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Inventing History : forgery: a great British tradition (British History)
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Mick Harper
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At this point Dr Young gives ground and, having given ground, applies closure

Dr Francis Young
It is remotely possible that the stone is a later medieval fake, but I see no reason to suspect this. I am not aware of any scholar who has suspected this. So I don't consider it worth discussing

Hatty is not for closing
Harriet Vered
It may be worth discussing why no scholar has suspected something which you now acknowledge is a real possibility. Any theories?

Oops, Frankie now understands why the first rule of Fight Club is never give ground

Dr Francis Young
There's always a remote possibility that artefacts that can't be carbon dated and lack contemporaneous documentation are younger than we think, but it's not worth investigating unless we have a reason to suspect they're younger, and in the case of the Ovin Stone we have no reason

Too late! Hatty applies the closure

Harriet Vered
Do I understand your position is that there is no dateable physical evidence, there is no contemporaneous documentation, there is no provenance for the first thousand years, and it is not worth investigating? You're right! There is nothing to investigate, is there?

But then the cruellest blow. Hatty wasn't banned. What have you got to do to get banned in this town?
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Hatty
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Well played, Mick. I've just been banned (along with The Megalithic Empire) from Facebook's 'The Ghostlore and Strange Lore of Britain and Ireland' group for being a troll.
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Mick Harper
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You would have thought a Strange Lore of Britain & Ireland site would rather welcome that sort of thing. Go as a pixie next time.
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Mick Harper
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It's not as if it's your first offence

H.E. Bulstrode Kim Berlin Sorry about the troll operating under the name of 'The Megalithic Empire'. She managed to slip into the group but has now been removed. She otherwise operates under the name of 'Harriet Vered' and does nothing but stir things in every group she joins, and has subsequently been kicked out of a lot. Whereas she demands documentary evidence to prove everything that anyone ever writes, she omits herself and her own wacky theories about a 'megalithic empire' from this stipulation.

Still, it shows he's actually read Megalithic Empire.
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Mick Harper
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They’re trying to rook us of three hundred big ones for a phoney manuscript https://www.gov.uk/government/news/culture-minister-leads-calls-to-save-welsh-medieval-scientific-manuscript We can’t be sure (honest, this is strictly a kite-flying exercise) but looking through the catalogue of delights that makes up its provenance we came across this curious gent

William Jones, FRS (1675 – 3 July 1749[1]) was a Welsh mathematician, most noted for his use of the symbol π (the Greek letter Pi) to represent the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. He was a close friend of Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Edmund Halley. In November 1711 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society, and was later its Vice-President.

Sounds kosher, don’ee? You can't come bigger, you can't come grander. But nor can you fool Harper & Vered, Protectors of the Public Purse. Count the number of red flags here in what might be called his backstory.

He married twice, firstly the widow of his counting-house employer, whose property he inherited on her death, and secondly, in 1731, Mary, the 22-year-old daughter of cabinet-maker George Nix, with whom he had two surviving children. His son, also named William Jones and born in 1746, was a renowned philologist who established links between Latin, Greek and Sanskrit, leading to the concept of the Indo-European language group

I know. We know but they don't know. So Hatty is contenting herself by pointing out that a hundred pounds invested in a carbon test might save three hundred thousand for the nation but everyone else thinks it well worth the gamble. 3000 -1 on it being genuine is money well spent.
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Wile E. Coyote


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I am a bit loss about this cross shaft and base commemorating Ovin. The inscription is actually just in bog standard Roman monumental capitals, except a few lower case e type thingies thrown in. What mason is going to do that? Maybe one who wants to show off?

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Mick Harper
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That puzzled me as well. All the diptychs were going on so about the lettering I thought I must be missing something. But it is just as puzzling, as you say, when trying to identify the mason. Presumably a conscious forger would have tried for something a bit less common but then in (say) the eighteenth century you might have to be obvious just to get your fake recognised as genuine.

Maybe this isn't a witting fraud, just something wildly misdated. Maybe even Chinese whispers as something genuine but not specially valuable gets moved along the chain of dealers until it ends up with the people prepared to pay the highest price and believe the most extravagant story, Ely Cathedral. Does that make any sense to an old time numismatist?
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Wile E. Coyote


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Mick Harper wrote:
Maybe this isn't a witting fraud, just something wildly misdated. Maybe even Chinese whispers as something genuine but not specially valuable gets moved along the chain of dealers until it ends up with the people prepared to pay the highest price and believe the most extravagant story, Ely Cathedral. Does that make any sense to an old time numismatist?

It was actually found situated by an inn in Haddenham, by the chronicler James Bentham, who wrote the "The history and antiquities of the conventual & cathedral church history of Ely". He purchased it and transferred it to the cathedral. Bentham "rediscovered", what he considered was Anglo-Saxon "evidence" relating to the early history predating the cathedral, and then included this in his book, along with the personal memoirs of James Bentham.

