Saturday, September 5, 2015

2015: the year to date and highlights still to come

Once again, silence from the blog most certainly doesn't mean De Vey has been inactive! It has been another busy year both for local events and national ones.

Upcoming events

Harby Country Show

Next weekend, 12-13 September, we are back at Harby Country Show. This is a lovely country show in the Vale of Belvoir which we are really looking forward to and which is well worth a visit. As you can see from the photo below, it was a little damp last year so we're hoping for warmer weather this year!

De Vey at Harby Country Show 2014. Copyright Harby Country Show.

Sherwood Through the Ages

Our final show of the season will be Sherwood Through the Ages at Sherwood Forest, on 3-4 October. We've attended this show since it began and it's always a fantastic end to the season. What could be better than camping in Sherwood Forest in early autumn? Morning mists, vibrant leaves, and the smell of campfires through the trees. Sadly this is the last year the show will be running so don't miss this chance to enjoy it. Check out Red Zebra's photographs  to whet your appetite.

Events so far

Rufford Abbey

De Vey was back at Rufford Abbey for the Grand Historical Bazaar in April again. This is another favourite local show featuring re-enactors from all periods. Unfortunately every time I changed into modern clothes to take photographs it rained so I've only got the one shot below.

Toki explaining about grain is ground. Photo copyright by Caroline Williams.

Magna Carta at Sherwood Pines

The Friends of Thynghowe brought Regia back to Sherwood Pines for the third year this year, this time to celebrate 800 years of Magna Carta. It was another storming show with a strong De Vey presence. We're very much hoping to be back again next year! Several De Vey members got a mention in the local press as well!

Elkesley Village Fete

This was a fabulous local show, based on celebrating the historic tradition of walking the parish bounds. It was a really great event and we're delighted to have been invited back again next year. The provisional date is 16 July 2016 so put it in your diaries!

Talking to the public on the wic. Photograph copyright David Askew, organiser of Elkesley Village Fete.

Poser. Photograph copyright David, organiser of Elkesley Village Fete.

Combat. Photograph copyright David, organiser of Elkesley Village Fete.

King John at Newark Castle

Newark Castle is another one of those sites that you just can't beat for a show, and Regia was lucky enough to be invited to do a Magna Carta show there in July. As it's local for De Vey we were able to contribute plenty of displays including cooking (mmm, thirteenth century food!), an ecclesiastical display, spinning, weaving, embroidery and net-making. Our glorious group leader also portrayed King John and oversaw the tourney. We had a wonderful time  with lots of interested public both days, despite the rain on Sunday.  Many thanks to Floss for hiring us and we're desperate to come back!

What a sight to wake up to.   Photo copyright Caroline Williams.

King John and the bishop. Photo copyright Caroline Williams.

The lovely ladies. Photo copyright Caroline Williams.

Plenty of public at our food display! Photo copyright Caroline Williams.

A quiet moment. Photo copyright Caroline Williams.
Our fire at night. That's what it's all about. Photo copyright Caroline Williams.

The month before De Vey held a local training event at Newark to advertise the national show. We're so lucky to have this fabulous site in our land grant and thank you Floss for letting us train there!

Where else would you want to spend a Saturday? Photo copyright Caroline Williams.

Setting up early on Saturday morning. Photo copyright Caroline Williams.

Wychurst and Detling

Wychurst continues to be Regia's pride and joy and various group members have been going down throughout the year to work on the Forge and maintain the longhall and surrounds. A small but perfectly formed contingent went down to join in the annual work week. Over forty Regia members braved the M25 to make it down, coming from all over the country. I sadly wasn't one of them but do look at the construction diary to see the work that has been done this year.

Straight after the work week is Detling Military Odyssey where Regia puts on its biggest living history display of the year. As usual a couple of De Vey members made it down again this year.

Regia was pipped to the post for Best Living History display by the Desert Rats this year, but I think Regia's display  is still pretty impressive. Above you can see a video shot by a member of the public showing "the beach", i.e. a section of the display.  The boats shown in the video are all Regia's and members regularly have the opportunity to sail them.

