Walcott’s Injury Medieval-Style Goes On Display At Barley Hall

Injured knee monk with barber surgeon

June 13th 2014

Despite his recovery proceeding well, a cruciate ligament injury ruled Theo Walcott out of the World Cup this year.  However, the recovery doesn’t seem to have been quite as straight forward for a medieval monk, whose skeleton goes on display at Barley Hall in York this weekend, and who suffered from the same complaint.

The skeleton dates back to the 13th or 14th century, and was found at the site of the medieval Gilbertine Priory – now occupied by the York Novotel – by York Archaeological Trust in the mid 1980s.  The injury he suffered was identical to the cruciate ligament injury suffered by Walcott earlier this year, and it is even possible that he picked up the injury the same way as Walcott, as there are references in contemporary literature of the English order of Gilbertine monks playing football!

Malin Holst, osteoarchaeologist with a replica of the copper plate used on the injured knee

“Whilst a modern day footballer might hope to return to the pitch following treatment and physiotherapy, sadly this injury almost certainly cut the monk’s soccer hobby short, as analysis of the skeleton by osteoarchaeologists show that he walked with a crutch following the injury – his right shoulder was sticking up – and there are signs of chronic infection of the knee.  His running days would have been over, although he was clearly still able to walk around to some degree,” comments Sarah Maltby, director of attractions for the JORVIK Group – the visitor attraction division of York Archaeological Trust – which is putting the skeleton on display in York’s Barley Hall this weekend.

Although his injury was severe, with archaeological evidence suggesting the twisted knee might have been 30 degrees out of alignment, it appears to have been encased in two copper plates with leather straps to immobilise the joint – a treatment that dates back to the time of Hippocrates, but which was often substituted during the medieval period by rather draconian amputation by the barber surgeon.

The skeleton is not the only item with links to the World Cup going on display at Barley Hall.  The three lions, familiar from the England team badge, put in an early appearance on a lead weight in the shape of a shield, which was found at Barley Hall itself.  Like the England team badge, the lions are ‘lion passant’, which denoted that the right fore paw is raised with others on the ground, also referred to as a ‘Lion of England’.

Medieval whistle and three lions lead weightThe style of the coat of arms suggests that it dates from the early 14th century, when England claimed the French throne.  The weight is one eighth of an ounce and was probably used by a royal official to weigh materials passing through York for certification, quality assurance and taxation purposes.

The World Cup tribute display also includes a 12th century whistle, which was cut from the wing bone of a Mute Swan.  The whistle may have been originally conceived as a flute, as there are indentations that the maker likely intended to be finger holes which were never cut through.  Unfortunately, the lock or fipple required to make the whistle sound is missing, so the final blow of this whistle may well have been 800 years ago!

All the items will be on display at Barley Hall in York from Saturday 12 June 2014.  The medieval townhouse  – hidden within York’s famous snickleways – is open daily from 10.00am to 5.00pm.  Admission prices are £5.50 for adults, £4.00 for concessions and £3.00 for children with family tickets also available.  Barley Hall is also included on the Medieval Pass, which includes access to the new Richard III and Henry VII Experiences in Monk Bar and Micklegate Bar respectively, priced from £8.00.

For more information, or to pre-book online, please visit www.barleyhall.co.uk or call 01904 615505.



For further media information or photographs, please contact:

Jay Commins

Pyper York Limited

Tel:         01904 500698

Email:    jay@pyperyork.co.uk