Explore topics connected with our churches through our free weekly online lecture series
Our lectures are all free to get involved with and we Livestream them via our Facebook page, this allows you to really engage with the talk and to submit your questions live. These lectures are recorded and will be available to watch afterward. Scroll down to find a list of previous lectures.
These lectures and talks are all completely free of charge for you to watch, enjoy and take part in. If you are enjoying them, please do consider making a donation here of whatever amount you feel comfortable making if you are enjoying these talks.
In response to the popularity of our lectures, we've launched a special Membership offer just for people who are enjoying our free lectures. If you sign up as a Member by Direct Debit, from as little as just £3.50 a month, and use the offer code LECTURE we'll send you a free copy of The Secret Language of Churches and Cathedrals: Decoding the Sacred Symbolism of Christianity's Holy Buildings by Dr Richard Stemp!
Details of how to become a member, the benefits of membership, and how to claim your free gift can be found here
Thursday 26th August from 12:50pm
St George's Cathedral, Kingstown, St Vincent: Memorials, their meanings & significance.
This talk will explore the memorials at the St George’s Anglican Cathedral in Kingstown, St Vincent. The current cathedral celebrated its 200-year anniversary in 2020 but there has been a place of worship and site of burial on the site for far longer, and as such, the extant memorial in the cemetery represents just a fraction of those interred there. Memorials at St George’s speak of different eras; the colonial times where the colonisers used gravestones and memorial plaques to demonstrate settledness and to marginalise the other – rarely were enslaved people given a decent Christian burial in consecrated land; post-colonial times and independence where memorials in the churchyard have a local feel, and the current era where the influence of American death culture grows ever stronger. Through the symbolism of, and wording on, memorials we can learn a lot about the place and its history, so join us to find out about the past, present and potential future of the memorials at St. George’s on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent.
Dr Christina Welch is a Senior Fellow at the University of Winchester where she lectures in religious Studies and leads the Master’s Degree programme in Death, Religion and Culture. Dr Christina is a leading authority on late medieval carved cadavers, she recently developed a dedicated website exploring those found in England, Wales and Scotland dating from c. 1425 to 1558, as well as carved cadavers found in Ireland.
Her research interests lie in the field of visual and material culture and their intersection with religion, with a specialism in the role that these forms of representation play in the construction of spiritual identities.
She is currently also engaged in interdisciplinary collaborative research into (Jewish) cemeteries in the Caribbean as well as locally in Winchester.
Sign up for the lecture and get a reminder here
Thursday 2nd September from 12:50pm
Gargoyles and Grotesques: Why are there monsters in medieval churches?
Gargoyles and grotesques are an immediate and appealing feature of many historic churches and cathedrals. Often carved into fantastic monsters and imaginative, bold, sometimes obscene figures, they have largely been dismissed as whimsical and indeed, incongruous with their setting, at best something the masons managed to ‘get away with’ when the patron was looking the other way.
Dr Alex Woodcock is a writer, stonemason and artist immersed in the worlds of medieval sculpture. His books include Gargoyles and Grotesques (Bloomsbury, 2011), Of Sirens and Centaurs (Impress, 2013) and King of Dust (Little Toller, 2019). Between 2008 and 2014 he worked at Exeter Cathedral as a stonemason, playing a key role in the conservation of its internationally significant west front. He teaches on the Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship foundation degree and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. His website is www.alexwoodcock.co.uk
and he can be found on twitter @beakheads.
In this talk Dr Alex Woodcock explores the theories advanced over the last century and a half for their presence on churches and how this type of imagery has consistently antagonised critics, before looking more closely at the complexities of the grotesque and what it might reveal to us about medieval churches and the wider medieval world.
Sign up for the lecture and get a reminder here
Thursday 9th September from 12:50pm
Restoring Fulham Palace: Bricks, Botany and Bishops
The site of Fulham Palace has been occupied for over 5,000 years, probably because of its location next to an important crossing of the Thames. From 704 AD to 1973 it was the home of the Bishop of London and is one of the oldest estates in the country.
Fulham Palace Trust was established in 2011 to manage the buildings and gardens and make them accessible to the general public. The Palace gardens and main building are open 7 days per week to the public free of charge and receive around 360,000 visits per annum. In addition to the museum and the gardens there is a café, a shop, an active and award-winning learning programme, and a varied events and activities programme.
