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Pensthorpe Medieval Spectacular 2013: Hereward awakes

August 21, 2013

The end of August approaches. It’s been a busy year for events and this year things will not slow down with the approach of Autumn. The bank holiday long weekend sees the ninth multi period medieval event at Pensthorpe up in North Norfolk. This is a terrific event which has grown and developed year on year. This weekend the event is highlighting an English folk hero with roots in reality: Hereward the Wake. He lived in the mid 11th century, based somewhere around the then Isle of Ely, and led popular opposition to the Normans who had become the ruling class following the defeat of Harold and the Saxon army at the
Battle of Hastings in 1066.
When he was alive his nickname seems to have been ‘exile’ or ‘outlaw’, thought to have been imposed by the Saxon king, Edward the Confessor, for his unruly behaviour as a young man which forced him across the sea, perhaps to Flanders. In many ways his activities rival those of a later figure, Robin Hood, but whereas Robin has survived in popular myth and TV adaptation, Hereward has become a vague, mysterious character who receives little popular acknowledgement. The epithet ‘Wake’ was not recorded until much later, perhaps the 14th century and means watchful or wakeful – in other words that he was awake to the threat of change wrought by the Normans. At the time he lived the Fenland areas around Cambridgeshire and parts of Norfolk were sparsely populated, and the sudden mists and little known safe ways through the marshy area allowed him to operate a guerilla war against the Norman forces. According to legend he became violently opposed to the Normans after they murdered his brother and stuck his head on a spike, but since legend also entangles him with maidens, dragons and giants it is difficult now to know where fact ends and the embroidery of myth begins. Doubtless Pensthorpe will see both battles and myth from the storytellers this weekend.
As the event covers the whole of the Medieval period it is not only Hereward who will be celebrated. There will be Vikings and later medieval figures and the afternoons will host a formal joust which has become a popular finale to the day’s activities.

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