Sandwich Magna Carta – Latest News
Protocols for access to the Sandwich, Kent Magna Carta & Charter of the Forest
Sandwich Celebrates Return of Magna Carta
The next month will see exciting times in Sandwich as the town celebrates the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and the return of its own copies of Magna Carta and Charter of the Forest.
Celebrations began on Wednesday 16th September with a free lecture at the Guildhall on Magna Carta, with Professor Louise Wilkinson and Professor Nicholas Vincent of the Arts & Humanities Research Council’s Magna Carta Project. Professor Vincent’s research led to the rediscovery of the town’s matching pair of Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest of the 1300 issue. The lecture was organised by Bringing Alive Sandwich Heritage, a local not-for-profit group interested in history, heritage and culture.
There is much anticipation at the Guildhall now as it is being readied for the Magna Carta Rediscovered exhibition, which will run from Thursday 24th September to Tuesday 6th October. This travelling exhibition has been making its way around key Kent towns linked to Magna Carta and now it is coming to Sandwich, bringing with it the Sandwich Magna Carta and Charter of the Forest. The exhibition offers the first opportunity for members of the public to see both documents alongside the Faversham Magna Carta. Admission to the exhibition is free and it is open every day between 9am and 6pm, with last admission at 5pm. Priority booking slots, available by advance request, have been set aside for schools and community groups between 9am and 11am each day – please be aware that while other members of the public may be able to view the exhibition between these times, you may experience a delay in admission.
If you would like to take away a souvenir of Magna Carta Rediscovered, a varied selection will be on sale throughout, including “Sandwich, the Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest: An Introduction”, a booklet specially produced for the exhibition which not only gives an informative guide to the two charters but also to medieval Sandwich and what remains of it today. You may also like to purchase your own copy of Magna Carta! Local calligrapher Julia Baxter has written an English translation of the Sandwich Magna Carta, which is based on the Faversham document, also sealed as part of the 1300 issue. Julia, who is a medieval history enthusiast, took on this challenge as she wondered what the Sandwich Magna Carta could have looked like when it was complete. Discrepancies between the Sandwich and Faversham charters were confirmed by Dr Mark Bateson of the Kent History & Library Centre (where the Sandwich charters were rediscovered), in particular within the list of witnesses. The finished piece evokes the character of the original Sandwich Magna Carta both in layout and script nuances. Reproduction prints of the text will be available to buy during the Magna Carta Rediscovered exhibition, with half of the profits going towards the ‘Bring it Home’ campaign, backed by the East Kent Mercury, to fund the return of Sandwich’s Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest to their home town. Julia’s beautiful artwork offers an opportunity for the people of Sandwich not only to have a readable copy of their Magna Carta, in the character of the original, but also to make a personal contribution to bringing it back to its home town.
If you have visited the exhibition and have caught the medieval bug, Sandwich Local History Society will be giving guided tours of the town from 23rd September to 6th October (meet at 2pm outside the Guildhall). These tours, which cost only £2.00 per person, last for one and a half hours and are a great way to find out more about ‘the Completest Medieval Town in England’.
On Saturday 26th September, get your dancing shoes on for free Medieval Music on the Forecourt. Sandwich’s own medieval musicians Rough Musicke will be playing on the Guildhall Forecourt between 12 noon and 1pm. Dressed in handmade costumes reminiscent of a Bruegel painting, they use a selection of reproduction medieval instruments with some raucous percussion to play early traditional tunes. Among the tunes they play will be dances or brawls and demonstrations will be given for audience participation in some of these. If you don’t fancy taking the plunge and joining in, tables and chairs will be available so you can sit down and tap your toes discreetly. Local arts and crafts stalls will also be present from 9am to 4pm, courtesy of Polly & Paloma’s handmade happenings.
Saturday 3rd October sees more historical fun. On the Guildhall Forecourt in the afternoon, Bringing Alive Sandwich Heritage will present the Robin Hoodeners who will bring their interactive folk theatre to town. Adults and children can enjoy the exploits of England’s favourite outlaw, based on early Robin Hood tales and traditions and performed with live music by this spirited troupe of players.
