. This advice will be very useful in improving and designing future events.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description School visits and workshops for KS3 Students (Shropshire) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact In October 2016 the team organized and presented a half-day workshop entitled 'Royal Fashion in Medieval England'. Students from six schools attended the event which was hosted at Moreton Hall School in Shropshire in cooperation with the head of History at that school. The workshop comprised of presentations and a number of interactive team activities (tasks) on the subject of medieval fashion - making use of the Lexis of Cloth and Clothing database. The students engaged well with the activities and participated enthusiastically throughout. The day closed with a poster competition in which the children got to design medieval outfits demonstrating what they had learned and using the Lexis database. Certificates were given to the winning teams and project bookmarks were given to all participants. Students and teachers filled in questionnaires which proved invaluable in improving the design of future workshops. Feedback also indicated an appreciation of the importance of language for studying the past - a topic which students had not considered before the workshop. Feedback was very positive and teachers expressed considerable enthusiasm for involvement in future events. Following on from the talk Charles Farris was contacted by the head of History at Moreton Hall School thanking him from the talk and asking for help with the work of one of his sixth form students. The advice Charles was able to give allowed the student to pursue her interested topic for her A Level essay.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Talk - International Congress of Medieval History 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact In July 2016 Professor Louise Sylvester gave a talk at the International Congress of Medieval History as part of a day long DISTAFF (Discussion, Interpretation, and Study of Textile Arts, Fabrics, and Fashion) set of panels. The talk was given to academics and postgraduate students and introduced the project and explored the uses of the Lexis database. Audience members were given project bookmarks. The talk was well received and generated considerable interest in the project. As a consequence of the talk Valentina Grubb, a postgraduate students at the University of St Andrews was engaged to be a guest blogger on the projects wordpress website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://medievalroyalwardrobelexis.wordpress.com/2016/07/26/medieval-belts-symbolism-function/
 
Description Talk at Chalke Valley History Festival 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Project researcher Charles Farris gave a talk at the Chalke Valley History festival in Wiltshire. The talk introduced the topic medieval royal fashion and how the Lexis project is investigating it. Feedback was gathered through a Q&A session and was extremely positive. Many listeners requested information about the project and took away project materials (including flyers and bookmarks) in order to learn more. This provided an to speak to, and answer the questions of, the general public as well as a large community of historical reenactors and medieval textile enthusiasts. These contacts proved invaluable when designing and making the clothes used in the school workshops.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Talk for Primary School Students (London) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Project researcher gave a presentation to a group of primary school students from various schools around London at the University of Westminster attending an open day organized by the university outreach department. Students were told about research projects at university and specifically the Lexis of Cloth and Clothing project. Students were also introduced to the topic of medieval fashion and interdisciplinary study - which nearly all of the students were unfamiliar. Feedback was gathered in a Q&A session with the students and many expressed their interest in the topic and in going to University - which many had not considered before. Students were given bookmarks and stickers to take away and learn more about the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Talk for the Late Medieval Seminar (Institute of Historical Research) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact In February 2016 project researcher Charles Farris presented a paper to the Late Medieval Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, London. The audience was comprised of academics, research students and interested members of the public. The paper explored the topic of medieval royal fashion during the reign of Edward I (1272-1307) and included an introduction to the project and demonstration of the uses of the Lexis database. The paper was well received and audience members took away project bookmarks. The presentation generated interest in the project and opened up new channels of communication between the project and historical experts. Discussion resulting from this communication have altered the opinion of the project's members and positively effected their work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Talk for the London Medieval Research Seminar (Royal Holloway, Bedford Square) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact In March 2016 project researcher Charles Farris gave a talk to the London Medieval Research Seminar based at Royal Bedford Square, led by Professor Caroline Barron. The audience comprised of academics, researchers and amateur historians. The talk explored the topic of medieval fashion and introduced the project and its database. The talk was well received and generated a lot of questions. Audience members were given project bookmarks and encouraged to contact the project with future questions. Following on from the talk Charles Farris received several emails about the database and answering them helped to advance the work of research students.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016