Music in the archives

For this year’s Heritage Open Days we are celebrating creativity in the archives, including a chance to experience the sound of the music that would have been enjoyed at Thorndon Hall and Ingatestone Hall in the sixteenth century.

Thorndon and Ingatestone Halls, both near Brentwood, were owned by the Petre family. A number of surviving sources tell us about the musical instruments owned by the family and the music being performed in the household. Visitors to ERO on Heritage Open Day will be treated to something of the experience of the Petre family and their guests with live performances throughout the day.

Old Thondon Hall Walker map

Map showing Thorndon Hall by John Walker, 1598 (D/DP P5)

Ingatestone Hall

Drawing of Ingatestone Hall (undated) (I/Mb 196/1/30)

We are fortunate to have two music books from the household of John, 1st Baron Petre (1549-1614), which include sacred church music and secular music such as songs and dances. They are known as part books, as they only show one part of the composition, in this case the part for the bass singers.

John, 1st Lord Petre

John, 1st Lord Petre (1549-1614), owner of the music books Gaudeamus will base their performance on – from the Ingatestone Hall website

In this post we will share some sneak previews of some of the choral music which will be performed at our open day, and in another post soon we will investigate the musical instruments owned by the family.

John Petre music book

Both books have the name John Petre embossed in gold on their front covers (D/DP Z6/1 and D/DP Z6/2)

The sacred music included covers the whole Tudor period, from the reign of Henry VII (1485-1509) all the way through to the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1601) and beyond into the early Stuart period. This music is all in Latin, the language of the Roman Catholic Church. This perhaps reflects the fact that the Petre family remained staunchly Catholic throughout the upheavals of the English Reformation (and somehow all managed to keep their heads). Despite writing in Latin, several of the composers featured in the part book served as Gentlemen of the Chapel Royal, the sovereign’s own choir. Despite being a Protestant, Elizabeth I is known to have a fondness for Latin church music.

To give you a little taster of this beautiful music, we thought we’d share a few previews of some of the pieces that Gaudeamus will be performing:

Ne irascaris Domine is by William Byrd (c.1540-1623), the best known composer associated with the Petre family. Like several other pieces which will be performed, it is a motet – a piece of choral music with several parts to it. Dating from 1589, its Latin title means ‘Be not angry O Lord’. The piece may have contained a political message for Protestant England, as it turned away from the Catholic church. (Read more about this motet here.)

William Byrd.jpg

William Byrd

Byrd was born in London, but his family had origins in Ingatestone. He was a pupil of the great composer Thomas Tallis, and became a major figure in the world of Elizabethan music. From the 1570s he became increasingly involved in the world of English Catholics, and at times was suspended from his position at the Chapel Royal, his movements were restricted and his house subject to search.

Byrd moved to Stondon Massey in Essex in about 1594, apparently to be nearer his patron, Sir John Petre. He lived the last 30 years or so of his life there, and it is thought he was buried there alongside his wife in 1623. His motet Ne irascaris Domine is included in the Petre part books, and was performed for a special recording for us a few months ago by Southend-based chamber choir Gaudeamus:

Ave Dei Patris filia is by Robert Fayrfax (1464-1521), one of the foremost composers of the early Tudor period. Its title means ‘Hail, daughter of God’, is typical of music before the Reformation, made up of complex, interweaving parts. You can get a little taste of it by listening to the extract from track 7 here.

Fayrfax played an important role in the music of the royal court, as well as in noble households. He was a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal by 1497, and led the Chapel Royal in Henry VIII’s state visit to France in 1520 known as the ‘Field of the Cloth of Gold’.

 

Lamentations is by Robert White (c.1538-1574), much of whose music was probably written for a young Elizabeth I. The 5 part Lamentations is a good example of the sort of intellectual Latin music that appealed to Elizabeth, a substantial composition lasting 22 minutes in all (Gaudeamus will be singing the first and last parts only).

