The Companye have once again marched forth from Wolfage Manor and onto campaign at the ever lovely Hedingham Castle in Essex.
Easter was not quite so early this year, so the snowy conditions of previous campaigns were not in attendance. Despite dire warnings from the Internet doom mongers of bad weather we enjoyed a couple of glorious days of Spring and it was nice to escape modern life and enjoy the hobby once more.
For those that have not been here before, Hedingham Castle is arguably the finest surviving Norman keep in England, and the owners – in whose family the keep has been held for generations – have recently undertaken conservation measures and removed the Ivy around the gatehouse, enabled entry to this previously inaccessible area, and extended a modern walkway out so visitors can now enjoy more of this stunning castle.
The manor of Hedingham was awarded to Aubrey de Vere I by King William the Conqueror by 1086. The castle was constructed by the de Veres in the late 11th to early 12th century and the keep in the 1130s and 1140s. The castle was besieged twice, in 1216 and 1217, during the dispute between King John, rebel barons, and the French prince. (In both cases the sieges were short and successful for those besieging the castle). The castle was held by the de Vere family until 1625, during the 15th Century it was held by John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford who died there in 1513.
This year’s event was set in the year April 1471, and was staged as a powerplay between two of the most powerful men in the land, William, Lord Hastings; and the aforementioned John De Vere (Earl of Oxford). At this point in time, De Vere had escaped to Scotland with only forty men following the Lancastrian defeat at the Battle of Barnet the previous month and the restoration of the House of York. The backstory was thus:
Edward IV has not long come back to the throne, his loyal friend William Lord Hastings is trying to increase his reputation and land and has marched on Hedingham castle, Home of John De Vere who is a major Lancastrian supporter. Whilst the Battle of Barnet was a success for the House of York, William is out for revenge following his own forces defeat by Oxford’s forces during the battle. If William can take this castle he might be able to ask Edward for De Vere’s land and title and recover his reputation.
To secure this mighty stronghold, Hastings has blockaded all routes and has marched with the vanguard of his force with all haste to the castle. He has brought with him sappers and a mighty trebuchet to try and force an end to the siege as the Royal Gun Train is elsewhere. De Vere’s Castellan has sent messages out to his remaining Lancastrian allies, but can the defenders hold until they can arrive, and if they do will they be able to get though Lord Hastings forces to relieve the castle?
Unlike previous years we were not encamped at the Keep area itself, we were in the lower bailey area. This had advantages of space, but did mean we had two endure twice daily marches up the hill in armour towards the keep to enter the fray.
The morning display was a skirmish setting the scene. A core of heavily armoured men defended the road to the castle, and were encountered by the vanguard of the Hastings forces. Unit after unit hurled themselves at the defenders – who despite being heavily outnumbered, were able to use their armour and experience to cause heavy damage to the vanguard.
Eventually, sheer weight of numbers came to bear, and realising the cause was hopeless, the Magnificent Seven retreated to the main keep, leaving a battlefield strewn with large numbers of still twitching corpses of the vanguard, and a rather enthusiatic crowd begging for more.
Next, Hastings ordered the assembly of his trebuchet, hoping to intimidate the defenders into submission. Various siege weapons and tactics were displayed to the assembled public, and those inside the keep were treated to a Council of War as the defenders considered their response.
The afternoon denouement saw a full assault upon the castle. The Harrington Companye were aligned to the forces of York, and send forth a pioneer party covering the sappers who attempted to fire the gates with powder. Grabbing stout pavaises they were subjected to heavy bombardement from the archers defending the keep, but their courage (and the script!) prevailed and they made it to the gates. Smoke rolled across the battlefield as the fog of war descended but it was not enough to bring the walls down.
However, the Castellan had seen the numbers of Hastings forces which have yet to arrive and emboldened by the failure of the sap decided to attempt a sally forth and to drive Hastings’ vanguard from the Castle before the main army can appear. Men poured forth from the gate, and the Harrington Companye was soon outnumbered and fighting on all fronts. Eventually, the Lancastrian forces prevailed. The Oxford lands would indeed by confiscated (and De Vere’s wife Margaret is said to have suffered great financial hardship afterwards) but not on this day. The capacity crowd (it was sold out) showed their appreciation to what was a great start to the season’s combat.
The highlight of the battle however was the Cobham/Hartley wedge was was driven in to the Harringtons. Unfortunately, the point of the wedge encountered South African former Rugby Prop (and decorated Paratrooper) Howard, who stopped it dead and sent it back. You know that scene in the Avengers film where Hulk punches that Spaceship? Yeah, that. We need to get that man some green paint to go with the tree trunk legs. Charmingly we wedged them back the following push and they all ran away. Bless.
In modern day times, the Castle also has the honour of being the first event the Companye attended and hence plays home to our annual anniversary celebrations, where we give thanks for what we have achieved since we started. This year was no exception, and we had much planned for the weekend.
The Sunday evening saw the annual birthday party, which as usual was a costumed affair featuring song and no small amount of beer. This years theme was ‘History’. Sir William Harrington’s History Teacher outfit was voted “Somewhat lame”, but Adrian F gave us the cold war, Jo A froze for fashion (despite the fire whisperers attempts to heat the area), and Lauren and Nick gave us yet another outstanding costume combo far too risque to publish on the Internet, which is saying something – Nick will still be giving your author nightmares with that eyeliner.
But on balance this years award simply must be Matt C as Cardinal Fang – because NOBODY EXPECTS THE SPANISH INQUISITION!!
It was also great for the newcomers to the household to experience their first event and to muck in and get a feel for what it means to wear the livery of the Companye. Though they’re probably rocking backwards and forwards in a corner trying to find their happy place…
All in all, it was a great event! Next event is Kenilworth Castle for St George’s weekend – don’t miss us there!!
If you want to read more check out the local Press article which can be found here:
Plus, you can see more photos at as another gallery helpfully taken my a member of the public: