At the end part three of the above title post, you may remember that we were at the Tewkesbury battle Re enactment talking to two of the market stallholders Gracia and Pete whose ancient incense aroma’s intoxicated us all. So to continue with the Tewkesbury event.
Everyone had been busy since 7-30 that morning putting up tents and setting stalls ready to display their wares and finally donning the appropriate garments. It was now 10-30 and the public were arriving. We had already met quite a number of them who had come back to purchase more of our sauces, much to our delight. They seemed so interested in foods of past times and this allowed for easy general conversation with many of our customers. Some of them remarking how much more work and preparation had to go into meals during earlier times., Todays foods , on the other hand, are far more easy, so the modern generation is losing interest in cooking for themselves and go out for many of their meals.
It was now 2-0’clock and time for the Battle of Tewkesbury to commence. The public gradually moved away from the traders to watch. Some of the children had come dressed in their Medieval outfits made by their parents. The children looked adorable in their costumes, pretending to be Knights in shining armour. They had been fighting with each other most of the morning and were now anxious to see the real thing. We could hear the crowds cheering while the battle was being fought between the Lancastrians and the Yorkists. It seemed to go on for some time when suddenly there was an almighty thunderous bang which was the firing of the cannons followed by cheering and shouting from the spectators. These cannons had been hired especially for this event; obviously only black powder was allowed to be used.
We were unable to see the battle ourselves as we were serving at our stall , but it was related excitedly to us step- by- step once it was over. People were saying how realistic it was. The children got so excited trying to explain that the soldiers had let them join in the fight using their replica wooden swords. Many of them were arguing with one another as to who had killed one of the enemy and who hadn’t. It was followed by another battle that required their parents to break it up.
At these events the public learn about many things of times past, for instance, The soldiers explained what a knight had to endure, especially during the 15th century, when full plate armour was introduced, weighing approximately 50 lbs ; including the hand sword, bow and arrows, crossbow, battle axe, mace dagger, and lance. Chain mail was used prior to the development of suites of armour and then worn in conjunction with the armour. My immediate thoughts were for the Knights who had to bear the weight of so much metal. These suits of armour had to be made to fit the knights exact measurements; otherwise it could endanger and hamper the knights ability to fight. A full suit of armour cost an enourmous amount of money. Many of the re-enactors made their own suites of armour, spending hours upon hours making the metal links used to make the chain mail. They even made armour for their feet called ” Sabatons; ” this footwear consisted of riveted iron plates on the boots, greaves for the protection of the calf and ankle, plate armour for the kneecap , armour called ‘ cuisses’ to protect the thigh. spurs to encourage the horse in battle. There was even armour to protect the armpits and also the upper and lower part of the arm. They made ringed metal plates which went over the fingers of the gloves gauntlets . There was also the breast plate, the back plate, and the detachable visor which protected the eyes and face. My thought were, and still are that these re-enactors are dedicated people willing to work so hard sometimes right through the night to achieve perfection and reality to their cause.
The Knights weapons consisted of a dagger called a roundel, and sword; these were attached to the belt. They carried a shield for defence, it also was decorated with the knight’s heraldic blazon and thus served also for identification. Spikes called gadlings, were fixed to the knuckles of the knight’s gauntlets. These knights had to be sworn in by sacred oaths of conduct combined with the ideals of chivalry and strict rules of etiquette . There were even strict rules of courtly love practiced during the Middle Ages. It was common occurrence for a knight to accept a token from a lady, such as a scarf, to be worn during a Medieval tournament; this was true of several knights who participated in the re-enactment .Much to everyone’s delight, there was much cheering and clapping for more of this romantic gesture, from grownups and children alike. Many of our customers said they understood where the saying “My Knight in shining armour” came from. They were so courteous in those days towards the ladies.
This had been the first of many of these events, too numerous to relate to here and much on the same line with the traders markets, and the different battles re-enacted, on the original sites where they had taken place. But there is the grandest one of them all which I always like to relate to as it was so spectacular and covered all periods of time and that is Kirby Hall in Northampton England. and staged by English Heritage.