Aside from the above, De Vey members have also attended the national trainings at Islip  (January) and Ashby (March), participated in the Jorvik Viking Festival, and attended lots of local shows run by other Regia groups. All in all a busy year with something for everyone, whether you're into combat or living history.

Hope to see you at Harby and Sherwood!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Wychurst, Detling, and Sherwood 2013

Despite the blog silence in the second half of the year, it was a busy summer with members of De Vey going to a range of shows including Harewood House's Medieval Fayre, Kelmarsh, Maidstone Saxon Festival, and St Albans Medieval Faire, among others.

Toki and myself couldn't attend everything, but we did attend the Wychurst work week, Detling Military Odyssey, and the Sherwood Time Trail.

Wychurst work week

Wychurst is Regia's permanent site in Kent, which a number of us visited in June for the summer show. That is one of two public shows each year, but members of the society also visit on a monthly basis to work on the site, as well as for a full week over the summer. It is during  these work weekends and the work week that Wychurst has been built and maintained.

Working outside the Long Hall. Photo by Caroline Williams.

A misty morning outside the burgh. Photo by Caroline Williams.

Sunlight in the hall. Photo by Caroline Williams.

A large De Vey contingent attended in 2013, working on everything from the wallpaintings in the Long Hall, to ground clearance, to improving the drainage and adding on-site water.

The wallpaintings have been masterminded and drawn by Disa from Sceaftesige. The actual painting has been an ongoing project involving not just Disa but many members of Regia, depending on each individual's ability to paint a straight line...or otherwise. Photo by Caroline Williams.

Disa also taught us how to do authentic pottery in the evenings:

My first attempt at a bowl. This is a coil bowl, built up from "sausages" of clay, rather than turned on a wheel. Photo by Caroline Williams.

Taking the pottery out after pit-firing. Photo by Caroline Williams.

Others got involved in basket-weaving:
Basket-weaving. Photo by Caroline Williams.

Finally, the highlight of each day is of course sitting round the fire in the evening:
Photo by Caroline Williams.

Detling Military Odyssey
Detling Military Odyssey is one of the largest multi-period events in the country, which Regia Anglorum has attended for many years. This year the society pulled out all the stops and put together an Anglo-Saxon Port display, complete with boats, sand and fish.

The bear (at the back) and one of the faerings (at the front). Regia owns a large number of replica boats, many of which are regularly in the water. Photo by Caroline Williams.
Toki built a smoke-house in which to smoke fish. I gather the public were given instructions along the lines of "go up the road until you smell fish then turn right". Photo by Caroline Williams.

Portraying a port enabled Regia to display a wide range of activities. To name just a few, we had several merchants:
Æthelgar from Sceaftesige portrayed a merchant and explained how people purchased or traded for goods. Photo by Caroline Williams.

The traders covered a range of materials, from dye-stuffs and tablet-weave (shown below), to furs, wood, bows, arrows, armour, and general trade-stuffs such as grain and beeswax.

Dyestuffs and tablet-weave. Photo by Caroline Williams.
Several people were basket-weaving:
Freya from Milites de Bec basket-weaving. Photo by Caroline Williams.

Ebb from Medwaeg ran a display of early medieval laundry:
Ebb holding soapwart which, as you might guess, can be used to produce a soapy liquid. Photo by Caroline Williams.
You may have noticed from the people above that Regia has a large number of groups. There are far more than I have mentioned here, covering the whole of the UK, not to mention parts of North America and South Africa! One of the wonderful things about Regia is that no matter where you live there is a local group near you, and then we all come together to produce fantastic things like Wychurst and this year's Detling display.

Anlaf from Grantanbrycg portrays a scribe and had a full display on writing, although he also enthusiastically portrayed the local reeve, in charge of collecting taxes.

In this period ink is made from oak galls and iron.

Oak galls. Photo by Caroline Williams.

The most common writing material is parchment, shown below. Before starting to write, the scribe would prick out the rows at the side of the page so that he could write in straight lines.
Parchment, with a rule for pricking. Photo by Caroline Williams.

Samples of writing in Anglo-Saxon and Latin. Photo by Caroline Williams.

One of the things I love about Detling is that it's a massively multi-period show, with almost every era you can imagine represented. I've included just a few photos below to give you some idea of the range of displays.

