Re-enactment round-up!

Alas, re-enactment season has come to an end for another year, but oh it was so much fun! I thought I would share a few of my favorite photos from this year with you all.

I can’t wait to do it all again next year!

If you want to see more of our group, The Swords of Mercia, check out our Facebook page by clicking here.

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Naughtiness in Nottingham

A few weeks ago I had a good friend to stay so we decided to have a heritage day out in Nottingham. I haven’t been to Nottingham since I was 18, it was a birthday treat which I really enjoyed it so I thought it was high time to spend another day there.

To start the day, after I had found the car park, we went to Nottingham Castle. To my surprise and delight there was a medieval re-enactment taking place! Robin Hood even put in an appearance. Walking around the Living History encampment felt like home. There was also an archery tournament, but with a twist. The teams of archers were aiming for a moving target stuck on top of a knight’s helm. It was very entertaining to watch, and the Robin Hood and his Merry Men crashed the party!

Robin Hood! I knew he was real

Robin Hood! I knew he was real

After the show we went for a wander around the castle, which is now a museum. I loved the idea behind their first exhibition, that every object tells a story. This is so true and I often find myself thinking about how the object I am working with got to that point. I love the story of Bess going on a shopping spree in London to buy furniture, and picking out these items for her new home. I would love to know just what she though about each one, what attracted her to them and why she placed there where she did.

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The second exhibition we saw at the Castle was a temporary exhibition about the First World War. I found this fascinating as I have an interest in the subject anyway. I never knew that the metal helmets we are so used to seeing weren’t introduced until nearly half way through the war. I cannot believe they sent soldiers into war without head protection, it seems crazy. There was a case featuring some ‘Trench Art’ made from shelling casing and other materials that would have been found in the trenches. I had seen some of this before and the creativity they showcase is amazing, especially given that what the soldiers were going through was unimaginably horrific.

Trench Art

Trench Art

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After the castle we stopped for a bite to eat, and then went to jail!

Ellen's Mug Shot

Just kidding, we went to visit the Galleries of Justice at the old court-house. I have visited before and really enjoyed myself so was excited to go again.

When you arrive at the Galleries and buy a ticket you are given a criminal number to take with you on your tour. The first half of the tour is led by characters, and the second half is self led. We were first taken by a judge into the court, for our fates to be determined. The court room was beautiful, all carved wooden benches and a very impressive judges chair so you couldn’t forget who was in charge.

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The court-house was very well designed in that if found guilty, as we unfortunately were, you could be led straight from the court room down into the jail. There we were told to look at our criminal numbers and find out our crimes, and more importantly our punishments. Mine said I was to be tied to a cart and flogged. This part of the tour went down really well with the group, and had us all chatting and giggling with one another about our crimes.

Wall of Infamy

Wall of Infamy

After this we met with the executioner. He was quite sinister and talked us through his job, life (and death) in the jail, and even let us sample some of the cells. From here we were let loose to explore the jail and learn about the reforms made to the system. We finally made it outside to the yard to be greeted by a hangman who had made a science out of execution. He was a real gent and clearly very passionate about his job, each to their own I suppose.

The Hang Man

The Hang Man

Next, narrowly escaping the noose we were sent for transportation, and then on to learn about prison breaks and finally the modern prison system. At the end of the tour was a temporary exhibition about crime and punishment during the First World War, and all the extra duties police men had to keep the country safe from spies. There was also an exhibition about a man who had drowned his three wives in a bath tub, who we had heard about in the court room. The galleries even had the murderous bathtub on display.

Hez in the stocks

Hez in the stocks

Solitary Confinement

Solitary Confinement

We really enjoyed our day out in Nottingham and I can’t wait to go back and discover more, as there seems to be so much to do there. I love having exciting new places to discover so close to home!

Encountering Moseley Old Hall

Just after I had returned from my visit to Packwood and Baddesley I was off to another Trust property, this time for a training day!

As part of a large project taking place at Hardwick which I seem to have taken on a large part of the responsibility for me and Sadie have been going on several training courses. The latest of which was hosted at Moseley Old Hall, a lovely property in the Midlands with a very exciting story to tell.

Moseley Old Hall

Moseley Old Hall

The project we are taking part in looks at how to tell our properties stories in a different way, through active engagement and conversation. I got involved in this project thanks to my background as a re-enactor and am really enjoying it so far, even if it is going to be a lot of hard work!

We were having our meeting at Moseley as they have already been through the project that Hardwick is now undertaking. Recently Moseley decided to open Mondays and Tuesdays, when traditionally they had always been closed. The team saw this as an opportunity and decided to have these days manned by volunteer costumed interpreters.

