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Into the New Year…2015

There are two much-vaunted anniversaries taking place in 2015 where we can claim a little link. Remarkably, the dates involved are both in the middle of June, the 15th and 18th to be exact, although the events took place six hundred years apart.

Odiham Castle; an engraving of 1784 (Francis Grose)

Odiham Castle; an engraving of 1784 (Francis Grose)

In June 1215, King John rode out from Odiham Castle, near North Warnborough, heading for Windsor and Runnymede. The meeting with the Barons, where he would set his seal to Magna Carta or the Article of the Barons as it was known at the time, was an attempt to satisfy their political demands and avoid the risk of civil war.

King John leaves Odiham for Runnymede  (Andy Bardel)

King John leaves Odiham for Runnymede (Andy Bardel)

Documentary evidence shows that John left Odiham on 10 June, accompanied by Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester. The business took a number of days and King John returned to Odiham Castle on 26 June, where he received ‘a silver cabinet with precious stones’, no doubt to lift his spirits. The following day he moved on to Winchester.

Excavations in progress, 1983.

Excavations in progress, 1983.

A decorated doorway (blocked) from the time of King John.

A decorated doorway (blocked) from the time of King John.

The Museums Service excavated at Odiham in the 1980s. The castle was built at the order of King John and the excavations revealed an early phase of activity, soon deliberately demolished and replaced by the massive octagonal tower or donjon, which appears to have been completed by 1216. There was no trace of a silver cabinet with precious stones!

Odiham Castle; receiving new interpretation panels, 2009.

Odiham Castle; receiving new interpretation panels, 2009.

Odiham Castle archive: A1981.129 etc.

Publication: Odiham Castle, Hampshire, Excavations 1981-1985, by David Allen & Nick Stoodley, Hampshire Studies Vol 65, pp 23-101 (2010)

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Wellington at Waterloo, by Robert Alexander Hillingford (Public Domain).  The 1st Duke of Wellington and Copenhagen at the Battle of Waterloo.

Wellington at Waterloo, by Robert Alexander Hillingford (Public Domain). The 1st Duke of Wellington and Copenhagen at the Battle of Waterloo.

On the 18 June 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte and the Seventh Coalition met head to head at the Battle of Waterloo. Napoleon had escaped from exile in March of that year and gathered increasing support as he journeyed through France. The allied forces were led by Gen von Blucher and Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, who described the encounter as ‘the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life’. Defeat for Napoleon ended his rule as ‘Emperor of the French’ and brought to a close the ‘Hundred Days’ of his return to power.  In the ‘Willis Collection’ at Basingstoke is a small piece of oak – said to be from the tree under which the Duke ‘established his position’ at Waterloo. (WOC 5938.1)

The circle of strands from the mane of 'Copenhagen' - the Duke of Wellington's horse at Waterloo - seen centre left among a number of items from the Willis Collection.

The circle of strands from the mane of ‘Copenhagen’ – the Duke of Wellington’s horse at Waterloo – seen centre left among a number of items from the Willis Collection.

Following Waterloo, a grateful nation bestowed upon Wellington the Hampshire estate of Stratfield Saye and it was here, after living out several years in retirement, that his celebrated horse ‘Copenhagen’ was buried with full military honours. The horse, which carried the Duke for the full seventeen hours of the battle, as well as on other campaigns, was so famous that jewellery was made incorporating its hair. In the Willis Museum at Basingstoke are strands of hair reputably from the mane of Copenhagen. They were presented to Miss Charlotte Pigott by the Duke himself and given to the museum by her descendant, the Hon Mrs Bunbury (WOC 5939). The collections also contain a horseshoe said to have been worn by Copenhagen (WOC 5938.2).

(The 8th Duke of Wellington, Arthur Valerian Wellesley, KG, LVO, OBE, MC, died on the last day of 2014, aged 99 years. He has been succeeded by the 9th Duke, Arthur Charles Valerian Wellesley).

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