A restaurant at the Wyoming Wild Bunch. They display the American West between 1800 and 1900. Photo by Caroline Williams.

Hoplite shield. I am so jealous of the colours they had access to! The Hoplites portray life in the 5th century BC. Photo by Caroline Williams.

Being a Military Odyssey, Detling has an extensive range of 20th  century displays. Below you can see a photo of a group dedicated to the second world war in Burma.
Photo by Caroline Williams.

Sherwood Time Trail

Sherwood Time Trail is an annual event put on by Howard Giles at EventPlan. As ever, it was well-attended by De Vey, other groups, and the public. Unfortunately I didn't get any photos this year, but it's definitely one of the highlights of the De Vey calendar.

Well, that's a wrap for 2013. It's the quiet season now, but we're all just waiting for the 2014 season to start...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Clun, 6th and 7th July

Last weekend De Vey was invited to do a Norman show for the Dog Rose Trust in Shropshire.

Although it's a bit of a way for us, we had a good turnout.
The De Vey colour chart. 
It was rather warm last weekend, so Stephen and Simon (second from the end on the left and right respectively) both chose to portray lower status characters than they might otherwise do so that they could get away with wearing fewer layers. They are therefore just wearing tunics and braies so they didn't have to wear trousers or shoes. I dressed up for the photo, but I'm afraid I took advantage of running a food display and helping with lunch to play a servant doing kitchen chores, which enabled me to tie my wimple back and hoist my dress up slightly, keeping me marginally cooler. At the other end of the scale, Osgyth and Clare are in their nice posh clothes (Osgyth in orange, Clare is sporting a straw hat) and Tancred next to her is still partly in armour after the afternoon battle.

Symon is already far too hot sitting in the shade at 9am, let alone fighting in the blazing sun at 4pm. Photo by Caroline Williams.
Never mind danger on the battlefield, I think our warriors were brave just to go on and face heat exhaustion. As a 13th century show, this meant that the knights in full armour were wearing a full-length padded cloth gambeson (to the knee and the wrist), covered by full length mail, with mail covering their legs, mail gloves, topped by a padded linen coif (the baby bonnets the men are wearing in the photo above), mail coif on top, and a bucket helm (shown below). Over the top of this went a surcoat, a garment brought back from the Crusades, where the knights realised that it helps stop metal armour heating up too much. As one who melted simply waiting by the side with water wearing little more than a linen dress and wimple, I didn't envy them!

Conical helms in the armoury, with an upside down bucket helm in the middle and another at the back left of the table. Photo by Caroline Williams.
Most of us were wearing linen to keep cool, which has the added advantage of being hard-wearing and easily washable without risking shrinkage, so many of us washed our clothes in the evening and left them to dry in the evening. This is in fact one of the principles of early medieval clothing: linen would be worn as an under layer (under tunics, underdresses, braies) because it could be easily washed, whereas the overtunic would be made of wool, and would rarely be washed.

Early medieval laundry. Photo by Caroline Williams.

We took an extensive living history display to this show.

Trevor took his pole lathe, as shown below. I briefly discussed the lathe in my post on Stoke Potteries, but here you can see it properly in use. The horizontal segment of wood with a string round it is the piece which is being shaped. Trevor is holding a chisel against this piece of wood, and as he works the foot pedal, the piece being shaped is rotated, allowing him to hold the chisel in one place while still chiselling away at 360 degrees of the piece to be shaped.

Trevor using a pole lathe. Photo by Rosemary Watson.
Cuthwyn brought her firelighting kit. Below you can see the dry grass, flints, and charred linen.

Fire-lighting kit. Photo by Caroline Williams.

Clare brought her embroidery. The first image shown below is based on the Bayeaux Tapestry. The colour scheme is authentic: the Anglo-Saxons would quite happily give a horse blue legs to indicate that they were behind and shaded.  The gentleman on horseback is a Norman, as evidenced by his short hair.

Image based on the Bayeaux Tapestry. Photograph by Caroline Williams.
Below is a new design Clare is working on: St Catherine. St Catherine was martyred on a wheel, therefore this is her symbol and is included in the design to identify her.
St Catherine and her wheel. Photo by Caroline Williams.

