The Clay-Cottle Papers

The Clay-Cottle Papers

Source: Eddie Jones

Photograph of the Clay-Cottle Papers

When Rotha Mary Clay died in 1961, she had been working for some time on the revision of her two monumental works of medieval social and religious history. She contributed her material on hospitals to David Knowles and Neville Hadcock for inclusion in the appropriate section of their Medieval Religious Houses (1953; 2nd edn 1970), many of whose entries bear the acknowledgement ‘RMC'.

Her work on hermits and anchorites yielded two short essays. ‘Further Studies on Medieval Recluses' was published in the Journal of the British Archaeological Association in 1953. Describing itself as ‘a supplement' to Hermits and Anchorites, it focussed chiefly on literary and book-owning anchorites, including John Lacy of Newcastle-upon-Tyne; John Dygoun, one of the recluses attached to Sheen Charterhouse, and Simon Appulby, enclosed at All Hallows London Wall and the author of the devotional treatise The Fruyte of Redempcyon (1517). ‘Some Northern Anchorites, with a note on enclosed Dominicans' (Archaeologia Aeliana 4th ser., 33 (1955), 202-17) was a piece more in the vein of Hermits and Anchorites: accessible, wide-ranging and attractively illustrated, its style somewhat belying a bedrock of solid scholarship. It added new references for solitaries in Durham diocese, and included another discussion of John Lacy.

At her death, Clay's hermits and anchorites papers were separated. Her collection of photographs of sites was left to Lambeth Palace Library (they are now part of MS 2551 in that collection). Her notes towards the second edition of the book were entrusted to Basil Cottle of the University of Bristol.

Cottle was a considerable scholar with wide-ranging interests. He is best-known for his work on the English language, though a long-standing study of French cathedrals was brought to completion after his death in 1994 by Nicholas Lee and published as All the Cathedrals of France (2002). He achieved the not inconsiderable task of sorting and ordering Clay's papers (many of which are in reality brief references jotted down on the back of cloakroom tickets, old Christmas cards, and the like), and began work on the narrative part of the new Hermits and Anchorites. When he died, his papers were left to the University of Bristol, where they are kept in Special Collections. (For details, see The three boxes of Clay-Cottle papers have the reference DM 1590/I-III. They are being held in Exeter for the duration of the project, and will be returned to Bristol on its completion.

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