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Once again, historian Mike Ingram has unearthed a gem during his research which sheds some insight into the later years of the 15th Century and the fate of the Northants Harringtons.
Examinacions taken at the Towne of Northn the xxvi day of April, in the xxxiii’ yere of the reigne of our Soveraine Lord Kyng Henry the viiith, before Sir Edward Montague, Knyght, Sir Thomas Tresham, Knyght, and Richard Catesby, Esquyer, by virtue of the Kyng’s Comission to theym dyrected for the pte of Thomas Latham, keapr of the Parke of Molton.
Also he saith that one Nicholas Assheton, gent beyng under keapr to Sir James Harryngton, knyght,of the said pke James a Latham, yoman, and William Harryngton, yoman, underkeaper to the said Sir James of the said waren and conyes wtin the said felds of Kyngsthorp, &c., from the beginning of the reigne of Kyng Henry the vii untyll Blackheyth feld, which the said deponent supposd was above the space of xiv or XV yeres, had the keapyng of the said waren, toke the pfits of the conyes within all the said felds of Kyngesthorp, &c., wtout lett or intrupcion of any pson or psones ; and further the said deponent . . . sayd William Harryngton
were there in the tyme of the said Sir James Harryngton. And imedyatly after the said Backhethfeld the said Sir James Harryngton was put from the office of the said Pke and waren, and then the same office was gyven to Sir Nicholas Vaux, and he was Mastr Keapr of the said Pke and waren … his life, which was by the estymacion [of the said deponent the] space of xxviii yeres . . .
H. Maye, gent, was his underkeap of the said pke and waren, and had the keapyng and pfetts of the conyes w’in the said felds of Kyngsthorp, &c., duryng the said tyme of xxviii yeres or therabouts, savyng at one tyme aboute xxi yeres past the inhabytaunts of the said towneship of Kyngsthorp complayned to the kyng’s moost honorable counsaill that the said keapr and warener had increased the nomber of the conyes witn the felds of Kyngsthorp aforesaid so greatly, that their corne and grasse in the same felds of Kyngsthorp was utfly destroyed and spoyled, and when they could not upon their said complaynt gain redresse and remedy, that then the said inhabitaunts did put in tillage and ayre Wt ploughs the same ground where the conyes had made their clappers and had their moost resorte ; and after the death of the said Sir Nicholas Vaux . . . son Lord Harryngton had . . . beyng his underkeapr by the space of iii or iiii years ; and the same Richard Humphrey had Wagstaff under him to walk and keape the said warens, and duryng the said tyme of iii or iiii yeres the said Richard Humfrey and his underkeapr had the keapyng of the said waren, and toke the pfetts of the conyes in a peysable manr, as any other prsone or prsones dyd at tyme within the remembraunce of the said deponent. John Relson, of Kyngsthorp … of the age of Ixxi years or therabouts … in the said townes of Boughton and Kyngsthorp by the space of Iv yeres last past, and now he is a bedesman in Seynt Devys in Kyngsthorp aforesaid, sworne and examyned, deposeth and saith that he did know James Latham, Nicholas Aysheton, and William Harryngton, underkeps to Sir James Harryngton, knyght, whiche Sir James had by the kyng’s gyft the keapyng of the said parke, and his said underkeap had the keapyng of the conyes within the said felds of Kyngsthorpe, &c., and toke the pfetts of the same conyes by the space of xiiii or xv yeres, but whether they had any waren w^in the said felds of Kyngsthorp, &c., or not, he knoweth not, and furthermore, the said deponent saith that the nombr of conyes is increased in the felds of Kyngsthorp in dyverse places, wherby the grasse and corne that groweth yerely there is greatly hyndred and apeyred,^ but he saith that he hath known many moo conyes wtin the said felds in a certeyn place called Blackwell Hill than are at this present day of his deposition. Richard Abbey, of the towne of North”, of the age of Ixii yeres . . . saith that one Sir James Harryngton, Knyght, at the begynnynge of the reigne of Kyng Henry Vii was maisf keapi’ of Moulton pke, and in that tyme one Thomas Abbey, father to the said Richard, another called John Lawforde, of the seid towne of Northampn, bocher, went oute of North” towne in a dark nyght with a lantern and a candell lyght in the same unto the warren betwene the felds of the said towne of Northn and Kyngsthorpe feld, intending to stele conyes wt a ferrett and pursenette, and then the underkeap of the said pke for that tyme beyng mette wt them, and they told him they went to seek for a bullock that was broken from them, and they inquired if the said keapr had sene any, and he said nay, and dyd bydde them goe on theyr weys to loke if they could fynde hym, and after they were depted from hym they had that that they dyd come for.
So, what is this all about and why is this interesting?
The above is an inquest taken in the year 1516 into some land south of Brixworth, near Kingsthorpe, which changed hands away from the Harringtons following the Battle of Blackheath Field. This battle, also known as the Battle of Deptford Bridge took place in Blackheath (south east London) on the 17 June 1497 and was the culmination of the first of the Cornish Rebellions against Henry Tudor.