White was probably born in Holborn, London, and was the son of an organ builder. As a child he was a chorister at Trinity College, Cambridge, and he stayed there as an adult singer. He took a Bacherlorship in Music from the University of Cambridge, before becoming Master of the Choristers in Ely and then at Chester Cathedral. In 1570 he was appointed organist and master of the choristers in Westminster Abbey. He died aged only about 36, along with the rest of his family, during an outbreak of plague in 1574.

Join us for our Heritage Open Day on Saturday 10 September 2016, 10am-4pm, to enjoy performances of all of these pieces and lots more, including a chance to see some of the treasures of our art and photography collections, and for fun family activities. You can find all of the details here.

Document of the Month, December 2015: Byrd’s Song

Archivist Lawrence Barker talks us through his choice for December’s Document of the Month.

This month’s document is a remarkable music book surviving from Elizabethan England (D/DP Z6/1). It is part of the collection of the Petre family, who lived at Thorndon Hall and Ingatestone Hall. The Petre family remained Catholic throughout the upheavals of the English Reformation, as Catholics were increasingly marginalised in a newly Protestant country.

The book contains mostly motets (short pieces of sacred choral music) by English composers such as Thomas Tallis, Robert Wight, Robert Fairfax and William Byrd, who flourished in the mid-16th century. From 1595 Byrd lived nearby in Stondon Massey, and is known to have spent time at Ingatestone Hall. There are also a few pieces by other European composers such as Palestrina and Philippe de Monte.

The book will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout December 2015, open to one of Byrd’s finest motets, Ne irascaris Domine (Be not angry, O Lord).

Part of William Byrd's motet Ne Irasc

Part of William Byrd’s motet Ne irascaris Domine in a sixteenth century music book from the Petre collection (D/DP Z6/1)

To bring the music in this book to life, a modern edition of this piece was recently performed by Essex choir Gaudeamus.

The music was written to be performed a cappella, i.e. in the ‘chapel style’, sung by voices unaccompanied by instruments. Singers today use a music score showing all the different parts of the music (you can see an example of the piece shown above, Ne irascaris Domine, here), but in Tudor times each voice sang from its own part book showing only their line. This book contains only the bass part (for the lowest voice) for pieces which would have had five parts altogether. The question arises: what happened to the other part books which seemingly have not survived?

The front cover of the book has the name John Petre embossed upon it in gold, suggesting that the book belonged to the first Baron Petre himself (1549-1613). The music seems to be a personal selection and includes some of the choice pieces from the golden age of English Roman Catholic church music, such as Tallis’s Lamentations, the same by Robert Wight, as well as many of the great motets by Byrd.

D/DP Z6/1

The front cover of the book is embossed with John Petre’s name, the first baron Petre, suggesting that it was his personal book

There is not an exact date for the book but none of the music in it dates from after 1591. Much of Byrd’s music, including this motet, was published during his lifetime; indeed, he and Thomas Tallis were granted a publishing monopoly on music by Elizabeth I. This book, however, is not a printed, published edition but is hand written. It is a substantial book and it must have taken someone many, many hours to complete.

The texts are all in Latin which suggests that the book was written for use in Roman Catholic services.  Much of the music dates from earlier in the 16th century and some of it might have been written originally for the Catholic queen Mary Tudor.  In the case of the pieces by Byrd, however, the music was probably written to be performed in the Chapel Royal for the Protestant Elizabeth I, who seems to have retained a ‘High Anglican’ taste for Latin church music. Despite being a Catholic, Byrd was part of the choir of the Chapel Royal and would have sworn an oath when he joined in 1572 recognising Elizabeth as head of the English Church.

Most of the music in the book is choral, but there are also a few instrumental pieces which would have been played on viols, stringed instruments that look somewhat like those of the modern violin family. As well as singing there would have been instrumental music in the Petre household; there is a suggestion that John Petre himself may have played the lute, as an inventory of 1608 lists ‘my Lord’s lute’ among other instruments including an organ, double virginals and a chest of viols.  It also lists various sheet music described as ‘Mr Birds bookes’, including a set of books in five parts, described as ‘thick bookes with red covers not printed but prict [pricked – or handwritten]’. These music books likely include the ones that today are at ERO.

D/DP E2/1

An inventory of 1608 recording pieces of sheet music and various musical instruments owned by the Petre family (D/DP E2/1)

The music book and the inventory show that the Petre family indulged in some serious music-making, a point further evidenced in the account books that survive for this period showing that Byrd was frequently involved.  For example, the accounts book for 1589-1590 (D/DP A21) shows that Christmas 1589 must have been a merry affair for the Petre family involving lots of eating, drinking and music making.  William Byrd was fetched from London by the ‘sadler’ Edward Graye on Boxing Day (below), and there were five other musicians from London ‘playing upon the violins’ (i.e. the set or ‘chest’ of viols) who stayed until Twelfth Night.

Account book showing William Byrd being fetched to Ingatestone Hall over Christmas 1589 (D/DP A21)

Account book showing William Byrd being fetched to Thorndon Hall over Christmas 1589 (D/DP A21)

The motet by Byrd featured above, Ne irascaris Domine, was published in 1589 as part of Cantiones Sacrae I (Sacred Songs I). The music portrays a dark time for English Catholics when, following the Spanish Armada in 1588, many Catholics like the Petres and Byrd were persecuted for their faith.  This motet, like many others in the collection, is in two parts.

The first part starts, ‘Be not angry, O Lord, remember no longer our iniquity. We are all your people’ (Isaiah 64:9).  Was this a recusant Catholic’s subliminal plea to Elizabeth herself which she would have heard when it was sung to her in the Chapel Royal?  Significantly, only three years later in 1592, a charge of recusancy brought against Byrd was dropped ‘by order of the Queen’.

The second part of the motet is more desolate: ‘Thy holy city is made desolate.  Zion is made desolate.  Jerusalem is forsaken’ (Isaiah 64:10).  Of course, ‘Jerusalem’ was then, and has been many times since, a symbolic name for England.  The motet gives a beautiful example of polyphony, where melodic lines interweave with each other yet maintain perfect harmony, a common feature of sacred music of this period.  Byrd creates a marked effect, however, by changing from the general polyphony at the words Sion deserta facta est (Zion is made desolate) (approx. 05:30).  After a short pause, all voices sing in solemn chords as in a hymn.  When the polyphony resumes, the choir repeats ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘desolata est’ over and over again until the end, as can be seen in the manuscript showing the bass part.

Part of the motet where the choir repeats 'Zion desolata est' - Jerusalem is desolated

Part of the motet where the choir repeats ‘Jerusalem desolata est’ – Jerusalem is desolated

Music such as this would have been part of a very specific, even élite soundscape.  The majority of ordinary Elizabethans probably never knew Byrd’s music unless they were servants in Lord Petre’s household or Byrd’s, or happened upon it when attending a service in a cathedral, such as Lincoln where Byrd’s music is known to have been performed.  Even among the élite, much of Byrd’s music would have been exclusive, limited to a few patrons.  Byrd himself made no bones about the intellectuality of the music itself. However, he did publish much of it, and that would have increased its accessibility to those who came to know of it, could afford to buy it and were able to perform it. 

Today, with recorded sound, we have much greater access to all kinds of music.  Recorded music is ubiquitous, a constant background noise in shops, pubs, or buses via fellow passengers’ headphones.

We are fortunate that the written music survives, as we can recreate the sound of Byrd’s music, more or less, and in doing so transport ourselves back to the soundscape of Elizabethan England, or even specifically that corner of Elizabethan Essex where Byrd spent Christmas in 1589.  Almost everything that Byrd wrote has now been recorded, some of it many times.  If we lived in Ingatestone today, we would only have to load our CDs or search YouTube to listen to Byrd 24/7 if we so desired.

The music performed by Gaudeamus has been transposed up to a higher pitch to accommodate a mixed rather than all-male choir.  Nevertheless, being sung in a church that partly dates from the medieval period, we can imagine that hearing it resembles the musical experience of our predecessors.  However, there are limits to how far we can experience historic soundscapes.

Today, with recorded sound, we can capture much more precisely the noises around us.  The Essex Sound and Video Archive collects and preserves recordings such as this performance for future generations to enjoy.  For our Heritage Lottery Funded project, You Are Hear: sound and a sense of place, we will be making many of our recordings available online.  Why not listen to this piece while sitting in the grounds of Ingatestone Hall, or Stondon Massey, to imagine what the song would have sounded like to its composer?

For further information on You Are Hear and how you can contribute your own recordings, look at our blog page or visit our website.

William Byrd's name at the end of the motet

William Byrd’s name at the end of the motet

‘An Ocean of Books’

Hannah Salisbury, Engagement and Events Manager

In preparing our latest mini-biography of an interesting person from Essex’s past for Essex Life magazine, I came across this wonderful quote from William Gilberd (1544-1603), in the preface to his book De Magnete, published in 1600:

‘But why should I, in so vast an Ocean of Books by which the minds of studious men are troubled and fatigued, through which very foolish productions the world and unreasoning men are intoxicated, and puffed up, rave and create literary broils, and while professing to be philosophers, physicians, mathematicians and astrologers, neglect and despise men of learning: why should I, I say, add aught further to this so-perturbed republick of letters, and expose this noble philosophy, which seems new and incredible by reason of so many things hitherto unrevealed, to be damned and torn to pieces by the maledictions of those who are either already sworn to the opinions of other men, or are foolish corruptors of good arts, learned idiots, grammatists, sophists, wranglers, and perverse little folk? But to you alone, true philosophizers, honest men, who seek knowledge not from books only but from things themselves, have I addressed these magnetical principles in this new sort of Philosophizing.’

Portrait of William Gilbert (Wellcome Collection)

Gilberd was a physician and natural philosopher who founded the field of magnetic science. He was the first person to suggest (correctly) that the earth is a giant magnet, and the word ‘electricity’ has its origins in his work. The ‘new sort of Philosophizing’ to which he refers is his methodology of using experiments to find out about natural phenomena.

Gilberd was born in Colchester and is buried there in Holy Trinity church. You can find out more about him in our article that will be published in the October 2015 edition of Essex Life magazine.

 

Reconstructing late-medieval and Tudor Stebbing from its manorial records


PoosPortrait1In this guest blog post, Prof. L.R. Poos shares a preview of the research he will be sharing with us at Essex through the ages: tracing the past using manorial records on Saturday 12 July (more information here). Prof. Poos is an expert in late-medieval and early-modern English social and legal history, and is Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

 

In 1922 the British Library acquired most of the muniments of the Capells, Earls of Essex, from their estate at Cassiobury Park.   The Cassiobury Papers include collections of documents from many manors in Essex.  Among these are extensive document collections from Porters Hall and Stebbing Hall, the two principal manors in the parish of Stebbing, acquired by the Capells in 1481 and 1546 respectively.

Neither of the published guides to the Cassiobury Papers – the Historical Manuscripts Commission’s Report on Manuscripts in Various Collections, vol. vii, and the British Museum’s Catalogue of Additions to the Manuscripts, 1921-1925 – contains much more than summary descriptions of the collection.  It has taken several trips to the U.K. and significant time in the B.L. Manuscripts Room to begin to appreciate the possibilities of the records for a reconstruction of late-medieval and Tudor Stebbing.  How appropriate that I should have the opportunity to talk about them as part of an event honouring the Manorial Documents Register and its dedication to making manorial collections more accessible to historians!

I had worked briefly with Stebbing’s manorial records years ago as part of the research for a book, A rural society after the Black Death: Essex 1350-1525.  My re-acquaintance with those records is a story in its own right: two years ago I received an email out of the blue from Graham Jolliffe, Chairman of the Stebbing Local History Society, who had seen my references in A rural society to Stebbing documents and enquired politely whether I had any translations of the texts of them that I could share.  The answer was no, then.  But as we continued to chat I realised this was a chance for a worthwhile project.

