Medieval Trivia: Undergarments, Noxious Neighbors, and Nine More Skeletons

As I searched the past few days for alternatives to the undergarment on the proposed a cover for A Triple Knot [Emma’s novel about Joan of Kent’s early marriage(s)] I remembered a fascinating find from last summer that I’d hesitated to post at the time, wondering whether it might be a hoax. Apparently not. In Lengberg Castle in East Tyrol, Austria, archeologists found four linen fragments that look remarkably like modern bras–that is, they have distinct cups.

530x395xLengberg_longline,P20bra_0.jpg.pagespeed.ic.GTs7xl57dr What do you think? Aren’t you glad we ditched the descriptive nomenclature, “breastbags”? And no, this isn’t the undergarment on my cover.

While polishing A Triple Knot I’m also fiddling with the plot and characters of the 11th Owen Archer (I’ve gone back to the working title, A Woman’s Worth). I have a plot, but as usual I can’t resist searching for additional twists. When I’m in this mode I browse my library and my bookmarks to feed my imagination. I’ve been having a grand time with the London assize of nuisance 1301-1431. While I haven’t found anything even remotely connected to my plot, I’ve enjoyed imagining what Maud Frembaud is up to, and what the plaintiff, Thomas Whitcherch, tawyer, doesn’t want Maud’s tenants to see. To wit: “Thomas Whitcherch, tawyer, complains that Maud Frembaud has an open window in her tenement in the par. of St. Michael at Corne, opening upon his, and that her tenants constantly come out of it into his gutter (gutter’), into which they throw excrement and other refuse, so that it is stopped up, and the rainwater cannot escape, but overflows and floods his wall and rots the timber; and she has another tenement adjoining his, with a plastered wall (murum plastratum), broken down and open on the east side, through which her tenants go in and out, and see his private business; and the rainwater from her tenement, and the water which her tenants draw from her well falls upon his land, and flows through a gutter in the midst of another tenement belonging to him.” (  It makes me wish I wrote comedy…. The Assize of Nuisance–that would be a great title, wouldn’t it? Perhaps not. Maybe it’s a title only a medieval geek like me would love.

And what’s this? More remains, these beneath Lincoln Castle. They date from about 900, so I can’t use them, but I’m very intrigued by the one inside the stone coffin. They’ll be opening it in September. What do you suppose the shiny object is?!

2 Comments on “Medieval Trivia: Undergarments, Noxious Neighbors, and Nine More Skeletons

  1. Cannot wait for the next Owen Archer book to be released. I am in the process of re-reading them all and, as I now live in York, can actually walk around some of the locations. One place I visit quite often though is Greys Court but I don’t think it’s ever been mentioned in your novels – I think it would most certainly have been there when Lucy and Owen were in York and would have been quite a prominent building. However, it took me 10 years to find it and I thought I knew York well!


    • Grey’s Inn is an interesting place, though very little of the medieval building is extant, and in the period in which I’m writing it’s thought to have been in disrepair. But I haven’t made much use of the Treasurer, have I?

      Your mention of it gifted me with one of my most precious memories. I was being my usual inquisitive self in what was once part of Grey’s Inn, The Treasurer’s House next door. An elderly docent kindly and patiently answered my questions as I returned to her again and again. At last she asked why I was so interested, and when I introduced myself she burst into tears. She was one of my most ardent fans. Writers dream of these moments, but they so rarely happen.

      Lucky you to be living in my favorite city!


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