Following the battle, Sir Nicholas Vaux is rewarded with the land. Sir Nicholas was knighted by Henry Tudor after the battle, and Henry VII took the opportunity to reward those who took part and punish those who rebelled.
What is also interesting, is the date. We know from Sir James Harrington’s will that he apparently dies on 26th June in 1497, nine days after the battle. He is aged ~54.
It is also worth remembering the context here:
- We believe Sir James is knighted at the coronation of Henry VII in 1485 (aged 42). The is strange given the previous family allegiance to York, and the Stanley – Harrington feud over Hornby Castle. (There is a great blog on this here, and a great piece on the castle here). However, history is what it is!
- His uncle Sir Thomas Pilkington leads the rebel army at Stoke Field. After Bosworth Sir Thomas Pilkington seems to have holed up at Urswick in North Lancashire.
Sir Thomas was attainted and his estates confiscated by the victor, Henry VII, for being on the losing side at Bosworth. He might have got his manors back later if he had kept his nose clean and sworn loyalty to the new regime. But it seems he was a “conviction Yorkist” and he just couldn’t do that. He joined the rebellion of the Earl of Lincoln and Lambert Simnel. This was crushed at the Battle of East Stoke in 1487
- Sir James loses his only son and heir William to an accident whilst crossing the mersey on his wedding day (March 4 1490). His estates will be split between his 11 daughters on his death and pass to their husbands.
- We known from his will that a large amount of his lands had already been feoffe’d to his relatives. This was a fifteenth century form of tax avoidance and also made it hard for others to claim ownership.
It is interesting to speculate on Sir James’ involvement in the first Cornish rebellion. Why is he being punished? There are perhaps three possibilities:
- It is a pure coincidence. Henry uses the later death of Sir James to reward the Vaux family.
- Sir James Harrington is involved in the battle and perhaps dies of his wounds. But which side is he on? Has Henry summoned him for war following his knighting? The army of 8,000 men assembled for Scotland under the command of Giles, Lord Daubeny (Henry’s chief general and Lord Chamberlain) was recalled and directed south. Is Sir James and his household part of that army? If so, punishing him by reassigning land may be harsh (though perhaps convenient).
- Or, has he rebelled? By this point, the Harrington’s are out of the picture on Hornby Castle and the Stanley’s firmly in control. Henry Tudor will not look again at that issue. Aged 54, and with no male heir, perhaps he decides for one final roll of the dice?
At this point, we must speculate. Without a blue box and a glamorous assistant we won’t know for certain, but the dates have aroused enough interest that this line of enquiry is worth investigating further and we’ll report back if we find anything.
As to the ultimate fate of Sir James, his will states that he is to be buried in the parish church in Brixworth if he dies within the county.
First I bequeth my soule to Alle myghti God and to oure blissid Lady Saint Marye and to alle the glorious Companye of Hevin and my body to be buried in the Parifsh Chirch of Brixworth aforesaid yf I fortune to deceafse iiygh the Countre And if I do not, thenne where myne Executpurs shall seme best
Did he die elsewhere? Well, in 2015 the Churchwarden at Brixworth allowed us to lift the victorian carpets over the Choristry and examine some of the medieval tombs underneath. The brass has gone, but we hope further work will reveal whether these are Verdun’s or the Harringtons of Wolfage Manor. One will be his father Sir William for sure.
Sir James also had a final request:
I woll that a prest be founde for ever to singe in the Parissh Chirch of Brixworth to pry for my soule my children soules and all cristin Soulis
Thomas Newbury was priest at Brixworth for 44 years, he must have known Sir James well and would no doubt have sung as instructed. Perhaps next time you are passing Brixworth Church – a world famous heritage site – you will visit and light a candle in memory of the Lords of Wolfage Manor and hope that one day all their secrets will be revealed!
Results from today’s shoot at Hazelborough
Corin B. (Harringtons /WFAC) 278
Nicky F. (WFAC) 230
Kyle A. (ind.) 158
Tony H. (Harrington’s) 152
Ben G. (Bayards) 144
Chloe M. (Harringtons / WFAC) 128
Keith A. (ind.) 112
Mark S. (Harringtons) 112
Lenette W. (Harringtons) 98
Paul M. (WFAC) 96
Kathleen D. (Harringtons) 96
Marcus B. (Harringtons) 96
Anthony F. (Harringtons) 94
Steph B. (Harringtons) 62
Mrs Jessica B. (Harringtons) 54
Carol A. (ind.) 48
Arthur T. (Harringtons) 38
Sam C. (Harringtons) 26
Cheri S. (Harringtons) 18
Scoring was over 24 targets using three arrows on each target, with the first arrow on target placing.
1st arrow – 20 kill 16 wound
2nd arrow – 14 kill 10 wound
3rd arrow – 8 kill 4 wound
Thanks to WFAC for the use of their course and targets, the catering, and to everyone who came and enjoyed themselves.
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!
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!
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.
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 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!!
…that is the question!
