V and A medieval galleries

I’ve just been to see the new galleries which opened this week.  They really are a stunning assembly of objects from across several countries, mainly France, Italy and Germany, although there are one or two things from England and some wonderfully strange belts and ornaments from Switzerland.  The only thing that disappointed me is that there is so little from England.  I know that many pre-Reformation buildings and their contents were destroyed by fat Henry as he was called up north but that only makes it more important to display what remains.  For instance there are some wonderful medieval tiles in the British Museum which no-one can see because they’re kept in a basement, wrapped up in red tape.  Why can’t they be loaned to the V & A to give an idea of what was once a major export from this country?  Tiles similar to the ones found at the Abbey of Meaux – where, like most Cistercian abbeys there was a kiln built for the purpose –  are found as far afield as Hungary and the BM has around 1500 of them in store.  If they’re like the ones in the wonderful catalogue by Elizabeth Eames they’re far more interesting and beautiful  – with their honey-coloured lead glaze – than the tile pavements on show here from France and Germany.  In fact after seeing this exhibition you’d be forgiven for thinking the English were still running around in woad.  Sorry to grumble.   A knowledge of  British history is so far down anyone’s list of interests these days.  It’s a pity.  We could learn a lot from it.  But do go to the V & A if you get the chance and also have a look at the BM’s medieval galleries – smaller than the V &A but full of astonishing and beautiful artefacts (including a few tiles from Meaux!)

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  1. Laurence /

    Totally agree about the lack of interest in British history these days. In schools they seem to teach everyone else’s instead! Probably just more ‘liberal guilt’. And yet there are so many historical resources available and local history groups. British History Online is very good, with lots of original documents available in transcription.

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