Uncovering the Impact of Renaissance and Reformation in England

Submitting Institution

University of Leicester

Unit of Assessment

Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

History and Archaeology: Archaeology, Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Research with English Heritage, Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service, Historic Royal Palaces and the Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust has directly impacted on the study, preservation and exhibition of sculpture, inspired cutting-edge scientific analysis, encouraged local participation in the research process and enhanced understanding of and appreciation for a shared past. It has also underwritten successful bids to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the conservation of world-class monumental sculpture.

Underpinning research

Dr Phillip Lindley has been at Leicester since 1991 and is an expert on the art and architecture of the early modern period c.1400-1800. He has researched and published extensively on sculpture and architecture in Tudor and Early Modern Britain. In particular, he has examined the effects of the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII (1), the dissolution of the chantries under King Edward VI (3) and the wider effects of the Tudor Reformation in the sixteenth century and of Puritanism in the seventeenth century on churches, the tombs contained within them (1,3), religious imagery (2) and attitudes to the dead (1,3). He has also worked extensively on the later reception of medieval and Tudor art, focussing particularly on reactions to Reformation attacks on religious sculptures. He argues that the destruction and defacement of images not only motivated a new study of the past by scholars appalled at Reformation and later destruction, but also propelled historicist attempts to revive and recapture what was increasingly seen as a vitally important part of the national heritage (1).

On the basis of his reputation, Lindley was consulted in 2006 to examine numerous unsorted sculpted materials under the protection of English Heritage (EH). The material had been excavated from Thetford Priory, Norfolk in the 1930s and stored ever since. Lindley recognised that the fragments included previously unknown Renaissance sculpture by a famous Florentine sculptor, Giovanni da Maiano, as well as numerous pieces of pre-dissolution tomb monuments of the Howard family, the Dukes of Norfolk who became the most powerful nobles in Tudor England. The family tombs [and those of the Howards' predecessors] were in Thetford Priory until its dissolution in 1540. Some fifteen years later, after the death of Henry VIII and Edward VI, the third duke was able to move two of the most important monuments — his own and that of his son-in-law, Henry VIII's bastard son, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset — to Framlingham, where the church was rebuilt to provide a superb new setting for them, close to the Duke's great castle. Neither the 3rd Duke's nor Richmond's tomb had been fully completed before Thetford Priory was dissolved, and they had never, therefore, been assembled until they were completed at Framlingham in the 1550s.

In 2010, a team led by Lindley (members listed below) was awarded funding from the joint AHRC/EPSRC Science and Heritage Programme (6) to investigate the archaeology, art history and history of the Howard tomb monuments at both Thetford and Framlingham (the `Representing Re-Formation' project). Initial work on the monuments, based on earlier scholarship, the materials identified by Lindley (held by EH) and a series of new discoveries, indicated that some components of the two monuments were moved from Thetford to Framlingham but others had been abandoned at Thetford. The project involved a high-resolution 3D scan of the tombs at Framlingham to try to ascertain precisely which pieces of the monuments had been salvaged from Thetford, and which were new additions, supplied in the 1550s when the monuments were erected at Framlingham. Additionally, the pieces abandoned on the site of Thetford Priory and now in the care of EH, were also scanned. The monuments were then virtually disassembled and reconstructed with the excavated pieces virtually incorporated into the designs. In this way, the monuments were reconstructed as originally planned to stand in Thetford Priory, but never actually finished because the Priory was dissolved in 1540.

From the start, discussion of research with the wider communities was built into the project. This involved a website with researcher blogs, numerous lectures and talks, locally, nationally and internationally, an exhibition in the Ancient House Museum, Thetford, an App, and a themed launch, opened by the local MP. As well as involving researchers from a number of disciplines, staff from Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service (NMAS) and EH played a key collaborative role in the project.

Whilst working on the Howard monuments, Lindley noticed that another of the tombs in Framlingham church was by the French sculptor L.F. Roubiliac, the greatest sculptor to work in eighteenth-century England, and that its inscription suggested a connection with the two world-class Roubiliac monuments at Warkton in Northamptonshire (4,5). At the invitation of the Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust, he subsequently studied these two monuments, and others also commemorating ancestors of the Duke of Buccleuch in Warkton's chancel (4). This structural and archival research has underwritten a successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid and has helped inform the conservators.

