Announcement: project workshop ‘History & Community, Part II: History @Downside’

Below is the poster for our second project workshop (entitled: ‘History & Community, Part II: History @Downside’), which will take place at Downside Abbey (Stratton-on-the-Fosse) on Wednesday 25 March 2020.

In this workshop, we will present and discuss the ongoing work undertaken collaboratively by the project PI (Dr Benjamin Pohl), two student research assistants (UoB), Downside’s monks and the abbey’s Director of Heritage and Outreach Officer in preparation of a public exhibition that will take place at Downside at the end of 2020. The exhibition carries the working title ‘History @Downside: An Exhibition in 20 Objects’, and it will feature a carefully chosen and curated selection of materials from the abbey’s special collections.

Attendees will be given the opportunity to engage first-hand with heritage-related work-in-progress, provide feedback on the materials selected so far and even suggest additional materials for display in the exhibition. This will take the shape of an informal conversation (guided by the workshop organiser) between the participants, the exhibition team and the monastic community of Downside Abbey.

Attendance is free (incl. a free lunch), and travel will be provided free of charge between the University of Bristol and Downside Abbey on the day. A shuttle bus will leave from outside 13 Woodland Road at 8.15am, and it will leave Downside in the afternoon (3pm or thereabouts). Following popular demand at our previous workshop, there will also be a special guided tour of the abbey church, the monastic library and the special collections after lunch.

The list of participants is filling up quickly, and as before we will also set up a waiting list (operated on a first-come-first-serve basis). If you would like to attend, please email

Podcast: Abbots as historians – Medieval monastic leadership and the writing of history (Public lecture by Dr B Pohl)

In this public lecture, given at Downside Abbey on Thursday 27 February 2020, Dr Benjamin Pohl (University of Bristol, project PI) explores how and why medieval Benedictine abbots engaged first-hand with the writing of history by recording the traditions and collective memories of their monastic communities. Which resources were available to these abbot-historians that ordinary monks did not have at their disposal? What difference did it make when the monastic historian was himself an abbot? Was it common for medieval abbots to pick up the pen, or was it an exception? Studying the work of medieval abbot-historians provides us with important insights into the relationship between monastic leadership and the codification of communal identities both past and present. You can listen to the podcast and see some pictures from the night below.