Making Reed Tapers

Making Reed Tapers

Every so often they also have a special event where the volunteer team stage the day to be the most dramatic day in Moseley’s history, the day they harbored King Charles II after the battle of Worcester in 1651. I really want to go and visit on this day, it sounds fantastic! It is a really bold move that the team have made but so far it seems to be working for them.

The Dresser in the Brew-House

The Dresser in the Brew-House

In the afternoon we had the opportunity to wander around the hall, meet the volunteers and see what activities they were doing. We started on the middle floor and so we went through several rooms before we encountered a volunteer, which left us with a strange sense of almost naughty freedom that you don’t usually find yourself with in a National Trust property (unless of course you work there!).

As we were exploring we found the Priest Hole King Charles had hidden in. It was nice to just discover the hall for ourselves but it worries me that if I had not had someone with me who knew the property I would have missed the significance of this unassuming hole in the floor.

The Priest Hole

The Priest Hole

At one point I get distracted by their brilliant fake fires! This is what happens when you work in the heritage industry, you get excited by the most random things and are always looking for good ideas to inspire you. The fake fire in this grate even ‘smoked’!

The Fake Fire

The Fake Fire+–

The volunteers were doing things like making Reed Tapers in front of the real fire and explaining period board games, which kept us all amused for quite a while! Several of the games where ones I play when I am my Medieval alter-ego. It was nice that Moseley has the freedom to light fires in the grate and space for these interactive activities.

I also spotted a really beautiful clock in the Entrance Hall. I quite like clocks because they are such a practical object that is regularly so beautifully made and ornately decorated! I always enjoyed being responsible for winding all the clock at Greyfriars.

The Clock

The Clock

A glimps of the pretty Garden through the window

A glimps of the pretty Garden through the window

The outdoors at Moseley is just as beautiful as the indoors, and there is just as much to discover. At the end of our meeting we were told about Moseley’s new Tree House! Me and Sadie decided we just had to go and have a look for ourselves, and we were not disappointed! With a special pot of money Moseley had created an outdoor adventure area including a mammoth Tree House, with steps, ladders, scramble path and rope! Here are some pics of me ‘testing’ the Tree House out.

The Tree House

The Tree House

Testing out the rope

Testing out the rope

Caldicot Castle and Croome Park

A few weekends ago we did our final re-enactment show of the year at Caldicot Castle, in Wales. It was the furthest I have ever driven in one go since passing me test so on the way back mum booked us a hotel so we could split the journey in two and visit a few National Trust properties on the way.

The view of the authentic camp from the top of the castle

The view of the authentic camp from the top of the castle

I have always loved Caldicot, with it being the final show of the year everyone is in really good spirits, and it feels like a real celebration of the season! After the battle me and some friends took the chance to take a few photos in kit. It was the first show where I wore my new dress, made by yours truly!

Me at the top of Caldicot Castle

Me at the top of Caldicot Castle

Knights ready for battle!

Knights ready for battle!

The first Trust property we visited on the drive home was Croome Park. I have visited Croome in my very first week at Uni, but that was before the Trust had purchased the house. The Trust have now owned the house for about 5 years and since it has always been in private ownership there is extensive conservation work to be done. When we visited the property they were having a huge set of scaffolding being built on one end.

Croome Court

Croome Court

Inside the building there is no collection, most of the furniture that is now in there is from Ikea and any decorative pieces have been represented with drawings on hard board. Interesting enough they do know where many of the pieces that once belonged in the house are now, but it is mostly museums and private collections now, with little hope of bringing it all back together.

A fake over-mantle over a real fireplace

A fake over-mantle over a real fireplace

The interpretation of the rooms has been done in a really interesting way, the information was printed onto fabric that was suspended in a metal frame, echoing the scaffolding around the exterior. Each stand also had a drawing of the people that it was talking about. I have never seen any other trust interpretation done in the same manner.

One of the interpretation stands

One of the interpretation stands

The information in the house presented its entire history, talking about all the different occupants and not just the family that had once called it home, I really liked that. A different aspect of the story was talked about in each room and it was all brought together on the Dining Room table.

The table in the Dining Room, detailing the house's history

The table in the Dining Room

My favorite room was the Dining Room, where the original plaster work on the walls had been painted by the International Society of Krishna Consciousness that once lived at Croome. Apparently there had been a public vote as to whether to leave the paint or to strip it back, and I’m glad it has been left as it is so pretty and colourful!

The decoration in the Dining Room

The decoration in the Dining Room

At the moments there is so much work to be done at Croome, and it is going to need a lot of funding. Only a few rooms are open at the moment, and the stanchions roping them off have these little notes to peak people’s interest in the ongoing project. However, it must be quite liberating to have a blank canvas to work with, and such a rich and interesting collection of stories to draw inspiration from.