Representing Re-Formation Teams.
Leicester: Art History and Archaeology (this UoA): Dr Lindley, project manager Dr Hall and PhD student Constabel; Space Research Centre (UoA9): Prof Fraser and PhD student Karim; Museum Studies (UoA36): Dr Parry and RA Richards; Computer Science (UoA11) Dr Law and RA Beddall-Hill.

Oxford, History: Dr Gunn and PhD student Claiden-Yardley; Yale: Dr Ford.

Partners EH: Bryan and Summerfield. NMAS: Bone and Hawker.

References to the research

1. Lindley, P.G. Tomb Destruction and Scholarship: Medieval Monuments in Early Modern England, Donington, 2007 (257 & x pp, 80 plates)


2. Lindley, P.G. `The `Artist': Institutions, Training and Status' in T. Ayers (ed.), The History of British Art 600-1600, Yale, London and New Haven, 2008, pp. 140-65

3. Lindley, P.G. `Pickpurse' Pugatory, the Dissolution of the Chantries and the Suppression of Intercession for the Dead', Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 164, (2011), pp. 277-304


4. Lindley, P.G. `Peter Mathias Van Gelder's monument to Mary, third Duchess of Montagu in St Edmund's Warkton, Northamptonshire', Burlington Magazine, clv, (2013) 220-229

5. Lindley, P.G. `The artistic practice, protracted publication, and posthumous completion of Charles Alfred Stothard's Monumental Effigies of Great Britain', Antiquaries Journal, 92 (2012) 385-426


6. 2010-13: AHRC/EPSRC PI Lindley, `Representing Re-Formation: Reconstructing Renaissance Monuments' (£497,907 plus three PhD studentships).

Details of the impact

The recognition by Lindley of the importance of the fragments of sculpture unearthed at Thetford, has led to impact in a number of areas, affecting national and regional heritage organisations, local communities, artists and companies. Lindley's analysis and insight, directing the work of the Project, has focussed new attention on an important period in English history and has highlighted the importance of material culture in understanding and interpreting the historical context.

Impact on heritage organisations
The underpinning research has changed the way local and national heritage organisations display and present information on the dissolution of the Thetford priory and the Howard family. Major fragments of sculpture from the Howard tombs, identified by Lindley, formed the basis of new permanent displays at the EH managed Framlingham Castle (10 pieces from 2008 onwards (A)) and at Norwich Castle Museum (managed by NMAS, 5 pieces). Other fragments form a key component of the exhibition at the Ancient House Museum in Thetford (NMAS) — Thetford's Lost Tudor Sculptures — which showcases the findings of the Representing Re-formation project (opened on 27 July 2013). Lindley also wrote the free 40-page guide which accompanies the exhibition and includes images and scans arising from the Project. In addition, the British Museum have placed on long term loan with the Ancient House Museum two relief panels from the Thetford tombs which they have held since the 1860s (B). The exhibition has allowed the Ancient House Museum to use the Tudor Hall as an exhibition space for the first time, opening up new possibilities for future activities (B).

The research has also impacted on the understanding and conservation of sculpture from other significant buildings. Amongst the sculptures unearthed at Thetford, Lindley discovered part of a terracotta roundel by Giovanni da Maiano, who produced identical roundels for Cardinal Wolsey at Hampton Court Palace in 1521. The rediscovered roundel fragment, unlike its Hampton Court counterparts, retained its original paint, providing a clear impression of how the originals would have looked when new. This discovery has informed the research and conservation programme (2012) by the Historic Royal Palaces. In addition, EH loaned the roundel to the exhibition `Giving our past a future: the work of the World Monument Fund' held at the Sir John Soane Museum between October 2012 and January 2013 (A).

Having studied the Roubiliac tombs at Warkton, Lindley worked with The Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust and the Parochial Church Council at Warkton to underwrite a successful bid (C) (submitted February 2013) to the Heritage Lottery Fund for £318,000 to restore and conserve the monuments which have been described as "surpassed only by the monument to Lady Elizabeth Nightingale at Westminster Abbey" (D). The conservation and restoration work is due to start shortly.

Impact on Local Communities
One of the key features of the research described has been the involvement of local communities and the research has impacted on the way local people think about and value their history.