Our journey to Kirby Hall had been hazardous to say the least, due to heavy rainstorms that made our arrival a little daunting. We arrived on a Friday; which was the norm; everyone had the usual time to set up stalls ready for Saturday and hoping of course that the rain was going to clear. We all gathered together that evening for the usual drink and gossip in the beer tent, catching up with each other’s experiences and different event people had seen. During that evening, to John’s and my amazement and dismay, the rain had not ceased at all and was pouring down relentlessly When we awoke the next morning around 7-0’clock, to see that most people had set up their stalls on Friday ready to display their wares. Some, like us, had even placed their goods out to save time. Still pouring with rain John check that everything was o.k. with our stall, but came back to the caravan saying’ that this event was going to be a complete washout; nobody is going to turn out in this awful weather. This is one of the joys of Re enacting situations, i.e. relying on the weather.
Many of the tents had leaked making the insides soaked and everyone worried that whatever had been put on display to sell would get wet. I felt especially sad for one stallholder who had some beautiful 16th and 17th century dresses she had set up. These had taken weeks and weeks to make, and the wind was driving the rain inside where these costumes were so well displayed. It turned out that some of them were only wet at the bottom of these dresses. Some of the labels on our Apicius sauces had peeled away from the jars but we were able to wipe them dry and replace the labels .
Once we had had our breakfast John decided to go and take down the tent saying, ” I think its going to be a waste of time.” ” Well, lets wait a little longer,” I said, ” It might clear up later. ” We waited until around 11-0’clock and as we hadn’t heard anyone else venturing out again after previously finding everything in such a mess, we sauntered around to where our stall was. We were absolutely stunned to see queue upon queue of people dressed for this horrendous weather in raincoats, hats and wellingtons. They were carrying umbrellas, and many had waterproof bags in readiness for whatever they were to purchase. It was obvious there was no deterring these dedicated people from this already popular show..
Suddenly everyone, including traders and re- enactors , threw up their arms with a loud cheer. The customers shouting, “Come on, then you lot open up and lets begin the fun.” So the day began with us anxious to serve these people who had so gallantly turned out in such appalling weather supporting this truly historical event. The people who were to take part in re-enacting the battles were busy getting prepared, checking all weapons such as, swords, daggers musket rifles, pistols and armour. The soldiers were checking each others uniforms, making sure all buttons were attached, medals and boots had been given that extra polish, and the World War Two guns and tanks had been placed in position. The horses which both soldiers and jousters would be riding, were becoming restless and needed to be calmed.
All the battles that were to take place individually were on one huge field, ” the Arena” The spectators could sit around the outside giving them a clear view. We learned later that a total of 27,000 people had visited this living history show over the weekend. The civilians from each period had set up their own villages further in a larger field and were mingling around in their appropriate costumes. They also visited the traders’ stalls which was good for business because many of these people had come from many different countries especially for this spectacular event. Our historical product now had an introduction into those countries when taken back as gifts for families and friends
It continued to rain on and off for the first day of the show, which was very unusual for the month of July. However, despite this our sauces sold extremely well. One reason for this was because our medieval tent was so large that a number of people could come right in out of the rain.As the day wore on we were selling fast and furious and beginning to worry if we had brought enough of our product to keep us going until the end of the show. While serving customers, they had explained how exciting the battles had been even though it had rained in between a few of them. One battle had taken place between the Celts and the Romans ; the children told us that the Celts looked even more vicious because they were all wet and covered with mud so the paint was all streaky and running down their faces. The Romans also were the worse for wear, as their costumes and sandals were soaking wet. This made the fighting very difficult as they were slipping and sliding everywhere. Needless to say both sides stood their ground. The atmosphere was electrifying . When it had finished there was much cheering and shouting especially from the children, they wanted more.
The battles which were to take place on Sunday were the English Civil War between the Royalists and Cromwell’s Roundheads fighting for the crown. The Wars of the Roses between the Yorkists and the Lancastrian, both being spectacular in costume and combating on foot or horseback was also on the schedule. My favourite part was seeing everyone getting ready to go out onto the Arena and watching thousands of performers from all over the world take part as they accurately portrayed those battles. It really is something special, and the buzz it gives is invigorating.
Stay tuned for part five.