Among the 856 heraldic shields emblazoned on the ceilings of the cloister of Canterbury Cathedral is hidden a story of the social and political history of 14th- and 15th-century England. In this large and intensively researched volume, Paul A Fox sets out to unravel the connections between the families and individuals recorded here, and the man behind its construction, Archbishop Thomas Arundel.
The cloister was built under Arundel from 1408 to 1414, during the reign of Henry IV, and represents the only complete roll of arms to survive from this period. Erosion over several centuries, combined with multiple phases of whitewashing, destruction, and attempts at restoration, have made it difficult to accurately identify the colours and details of the coats of arms depicted. However, through 15 years of work and the use of digital resources, this volume is able to offer clarity on many of these details. It takes you on a journey through the families of medieval England with a detailed record of shields, which makes up the bulk of the book, in alphabetical order, from Aldborough of Yorkshire to Zouche of Haringworth, Northamptonshire.
Great Cloister: a lost Canterbury Tale, Paul A Fox, Archaeopress, £65, ISBN 978-1789693317
Review by AB.