Staying on the textiles theme, Osgyth brought her spinning materials. Below you can see the unprocessed sheep's wool. To the right are the metal combs which were used to disentangle and clean wool. Combs are one of the most ancient methods of cleaning fleece: carders were not introduced until much later. The combing process pulls out the long staples, separates them, and aligns them in the same direction so that they are easier to spin. Pieces of dirt and the shorter staples remain caught in the anchor comb to be discarded.

Combed and uncombed wool, ready for spinning. Photo by Caroline Williams.
Towards the left of the basket are drop spindles, nestling below a lucet. Drop spindles have been used to spin fibre for millennia, and are still used today in the Andes and parts of Afghanistan. The spinning wheel was not invented until the 13th century and did not become common in Europe until the late medieval period. Spinning on a drop spindle is a time intensive process which all the but richest in society would have participated in in the early medieval period. With a man's tunic requiring approximately 8 miles of thread, spinning was an essential skill that required as many spinners as possible.

Once spun, fibre is dyed. Below you can see Osgyth's basket of naturally-dyed fibres. We often imagine the medieval period as characterised by browns and greys; if you couldn't afford to dye your clothes at all you might well be wearing a very restricted colour pallet, but the bright yellow and lighter green shown below are comparatively easily produced, as they are made from weld, a plant which grows widely throughout Britain and which does not require complex processing or selection of a particular part of the plant. Similarly the pinks can be produced from madder which also grows widely, so even someone comparatively poor could wear quite bright colours provided they had the time to harvest the plants and dye the fibre.
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Once spun, fibre can be used for a number of things. The most well known is weaving. Shown below is a warp-weighted loom, one of the oldest types of loom. The origin of the name is clear when you look at the photo below: the warp threads have weights on them to keep them hanging straight and minimise tangling. You may notice that the cloth on the loom is comparatively narrow: this is because unless you have two weavers, the maximum width of cloth you can weave is an arm's length, as you have to pass the "shuttle" (bearing the weft thread, shown slotted into the left hand-side of the loom) from one side to another. As as result of this constraint, early medieval clothes were typically constructed from a rectangle of cloth with a hole cut for the head, with gores added at the side to increase the width, as this makes very efficient use of the cloth you can manufacture.

Osgyth's warp weighted loom. Photo by Caroline Williams.
Somewhat less well-known is tablet weaving, although this is an equally ancient technique, used to make narrow strips of cloth. The braid is made by turning the square tablets you can see in the middle of the loom below to change the position of the warp threads and then pulling a weft thread through.

Osgyth's tablet weaving loom. Photo by Caroline Williams.
Each tablet has (usually) four holes through which fibre is threaded and by threading a tablet with different colours or turning them in different sequences, different patterns can be obtained. You can see samples of these below.

Samples of Osgyth's tablet weaving. Photo by Caroline Williams.
Finally, and not very well known at all, is sprang  Sprang is a method of interlinking warp threads to form a type of net, which can be used as a bag or as a hair net, to give just two examples. You can see Osgyth's sprang loom propped up against the warp weighted loom below. Unlike the warp weighted loom where the cloth is woven from the top down, sprang is woven from the ends into the middle.

Sprang loom. Photo by Caroline Williams.

Clun was a beautiful site to do a show. Sadly the site of the castle makes it impossible to do a show there, it being primarily steep hill, but most of us went up for a visit after hours, and two of us were able to attend the tour given by archaelogist Richard Morriss.

They think the original Norman castle was up on the hill's peak, where it commanded a good view of the valley. Clun is in the Welsh Marches and the original castle would have been built as part of the Norman efforts to subdue the Welsh.

Possible site of the Norman castle? Photo by Caroline Williams.

 The original castle was rebuilt in the late 13th century to be much bigger. The remains of the keep are still standing, albeit somewhat precariously. Current thinking is that this 13th century castle was built to impress rather than on the expectation that it was likely to come under sustained attack. It is built on the side of the hill where it could be easily undermined and had large windows for good views of the valley.

13th century castle. Photo by Caroline Williams.

View across the valley at sunset. Photo by Caroline Williams.