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Tewkesbury Medieval Festival

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Men in armour poke their polearms at each other, while arrows fly overhead.
Tewkesbury Medieval Festival's re-enactment of the Battle of Tewkesbury
The battle of Tewkesbury, depicted in a Ghent manuscript

The Tewkesbury Medieval Festival is a medieval fair held over the second weekend of every July near the town of Tewkesbury, United Kingdom. Its main feature is the re-enactment of the Battle of Tewkesbury, which was fought in 1471. Located on parts of the ground where the original battle was fought, the festival also features a medieval camp, in which traders ply their wares and visitors are entertained by musicians and acrobats. The largest medieval fair in the United Kingdom, the Tewkesbury Medieval Festival was listed in Footprint England as one of the "ten most bizarre festivals" in the country.[1]

Background[edit]

The Tewkesbury Medieval Festival started in 1984 as a simple fair with 10 stalls, a beer tent, and a small-scale re-enactment of the Battle of Tewkesbury,[2] which was originally fought in 1471 near the town of Tewkesbury, United Kingdom. The festival became a regular celebration held over the second weekend of every July on parts of the original battlefield.[3] In 2005, the organisers—a group of local re-enactors named the Companions of the Black Bear—registered the event as a company to facilitate the application of grants and their protection.[4] Besides the re-enactment and the camp, the festival offers guided walks of the battlefield.[5] Since its start, the event has expanded to become the largest medieval fair in the United Kingdom.[6] Attendance of the festival is open to all, but participation as a re-enactor is by invitation only.[3] The sight of hundreds of men dressed as medieval soldiers and fighting in a battle led Footprint England to list the event as one of the "ten most bizarre festivals" in the country.[1]

Re-enactment of the Battle of Tewkesbury[edit]

The festival's main feature is its re-enactment of the Battle of Tewkesbury, which was fought on 4 May 1471 between the Houses of York and Lancaster. The engagement was a decisive victory for the Yorkists and their leader, King Edward IV. The forces of the House of Lancaster were decimated, and their leaders killed or captured, leaving Edward as the unchallenged ruler of England. Several Lancastrians fled the battlefield and sought sanctuary at Tewkesbury Abbey. The Yorkists stormed the abbey, captured their foes, and executed them.[7]

The re-enactment at the first festival was a simple affair compared to later years: approximately 100 local enthusiasts, kitted out in crude imitations of medieval gear, fought each other on the fields of Tewkesbury.[2] They wore woollen chainmail or armour made of fibreglass. Their swords and pole arms were made from wood; arrows were rolled-up wallpaper.[8] As the festival became more popular over the years, the scale and quality of the re-enactment changed. Re-enactors from other parts of the United Kingdom joined the event, as well as those from Poland, Germany and other European countries.[9] The armour and weapons used in the later years were faithful steel reproductions that could cost thousands of pounds sterling (£).[10] By 2002, the Battle of Tewkesbury was re-enacted by approximately 2,000 men and women, and the British Broadcasting Corporation called the next year's re-enactment the largest in Europe.[6] Aside from the battle, the storming of Tewkesbury Abbey is also re-enacted during the festival.[5] The subsequent trial and execution of the prisoners are acted out in a mock fashion.[11]

Medieval camp[edit]

Since 2002, the festival has been more than a small setup of stalls. It has grown to be a camp of up to 120 stalls,[12] where life in medieval times is enacted by participants of the battle and their families.[11] The beer tent is a regular fixture, and the stalls peddle herbs, sweets, and food. Entertainers, such as acrobats, fire-eaters, and jugglers, wander the area, performing their arts. Musicians and dancers also entertain visitors. Re-enactors demonstrate pottery, yarn spinning, and other medieval craft.[6][13] These enthusiasts come from foreign countries, such as Belarus and Hungary.[9] The German Mittelalter rock band Schelmish has performed several times at the festival.[14] Short bouts of simulated duels are performed in the camp and a jousting tournament was also featured.[11][15] The festival has attracted visitors from as far as New Zealand and the west coast of the United States;[9] the local tabloid quoted an estimate of 25,000 visitors to the festival in 2003.[4]

Town of Tewkesbury[edit]

