Today – Sunday, 8th March – is International Women's Day and we wanted to celebrate by asking a couple of our guides for their favourite female figures throughout history.
Celebrating International Women's Day with our experts
5 March 2020
Dr Emma J Wells, leader of our York and Salisbury Cathedral Study Days
"Perhaps not something most realise but for me, it has to be the regiments of women who were involved in the construction of our medieval cathedrals and churches. Many think construction was the preserve of men; but this is far from the truth. Though many of their voices and names are lost to history, women not only endured the fatigues of labour in the building trades but held specialised roles. We know of Gunnilda, a thirteenth-century mason of Norwich and Alice Brewer or Briwere, who pledged, to help the building of Salisbury Cathedral, Purbeck 'marble' from her quarry at Worth Matravers in the Isle of Furbeck. Their contributions should never be overlooked — nor forgotten."
If you'd like to experience a Study Day in Emma's expert company, she will be leading two this year. The first, A Masterpiece in Stone - Salisbury Cathedral, will take place on 7th August for £140pp. Tour the iconic cathedral, exploring its ancient graffiti and dramatic interiors, while learning its stories and history.
Then, Emma will lead our exciting Capital of the North - Medieval York Study Day, taking place a week later on 14th August for £150pp. Explore York with its rich architectural heritage, such as the famous city walls, four fortified gates – or "bars" – and its further buildings that include the Merchant Adventurers' Hall and a medieval townhouse, all the while tracing how York blossomed and regained its economic, religious and civic importance in the north.
Dr Simon Elliott, leader of our Roman London Study Day as well as our expert guide for the Romans in the North, Pompeii and Rome - the Heart of an Empire tours
"A freezing afternoon in early December last year saw me standing in a waterlogged field in Northamptonshire, just off Watling Street, filming a new TV programme for a mainstream channel for which I was discussing the various candidate battle sites for the defeat of the Iceni Queen Boudicca in AD 60/61. Researching this programme really got me thinking about this most enigmatic of women, who in my opinion ran the might of Rome closer than any other of her opponents in Britain. She was at one stage the wife of an ally of Rome, who, once widowed, was poorly treated by her erstwhile allies, with primary sources saying her daughters were raped. Certainly, the Romans tried to fleece the Iceni of their wealth, and soon Boudicca rebelled and led an astonishing rebellion that saw Roman Colchester, London and St. Albans sacked, and a significant portion of legio IX Hispana defeated. Sensing a victory that would kick the Romans out of Britain for ever, Boudicca then marched up Watling Street to force a meeting engagement with the Roman Governor Seutonius Paulinus, who was heading south east from Wales to meet her. The battle took place, probably, somewhere in the Midlands along Watling Street and was one that Boudicca should have won, given the likely odds of then to one in her favour. However, she lost, the rebellion was crushed and she either took her own life or died of illness. Her legend has lived on through to this day – the heroic warrior queen who was prepared to risk all for what she thought was right and in losing payed the highest price, but in defeat was venerated by the Romans."
If you'd like to join Simon on tour, he will be leading a selection this year. He will lead our classic Pompeii tour, just one departure – the tour that departs on 19th October.
For a shorter experience, you can choose to accompany Simon on his Roman London - What Lies Beneath study day, which departs multiple times throughout 2020.