The sunshine beats down over the lush green meadow while on the horizon storm clouds gather. The smell of roasting hog and freshly brewed ale, along with some rather less pleasant aromas from the apothecary’s tent, waft across the field.
Strolling through the Living History Village you encounter the ‘Field Of Banners’, an authentic recreation of a medieval battle camp. In the Mediaeval Market Place traders and hawkers vie for your attention while actors, wandering minstrels, the Court Jester and dance troupes entertain you.
In the Faerie Realm, just beyond the Witch Wood, resident Goddess Mother Amantha Willoweaver introduces you to the Loxwood nature spirits in her Crescent Moon Temple and you may be lucky enough to be blessed by the Wishing Tree. But watch out for Gilbert Savage, The Executioner, who might be looking for victims to test out his new rack.
Suddenly the air is riven by a herald’s trumpet, the pounding of hooves, blood curdling battle-cries and the clash of steel.
The Loxwood Festival of Mediaeval Mayhem has begun.
Now in its eighth year this medieval re-enactment is described by participants as “the jewel in the crown” of living history events.
For two consecutive weekends Loxwood Meadow near Billingshurst in West Sussex is home to a sprawling medieval camp, a battleground with archers, canon and sword-fighting knights, medieval-style banquets and the famous jousting knights. Many of the re-enactors stay on between the events, bringing an extra air of authenticity to the proceedings.
This year Queen Katheryn Adelina I of Loxwood, who has recently declared her realm to be independent of the UK, presides over a festival in her honour, dispensing favours and watching the brave horsemen put themselves at risk for a brief moment of fame.
Of course, it’s all for show and no-one will really get hurt, or at least not much, but everyone involved works hard to make it as authentic as possible and the wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm on hand makes it an amazing day out.
Dispelling medieval myths
Much of what we think we know about medieval times comes from Hollywood and those great spinners of tall tales, the Victorians.
But nowadays, with improved scientific methods, we’re getting a better idea of what life was truly like in Britain from the 1400s onwards, something that husband-and-wife archer and knight team Lucy and Nick Horrocks are keen to explain.
“Life was tough and fighting was part of the daily routine,” Lucy explains. “All boys from age 11 were expected to have a bow for defence and hunting and practise with it every week. Women needed to fire arrows too, to get food if their husband was away or in extreme times to defend the family home.”
Lucy’s interest in archery began at Michelham Priory 11 years ago. “I just had a go and loved it so much I joined a local group.” From there she and Nick became more and more interested in the living history side of things, and getting it right.
“You’ll hear commands at Loxwood like ‘Knock! Draw! Loose!’ which are the terms they would have used then, rather than ‘aim’ or ‘fire’. Archers were expected to be able to fire 10 arrows a minute, to ‘pass muster’. I can manage around 16 arrows a minute, with a lighter bow but some of the best archers could fire up to 20 a minute, even with the 100 pound war bow.”
Fitness and agility were key to survival for knights too. Young boys sent away to Knight School would first learn to dance, because fancy footwork might later save their lives in battle.
Nick, fully garbed in the traditional armour of a medieval knight which weighs around 5 and a half stone, says fitness was vital.
“Hollywood shows knights being winched onto their horses but in fact part of their training was to be able to vault on and off their mount in full armour.”
The Victorians coined the phrase “suit of armour” so we have this idea of it being one, clanking, unwieldy thing but in fact it was pretty flexible. It still took time and the assistance of a squire to get ready for battle but Nick is keen to show how each piece was made for a specific type of fighting.
“The big breastplate we think is an essential part was actually of limited use. The whole aim of a knight in battle was to avoid being hurt at all, literally to keep a whole skin, so he didn’t die of wounds or infection later. A knight was worth a lot in ransom and didn’t expect to die. But the archers got so good that their arrows could pierce a breastplate so a new form of protection – the brigandine – had to be developed. Like a jerkin but with padding and tiny metal plates sewn inside which created air pockets. This cushioned the arrow’s impact and left the knights relatively unscathed.”
And, as with so much in life, it all boiled down to money.
“A knight bought his own armour and provided for his men. The better kit they had, the richer he showed himself to be and that might save his life on the battlefield.”
Everyone who comes to Loxwood works hard to create an authentic back story, whether they’re fighting folk or not. Many study Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) to ensure accuracy.
Nick himself has spent time creating his character. “I am one of the new knights, created by King Henry VI to replace those lost during the 100 years war with France. I am not of noble birth and know that some of the older knights resent my presence. I sense trouble ahead for my King, but I will fight for him.”
Trouble indeed, for the gentle king, so unlike his warlike father, suffered mental breakdowns, the death of his son and rebellion by his knights, leading to the Plantagenets eventually taking control – though they too came to a sticky end with Richard III.
Even the soundtrack to the event is authentic. On the first weekend, 4 and 5 August, the Mediaeval Baebes will be playing. They’re the female vocal harmony group responsible for the fabulous Gloriana theme tune to the TV series Victoria.
And on the second weekend, 10 and 11 August, the amazing Trobar de Morte will make their UK debut with their mix of fantasy, folk and medieval music.
Loxwood Joust Opening Times:
Dates: 3 Aug 2019 – 4 Aug 2019
Saturday – Sunday 10:00 – 18:00
Dates: 10 Aug 2019 – 11 Aug 2019
Saturday – Sunday 10:00 – 18:00
Win a family ticket to Loxwood Joust
This competition has now closed and the winner contacted.
Thank you to everyone who took part
Queen Katheryn Adelina I cordially invites you to celebrate with her this August at the Loxwood Joust.
It’s all taking place at Loxwood Meadow just off the B2133 between Wisborough Green and Loxwood near Billingshurst, West Sussex, RH14 0AL. There’s plenty of free parking and if you’d like to go for free read on…
We have a family entry ticket worth £40 (two adults and two children aged 4-14 years, under 4s go free) to attend the spectacle on either Saturday or Sunday 3/4 August or the following Saturday or Sunday 10/11 August 2019.
Try your hand at archery, sup mead and fine ales and dine on local organic fayre. Your little ones can enter the Children’s Kingdom – a festival within a festival where the Mediaeval Groat is the currency. They’ll be put through their paces at Sword School, learn to (safely) fire an arrow, enjoy face and ghastly wound painting and maybe even pelt a peasant!
Please note the prize is for a family entry ticket and additional activities are not included.
To take part enter using the Gleam widget below.
Competition closes midnight UK time Friday 21 June 2019
Only entries made via Gleam will be entered into the draw.
Full terms and conditions are here.
If you are the winner we will need your permission to pass on your email and postal address to Loxwood Joust to arrange delivery of your tickets.