Framlingham: Several public events and lectures were held for the people of Framlingham including a series of public lectures (given by Lindley, Hall and Fraser) at the church in June 2011 during 3D scanning week and others in October 2012 (attendance at each 50-100 people). Another talk was given in the local town of Aylsham in January 2013. In addition, there were tours for the general public from Framlingham round Thetford Priory in June 2012 (50 people) and a talk plus tour to the Society for Church Archaeology Conference in July 2012 (50 people).

Thetford: The Project has impacted on the people of Thetford in a number of ways (B).

  • New audiences have visited the museum through the free entrance (funded by the Project);
  • Local people have learned more about their town's history through the talks and lectures by Lindley and members of the project team.
  • Young people working on their Arts Awards and members of the Matthew Project, for people recovering from addictions, have used the exhibition as inspiration and directly contributed to the displays.
  • Local schools have worked with the Norfolk Museums Service Education team to develop and test a project app whose content has been directly shaped by the work of Lindley and colleagues.
  • As a direct result of the plans for the exhibition, in early 2013, Thetford Tourism and Heritage Partnership applied for a Heritage Lottery Award. This successful bid (£9300) funded a very popular Meet the Tudors day for local people (over 600 attendees), the day following the official opening of the exhibition. Lindley, Ford, Gunn, Claiden-Yardley, Hall and Karim were all involved in this event, giving lectures, tours and app demonstrations.

Warkton: In January 2013, Lindley gave lectures explaining the architectural and cultural significance of the tomb monuments (C) to the churchwardens of Warkton and separately to the Duke of Buccleuch and an audience from Cambridge. This was followed in July 2013 by a similar lecture to local (paying) public.

As stated by English Heritage, "Without your input, English Heritage would not have identified the international significance of the Thetford Priory collection and neither would the collection have been promoted to such a wide and diverse audience" (A).

Impact on Contemporary Artists
Contemporary multimedia artist Andrew Williams explores issues of disability and identity through his work. He developed a video presentation, which forms part of the Thetford's Lost Tudor Sculptures exhibition, featuring the fragments, extant and virtually-recreated tombs to explore notions of evanescence and decay. Williams says the following about how working with the project has affected his work "I was pleased to find that my meditations on transience and the damage that time inflicts seem to have echoed your academic concerns. For a professional artist, used to working for very different types of audience, this has been reciprocally a transformative experience, putting a different type of artistic challenge in front of me, and placing the result before new audiences" (E).

Impact on Commerce
A key innovation of the Representing Re-Formation project was the development and application of computer imaging techniques for digitizing and reconstructing tomb monuments virtually. Working on the project opened up new commercial opportunities for the technology company who used their involvement as a case study at trade fairs and noted a considerable increase in enquiries and company recognition following Lindley's appearance on BBC TV and Radio on 16 June 2011 (F). Lindley's presentation on these novel uses of 3D scanning at the Digidoc Conference (22 October 2012) to a mixed audience of archaeologists, heritage professionals and commercial organisations (200 people) further highlighted the potential of digital technology.

The Company gained increased expertise and confidence from working on the tombs and as a direct result of this work employed a Creative and Marketing Manager in June 2013 to develop a new company (to be launched in late 2013) focussing on 3D scanning for non-industrial markets (G). This development is particularly important in view of the 2013 decision at National Museums, Liverpool to close their Laser Scanning and Conservation Unit.

English Heritage commented that "An additional benefit has been an exemplary use of modern technology and scientific investigation in showing how rather unprepossessing bits of stone can be used as elements in reconstructions, using 3d scans and prints. This will undoubtedly have wider applications at other museums and heritage sites." (H)

Although the underpinning research for this case study focusses on a specific set of tomb monuments from the 16th century, the research has had impact far outside this area in both heritage and commercial sectors and on the public understanding of this tumultuous period in England's history.

Sources to corroborate the impact

A. Former Senior Curator East Territory, English Heritage.

B. Curator, Thetford Ancient House Museum.

C. Head of the Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust.

D. HLF announcement of the award to BLHT

E. Andrew Williams.

F. Media appearances by Lindley discussing the project on 17 June 2011:

G. Creative and Marketing Director, Europac3d

H. Chief Executive, English Heritage.