Continuing our series on re-enactorisms (see the previous article on bevors) we thought we would share with you some work we have been doing on Split Hose. Within the Companye we have decided to tighten up on some basic assessments and split hose have been one area of study.
Medieval trousers were known as hoses/hosen and all illustrations show them as tight fitting to the leg – the first image above is from an altarpiece by Hans Memling and illustrates wonderfully what our living historians should be aiming for in fit and silhouette. if it helps with understanding then consider the look a bit like modern female Jeggings or Ron Hill Tracksters! As well as civilian fashion, those living historians and HEMA practitioners doing experimental archaeology in harness also find this garment makes sense from a practicality purpose, as excess material can impede the function of the leg armour.
Achieving this look is actually a harder ask than the reader might think. The Companye has an annual award (The Captain Tight Pants Award) for the individual with the best looking hose as we want to encourage the correct 15th C look and body silhouette. The medieval industry actually produced many different types of wool, many of which are hard to acquire today (as they are no longer mass produced), and to leverage the natural stretchiness of the wool they were cut on the bias, and generally tailored to the wearer – labour to alter these being cheaper than most would credit. They were held up by an upper body garment such as a doublet (a pourpoint being considered essentially a sleeveless doublet) so the two together form a single overall item – rather like a tight fitting baby grow.
If the hose are not fitted correctly, they can tear. Due to the nature of the hobby, many living history suppliers who produce hose cater for a mass market. If they make them too tight they cannot sell off the peg and may tear – often in the crotch area, but if they leave them baggy then the actual look of the hosen is arguably not quite what we see in contemporary art.
Some re-enactors choose to use split hose to get around the exploding crotch issue. Separate leg hose, known as chausses did exist from the early medieval period (12th C) and persist into the 15th Century, and wear worn over underwear known as braies.
However, we must be careful to look at the style and context. There are marked differences between these items as we move across the centuries. This should not be surprising as if one considers just the 20th Century then items such as 1930’s plus fours, 1970’s flares and 1980’s Miami Vice drainpipe’s are all ‘trousers’. Yet many re-enactors mix and match with impunity across the medieval era which is an even wider time period. This is the classic feedback loop re-enactorism, whereby something becomes the accepted standard without further investigation.
As before, we will not single out any particular re-enactor/living historian or group – rather we will use a general example to illustrate our point.
So what should split hose look like? And when should they be worn?
Well the first commentary is context. Many historians note that fashion changes three times across the 15th Century and it depends on your target event on what is the best fit. Secondly, it is noted that there are far more illustrations of joined hose by the middle of the 15th Century, and split hose are shown far more for labourers or lower class use.
Where split hose are used, there are noticeable differences in 15th C hose from the earlier Chausses (Figure A above) and even 14th C examples (Figure B below).
As late as 1440 there is some evidence for hose rising to a tied single point as this example from the hours of Catherine of Cleves shows below (The Hours of Catherine of Cleves is an ornately illuminated manuscript in the Gothic art style, produced in about 1440 by the anonymous Dutch artist known as the Master of Catherine of Cleves)
However as we move further through the century these single point hose appear to cease and be replaced by either fully joined hose, or hose which are now covering the hips and buttocks, and very little of the underwear is showing.
Excellent mid 15th century examples may be seen in ‘Martyrdom of St Erasmus’ by Dieric Bouts (c. 1458), and the illumination by Robinet Testard. (Master of Charles of Angoulême, fl 1475–1523) showing miners (very much working class).
This also makes sense if one considers the changes as well to underwear which have become smaller accordingly.
(The photos above are from the excellent Historic Enterprises site (Gwen has granted permission for these to be used in our kit guide)
One argument presented around campfires is that split hose are for combatant knights. The author has found only one illustration which might meet this argument and is mid 15th. This is in a detail on a Fresco from 1452 – 1466 by Piero dell Francesca, the Victory of Heracleus, Arezzo. The points on the upper arms of the doublet would perhaps indicate this is an arming doublet for arm harness?
Nevertheless, the hose are almost complete and cover much of the buttocks. I have found no evidence for the Stanley Matthews look sported by some undertaking higher status men at arms portrayals.
To our thinking, if you are wealthy enough to afford or have been issued armour; then you are unlikely to be wearing earlier period hose. At the very least if being worn by men at arms then if they are split they should be tailored, and showing no more underwear than on the Francesca Fresco. By the tail end of the fifteenth century, all knights and esquires should be portrayed in joined hose.
As ever, we are open to new information so if you have some more images or thinking to share do please get in touch, or leave a comment on the box below. In the absence of a blue box and a glamorous assistant then we will never ever 100% know for sure, but we believe that this represents a reasoned argument and a standard the Companye should be aiming for.
We will be running Men at Arms training on the following dates:
8:15 – 10:15 on Wednesday 15th February @ Pitsford Village Hall, Northants.
11am – and a 15:30 on Saturday 18th February @ the Brixworth Centre (by the Church)
Newcomers to the Medieval Siege Society welcome.