Archive for August, 2015

Event Review – Goodrich Castle Tournament

Goodrich Drawbridge Shot

During mid august, the Companye staged a “Fighting Knights” tournament for English Heritage at Goodrich Castle.


Goodrich Castle is a now ruinous Norman medieval castle situated to the north of the village of Goodrich in Herefordshire, England, controlling a key location between Monmouth and Ross-on-Wye. It was praised by William Wordsworth as the “noblest ruin in Herefordshire” and is considered by historian Adrian Pettifer to be the “most splendid in the county, and one of the best examples of English military architecture”.

Goodrich Castle was probably built by Godric of Mappestone after the Norman invasion of England, initially as an earth and wooden fortification. In the middle of the 12th century the original castle was replaced with a stone keep, and was then expanded significantly during the late 13th century into a concentric structure combining luxurious living quarters with extensive defences. The success of Goodrich’s design influenced many other constructions across England over the following years. It became the seat of the powerful Talbot family before falling out of favour as a residence in late Tudor times.

We were delighted to accept the event at Goodrich as surprisingly has links with Northampton. Goodrich remained the favourite home of the Richard Talbot’s descendants for many years. During the early years, the security situation in Wales remained of concern. Owain Glyndŵr rebelled against English rule in 1402 and Welsh forces invaded the Goodrich area in 1404 and 1405. Gilbert Talbot was responsible for fighting back the Welsh advance and securing the castle. As time went on, however, the threat began to diminish. During the 15th century the Talbots considerably expanded the size of the lord’s quarters in the castle and provided additional accommodation for servants and retainers.


The Talbots became the Earls of Shrewsbury in 1442, shortly before the Wars of the Roses in which they supported the Lancastrian faction. The wars meant that the Talbots were frequently fighting elsewhere in England, and often staying at their castle in Sheffield. John Talbot died in the Lancastrian defeat at Northampton in 1460, and the castle was forfeited and transferred to the Yorkist William Herbert. William Herbert was the main player at the 1469 Battle of Edgecote in Northants, before being dragged to Northampton and executed at the Eleanor Cross.

John’s son, also called John Talbot, later made his peace with the king, however, and regained control of his lands and Goodrich Castle before his death in 1473.

The Companye recreated a tournament that could feasibly have happened at Goodrich around the 1460 – 1469 timeline. During the period of transition, such festivities could have formed part of entertaining the locals during this unsettled times. As there is no record of the Herberts taking part themselves (they were based at Raglan Castle) we decided to keep with the settled teams from our 1460 tournament at Delapre, to add an element of Northampton based flavour.

Goodrich itself is not designed for vehicular access. The tournament was staged in the dry moat – which meant that every bit of equipment – including the Tournament Gallery and arena – had to be manhandled in. Fortunately, this task which has daunted other living history groups was not a challenge to a pioneer Companye and we rolled up our sleeves and soon had the job done.

We were joined by a couple of guests, a rogue Cobham, and our friends in the Company of St Barbara (aka The Legion of Boom) who ditched guns for pure living history that weekend and most welcome they were too.


Our tournament opened with a display of medieval archery from all present, before the champions from Harrington, Mortimer, Woodhall and Pilkington stepped forward to decide the final placings. This was a shoot off of three arrows against a target – with points awarded for First, Second and Third place.


“This archery lark is easy…”


The tournament itself was based upon our successful format used earlier in the year at Delapre Abbey. with some slight tweaks to meet the “Fighting Knights” brief from the client. These are based upon the writings of Rene of Anjou, and provide a useful insight into their historical counterparts. This time, instead of each team fighting every other team from the off, it was decided to showcase the different weapon types used by our Knights, namely dagger, sword, longsword, and poleweapon. It should be noted that daggers were banned in 15th C tournaments, but it was decided to accept the slight historical deviation to allow our more lightly armoured members to play a role.


Our King of Arms… “Two men enter – one man leaves!!”

Each team sent out an individual combatant, who was whittled down to the final pairing, Points were awarded for finishing first or second in each round.

Then, once our capacity audience were familar with the weapons – we moved on to Knight Knockout. In this round, the top two teams face off against each other and try and eliminate the opposing team by dispatching their knight. The process is repeated with the teams lying 3rd and 4th, and is a useful way for the team lying in forth to obtain some points.


Longsword – Woodhall versus Pilkington

Lastly, all the teams are thrown into the arena for the Grand Melee!! The final way to accrue points, and a now traditional piling on of the team who happens to be leading at that point!

Below is a selection of photos from the Foot Tournee.


Pilkington team enter the arena


Pole weapon round – Harrington versus Woodhall


The Black and White teams dispute a point with the King of Arms. Sadly, despite being a member of the medieval church he was not open to monetary inducements..


The Gold team of Woodhall FINALLY win a point!

Black team

Harrington team advance


Sword and Buckler. Mortimer versus Pilkington, whilst the Ladies enjoy the sport from their Tournament Gallery

The Tournaments were especially well received the local crowd, and feedback from English Heritage has been excellent. The crowd was particulary vocal in their support – espcially towards the man in white. This was a mystery at first, until it was realised by the other teams that the Pilkington team had been heading off every entrant to the living history encampment and recruiting them to cheer for the white team, and that the man in black was a “wrong ‘un who drank his own bathwater”.


Well, it worked anyhow…


Round Winner (Sat)
Archery Mortimer
Dagger Mortimer
Sword & Buckler Mortimer
Longsword Harrington
Poleweapon Harrington
Knight Knockout Pilkington
Grand Melee Woodhall

Overall winner was the white of PILKINGTON, with HARRINGTON coming second, MORTIMER third, and WOODHALL last.


Pilkington victorious!


Round Winner (Sun)
Archery Mortimer
Dagger Woodhall
Sword & Buckler  Pilkington
Longsword  N/A
Poleweapon Mortimer
Knight Knockout Woodhall
Grand Melee Woodhall

Overall winner was the white of PILKINGTON, with MORTIMER coming second, HARRINGTON third, and WOODHALL last.

Evening entertainment was a wonderful campfire beneath the stars. The skies cleared, there was zero light pollution, and we were luck to catch the last of the Perseids whilst singing songs of old.


Saturday evening also saw The Rocky Harrington Picture Show.

It was discovered that some of our members had managed to get through their life without having seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show. No, we have no idea how you manage to make 30 without seeing it – but we intended to put that right.

So, a campfire lit showing ensued – clustered around a laptop.  This was worth its entertainment value for a number of reasons. Chiefly, we didn’t know Corin could sing – let alone the fact he was word perfect. And secondly, for the reaction of banner bearer Jess, who’s commentary is now a matter of group legend..

“But that was Susan Sarandon!!I l LOVE HER. She was Jo’s Mum in Little Women! She cant do this to me!!”  – During the opening

“You mean this isn’t just a school disco song?” – During Time Warp

“Hang on. Wait. Is THAT Tim Curry??!!”  – About 80% of the way through (seriously).

“What the actual **** was that??” – During the end credits. 

Overall, it was probably the best tournament we have done so far – and the best event of the year. Even having to manhandle everything back up the cliff face to the cars couldn’t dampen the spirits of what had been a really wonderful event at a splendid location.

Next review – Bosworth Field (Coming Soon)


Jess, deep in thought – “But that was Susan Sarandon!! She was Jo’s Mum in Little Women! She cant do this to me!!”

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