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2011; the year so far..

August 14, 2011

The start of May seems so far away now, but that was when this year’s events began for me. Guisborough, up in North Yorkshire, not far from Whitby and Scarborough had a huge celebration to mark the 450th anniversary of the founding of its college by Prior Pursglove. It was a long drive up the A1 but worth it for the excellent event which was so well organised and very much a community event.

The atmosphere was vibrant and friendly. The college has been holding all sorts of events this year to celebrate their anniversary and the Pageant was the culmination: although the history interpreters were based in the school grounds, the community was also involved in a huge open picnic in the Abbey grounds where there were a number of local craft and interest stands. The day started with brisk exercise: everyone in costume was invited to participate in the town parade which also included the mayor, other dignitaries and representatives from the church as well as vast numbers of students and staff. I particularly liked the imaginative costumes that students had prepared. There was a bunch of knights riding hobby horses, and a gaggle of geese girls driving roll-along toy geese. The mixture of humour, celebration and history interpretation was just right and many families spent all day sauntering around and chatting whilst hearing about all sorts of things from alchemy to crime and confectionery to medicine. Even King Henry VIII was there. Everyone, from students and staff to visitors on the day made us all most welcome, and even the weather behaved, staying dry if not particularly sunny throughout.

Unfortunately the same could not be said for June. This was a month of extremes. At Blickling Hall in North Norfolk which has close associations with the Boleyn family there was an unusual event which children especially enjoyed. Titled the Return of the Queens, this ambitious event saw King Henry surrounded by all SIX of his wives who, under the circumstances, all behaved impeccably. The visitors were encouraged to speak to each of the wives and hear what they had to say about their reigns and the period in which they had lived. At the end of the afternoon the children all took part in an almsgiving where they each chose their favourite queen and received a replica coin of the period if they had successfully managed to extract each queen’s password. There were lots of other displays, too: some gruesome instruments designed to encourage people to tell the truth (or anything the questioner wanted to hear), outstanding falconry displays, demonstrations of the noisy new fangled hand guns that were becoming popular, manners and formal dining. However the rain cast dampness over everything. There were brief periods of sunshine but for visitors it really was wellie weather, especially on the Sunday when, tauntingly, things only improved as the stable clock struck 5pm.

However the following weekend it was the opposite story. As the tents went up on the Cathedral green at Peterborough on Friday so the temperature rose, and kept on rising. The living history festival at Peterborough has been growing in popularity each year, and this year it surpassed itself, sprawling all over the Cathedral grounds, into the Dean’s garden, and for the first time this year, into the grounds of the Bishop’s Palace, too, where we were all made most welcome. All weekend the walkways were thronged with visitors who could contact with almost every period in English history from the Romans right through to the Second World War. The event is masterminded by Vivacity, the City’s cultural and leisure department who work with the Cathedral to provide this annual celebration for the city. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves very much, and the volunteers on duty in the wonderful Medieval Cathedral with its Catherine of Aragon connection welcomed everyone who came to admire its architecture or just cool off from  the soaring 90 degrees of heat.

The start of August saw a repeat of the Glorious Britannia celebration that had been so popular last year at Hoveton Hall near Wroxham in Norfolk. These glorious gardens, with their hydrangea walk, woods, lake, herbaceous garden and walled vegetable garden celebrated their 200th anniversary in 2010. Sadly this year the weather again turned foul, raining for most of Saturday before bedevilling everyone with brisk and most unseasonal wind all Sunday. Despite all that, there were musicians, a Victorian photographer using traditional methods to record the day, soldiers from the Boer war, Backwoods falconry, and Lord Holkham’s travelling museum of curiosities which included a mummy and a monster. Even Queen Victoria herself made an appearance, as did Miss Florence Nightingale, though one or two children were a little disappointed to discover that during the hours of daylight she didn’t carry her famous lamp!

All the events were organised by Black Knight Historical and we are now about half way through the year’s events. The great Medieval Spectacular at Pensthorpe takes place at the end of August, followed rapidly by Medieval Merriment at Rochester Castle, which this year is concentrating on the year of the seige, 1215. Before all those, however, the Isle of Man is hosting a great 1940s weekend over 20-21st of this month. A swing band and vehicles from the wartime period are promised as well as military personnel

From → Events

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