Tithe map of Stebbing (D/CT 332B)

Tithe map of Stebbing, c.1840 (D/CT 332B)

The Stebbing records are not rich in manorial court rolls and even less so in manorial accounts.   However, they are exceptionally rich in surveys, rentals, and other records setting out the landholding patterns of Porters Hall and Stebbing Hall from the late thirteenth into the seventeenth century.  In addition, the collection includes some remarkable records that are not typical of manorial documentation and in some cases pertain to the parish as opposed to the manor.

Combining and cross-referencing the Stebbing manorial and parish records have set in motion several lines of investigation.   These include:  Stebbing’s involvement in the 1381 revolt – which appears to have been previously unknown – and the backgrounds of some of its participants; a remarkable farmer’s account for the year (1482-1483) after William Capell acquired Porters Hall, and the detailed view it affords of local trading networks; the very rare survival of an assessment roll for parishioners’ contributions to wax money for the parish church and the glimpse this affords into the parish community and economy.  The main Stebbing project currently underway is editing and translating for publication the series of land surveys and rentals, and – in collaboration with Graham Jolliffe and with an American colleague who is an expert in GIS (Geographical Information Systems) – to create a computer map of Stebbing and its tenancies.  ‘Essex through the ages’ will be the first opportunity to present these projects to an audience.

Join us to hear more from Prof. Poos about this fascinating project at Essex through the ages: tracing the past using manorial documents on Saturday 12 July 2014. There are more details, including how to book, here.

Favourite ERO documents: Walker map of Chelmsford, 1591

As well as asking our users about their favourite documents from our collections, we have also been asking ourselves. Here Public Service Team Manager Neil Wiffen tells us about his favourite document, John Walker’s 1591 map of Chelmsford.

 My favourite document at the ERO has to be one of the best known and most widely reproduced – the 1591 Walker map of Chelmsford. This might be an obvious choice (and could it be said boring?) but for me it works on so many levels.

Extract from the Walker map of Chelmsford, 1591 (D/DM P1)

Extract from the Walker map of Chelmsford, 1591 (D/DM P1)

First of all it is a map and I think everyone likes a map because we can all get something from a map so very easily. We don’t need to read Latin or funnily written handwriting to be able to enjoy an historic map. As maps go it is a sumptuous and artistic map. The colours are still so very vivid even after 422 years and the wonderful portrayal of the buildings by John Walker is exquisite.

Being Chelmsford born and bred it works for me on a local level, a source of civic pride. I can’t help when I walk down the High Street but try and imagine what it would have been like when Walker surveyed the town. Indeed walking down the High Street is to walk in our predecessors footsteps so little has the basic layout of the town changed over the centuries. In a way the map is the nearest we can ever get to late Tudor Chelmsford, so it allows us to travel in time. It is a map that continues to keep me thinking about town development. If ever you’ve been shopping on a Friday or Saturday when they have the market stalls in the High Street you can just imagine what it was like when the Middle Row was developed over centuries. Stall holders didn’t bother to take down their stalls overnight but slept under the counter or added another level and before you knew there was a row of permanent shops which Walker depicts.

It can also be a dangerous map as well. Looking at the layout of Chelmsford in 1591 we can be lulled in to thinking how much nicer it would be to live in a small Chelmsford. Urban development and awful planning decisions of the 1950s-70s have deprived the town of much interest which is there in the Walker map. However, we must not forget the appalling inequality, insanitary conditions and harsh punishments of those earlier centuries.

Last of all it is a map of wonder. How did John Walker survey the town and produce the map? Whenever I look at the map I always think – ‘John Walker, what a clever bloke!’

If you would like to nominate your own favourite ERO document, we would love to hear from you. Simply download this form, and return it to the Searchroom desk or by e-mail to hannahjane.salisbury[at]essex.gov.uk. There are also paper copies available at the Searchroom desk. Nominated documents may be featured on this blog or in displays at our open day on Saturday 14 September 2013.