On the late May Bank Holiday, the Companye staged a spectacular Tournament at Oakham Castle in Rutland.
It was our first time at this Castle, and we were delighted to camp over in such a scenic – yet historic – setting.
ABOUT THE CASTLE
Oakham Castle, in Oakham, Rutland, was constructed between 1180 and 1190 for Walchelin de Ferriers, Lord of the Manor of Oakham. The Castle is known for its collection of massive horseshoes and is also recognised as one of the best examples of domestic Norman architecture in England.
Due to its small size, Oakham Castle does not represent the traditional image of a castle. However, what is now called Oakham Castle was originally the Great Hall of a much larger fortified manor house. This had many of the traditional features of a castle such as a curtain wall, a gatehouse and a drawbridge with iron chains. There is also historical and archaeological evidence to suggest that Oakham Castle possessed towers at strategic points along the walls as well as a moat.
There remains a unique tradition that peers of the realm should forfeit a horseshoe to the Lord of the Manor of Oakham on their first visit to the town. Two hundred and thirty horseshoes currently decorate the walls of Oakham Castle. It is thought that this tradition is linked to the de Ferrers’ family name; Ferrier was the Norman French word for farrier and the horseshoe has been a symbol of the de Ferrers family since Henry de Ferrers arrived in England in 1066. A horseshoe is used as a symbol of the county of Rutland and appears on the arms of the county council.
The oldest surviving horseshoe in the collection is one that was presented by Edward IV in 1470 after his victory at the Battle of Losecoat Field.
As ever, our tournament was contested by our teams of Harrington, Pilkington, Mortimer, and Woodhall
Sir William Harrington of Wolfage Manor
Sir Thomas Pilkington
Sir John Woodhall of Odell
Sir John Mortimer of Grendon
The event opened with an archery round. Each of our teams selected an individual to score for them, and they contested three sets of arrows on the targets – with increasing difficulty. The judging was undertaken by our red coated judges, lead by the King of Arms.
Pilkington gained a commanding lead and advantage on Sunday, but on Monday the Mortimer team had recovered to first place into the afternoon rounds.
THE GREAT HALL
As we had the run of the Great Hall at Oakham, we showcased a demonstration of medieval food and manners.
We looked at the etiquette of the period, and the differences between the classes in terms of food.
Our local gentry were waited upon appropriately, and we had a a number of questions and observations from our interested public.
THE TOURNAMENT OF FOOT
The final display of the day was our showpiece Tournament of Foot. Based on research, we showcase a medieval tournament as it might have been staged in Oakham in the second half of the 15th century.
As well as the Tournament Gallery (the only one of it’s kind we’ve seen in the UK) we also had the wooden combat arena, as per its historical counterparts.
ROUND 1 – THE SWORD AND BUCKLER
The tournee opened with the classic combination of sword and buckler. What we know of this comes primarily from the I.33 or tower manuscript, and some of the forms and wards were on display here in this first round.
Despite losing the archery, the Mortimer team was outstanding in this round on both days.
ROUND 2 – THE LONGSWORD
This round was contested by our Knights & esquires, and there was some excellent combat skills on display here. In particular, Sir John Woodhall was fiendishly fast with his sword, and dispatched his Mortimer opponent in double quick time.
ROUND 3 – THE AXE AND SHIELD
First introduced to our presentation at the Delapre Tournament in 2016, this is a firm favourite with the crowds!
By 1460, shields had been pretty much removed from the battlefields of Europe, and were considered obselete. However, there is some evidence for tournament usage – as can be seen from the images of the Emperor Maximillian below:
Given this, we decided we would include a shield round. An axe was chosen for this pairing, partly for authenticity purposes, but primarily due to restrictions in the MSS combat rules – it is hard to make a war hammer that does not ‘do exactly what it says on the tin’!
On viewing, this was a brutal spectacle that brought gasps from the watching crowds. The brightly painted shields suffered under the onslaught of our axe men, when suddenly the Woodhall team discovered Lady Harrington’s missing purse full of money! How helpful and thoughtful of them to return it to her.
Sir William was unamused, and did not remember his wife owning such a purse but the Woodhall team was granted some bonus points, and at the end of the round there was only one winner.
ROUND 4 – THE POLEAXE
This round is exclusively contested between the knights and is a full frontal assault on the audiences senses as our knights use these large destructive weapons to great effect upon their opponents harnesses of armour.
Sir William Harrington had the better of Sir Thomas Pilkington, winning two strikes to one. In the other round Sir Mortimer was not to be denied with his glaive, and as Sir John Woodhall rushed in to assault his adversary, Sir Thomas found Sir John’s gentleman vegetables with an upward flick of his glaive.
“My Lord – you appear to have dropped another purse!” – Team Mortimer
Now, the showdown between the Black and Blue was on. The dark Knight had the first point but the Mortimer glaive was just too fast and he lost the round 2-1, being driven head first through the back of the arena to boot.
ROUND 5 – KNIGHT KNOCKOUT
Two quick sessions of group combat here to encourage teamwork and defence. In this round the aim is to eliminate the Knight from the opposing team. The Knight left standing is the winner!
Pilkington team were victorious on the first day, and the Harrington team polished off their adversaries on the second day.
ROUND 6 – THE GRAND MELEE
The grand finale was now upon us. All four teams would lock horns in a brutal scrum of weapons and armour. .
On Sunday, as Pilkington were leading, this had placed a large target on their head which meant they faced the remaining teams. Despite charging the Woodhall team head on, they were soon out. Mortimer piled in to the scrum, and the Harringtons pressed their flank advantage. Sir William’s team had played it well – and claimed the full ten points. It was not enough however, and Pilkington claimed the day!
The Monday melee opened with Mortimer team leading; all eyes were upon them, expecting them to be taken down instantly by the other three teams. But, in a surprise move, the Harrington Knight and his Valet were assaulted quickly by Woodhall and Pilkington, hoping to take them out of the equation quickly and secure at least a third place finish.
This strategy worked, but it left the Mortimer team at full strength, biding their time. Taking Sir William down was not without cost for our Gold and White teams, and a full strength Mortimer was enough to overpower both. That meant a full ten points to the blue of Mortimer – and the day.
The final scores after all this mayhem was as follows:
|Pilkington (White) 27
Woodhall (Gold) 19
Harrington (Black) 17
Mortimer (Blue) 14
|Mortimer (Blue) 31
Woodhall (gold) 23
Harrington (Black) 20
Pilkington (white) 16
At the end of the tournament, our winning Knight was presented with the Sword of Honour by their Lady.
To the victor, the spoils
Following the Tournament, it was the turn of the audience to have their say in the matter..
THE HARRINGTON HORSESHOE
Of course, we could not leave Oakham without adding our own contribution!
We have within the Companye, a supremely talented young Blacksmith (AH Jones Ironworks) who is already forging a fantastic reputation across the land.
Given the tradition of visiting peers being taxed a horseshoe, we thought we had to pay our way. Of course, we are not real nobility – but Time Team also left a horseshoe and we thought we would do likewise!
Alec spent the weekend forging a shoe from scratch, and stamping it with our Companye name and date. Charlotte, the Castle Custodian was delighted to receive this gift, and it joins the others at the castle as a momento of our time here.
As the weekend drew to a close, it had been an excellent event. We’d like to thank all those who took part, and our thanks to Oakham Castle for making the event possible.
And so to June, where he Companye shall march forward to Kenilworth Castle once more!