This lecture is about an extraordinary set of English shipbuilding accounts dating from the 1290s, when the ports of London, Southampton, Ipswich, York, Newcastle and other places constructed eight war galleys for King Edward I. These accounts are the earliest-known significant English shipbuilding records, but they also have a wider historical importance, offering a unique ‘snapshot’ of late 13th-century England. The lecture will consider the maritime aspects of the project, but will also show what the material has to tell us about the nature of working life for ‘ordinary’ people, from shipwrights and blacksmiths to the women employed to clear the shipbuilding sites of wood chips. The City of London built two of the biggest galleys, so ‘The Year of the Galleys’ will have an added interest for Gresham audiences.
Dr Friel was born in North Hertfordshire, some thirty miles from London. Educated in local schools, he went on to study at the universities of Lancaster and Leicester.
He has a BA (Hons) in History from the University of Lancaster, an MA in English Local History from the University of Leicester and a PhD in medieval maritime and technological history from the University of Keele.
Dr Friel has worked for thirty years in the museum world. He was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (FSA) of London in 2000.
He became a freelance writer, historian and museum consultant in 2007. His work since then has been very varied, including both museum and media consultancy work. He also continues to give talks and lead guided walks, as well as writing both fiction and history.