The tags on all the ropes

The tags on all the ropes

The visit feels very much like a ‘work in progress’ but I will be really interested to see where it goes.

Arbella Stuart Spotted?

A bit of fun for you today with an article that a college found and showed me. A recent photo taken at Rufford Abbey show a ghostly figure standing in the doorway, and it seems this figure has been attributed to none other than Hardwick’s own Arbella Stuart. Arbella was Bess’ granddaughter, and she had a claim to the English throne. Unfortunately her life, which she seemed to seldom have much control over, turned out rather tragically and she died in the Tower in 1615 (Read more about her here).

Arabella Stuart

Arbella Stuart

Arbella was raised by Bess and seems to have been a bit of a handful, there are reports of them having screaming rows in the long Gallery at Hardwick! She is another character from the past that it would be amazing to have a conversation with, find out what she really thought of her lot in life. This article was doubly interesting for me as in April this year my re-enactment group did a show at Rufford Abbey (Link to my mum’s post about the show). It’s a really lovely site and although I didn’t spot anything but if we go back next year I will be sure to keep an eye out for her!

Read the article here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2518153/White-Lady-Rufford-Abbey-ghost-photo-captured-using-iPod-Touch.html and see what you think!

More Re-enacting!

I have been quite busy over the last few weeks traveling the country doing a couple of different shows with my re-enactment group, but now there is only one show left and then the season is over!

Mum and Kerry outside Tewksbury Abbey

Mum and Kerry outside Tewksbury Abbey

A couple of weekends ago several members from our group, including myself, went to the biggest medieval re-enactment event of the season, the Battle of Tewksbury! Any one who has been watching the White Queen might recognise the name as this was the battle where Prince Edward and Margaret of Anjou were defeated.

The Prince's Guard

The Prince’s Guard

I always love this show as it is a chance to see a lot of my friends, the battle is always brilliant and there is a huge market too! This years was just like the Tewksburys I remember from when I was younger as well – it was scorching hot!

The lads - Jamie and Luke

The lads – Jamie and Luke

I am so proud of our lads for getting kitted up in full plate and going on to the battlefield! I was uncomfortably hot in just my linen peasants dress so I have no idea how they did it, but I am so pleased they did. This years battle was awesome and our lads fought really well!

Shiny!

Shiny!

What a poser!

What a poser!

I love being able to go on the field as a water-bearer, not only are we really needed on weekends such as this but then we get a close up view of all the action, It’s very exciting!

Waiting at muster

Waiting at muster

Me and Kerry on the field

Me and Kerry on the field

As part of the Tewksbury Medieval Festival there is also a slightly tongue-in-cheek re-enactment of the beheading of the Lancasterian leaders at the Abbey. This always draws a huge crowd and is actually quite funny, as after each leader is beheaded their ‘head’ is then placed on the spikes of the fence. How is this funny you ask? Well the ‘heads’ are made by local school children and don’t useually look that much like the Lancasterian leaders. And this year we even had a barbie and George.W.Bush.

Tewksbury Abbey

Tewksbury Abbey

Tewksbury is always loads of fun, even when it feels like it’s taking place in an oven! The next show we did, last weekend, was very different as it was our personal group show, so it was up to us to put on the entertainment, not just to benefit. This show we did at the beautiful ruined castle of Ashby De La Zouche.

Our camp in Ashby Castle

Our camp in Ashby Castle

Me in one of my Lady's dresses

Me in one of my Lady’s dresses

I love the fact that we get to go to these amazing places and put on shows for the public. We love doing this, and love the wonderful feedback we get from the families that come and see us, and seem to really enjoy it! Personally I love our show, it still makes me laugh every time I see it, and there is always some new ad-lib being thrown in by our very funny guys. It is so rewarding to get nice feedback because I know how passionate we all are and how much work has gone into this show.

Swords of Mercia

Swords of Mercia

Ready to fight

Ready to fight

This weekend we got over 1200 visitors, which was brilliant. We were lucky to have good weather most of both days, and thankfully not quite as hot as tewks! But Saturday evening there was thunder and lightening and torrential rain!! It was quite an experience, when the storm started we were all huddling under our little awning watching the flashes of lightening in the ruins, and it was very atmospheric. However it quickly became very wet so we retreated to some of our group members nice big tent! Thanks for the shelter guys, much appreciated. Even sitting listening to the heavy rain we still have a real laugh, and sharing this hobby with this group of people makes it such an enjoyable way to spend my time!

The King and his Squire

The King and his Squire

My mother the Nun

My mother the Nun

Luckily there is one show left, and then I’m going to be back to fight training as well, and have a huge list of projects to get on with before next season so I shall be kept entertained! Work is also busy busy busy as always. With me and Claire being the only House Staff on the ground for the last few weeks we have effectively been doing 2 peoples jobs each! Lots of exciting things happening soon (as always) at Hardwick to keep me occupied so time will fly by until re-enactment season starts again next year!

