Easter saw our first public event of 2016, and our first ever event at the splendid Tutbury Castle.
Tutbury Castle is a largely ruined medieval castle at Tutbury, Staffordshire, England, in the ownership of HM The Queen via the Duchy of Lancaster.
In the early medieval period, Tutbury Castle became the headquarters of Henry de Ferrers and was the centre of the wapentake of Appletree, which included Duffield Frith. With his wife Bertha, he endowed Tutbury Priory with two manors in about 1080. It would seem that Tutbury at that time was a dependency of the Norman abbey of St Pierre‑sur‑Dives. The castle was destroyed by Prince Edward in 1264 after the rebellion of Robert de Ferrers, 6th Earl of Derby. In 1269, after a further rebellion the lands were given to Edmund Crouchback and have remained part of the Duchy of Lancaster.
Apart from the 12th century chapel the ruins date from the 14th and 15th centuries when the castle was rebuilt.
During the second half of the 15th Century, the castle and it’s privileges were given by King Edward IV to his brother the Duke of Clarence; but after his attainder and death (being drowned in a butt of malmsey) the King caused an act of resumption to be passed and this property again reverted to the Crown.
The Harrington Companye had been requested to bring our famous tournament presentation to this splendid castle and it was an honour to do so. Medieval groups have not been present at the site for a number of years now and it was a show of faith in the Companye that we could do the site justice.
Despite the traditional English bank holiday weather of driving rain and force ten gales, we were not going to let that stop proceedings. As usual, we would have four tournament teams of Harrington (Black), Pilkington (White), Mortimer (Blue) and Woodhall (Gold)
DAY 1 – EASTER SUNDAY
Easter Day started with the archery tournament. Winter has seen us invest in not one but two new targets, designed to test our archers to the max. First each archer demonstrated their skill on the difficult hanging bags, the gusty wind conditions meaning each archer had to time their shots perfectly, and use ‘tells’ from the terrain to consider how the wind might affect their shot.
Then, it was onto the main target, where each archer competed to see who could be closest to the centre and indeed hit the nail upon the head.
At the end of the first session, Alec, shooting for the Harrington team had built a score of 12 points, a healthy two point lead on the other three teams, which was taken into the afternoon tournament.
Next we had our medieval ‘Come Dine with Me’ experience, where the public were encouraged to bring their own lunch and learn more about 15th Century table manners and why they were important.
Our noble ladies were waited upon by the serving valets, and we were delighted to answer so many well thought out questions from the obviously engaged attending public.
And so, to the Tournament of Foot!
Our unique Tournament Gallery looked wonderful against the backdrop of the Castle, and as our Knights and their teams were paraded into the arena, our noble ladies took their places ready for the spectacle to unfold.
The first rounds showcased individual weapon types. Each team send forward one of their number – be he Knight, Esquire or Valet, who proceed to pair off, with the winner from each pair then fighting it out for 3 points or 2 points respectively. The Mortimer valets were keen to make up for the archery showing earlier in the day and were in fine form with the single handed sword. Next up was the longsword, Sir William Harringtom himself strode forward for this one and proceeded to win the bout, extending the Black team’s lead. Lastly, it was the turn of the most fearsome of weapon categories – the brutal, skull crushing poleaxe. These are only wielded by our Knights in the full harnesses of shining steel and they proceeded to demonstrate their skill much to the delight of the crowd, and despite the inconvenient cloudburst! At the end, Sir John Mortimer was victorious – though not before Sir William Harrington had removed the crest from his helmet, the red Dragon plummeting to the ground in the manner reminiscent of a recent rugby result at Twickenham..
The individual weapon rounds over, it was time for the team combat to begin. The first round was a test of teamwork and leadership, where each team fights another, the objective being to take out the opposing knight as quickly as possible, encouraging our esquires and valets to learn the art of defending whilst attacking, and working as a unit. The Harrington’s were having a good day, and at the end of the three bouts, they were the strongest team.
Having built a commanding lead, going into the final round – the spectacular Grand Melee – this meant they had acquired something of a large glowing target painted upon them. All against all, the final team standing gains a massive 10 points, the next 5 points and third 3. And a big fat zero for last. As the teams moved into readiness, and the King of Arms and his Marshalls counted down, the crowd knew what was coming.
Quick as a flash, the Harrington team charged across the arena, aiming to knock out their Mortimer rivals. However, it was clear some alliances had been made and Mortimer held their ground whilst Pilkington and Woodhall slammed into the sides and rear of the team in black. It was quickly over for the Harringtons who slumped to the ground working out what day of the week it was. Woodhall had taken some punishment in the process however and were down two of their team, which quickly told as they were dispatched by the white team of Pilkington. Mortimer were not to be denied however and mopped up the remainder – leaving them victorious and claiming the full ten points – well played that team.
It was not enough however, and at the end of the tournament the scores were as follows.
Day 1 Scores
|Team||Archery||Sword||Longsword||Poleaxe||Knight Knockout||Grand Melee||Total|
As the winning Lady, Elizabeth Harrington descended from the gallery with the Sword of Honour, which she presented to her husband, to the cheers from the audience – who had stayed on to watch, even despite the weather.
DAY 2 – EASTER MONDAY
Dawn rose to a rather sodden campsite after a full strength storm the night before. The tents were all still standing however, and a cup of warm drink always makes things seem less daunting.
The public descended in even greater numbers, and we were keen to see if the results would be different today.
There was a change of personnel in the archers and whilst this paid off for some teams, it did not bear fruit for others. The swirling wind proved tricky for some and at the end, the Blue team of Mortimer had built the biggest score, and were leading by one from the Gold team of Woodhall, who had some fine shooting on the boss.
The Tournament of Foot saw much better weather, and brought out the capacity crowd who were in a wonderfully vocal mood. Mortimer built a lead in the early rounds, before Pilkington moved ahead in the team combat rounds. This time, it was Woodhall who bore the brunt of the Grand Melee, with the Harrington team achieving a flawless victory at the end and claiming the ten points, making up for a previously dire performance in the foot tournee.
At the end, Pilkington were victorious – and by a single point margin. Lady Pilkington came down and presented her husband with the sword of honour, last presented to them at Goodrich Castle.
Day 2 Scores
|Team||Archery||Sword||Longsword||Poleaxe||Knight Knockout||Grand Melee||Total|
There was one final act – Sir William called the Companye together and after a full year’s service Spencer H was awarded the honour of the Harrington Knot and full membership of the Companye. Nodo Firmo.
But the event wasn’t just about the tournament. The living history encampment was entertaining and informing throughout the two days, with armour handling sessions, and crafts demonstrated such as our carpenter at work.
It also featured the debut of our new reproduction forge – worked ceaselessly by our master blacksmith Alec. This is new for this season and he has done a fantastic job with this reproduction, putting in hours of research into getting it as right as we can for a portable forge that may have been taken alongside an army.
Sadly, this innovation means that ‘bellows duty’ is now an actual thing. On the plus side, it keeps idle hands busy!
Feedback from the Castle Custodian has been excellent – “I knew you would be good, but I had no idea you would be THIS good!” and we were delighted when we were granted a personal guided tour of the site. It has to be said, it was one of the friendliest events we have ever undertaken and the staff at Tutbury are fantastic and a true credit to the site.
But don’t just take our word for it, the local press gave us a glowing review as well which can be found here: Burton Mail Press Article
Plans are already afoot to return there soon, so if you missed us at this site this time – do look out for us next time!
Our next event is at Kenilworth Castle for St George’s Weekend in April, always a favourite – we’ll see you then!