Saturday, 3 October 2009

Minster in Thanet and related books.

One of the few country villages in this area that seems in any sense to be alive to the outsider is Minster in Thanet. I went there the other day and it still has some ordinary shops, butcher, greengrocer, baker etc, no small achievement because of the value of buildings in attractive villages. Click on the link for the pictures

I was sad to see that the bakers is now opening only one day a week and one wonders if this is the beginning of the end, I have often wondered how much of Minster’s survival when so many of the surrounding villages have lost all of their shops was due to Minster Museum, a tourist attraction now sadly closed.

The problem here is the value of residential property particularly in attractive villages means that either the freehold investment or the rent will be out of all proportion to anything a small shopkeeper could make on the site, hence most village shop property gets converted to residential.

The problem as always being that people would most like to live in some sort of community with shops restaurants etc which drives up the prices and drives out the shops and once they have gone there is usually nothing more left to a village that an attractive housing estate, perhaps retaining a few things that are subsidised in some way.

On to Minster related books.

Having got a bit behind with my local history publications recently, because of other demands on my time two that relate to Minster just out, the first being Minster Rambles by Yvonne.

Here is what she has to say about it: “My delights in this world are to walk and to observe nature and its reflections on our lives. I am grateful I can walk as I do, for so many are not able to enjoy because of disabilities etc. I never take for granted the fact I am fit and can get out in the countryside. This is why I like to write about all I see for those who cannot be there seeing things for their selves.”

Click here to go to her blog.

Click here to go to her website.

Click here to buy the book.

Although not strictly local history still a local book related to Minster.

The other one is a bit more difficult to explain I have just written an introduction to it in an attempt to stop people buying it because they assume it’s a history of Minster.

It’s called “The Manor of Minster and Other Estates in the Isle of Thanet……….

Click here to read the whole book.

Here is my introduction:

“As a publisher of local history books most of which relate to The Isle of Thanet I endeavour to as much material into print as I can. With the reprints of the older and scarcer books that relate to this area my primary objective is to produce a small inexpensive reprint to preserve these documents for future generations.

Do not buy this book if you are looking for a history if Minster in Thanet, as it is not one and was never intended to be one.

Aldred has compiled the information in this book for an audience of Victorian genealogists and historians and while it is a useful source for part the genealogy of some local families, I don’t recommend tackling it before first having read the main local history books about the area that were first published before 1900, most of which I have produced in a cheap reprint form.

As some explanation to writing an introduction to a book that I publish, that for the most part is warning the general reader not to buy it, I should point out that as I produce my local history books in short print runs printed here in the bookshop, it serves me no advantage to sell people one book more than another.

In other words I don’t have a large pile of any local history title that I would benefit from getting rid of and would far rather that you bought the books that are most useful to you.”

Click here to buy the book.

Some thoughts on Minster here as it’s important in medieval history.

Minster Abbey was first founded in 670 AD and destroyed by the Vikings in the 800s rebuilt in1027 it’s probably the oldest inhabited dwelling in England.

Throughout the middle ages the abbot of St Augustine outside Canterbury was one of the most powerful people within the Catholic Church in England with considerable power within Thanet.

At that time the church was the main landowner in Thanet possessing the monasteries of Salmanstone, Cliffsend, Minster Court and Minster Abbey.

The Doomsday Book of 1086 for instance shows just one of the farms of Minster Court employing 152 villeins and 50 bordars.

If you want to go and look at Minster Abbey you need to appear at the right time for tours.

Tour Hours
Monday to Friday from 2:45 p.m. until 4 p.m.,
(1st May to 30th September only)

Saturday mornings from 11 a.m. until 12:00 noon (Throughout the year)

Tours can also be arranged by appointment, by ringing Sr. Benedict at 01843 821254

Click here for their website.

Due to the lack of much written down it is hard to get to grips with life in medieval Thanet, paper was very rare and for the most part people were illiterate, in fact I think it would be fair to say that literacy was suppressed by both the monarchy and the catholic church neither would have wanted subversive pamphlets, something hard to imagine in the world of blogging.

Common people however still managed to give authority a hard time there were attacks recorded at the monasteries of Cliffsend and Salmanston in 1318 because of the high rents.

Thanet was usually the first part of the UK to be attacked by foreign forces, the places where a boat could put in being protected by walls dykes and gates, in 1392 there was an order to maintain the turreted walls above and below the cliff between Cliffsend and Margate that the locals had been neglecting.

All of these fortifications are of course lost now to costal erosion, however these odd old documents paint a different picture to the one that perhaps some of us would imagine of Thanet at this time.

Ordinary folk would have had a hard time in medieval Thanet most only growing to about 5 feet tall due to the poor diet, however I think Thanet probably fared better than most of the UK due to the mixture of seafaring and agriculture.

The liming of chalk and the use of seaweed for agriculture combined with the availability of fish from the sea gave us an edge not available elsewhere.

Many of the documents that survive from this period relate to The Cinque Ports and tell us to supply ships and armed men for the kings service although some of the documents I am reading today to put this post together are a little hard to comprehend. For example this strange missive from Edward III in 1345:

To the abbot of St Augustines certain persons bringing bulls and other things prejudicial to the king and community at the port of Mergate to be arrested.

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