The Companye have returned from our annual April event at the splendid Kenilworth Castle. Staged by Historic England (previously English Heritage) we celebrated the festival of St George – patron Saint of England.
The Festival of St George is a firm favourite with English Heritage members and members flock from all over the country, and well as a large local turnout. As well as the Harrington Companye, the event featured performances by Mark Vance as St George, a rather humorous (and pungent) Dragon, as well as music by Myal Piper, and activities from Griffin Historical.
About the Castle
Kenilworth Castle is located in the town of the same name in Warwickshire, England. Constructed from Norman through to Tudor times, the castle has been described by architectural historian Anthony Emery as “the finest surviving example of a semi-royal palace of the later middle ages, significant for its scale, form and quality of workmanship”. It is certainly an impressive place to spend the weekend!
The castle was built over several centuries. Founded in the 1120s around a powerful Norman great tower, the castle was significantly enlarged by King John at the beginning of the 13th century. Huge water defences were created by damming the local streams, and the resulting fortifications proved able to withstand assaults by land and water in 1266. John of Gaunt spent lavishly in the late 14th century, turning the medieval castle into a palace fortress designed in the latest perpendicular style.
Many castles, especially royal castles were left to decay in the 15th century; Kenilworth, however, continued to be used as a centre of choice, forming a late medieval “palace fortress”.
Henry IV, John of Gaunt’s son, returned Kenilworth to royal ownership when he took the throne in 1399 and made extensive use of the castle. In 1403, after the Battle of Shrewsbury (Editor: You know, the one where the Douglas lost the testicle fighting the Harringtons – Not that we remind them), Sir James Harrington was knighted and it is highly probable that it was at this very castle.
Henry V also used Kenilworth extensively, but preferred to stay in the Pleasance, the mock castle he had built on the other side of the Great Mere. According to the contemporary chronicler John Strecche, who lived at the neighbouring Kenilworth Priory, the French openly mocked Henry in 1414 by sending him a gift of tennis balls at Kenilworth. The French aim was to imply a lack of martial prowess; according to Strecche, the gift spurred Henry’s decision to fight the Agincourt campaign. The account was used by Shakespeare as the basis for a scene in his play Henry V.
As well as our award winning living history encampment, we undertook two arena displays each day.
In the morning, we staged a display of archery from the fifteenth century. The public were entertained with speed shoots, a display of accuracy and really got into cheering our archers on. This culminated with a Companye specialty – the Reduced Harrington Companye portrayal of the Battle of Agincourt.
Thousands of French knights met their deaths at the hands of our skilled archers, the stench of garlic was truly horrendous.
Then at lunchtime we debuted something new for this year – medieval dancing! We had been working with Myal Piper to bring this to this location for the first time. Hours of effort (Editor: yeah right) went into learning authentic medieval dancing which was displayed to the public to the fantastic music provided.
This went down an absolute storm, and then we managed to get members of the public up to join in some dances with us. Great fun! We’re really grateful to Myal Piper for allowing us the opportunity to learn, hopefully we’ll repeat this with them again soon 😊
In the afternoon, we staged a display of fifteenth century combat, were we showcased the various weapon types from the period. Dagger, Sword & Buckler (I.33), Longsword, Spear, Poleaxe were all demonstrated to the cheering crowds – who soon caught on and cheered.
Finally, it was time for a group melee – the Circles of Honour, and Treachery. The crowd (unsurprisingly) chose Treachery, and there was much ganging up on those with more armour!
Sunday saw a repeat of our displays and even more public. A little over 2500 public visited the site over the weekend, and many were repeat visitors who love what we do – and we love entertaining them. Kenilworth always draws an appreciative crowd and we love being part of this fantastic event. It’s also worth pointing out that the 2500 public all seemed to congregate around Spencer’s fantastic new living history presentation – no wonder he was knackered!
You can find a full album of photographs here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/matthewdcrosbyphotographic/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1690738874274948
We return to Kenilworth again in June for the Grand Medieval Joust – watch this space for updates!
Next up – Hedingham Castle beckons… and clearly some people just can’t wait!!