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Medieval England: Power, Politics & Culture

Leading scholars give thirteen 40-minute talks on history and religion, art and architecture, spanning the Anglo Saxons to the Wars of the Roses.

A mid-week residential symposium, based at the Swan Hotel, Lavenham.

One of East Anglia’s prettiest towns, with an extensive group of surviving medieval buildings.

Performance by Gothic Voices in the magnificent St Peter and St Paul’s church.

Speakers: Professor Paul Binski, Professor Mark Bailey, Professor Sarah Foot, Dr Heather Gilderdale Scott, Dr Marc Morris, Dr Ian Mortimer and Dr Richard Plant.

  • Detail from a miniature of Margaret of York before the Resurrected Christ, c.1468-1477, Brussels, courtesy of the British Library manuscript collection.
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This mid-week symposium, Medieval England: Politics, Power & Culture, the latest in our highly successful series, brings together leading academics and independent scholars for thirteen 40-minute talks. The lectures, exploring history and religion, art and architecture, range from the Anglo Saxon era to the Wars of the Roses. Some take a long view, others a sharp focus. All promise to add detail and perspective to our appreciation of this broad period.

The delightful Swan Hotel, Lavenham, is our host. Lavenham, famous for its extensive group of medieval buildings, reflects the prosperity of the cloth trade in 15th-century East Anglia (its subsequent decline accounts in part for their survival). A special concert by Gothic Voices, world-renowned for the refinement and spirituality of its performances of medieval music, will take place for participants in the magnificent church of St Peter and St Paul.



Mark Bailey is Professor of Late Medieval History at the University of East Anglia and High Master of St Paul’s School, London. He has taught at the university of Cambridge and was Visiting Fellow in History at All Souls College, Oxford. He delivered the Ford Lectures in British History at the University of Oxford in 2019. He was previously an England rugby footballer.

Paul Binski is Professor of the History of Medieval Art at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Gonville and Caius College. A Foreign Advisor, International Center of Medieval Art, The Cloisters, New York, he serves on the Westminster Abbey Fabric Commission and is chairman of the Cambridge Academy of Organ Studies.

Sarah Foot is the Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History and a Canon of Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford. An expert on the Anglo-Saxons, she has published on various aspects of the early English Church (especially monasticism and the experiences of religious women), kings and royal power, and English identity. Her most recent book is Æthelstan: the first King of England (Yale, 2011).

Marc Morris is a historian and broadcaster specialising in the Middle Ages. He has taught at the universities of London and Oxford, and presented the acclaimed TV series, Castle. His books include The Norman Conquest, A Great & Terrible King: Edward I & the Forging of Britain, and King John: Treachery, Tyranny & the Road to Magna Carta. He is currently writing a book on the Anglo Saxons.

Ian Mortimer is author of the best-selling Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England and numerous histories exploring England between the Middle Ages and the 18th century. A Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and of the Royal Historical Society, he is a recipient of that body’s Alexander Prize, awarded for his work on the history of medicine.

Richard Plant is an architectural historian and lecturer, with an interest in the medieval and the modern. He studied at Cambridge and the Courtauld, where he obtained a PhD on English Romanesque and the Holy Roman Empire. He has taught at the Courtauld, as well as at University College and Queen Mary College, London. He was formerly the Deputy Academic Director at Christie’s Education.

Heather Gilderdale Scott received research degrees and a PhD from the University of Cambridge and the Courtauld Institute and completed a post-doctoral post at the University of York. She has published broadly on late medieval English art, with a specialism in stained glass. She is editor of Vidimus, the online stained glass magazine, and secretary of Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi (GB), the national survey of medieval stained glass.


Gothic Voices

For more than thirty years Gothic Voices has been renowned for the excellence, refinement and beauty of its performances of medieval music, promoting previously unfamiliar music – predominantly from the 11th to 15th centuries – to audiences all over the world.

Gothic Voices’ ground-breaking recording of the music of Hildegard of Bingen, A Feather on the Breath of God, remains one of the best-selling recordings of pre-classical music ever made. It forms part of an award-winning discography of more than twenty CDs, three of which have won the coveted Gramophone Early Music Award. Their most recent disc for Linn Records, The Dufay Spectacle has received great praise from the critics: ‘magnificently transporting us to their 15th-century sound world’ (Gramophone).

The ensemble has toured widely in Europe, Scandinavia, Israel, North and South America to great acclaim. Recent highlights include a tour of Spain, BRQ Vantaa, Three Choirs, and Norfolk and Norwich Festivals and the closing concert of Laus Polyphoniae festival.

Wednesday 16 October


Afternoon (session 1) 3.15pm–6.00pm

Sarah Foot: Bede and the invention of the English

Mark Bailey: Medieval East Anglia: England’s Economic Powerhouse

Refreshment break.

Paul Binski: Medieval Manuscripts: Monks, Marvels and Margins.

Drinks reception and dinner. 


Thursday 17 October


Morning (session 2) 9.30am–12.30pm

Sarah Foot: Æthelstan: the first king of Britain.

Paul Binski: Ely Cathedral, Gothic Ambition, and the Great Age of Saints.

Refreshment break.

Mark Bailey: The Black Death in England 1348–1400.


Afternoon (session 3) 2.30pm–5.15pm

Marc Morris: 1066: Why Does It Matter?

Richard Plant: Durham Cathedral and the 'invention' of English Medieval architecture.

Refreshment break.

Ian Mortimer: Medieval Horizons: the cultural and psychological expansion of the Western World, 1000–1500.


Concert 6.00pm

Gothic Voices at St Peter & St Paul’s Church.


Friday 18 October


Morning (session 4) 9.30am–1.00pm

Richard Plant: Saints in their Places.

Marc Morris: Edward I: A Great and Terrible King.

Refreshment break.

Heather Gilderdale Scott: John Thornton, glazier, of Coventry: art, business and politics in late medieval England.

Ian Mortimer: Who had the greater right to the throne in the fifteenth century? York or Lancaster?


Finish 1.00pm


Prices, per person

Single occupancy: double for single use £780. At a later stage, we may be able to offer superior double rooms for single occupancy at a higher price.

Two sharing: standard double/twin £760; superior double £810; junior suite £890; suite £960.



hotel accommodation for two nights; breakfasts and two dinners with wine, admission to all talks, refreshments at the symposium, drinks reception; gratuities for hotel staff; private performance by Gothic Voices at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Lavenham.



The Swan Hotel & Spa, Lavenham: The Swan has been an inn since 1667, and is one of the loveliest and best-known small-town hotels in England. It spreads through a number of contiguous half-timber buildings which date to the 15th and 16th centuries. The hotel does not have a lift and there are limited bedrooms on the ground floor – so please contact us if you have specific access requirements. 


Extending your stay

Please contact us for a quote for extra nights either side of the symposium.

'Thank you for organising such an outstanding event. I feel so lucky to have been part of the audience to hear so many thought-provoking talks.'

'What a terrific array of speakers.'

'A very happy weekend in the company of old and new friends.'