Although the town council of Tewkesbury plays no part in organising the festival, it has supported the event by giving it grants (the amount for 2005 and 2008 was £1,000 each).[16][17] Most of the money for organising the festival is recouped from "tithes paid by the [stall holders]", which at times proved insufficient to cover the expenses; the event was operating in the red for 2002–2004.[4] Under encouragement from the Companions of the Black Bear and the Chamber of Commerce, the town's traders support the event by decorating their shops and dressing up in medieval-period costumes.[18] The pubs and restaurants serve medieval-style fare as well. A free bus service connects the town and the festival.[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Godfrey-Faussett, Charlie (2004). "Essentials". Footprint England (Second ed.). Bath, United Kingdom: Footprint Books. p. 46. ISBN 1-903471-91-5. Retrieved 11 January 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Clatworthy, Peggy (7 July 2008). "Silver Jubilee for Medieval Festival". Cotswold Journal. Evesham, United Kingdom: Newsquest. Archived from the original on 26 January 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Meghji, Shafik (May 2011). "The Good Old Days, Number 136". In Edward, Avres. Make the Most of Your Time in Britain: 500 Great British Experiences. London, United Kingdom: Rough Guides. p. 97. ISBN 978-1-84836-685-5. 
  4. ^ a b c "Medieval Event Needs More Help". Cotswold Journal. Evesham, United Kingdom: Newsquest. 11 Nov 2004. Archived from the original on 26 January 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Aitch, Iain (11 July 2009). "Event preview: Tewkesbury Medieval Festival, Tewkesbury". The Guardian. London, United Kingdom: Guardian Media Group. p. 42. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 11 January 2011. Retrieved 11 January 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c "Tewkesbury Medieval Festival". Gloucestershire Festivals. London, United Kingdom: BBC. July 2003. Archived from the original on 5 May 2008. Retrieved 11 January 2011. 
  7. ^ Gravett, Christopher (2003). Tewkesbury 1471. Campaign. 131. Oxford, United Kingdom: Osprey Publishing. pp. 7, 65, 82–85. ISBN 1-84176-514-7. 
  8. ^ "Search Is On for Battle 'Veterans'". Cotswold Journal. Evesham, United Kingdom: Newsquest. 17 June 2004. Archived from the original on 26 January 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2011. 
  9. ^ a b c "Worldwide Interest in Festival". Cotswold Journal. Evesham, United Kingdom: Newsquest. 22 February 2008. Archived from the original on 26 January 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2011. 
  10. ^ "Battle History Goes on Show". Cotswold Journal. Evesham, United Kingdom: Newsquest. 16 June 2005. Archived from the original on 26 January 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2011. 
  11. ^ a b c "Medieval Festival". Cotswold Journal. Evesham, United Kingdom: Newsquest. 1 July 2010. Archived from the original on 26 January 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2011. 
  12. ^ a b "Off with Their Heads as Fair Becomes a Festival". Cotswold Journal. Evesham, United Kingdom: Newsquest. 14 June 2002. Archived from the original on 26 January 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2011. 
  13. ^ "Organisers Sorry for Seating Loss". Cotswold Journal. Evesham, United Kingdom: Newsquest. 17 July 2006. Archived from the original on 26 January 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2011. 
  14. ^ "German Band Heading for Festival". Cotswold Journal. Evesham, United Kingdom: Newsquest. 2 May 2008. Archived from the original on 26 January 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2011. 
  15. ^ "Jousting Is Added Attraction". Cotswold Journal. Evesham, United Kingdom: Newsquest. 27 March 2008. Archived from the original on 26 January 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2011. 
  16. ^ "Joy for Some but Grant Cash Is Cut". Cotswold Journal. Evesham, United Kingdom: Newsquest. 24 March 2005. Archived from the original on 26 January 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2011. 
  17. ^ "Grants in the Tewkesbury Budget". Cotswold Journal. Evesham, United Kingdom: Newsquest. 13 Dec 2007. Archived from the original on 26 January 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2011. 
  18. ^ "Town Dresses Up for Its Big Dates". Cotswold Journal. Evesham, United Kingdom: Newsquest. 30 June 2005. Archived from the original on 26 January 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2011. 

External links[edit]