This talk will be delivered by two members of the Fulham Palace team, Alexis Haslam, community archaeologist, and Sian Harrington, CEO, who were both heavily involved in the restoration project from 2017-19. This £4.20 m project restored the brickwork and interiors in the Tudor court, dating to 1495, created a new museum, and re-introduced plant species that were first grown at the Palace over 300 years ago.
Sian will outline some of the achievements of the project, including the approach to brickwork repairs which has led to a re-evaluation of traditional techniques, and Alexis will talk about some of the exciting discoveries he made as the in-house archaeologist on the project, which has given the Trust a much greater understanding of the people behind the various phases of remodelling at the Palace, including Bishops of London, architects and craftspeople.
Sign up for the lecture and get a reminder here
Thursday 7th October, 12.50 pm: Faith and Fury, The last Witches of England
This lecture celebrates the launch of John Callow's new book: 'The Last Witches of England: A Tragedy of Sorcery and Superstition' which launches on the day of this lecture. You can pre-order the book through our website here: https://bit.ly/2ZeDNXd
On the morning of Thursday 29 June 1682, a magpie came tapping at the window of a prosperous Devon merchant. Within hours, his household had convinced itself that the bird was an emissary of the devil sent by witches to destroy their lives. As the result of these allegations, three old beggar women from Bideford – Temperance Lloyd, Susanna Edwards, and Mary Trembles - came to be identified as witches and a full-scale witch hunt shook the town. A Secretary of State brushed aside their case and condemned them to hang, as the last group of women to be executed for the crime in English history. Yet, the hatred of their neighbours endured. For Bideford, it was said, remained a place of witches.
Ignored, reviled, and extinguished but never more than half-forgotten, the memory of these three women - their deeds and sufferings, both real and imagined – has been transformed from hatred to regret, and from regret into celebration. The horror of their judicial murder was discussed in the Parliamentary debates that saw the last of the witchcraft acts repealed, while their names were chanted, as both inspiration and incantation, by women far beyond the wire at Greenham Common.
In this talk, John Callow explores this remarkable reversal of fate, and the tale of want, sorcery and savage persecution that created the Bideford Witches.
John Callow is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Suffolk, UK, who has written widely on early modern witchcraft, politics, and popular culture. He is the author of King in Exile: James II and Embracing the Darkness. A Cultural History of Witchcraft, and co-author with Prof. Geoffrey Scarre of Witchcraft and Magic in Sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe. He has appeared on the BBC Radio 4 documentary It Must be Witchcraft, and the series on the Salem Witches on the Discovery Channel in the USA.
Thursday 21st October, 12.50 pm: What Remains?
In medieval Europe, relics of dead martyrs were the ultimate must-have, venerated by princes and paupers alike. And the associated market for them was big business; a huge industry with an infrastructure to match. Crumbling bone, ravaged human hair, withering chunks of flesh, and the blood-soaked garb of martyrs, apostles and holy family were considered to have the greatest power—with, year upon year, faithful pilgrims flocking to parish churches and cathedrals in droves to visit the most powerful relics, in the hopes of their healing power or a miracle. Even those considered “fakes” could become “real” if they suddenly performed. And so many have a rather gruesome history. Here, Dr Emma J Wells delves into the black market for holy heirlooms…
Thursday 28th October, 12.50 pm: Begone Satan!
The rite of exorcism, a formal casting out of Satan and his demons, was once part of everyday life in the English parish - not only in the liturgy of baptism, but also in formulas used for the exorcism of pests from crops, and even as a cure for toothache. More dramatic exorcisms sometimes took place at shrines of medieval saints with a reputation for casting out the devil from the bodies of the possessed. Exorcism was a contested issue in the English Reformation and was eventually outlawed (in practice) in 1604. However, exorcism made a surprising comeback in the modern Church of England and deliverance ministry remains a key component of the Church's ministry to this day. This talk outlines the history of exorcism in England and seeks to explain why exorcism still remains part of what the Church does to this day.
This lecture is given by Dr Francis Young who returns to give a second lecture following the popularity of his talk on Macabre Church Lore in October. Dr Young is a historian and folklorist, the author of 14 books, and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
Our Lunchtime Lectures take place every Thursday from 12.50pm on Facebook. Details for upcoming lectures from mid September onwards will be available soon.