Event Review – The 1471 Battle of Tewkesbury

by Guest Reporter Dan Dan the Gardening Man

July 14th – 15th saw a few members of the Companye attend Tewkesbury Medieval festival in Gloucestershire, touted as the largest free Medieval festival in Europe, drawing in fighters and public from far and wide. If unfamiliar with Tewkesbury, the festival site is vast, featuring an array of stalls selling Medieval weaponry, furniture, pottery, a huge beer tent and yet more weaponry amongst other things. It’s fairly difficult to avoid the temptation to shop immediately upon arrival . Tewkesbury itself has streets lined with banners of the households who fought in 1471 and several events centred around the beautiful abbey (a visit is thoroughly recommended). As seems tradition for this event, it was another blisteringly hot weekend. For those fighting, it comes as small relief that there is only one battle a day.

tewks weather

It was hotter than that Michael..

Despite the shock of it actually raining on the journey over, Friday night gradually became increasingly sultry, the beer tent rapidly resembling a sauna. Outside was fresher, until Dozer let rip although it was great to see him again. True to form, Dozer had us in stitches for most of the weekend.
Saturday dawned very warm, the aroma of cooking bacon wafting on the breeze and so too the smell of the sewage treatment works. Tasty. Whatever one’s reasons for attending, there is no denying that it is a pretty relaxed event. After a leisurely breakfast, it’s usually shopping time. Unfortunately this year, it seemed most traders had working card machines… and the beer tent does “cash back”. There are only so many times one can recite the mantra “I’ll live off baked beans for a month”. Wandering around the market, the intensity of the heat increasing all the while, it became a battle in itself to take on enough fluid in preparation for the main event. A slight compromise had been reached that meant muster was a little later this year, but veterans of Tewkesbury know well that standing around in armour in the blazing sun (in splendour) is de rigueur for this event.

tewks tree

The shaded bit at muster

As usual, the MSS were fighting on the left side of the field with the Lancastrian force. Much like the previous weekend’s event at Northampton, the re-enactment takes place on the edge of the actual battle field itself. Looking across the meadows towards the abbey, upon a sight which has likely changed little in the intervening centuries, is a fairly humbling experience. The MSS have worked hard to improve the historical standards of it’s combatants but unfortunately the same could not be said for others attending. Some appeared to have arrived 500 years too late. Being the first on the field meant quite a long wait for all lines to form up which only added to the air of expectation for the battle ahead. Finally, the call went up to march towards the enemy. March we did. Past the half way point, still going. And then a bit more, ending up almost in the Yorkist archery block. This didn’t seem quite right but it was time for a quick clash and then pull back, back past the half way marker. Then pull back a bit a bit more! This sadly seemed to be the measure of the first days fight. There is a strong chance that May 1471 was less chaotic and probably had some decent fighting too. The unwillingness of certain factions to engage was baffling.

yorkist van

Yorkists..

Playing dead after the final push almost felt an achievement – it was good to actually be doing something. Sorry, not one to get misty eyed about this time. Maybe tomorrow would be better but in the meantime, cold beers awaited and so a hasty retreat was made to the camp site.

After freshening up and the public having left, the site takes on more of a party atmosphere particularly centred around the beer tent, with live music on offer. An open mind and eclectic taste are useful prerequisites although the first act on were distinctly odd, putting such attributes to the test. A fine selection of beverages at the bar though and plenty of space outside if the music fails to impress.
Sunday was more or less an exact repeat of the day before although there was some debate about which day was actually the hottest. To be honest, precise temperature measurement is irrelevant in such conditions but at least the battle flowed more smoothly today. Whilst not a Tewkesbury to remember with great fondness, it was still a fun, enjoyable weekend away with friends and that, after all, is what this hobby is about.

See you next year!

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