The history of Britain is one of the most fascinating and exciting topics to behold. We’ve had the Roman conquest of Britain, Viking invasions and the Norman conquest of England led by Williams the Conqueror. This eventually led to the Plantagenet dynasty which held the English throne from 1154 with Henry II until 1485 with the death of Richard III. It is this medieval period that captivates me the most.
Take the medieval city of York for example.
The city is rich with Roman artifacts but York only started to prosper in the 12th century. For example, the magnificent Minster that you can see today was first constructed in the Norman style in 1080. It was remodelled and additions were added until 1472 when it was declared complete and consecrated.
Interestingly, although the original walls that encircle the city were built by the Romans, the remaining walls that can be seen today and which surround the entire city, were constructed between the 12 and 14 century.
Cambridge is another fine example of medieval heritage.
Cambridge is most famous for its University which ranks as the top university in the UK and fifth top university in the world.
Founded in 1209, Cambridge is the world’s fourth-oldest surviving university with Peterhouse College, built in 1284, being the first and oldest still in existence.
One of the most beautiful and famous buildings in Cambridge, King’s College Chapel, first began construction in 1446 by King Henry VI and was completed during Henry VIII’s reign.
Interestingly, the University of Cambridge grew from scholars leaving the University of Oxford due to disagreements. The two ancient universities therefore share many common characteristics and are often referred to as “Oxbridge”.
The University of Oxford can boast being the oldest university in the English-speaking world, and as stated before, the University of Cambridge grew out of its existence.
The Oxford University is first mentioned in 12th-century records and its first colleges were University College (1249), Balliol (1263) and Merton (1264).
Interestingly, the Oxford Martyrs, Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, and Nicholas Ridley, were all Cambridge University men. They were tried for treason and heresy in 1555 after the accession of the the Roman Catholic Mary I, and subsequently burnt at the stake!
Stratford-upon-Avon is another ancient town which developed during the medieval period and was granted a town in 1196, making it over 800 years old!
Stratford was made famous as being the the birthplace of William Shakespeare, the playwright and poet often regarded as the world’s greatest playwright of all.
The first works of Shakespeare that were recorded are Richard III and the three parts of Henry VI. These were written in the early 1590’s and reflect a fashion for historical drama at the time.