The free Medieval Weekend, organised by the Road to Agincourt project, was recently held at Manor Farm and Country Park, Bursledon.
The weekend was being launched to open a new walk, enabling people to walk down to the River Hamble where they could see the wreck of The Grace Dieu, one of Henry V’s ships. The interactive map I have written about in my previous Chandler’s Ford Today posts was in evidence too.
All still pictures in this two-part post were taken by me unless stated otherwise.
The walk was a pleasant one and I highly recommend it. The great thing is you don’t need a special weekend to go on this but the walk wasn’t the only thing about the weekend, far from it.
There was medieval music, acting and dancing, all taking part were in period costume, there were re-enactments and a complete medieval village. The latter showed the different roles people had – the herbalist, the archer, the fletcher, the carpenter and so on. Other roles such as the cooper (barrel maker) were referred to (in this case by the taverner, naturally).
The way I might have lived
I find it fascinating to look at the way others live (in some ways it is why I write fiction, you can explore all sorts of avenues when you invent characters and stories). However, on longevity grounds, I am so glad I don’t have to live in medieval times (or in some of the stories I invent!).
I worked out my almost 20 year old son would have been a professional soldier, my younger cousin at 16 would have been a mother (probably twice over) by now and her mother and I would, at our respective ages (50 in my case), be the wise old women of the village. Much more likely, we would both probably have been dead already due to repeated pregnancies. Childbirth was much more dangerous then, given the lack of hygiene (as we understand it now) and the limited medical intervention available (especially for poorer women).
Historical re-enactments are a wonderful way of bringing the past to life and, in themselves, go back a considerable way. The Romans held them. Jousting tournaments in medieval times often had re-enactments of ancient Roman history. The website Historic UK has an Events Diary which lists re-enactments and the link takes you to that.
The importance of medieval period
The medieval period is a strange one in some senses as it covers a vast period – from the 5th Century to 1485 (Battle of Bosworth. The latter is one of the most important and undervalued battles in our history. Think about what would have happened had Richard III not been killed. No Tudors, no Reformation with all that entails. And Anne Boleyn would have lived and died an unknown woman in Richard’s reign, we’d never have had Elizabeth as Queen, there would’ve been no Armada and so on. It is amazing sometimes on what things history can pivot).
I found looking into aspects of everyday life, as shown by the weekend, fascinating. I have absolutely no doubt had I been born then I would definitely have been a peasant! I did like the way the community would have supported one another though. I think we have lost something in losing that.
The rest of this post (which will continue into next week as well) will look at some of the villagers’ lives, their occupations and review the weekend overall.
What I saw
The array of tents was a splendid sight on coming into the medieval village though I found it interesting that the scribe had the most luxurious one with furs on the wooden bed, on the floor and a highly decorated inside “wall”. Given writers can moan now about being undervalued (!), the scribe as represented by this tent certainly wasn’t. Indeed in an age where most could not read and write, his role was highly valued. There was always a job for a scribe, as I’ll show shortly.
So many of our surnames have their origins in jobs from centuries ago. Some examples include Fletcher, Weaver, Baker, Carpenter, Cartwright and so on.
Scribe / Scrivener
The scribe (or scrivener) had the most luxurious tent of all I saw during the Medieval Weekend!
I was interested in the scribe’s alternative title of Scrivener. I use a software package called Scrivener to produce my stories and CFT posts.
I was interested in the variety of beautiful seals the scribe used and the calligraphy is truly beautiful. He would have written on vellum.
Red ink was produced by crushing cochineal beetles. Black ink was produced by a variety of methods. The one I was told about at this weekend involved crushing oak apples and blending the liquid that comes out with rusty metal!! The reason for the rusty metal was it was used as a thickening agent! I was intrigued by this. Who found this out first? What made them think of even trying the rusty metal idea?
A scribe was never out of work in an era where literacy was low. As well as writing, the scribe would read for people any documents they needed to understand and would be either paid a fee or carry out this work for gifts in kind (for example, free hospitality).
I wonder how many secrets the scribes of this period discovered and how many of them were dishonest? Were there vital secrets not passed on when they should have been? Were lives destroyed by the revelation or retention of critical information? Would there have been anyone to check the scribe was acting professionally and honestly?
Maybe there is truth in the pen being mighty than the sword. Certainly the scribe would have had an enormous amount of influence.
I didn’t get to see the carpenter himself but did see his woodworking tools and some of the beautiful bowls he had created.
This had relevance for my cousin and I as our mutual grandfather “worked in wood” and many carpentry tools have not changed that much over the centuries.
And then there were the fletcher, the taverner and the herbalist to name a few but more of those in the next post.
But to leave with a thought…
And am I grateful to be living in our current times despite all the horrors going on in the world? Yes! For one thing I am still here. For another I can read and write. For another my role in life is not necessarily dictated by my gender.
I throw the question out – if you could travel back in time, which era would you must like to visit and why? (I’d love to know what happened to The Princes in The Tower, just to name one example).
Highlights from Road to Agincourt’s Medieval Weekend
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