Event Review – Hedingham Castle 2017


Sir William puts the boot in..

The Companye have returned once more from the splendid Hedingham Castle! It was only a week since we were at Kenilworth Castle and it is great to get the season in full swing once again.

Hedingham Castle is a Medieval Siege Society event, and for many – the jewel in the MSS crown. It is always a great event, and this was no different, indeed it was one of the best the Companye have done. It is also our “anniversary” event as it was at this location that the Companye made their debut all those years ago!

It was also great to see the return of Daisy to the Companye, we realised how much we had missed her when she announced during set up that “she always liked it much better when it’s dirty!”. Clearly, University life was not wasted upon her..

In other news, young Sam took the battlefield for the first time. Matt was very proud, let’s hope he’s not a chip off the old block.

Note: Authenticity Errata – We are well aware that Banner Bearers were positions of high honour and usually fully armoured and assigned to a veteran. However Sam was seconded into this role as Sir William needed someone to carry the script!! 

About the Castle

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.

About the Event

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 MSS was staging two battles per day. The Companye had been assigned the role of Castle Garrison, at that point in the service of the Earl of Oxford.

The weekend was set mere weeks after the battle of Barnet (A Lancastrian defeat). John De Vere 13th Earl of Oxford has fled to France via Scotland, but not before reinforcing Hedingham Castle. Hastings, a follower of the House of York has taken advantage of the uncertainty in the land, and sent a small force led by one of his Captains to confiscate De Vere’s lands at Hedingham.

The morning opened, with the Yorkist Captain – who wishes to get this over with quickly – attempting to capture the castle under the guise of Pilgrims, while the remaining force stays in hiding nearby. Spotting a patrol from the castle guarding the Lady Castellan, the pilgrims attempted to take her hostage and gain entry to the castle.

This subterfuge failed, and the Companye, accompanied by other defending households were deployed quickly from the Castle to resist following the arrival of the main force. After a fierce holding battle, the garrison was forced to retreat to the Castle but after heavy losses on both sides.

In the afternoon denouement, unwilling to give up the element of surprise after their win over the Patrol, the Hastings captain and his force continued their march onto the castle, hoping to get in and take over before reinforcements arrive. Unluckily for them, the Garrison had hastily erected defences to try to hold back the force, and are now relying on the gunnery platform of the castle to win the day. This set the scene for a furious and frenetic battle, as wave after wave of Yorkist attackers crashed on the Lancastrian defenders.

In the end, there was only going to be one outcome when faced with an entrenched position and the Yorkists were eventually cut down, but not without a fight. However the Douglas’s should have learnt the lessons from the Battle of Shrewsbury and avoided the Lord of Wolfage Manor!

New Balls

A scene from Shrewsbury 1406. “Now go home and take your ball with you!”

Away from the main battles there were other displays. The Harrington’s supplied a demonstration of dagger combat from the 15th Century, and Phil D was on hand to represent us in the poleaxe round.


Harrington 1, Douglas 0. New balls please…

The mighty MSS trebuchet was also present, and thankfully a barn door had even been provided as a target.


Undoubtedly though, the biggest spectacle was the return of gunnery to the castle for the first time in decades. It added so much to the spectacle. The rolling volleys of handguns from the castle barbican was particularly impressive.

There were also two poignant moments for the Companye. This was the first Hedingham event without our dear friend Rob Atkinson who passed away recently following a short illness. As is MSS tradition, we have a minutes silence at Hedingham for those absent friends, and this time Rob was remembered in our thoughts.  Nodo Firmo. 

The second was a happier affair and Tony H was awarded the Order of the Chess Rook Gules, and the role of Vintner within the Companye. This allows him to shout at us, not that he appeared to need permission anyhow.

After hours we usually stay on site, but Hedingham has a word class public house (The Bell, highly recommended) and we decamped there. It was packed, but thankfully being a skinny runt Dan was still able to get a seat…

All in all, it was a great Hedingham and thanks to the Cobhams, Bonivants and Douglases (3StarsAllHeart) we fought against, and the Middletons and Bayards who fought beside us.  Thanks for making it so much fun.

The season moves on, and the Companye now march onwards to Oakham Castle.. its Tournament Time baby!

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