Well done James.
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Mick Harper
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It sounds a coincidence too far but could it not be read as

A stone was found in Haddenham and the local expert, James Bentham, was called in. He pronounced it Anglo-Saxon and, being the Ely Cathedral antiquitist, arranged for it to be moved there.
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Hatty
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There are two Haddenhams, one in Oxfordshire and the other in Cambridgeshire. In the Cambridgeshire Haddenham (which apparently also went by the name of Lyndonbury, or Lyndonby) the Bishop of Ely had a manor house, occasionally upgraded to 'palace'. Wiki says the manor was 'Saxon' though in the archaeological record it's listed as early twelfth century. The manor's location, described as 'uncertain', has never been found.

Ovin remains uncertain or, more accurately, completely unknown. He's been tentatively identified as the steward to St Aethelthryd (or Etheldreda), Ely's patron saint, as per a mention in an anonymous twelfth-century chronicle, the Liber Eliensis or Book of Ely.

The Liber covers the period from the founding of the abbey in 673 until the middle of the 12th century, building on earlier historical works. It incorporates documents and stories of saints' lives. The work typifies a type of local history produced during the latter part of the 12th century.


It was actually found situated by an inn in Haddenham

The Ovin Stone is the sole physical evidence of Ely's Anglo-Saxon past though this is not a view endorsed by Cambridgeshire HER (Historic Environment Records)

A discussion of the style on the Ovin Stone states that the connection with Ovin and Aethrelthryth is purely conjectural and that it is likely later in date.

When Bentham came across it, it was being used as the inn's mounting block. Haddenham doesn't appear to have any desire to flag up its connection

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Mick Harper
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It's kinda hard working out who's snowing who but we can assume that the Book of Ely (Liber Eliensis) was composed by Ely for the pilgrim trade in or around 1200 AD in the normal way, and includes the usual mix of local, national and world tomfoolery. It will certainly not feature Ovin majorly. He's not a saint so he's not in the Liber for pilgrimage purposes but presumably as colour material for one of Ely's parcels of land, in this case Haddenham in Cambs. So far, so standard.

Now in the eighteenth century Ely Cathedral wants to get in on the new 'antiquities' trade. It employs an antiquarian, James Bentham, makes him a canon to keep everything respectable though he's already technically in holy orders as a university graduate. His first port of call is to go through the Book of Ely and he comes across this Ovin chap, steward at Haddenham. He goes to Haddenham and spots a likely-looking stone propping up the pub (and thus no-one can see what's written on the back) and buys it off the publican.

He then gets his pet stonemason to carve out something Ovinesque and distresses the stone a bit. He puts it in the back of the van and carts it off to Ely where he sets it up in the Cathedral which now has the oldest Anglo-Saxon inscription in the country. Until some other bastard cathedral top trumps them. ("They've got some chance, we go back to 673 and freaking Augustine didn't get here till 597, invent your way out of that, you episcopal toe-rags.")

Then some academics specialising in the Anglo-Saxon period but with a dire shortage of Anglo-Saxon material on their hands come along and the rest is history until Vered, Harper, Wiley & Partners come along with their motto "You build 'Em, We Smash 'Em, Nobody Notices".
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Wile E. Coyote


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When you look it up in the Journal of British History Vol 35, you discover the third word Ovino has been tampered with. Ovino was not the original. Ovino has been cut over the top, of another word. That is why your early folks who studied the inscription had different ideas about what the word was, they couldn't make it out.

I suspect it was some sort of gimmick to attract people to the inn ?? Ovino looks like wine. Wine would be served at the Inn. It was a gimmick to get people into the inn.
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Mick Harper
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Come off it, Wiley. I know Cambridgeshire drinkers are an erudite lot but exhortations to the carriage trade in Latin? Still this is obviously the smoking gun and since James Bentham would not have had an inscription made and then altered his own inscription, we must look for a smokier explanation.
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Hatty
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In 1776 Mr Bentham, author of 'The History and Antiquities of the Conventual & Cathedral Church of Ely', made a copy of a charter from King Eadgar to the monastery at Ely, confirming its 'freedom and special honour' but above all its extensive land holdings.

The 'original' manuscript (dated AD 970) was at the time in the possession of a Dr Mason of Trinity College Cambridge. It's not considered kosher judging by attached comments e.g. 'spurious', 'doubtful if authentic' but the privileges granted to Ely in the charter were confirmed by Bishop Odo in 1080 and reconfirmed thereafter by Edwards I, II and III, Richard II and Cardinal Wolsey.
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Mick Harper
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There are some oddities in that list. Having your charter confirmed by Odo is not something a wise monastery boasts about on account of him twice being outlawed for half-inching church property. Why the need for so many kings to confirm Ely's ownership of properties which must have been firmly in their hands by this time? Then there's a yawning gap until Wolsey (an East Anglian himself) wanders into the story just in time to wander out again, leaving Cromwell to scoot off with that part of Ely Cathedral's property that legally belonged to the monastery. What monastery? Well old Bentham calls it the 'Conventual & Cathedral Church of Ely' but I've no idea what that means.
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