Welcome to Soper Lane

It is with great sadness that I have to announce the passing of my dear friend and co-founder of Soper-Lane, Elizabeth Benns, In July 2018 after a long battle with cancer.

I first met Elizabeth at a get together / study weekend for the White Company Nuns. We were both new members, and the idea of looking into the lives of medieval women was something that struck a chord. We hit it off immediately. The creation of the Soper Lane group was not far behind.

Elizabeth's research - hours spent studying wills and other documents, really helped us to understand the everyday lives of the medieval London silkwomen. She discovered numerous women related to silkwork and found links between many of them both business and social. She gifted me an address book filled with names and dates of these - I think there were only two such address books of people who died 500 years ago! She used her training as a Barrister to do her research, and finding that documentary evidence was her real forte.

Thanks to her we can also now all view the images of Harley 2320 online, as she instigated and funded the photography of the pages for our research and subsequent publication of Tak V Bowes Departed.

She was a founding member of The Household, another re-enactment / study group that sought to give a clear picture of the day-to-day aspects of a medieval merchant's house.

Her love of research did not wane once diagnosed with cancer back in 2008. Instead she took part in drug trials, gene research and was an advocate for cancer research, putting energy into the search for a cure and better treatment. She blogged about cancer care and her treatment  (https://inthelandofnewnormal.blogspot.com/) and I know was an incredible support to the Storm Riders - a group of women brought together by and who braved the storm of cancer. She appeared on the BBC just last month talking about recent research breakthroughs, despite knowing that her cancer, which she had originally fought successfully, had returned.  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-44455354

She was a good friend. The kind that you didn't have to see or even speak to for ages but could pick up where you left off. She was kind, serious, and devoted to her family. She will be greatly missed.

Soper Lane is a group of women who have studied the working lives of fifteenth century silkwomen. The function of the group is to bring to life as accurately as possible the work of the 15th century English silkwomen.

During the 15th century, a number of silkwomen had shops and homes in London's Soper Lane, Cheapside, from which this group has taken its name.

The Location of Soper Lane

Although there is no longer a London street named Soper Lane, the location of the medieval road is known from references both to the street itself and to St. Pancras Church, which stood on the corner of Soper Lane and Needlers Lane. Both Soper Lane and St Pancras Church suffered considerable damage during the Great Fire of 1666. 

Laces, braids & cords

Laces were an essential item in the medieval period for all walks of life. Used for fastening garments, drawstrings for purses, hanging items from a belt and numerous other applications, laces were an item always in demand.

The silkwomen produced laces by a variety of methods, the most common by braiding. Laces are very light in comparison to their length - an important issue when it is remembered that silkwomen bought their silk by weight - the more items that could be made from it, the more profit!

Alice Claver

Alice Claver was one of the most successful London silkwomen during the fifteenth century.

Alice's birthplace and maiden name are unknown. She was the second wife of Richard Claver, a successful mercer. It is likely that they were married when she was in her 20's and he in his late 40's. Richard and Alice had one son, also called Richard, and Richard (the elder) had an illegitimate daughter named Jone.