Monday, August 13, 2012

Harewood House Medieval Faire 2012

Harewood House hosted a Medieval Faire back in June. The weather was on and off but that didn't dampen our spirits or those of the re-enactors.

We walked down the hill from the parking area to the encampments. After we paid for our day tickets, I was put in the stocks! Maybe because I made fun of the medieval toileting facilities.

Walking in to the festival

Well stocked (except for hair)

"Just go over by that tree and do your business!"

Many tents were selling medieval goods and sundries. Some sold shields, swords, and bows and arrows of varying qualities, from plastic children's toys to real stuff. Others sold carvings or weavings. The most interesting to me were the musical instruments.

Drums and strings!

The Harp and Drum would make a good name for a pub

Next, we visited the 14th and 15th century camps, where they were doing all the sorts of things people did back then: pitching tents, carving stones, making lunch, etc.

Pitching the tent

Carving the stone

Making the vittles

We also saw some of the weapons of war. We had a nice chat with a fellow about his bow. He said he had an authentic yew long bow, which is simply a long stick with notches on  the top and bottom where the string is attached. The long bow is generally taller than the archer even when strung. A properly strung bow should have enough space for a thumb's up hand to measure exactly from wood to string. Too bad I didn't get any pictures of that!

A proper shield is taller than its user?

The flag that matches the shield

Jacob was more interested in finding lunch and seems to be heading off to ask what's for medieval lunch.

We caught up just before he got a nice turkey leg

We saw several entertainments on our way to the Great Hall, where we ate some snacks to tide us over.

Tent of the Bard!

Medieval music by Hautbois

After our snack, we headed over to the 11th to 13th century camps to see even further into the past. Some of the fellows were making chain mail armor and we chatted about that. The advantages of chain mail are the lightness and the flexibility. The disadvantages are arrows can go right through them and maces and blunt weapons can bash the links into your skin or body. Typically, people wore heavy linen padding under the chain mail to help overcome the disadvantages. They wore helmets too. It all makes for a heavy kit but typically men started wearing them as boys so they would be used to it. The chain mail was especially flexible as extra strips could be added as the wearer grew bigger.

Chain mailers in action

My best side

Emily tries it on for size

I was amazed at how well I could see out of the helmet. The slits are fairly close to the wearer's eyes so a greater range of vision is allowed. A custom helmet would even be better.

We also saw a lady weaving a mat and a doctor with his medical tools.

Carefully going back and forth

Medieval doctor ready for field surgery

The surgeon was quite interesting. In medieval times, the physician who dealt healing herbs and potions was a different person from the surgeon who would take out arrow heads or set bones. The surgeon had a wide variety of probes, knives, and pincers to find and remove foreign items from wounded bodies. Often this was tough work as arrows spin as they fly. They'd still be rotating after they struck, making them hard to pull out directly. It was grim business. He said people were heartier back then and could take more than we do today. I guess growing up wearing layers of armor makes you beefier.

After taking the kids home for their naps, Emily and I returned to see the jousting and the reenactment of the Battle of Dintingdale (1461). The jousting knights were especially good looking in the occasional sunshine (there was a huge downpour as we were driving back so mud was everywhere).

Ready for the show

I particularly liked the stag on the helmet

Ready to charge

Rather than try to describe the tournament, here are some of the bouts:

Since we were on the far side from the announcer, it was hard to follow the rules of who got how many points. Jousting does make for a dramatic display. As they were charging each other we saw some men marching off for the battle reenactment.

Onward to victory!

The Battle of Dintingsdale is significant as a prelude to one of the largest battles on British soil, the Battle of Towton. It is the conflict that put Edward IV on the throne of England in 1461, though it did not settle the War of the Roses.  Read more about these battles here. The re-enactors gave a good show, though we couldn't get close enough for a very good look. I don't think it was too accurate as a re-enactment (no one was killed, though many feigned death) but it was interesting to see the various units (foot soldiers, knights, archers, gunners) fighting.

The skirmish begins

The knights charge a tight group of foot soldiers

Reloading arrows, bullets, and cannonshot

After the cannon fire, there was much smoke and rejoicing

Here are some highlights:

The arrows flying through the air are an amazing sight, I wish I had been able to capture that. At one point, the guy directing the cannon was hit in the chest with one of the arrows (they have a sort of bean-bag on the end so as not to injure anyone). He duly fell down in battle. About half-way through we saw the archers run up and recover some fallen arrows so they'd have more ammo. I wonder if they did that back in the day. It makes a lot of sense though it may not be safest in the heat of battle.

They only recovered arrows from the ground, not from bodies!

After the skirmish was done, all the soldier re-enactors lined up according to the groups they were in and received applause from the admiring crowd.

The festival did have evening entertainment for people who bought weekend passes or who were camping out at Harewood House for the weekend. We didn't get to go though we did want to see the medieval dances. Maybe next year!

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