This is the final part of Apicius Sauces and the Re-enactors which is an excerpt from my book entitled “Toffee Apples & Togas “. In my previous post part four, you may remember we were at Kirby Hall where there was a spectacular Living History event taking place. I will now continue :
There was now an intermission and during the break many of the performers were strolling around the traders’ stalls, including the American Union and Confederate soldiers already dressed in their uniforms, carrying musket rifles, powder flasks, flintlock pistols, and pouches for the lead shot. They looked very impressive and anxious to get into the arena to re-enact the American Civil War.
While this re-enactment was taking place I took a stroll around the civilian quarters where ladies were busy repairing soldiers uniforms from the previous day, they were also baking bread, making biscuits, and preparing the evening meal for the soldiers. Of course they had to attend to the wounded as well as looking after their children. This was a hard life for the wives of these soldiers; they knew their loved ones had a good chance of being wounded then and now.. Many wars had been represented over the weekend, some not mentioned here, but all extremely professionally re-enacted .
These are either The Yorkists or Lancastrians. .
The Pike Men.
Sunday was the final day of this spectacular show at Kirby Hall and World War Two was the last re-enactment to take place. Now all the soldiers dressed in their Khaki uniforms were beginning to form ranks ready to give drill and military displays. Some were checking army vehicles and preparing them for battle. Huge trenches and bunkers had been prepared as well as fortifications.
World War two Re-enactors
The British and German regiments and officers’ ranks were well represented; they looked extremely smart in their uniform as did the American forces and some of their female staff. As we watched the soldiers take up their positions , we could hear comments from some of the spectators ,one gentleman saying that our soldiers are carrying the Lee Enfield 303 rifles and light machine guns. This gave friends and family an opportunity to bond and chat about what they were seeing. There was an enormous explosion to signal the beginning of the battle. Next there appeared in the skies the Spitfire aeroplanes , the Hurricane and the German Messerschmitt demonstrating a dog fight air battle. This was very exciting, especially for the kids who thought it great fun. Of course they had no idea what tragedies had occurred during that bloody war.
Away from the military area, we came upon ‘civvy street’ during the war years. The first thing we noticed was what was commonly know as the spivs, looking every bit the part and walking around with that well known swagger trying to sell black- market goods, ranging from sugar, butter, clothes, silk stockings and bed linin. These and many other items had been on ration or restricted during the long years of the war. These re-enactors were dressed just as I remembered, conspicuous indeed theirs suits having enormous padded shoulders, the jacket lapels being very wide, and bright gaudy coloured ties, sometimes with a picture of one of the famous film stars printed on them. They also wore trilby hats, black and white shoes, rings on their fingers, and sometimes an ear ring in one ear. Their hair was sleeked back using loads of Brylcream , making their hair look shiny. These sauve guys were walking down the street with an accentuated swagger.
Most housewives would be grateful for these black-market items, but on other occasions, the spivs would be told. “goo on weya”, or ” shuv off’ “we don’t want to end up in clink”. Their reply was usually ” O.K., please yerself darlin, but I bet yowd like these nylons wouldn’t ya?” Of course that would be a different kettle of fish, and the women would soon change their mind about that and buy as many pairs of nylons the spivs would let them have.
John and I returned back to our stall after having a short break to find a couple of these spivs waiting to buy our sauces. Of course they had to act out their role by saying, How about a few jars cheap from under the counter, luvvie.” I decided to play along with these spivs , as they were gaining an audience around the stall which was good for business. I got into character saying, ” Goo on we yer” now don’t be cheeky. Ive’ gorra mek a livin as well as you yer know. Anyway who yer gonna sell em to after?” “Well thaim sweet aint they” said one of them. So the ladies will buy em to spread on the bread and scrape for the kids, or dip the babies dummy in em. That’ll shut em up. Goo on, Mrs, lets av a few jars cheap if only to shut them babies up so as their mums can av some peace ” 0h alright,,” I said ” how many do yer want. “Give us a baker’s dozen, darlin, but charge us for nine,” “You’ve really gorra cheek you guys, “I said. But O.K. Upon that there was a tremendous uproar and cheering from the crowd which had gathered and were listening to the banter.