Also on 3rd October there is a Medieval Fundraiser at the Red Cow pub, just around the corner from the Guildhall on Moat Sole. The aim of the event is to invite members of the public to help raise money for the ‘Bring it Home’ campaign and there will be two medieval-style coffers at the Red Cow where donations can be dropped in. The staff will be costumed (including landlord Baz who will be King John for the day) and there will be some themed food specials on the menu. If you missed local medieval band Rough Musicke the week beforehand you can catch them again at the Red Cow as they will be performing throughout the afternoon. The band, who play throughout the year at local gigs and further afield in Sussex and France, have just made their second CD which will be available to buy on the day. Also available to buy will be prints of calligrapher Julia Baxter’s presentation of an English translation of Sandwich’s Magna Carta, with half of the profits donated to the ‘Bring it Home’ campaign.
Celebrations close on Friday 16th October with a concert at 8pm at St Mary’s Arts Centre, Robbers, Rebels and Royals. With harp, fidel, percussion, bagpipes and voices, early music stars Joglaresa will perform medieval songs challenging the supreme authority of kings, criticising the Papacy and highlighting the lives, loves, imprisonment and taxation of ordinary people at the time of Magna Carta. They will be joined by harp-playing, folk-singing storyteller extraordinaire Nick Hennessey for a lively programme. Expect tales of Robin Hood and King John, outlaws and rebels, social justice and injustice, all interwoven with Joglaresa’s electrifying song. A licensed bar will be available. Doors open 7:30pm and tickets are available in advance for £8.00 from www.B-A-S-H.org.uk (tickets will be £10.00 on the door) – half of all ticket sales will go to the Mercury-backed ‘Bring it Home’ fundraising campaign to bring our Magna Carta and Charter of the Forest back to Sandwich.
Why not take the opportunity of this month of activities to learn more about the Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest, celebrate our medieval heritage and above all have some fun?
Sandwich Town Council: Statement
At its meeting on Monday 16th February, Sandwich Town Council expressed its intention not to sell its copy of the Magna Carta and to bring the Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest back to Sandwich from the Kent Library & History Centre in Maidstone, where they are currently kept.
A working group has been established to look into the details of what happens next, and further news will be posted on this website as and when it arises.
Sandwich Town Council: Statement
Magna Carta & The Charter of The Forest
Sandwich Town Council is delighted to discover that an original Magna Carta and an original Charter of the Forest are in its ownership.
Professor Nicholas Vincent of the University of East Anglia discovered the documents while working on an Arts & Humanities Research Council project to mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, with the assistance of Dr Mark Bateson, Kent County Council’s Community History Officer. The Magna Carta document, now held in Maidstone, is an original from the issue made by Edward I in 1300. It was directed to the borough of Sandwich, one of the Cinque Ports, and preserved since then in the borough’s historic archive, which is held at the Kent History & Library Centre on deposit from Sandwich Town Council (which remains the legal owner). Filed in a Victorian scrapbook, it was found alongside an original Charter of the Forest which was issued in 1271 to complement Magna Carta and regulate the administration of those large parts of England governed under forest rather than common law. The Kent History & Library Centre is now one of only two institutions worldwide holding a ‘pair’ of the 1300 Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest – the other is Oriel College, Oxford.
This is the second surviving Magna Carta that belongs to a member of the Confederation of the Cinque Ports, the other – also issued in 1300 - belonging to the borough of Faversham.
The Right Worshipful the Mayor of Sandwich, Cllr Paul Graeme, has said: “On behalf of Sandwich Town Council, I would like to say that we are absolutely delighted to discover that an original Magna Carta and original Charter of the Forest, previously unknown, are in our ownership. To own one of these documents, let alone both, is an immense privilege given their international importance.
“Perhaps it is fitting that they belong to a town where Tom Paine lived, who proposed in his pamphlet Common Sense a Continental Charter for what were then the American colonies, “answering to what is called the Magna Carta of England… securing freedom and property to all men, and… the free exercise of religion…”. Through the American Declaration of Independence, continuing in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Magna Carta still underpins individual liberties worldwide. To own such a document – and the Charter of the Forest - is an honour and a great responsibility.”