Our group

Our group

Dressing up . . . for grown ups!

I have been a Medieval Re-enactor for half my life and it has been an amazing experience, teaching me so many things, some that I often find useful in my job. I have never needed encouragement to dress up, and I get to wear some gorgeous clothes, so it is nice to know I am not the only one! Re-enactment season has started again, with a St George’s Day themed show at Bolsover Castle last weekend and one at Rufford Abbey this weekend, but I was feeling impatient for the show this weekend.

My group; The Swords of Mercia

The Swords of Mercia Society

The Dragon Knight threatens Lady Alice

The Dragon Knight threatens Lady Alice

 

Luckily Thursday was costume day at Hardwick, when all our ‘Living the History’ volunteers don their fantastic Tudor garb and bring the Hall to life, talking to the public about Tudor life and dress. I was in my element, admiring all the clothes hand-made by our very talented volunteers. It was amazing walking down the Long Gallery and seeing everyone dressed up, it helped the imagination picture the Hall as it may have been in its heyday, when Bess was entertaining.

Our Fab Living the History Vols

Our Fab Living the History Vols

It's not just the ladies

It’s not just the ladies

I know I am more than biased but I feel that events like the costume day, and the presence of costumed interpreters really enhance properties. I love asking them questions, like about their costumes and they are so passionate and knowledgeable. I also love being on the other side, answering the public’s questions, and I love wandering around these fantastic sites in costume and imagining I have stepped back in time! It’s a really brilliant way of engaging people, especially children in history, bringing it to life, and having someone in costume to talk to makes it all seem that bit more real and relate-able, it makes the distant past more accessible. This is something I will always try to support (and take part in too!)

Spinning in the Long Gallery

Spinning in the Long Gallery

This week at Hardwick, when not oogling pretty costume, we have been carrying on the Deep Clean, we’re now in the Dining Room. I was mostly dusting the windows that are on the front of the Hall, I did get some odd looks from people outside! The weather was lovely and bright so I had a lovely time looking out while doing my cleaning. However this is going to have to go on hiatus for a little while over the next couple of weeks as we have a huge project coming up, we are re-hanging the returned Gideon Tapestries. Next week we are starting the preparation for the big event, which will be in a couple of weeks time. Firstly we shall be taking down the paintings that are hanging in the gaps where the returned tapestries will hang. There are twelve paintings to move in total, and we shall be building the scaffold in order to do so, it is a big job but I am looking forward to it. I shall tell you more about the project, along with how we got on taking the paintings down!

The Dining Room Curtains

The Dining Room Curtains

Can't complain about the view

Can’t complain about the view

The glass casting colours on the window sill

The glass casting colours on the window sill

I also seemed to spend a lot of time changing light bulbs this week. Changing light bulbs? What a boring thing to talk about, well not when your changing bulbs in a historic property, it is not as straight forward as we would like it to be. The other day it took us 45 minutes to change 2 bulbs! We had to change one in the Entrance Hall lantern, using the big ladder. The ladders live on the top floor, and the big ladder is so big we have to carry it across the top floor to the main stairs, which are wide enough to carry it down, and the across the ground floor to the bulb. The ladder is then positioned over the table in the Entrance Hall, and I can get up to change the bulb. The second bulb was on the main stairs, but needed the medium ladder, so we had to take the big one back up and across the top floor, and bring the other down! Phew! However I do love looking around when at the top of the ladders!

The ladder in the Entrance Hall

The ladder in the Entrance Hall

Much better

Much better

This week I took my first tour round Hardwick! I love talking to the public and really enjoyed taking the tours round Powis. I do miss having the depth of knowledge I did about Powis but I am working on learning as much as I can about Hardwick, and taking the tour Thursday made me realise I have already learnt quite a bit! The tours are called ‘Last One Out’ tours, where we take members of the public round with us as we close up so they get a glimpse into a part of our daily routine.

Bess' Coat of Arms in the Entrance Hall

Bess’ Coat of Arms in the Entrance Hall

It is so nice to be able to share this element of our day with the public, and they get to see Hardwick in a different light. We let them have a go at closing curtains and turning of lights, and we walk around the Hall by torch light. The tour was a lovely first tour as there were just a couple of people on it, a gentle start for me. Luckily these ‘Last One Out’ tours focus on our work and how we look after the property, the challenges we face and the steps we take to care for the collection. This element I am well versed in, and Claire and Sadie were on the tour with me so they answered the questions about the history I didn’t know. We make a fab team! I am looking forward to taking more of these tours, and will continue to build my general knowledge about the history so I can take other tours too. The House team is also going on tour training soon too!