Once the military displays had finished, the soldiers who had come from all over the world and had taken part in the show mingled around the stalls buying items to take back to family and friends. They talked to the spectators and laughed with the children who wanted to try on the German helmets or sit on the motorbikes and have their photo’s taken. The sense of community was wonderful and made me feel proud to have been part of this show.
This Living History display of World War Two was indeed spectacular. It brought back many memories, no doubt, for some of the visitors, myself included, who had remembered the air raids on London, Birmingham Coventry, and Liverpool, hearing the sound of the sirens and of the English and German fighter planes, seeing the armoured vehicles, the British, German and American regiments. Everyone was also able to hear exerpts from the radio shows of the time, such as, Itma, Band Wagon, Much Binding in the Marsh and many of the big band sounds.
This History in Action Multi-period event staged by English Heritage was now coming to a close but not before the grand parade. There was now complete silence as people waited. Suddenly there was a loud flare of trumpets as the cavalry through the ages began, followed by the military vehicles which had taken part in the world war two show. There was then a tremendous cheering as the Romans appeared leading the infantry contingent. As the legions marched past, you could hear the clinking of their armour and witness the colourful red tunics, the chain mail and javelins, the colourful plumes upon the centurions helmets and the aquifer (standard) of the legion, which had to be defended at all cost when in battle.
The Roman Legions.
Following the Legions, came the Senators in their togas and their wives looking exquisite in their dresses of varying colours. They looked every bit of the style of the times with both clothes and hairstyles . Many hours had been spent by the re-enactors themselves making these costumes.
Household of the Vlll Legio
Now the Celts began their march past; the woman wore their colourful woolen clothes, and the warriors’ bodies were painted the colour blue, called woad, and gold. Some had their hair tied back in a pony tail; others had combed their hair sideways and tied it into a knot, they had long moustaches which almost covered their mouths.. They wore the well- known torc around their necks and carried fearsome weapons. They certainly did look terrifying. There was loud cheering from everyone for their appreciation for their display when in battle.
After a short break at my stall serving those who were wanting to purchase the last of our sauces, before the show ended I managed to get back to the parade in time to catch a glimpse of the Medieval soldiers and the jousting knights, again being very colourful and every one cheering as the Lord and his beautiful lady rode past on their magnificent horses; the knights carrying their lances, looking very chivalrous; followed by the ladies whom, no doubt, they had fought for and appearing in all their finery of these Medieval times. The peasant who followed were noe looking very weary. They had made their own garment from the very cheapest grade of wool. These peasants could never afford the better quality wools, silks, and satins that the rich people chose. The rich could afford tailors and seamstresses and have their clothes trimmed with fur or velvet. I felt very sorry for the peasant of these times, but we were all cheered up by the musicians playing their flutes, tambourines, and drums, along with the jesters and acrobats . These were followed by the Falconers and their birds.
There had been still other battle displays from different time periods which had been re-enacted, but these were still to follow in the grand parade.. Unfortunately we and the rest of the traders had to begin packing our entire gear ready for the journey home. However we were finished just in time to see the beginning of the World War Two procession. Our soldiers in khaki and the Woman’s Royal Air Force in blue uniforms proceeded to march past. The German soldiers were wearing their grey uniforms came next, some on foot some on motorbikes, were followed by American Troops. The women in their blue uniforms, again some on foot, some riding in jeeps. Everyone was cheering the soldiers, especially the women soldiers who were flashing their nylon clad legs; wolf whistles coming from everywhere. The Spivs and their girl friends followed . Just as the procession finished Howard Giles our commentator, announced the memorial fly past of the Hurricane, the Lancaster bomber, the spitfire and the German Messerschmitt . This was fantastic. What a finish to an absolutely great weekend which had begun with pouring rain. Now nobody wanted to go home least of all the children who were crying telling their mums they wanted to stay and see more.
Below are photo’s of Kirby Hall which was magnificent in its hay day.
Part of the ruins of Kirby Hall Northamptonshire
Kirby Hall in its hay day.