Sunday, 17 July 2022

Tewkesbury Medieval Festival 2022

Last Sunday, I travelled up to Tewkesbury to join Mr Steve at the Tewkesbury Medieval Festival 2022, a commemorative gathering of medieval enthusiasts that brings alive the role that the town of Tewkesbury played in the Wars of the Roses in May 1471; hosting one of its most significant battles that almost snuffed out any Lancastrian hopes of regaining the throne of England as its leaders lay dead on the battlefield, were rounded up and executed in its wake, or fled to France and exile.

JJ's Wargames - Tewkesbury Medieval Festival 2017

The festival was started back in 1984 and has grown to be the largest medieval re-enactment in Europe which a casual observation of the number of folks involved easily bears testament to and was reported about here on JJ's with Mr Steve's post back in 2017 and with this post conveniently linking in with our joint visit to explore the battlefield, back in October 2020.

JJ's Wargames - The Battlefield of Tewkesbury

Steve and I met up good and early in time for the parade through the town that really captured how the festival has brought the town together in this community celebration of its history with all age groups and societies in the town taking part in a parade of floats and period displays of music and choral arrangements that evoked the period.

Queen Margaret leads the morning parade through Tewkesbury

The whole effect is magnified by the streets of Tewkesbury itself with its medieval street plan still able to boast more than its fair share of period buildings, some, such as the town museum, open to the public, with recreations of rooms to illustrate how the townsfolk might have lived back in 1471.

As the sun started to get up very high in the sky with temperatures set for the high thirties, Steve and I headed off to find a suitable stop for lunch not before visiting the local museum which had a display of craft-work and spinning, together with a recreated bedroom from the medieval period, complete with drafty floor timbers with the next room below visible through the cracks.

Great Spinning Wheel

After enjoying a very pleasant lunch in a little café perched on the banks of the River Severn, we resumed our tour on the town as we worked our way out towards bloody meadow and beyond where the re-enactors camp was set up and the field where the afternoon's battle was set to be restaged.

Before making our way out of the town we decided to pick up where we left off two years ago and attempted to see the parts of the Abbey that were closed off to the public then, due to Covid restrictions, namely some very important tombs and the famous Sacristy Door.

George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, 6th son of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, and brother to both King's Edward IV and Richard III. As a member of the House of York he switched sides to the House of Lancaster, before reverting back to the Yorkists.

Convicted of treason by his his brother King Edward IV, the Duke of Clarence was privately executed in the Tower of London on the 18th February 1478, purportedly in the Bowyer Tower and rumoured to have been drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine, vividly recounted by Shakespeare.

His final resting place is in the crypt of the Abbey and located below the grid in the floor seen below.

The grill in the floor above the tomb of the Duke of Clarence

Sir Guy de Brien or Bryan married the widowed Elizabeth Montacute about 1350, and thus became Patron of the Abbey of Tewkesbury until his death in 1390. He was standard bearer for the English at the Battle of Crecy in 1346. a Knight of the Garter, and Admiral of the English fleet that took Calais.

Sir Guy de Brien

There is some doubt whether Sir Guy is in the tomb in the Abbey as he is reported to have been buried at the Parish church of Slapton in Devon, where he founded a small priory.

The Tomb of Sir Guy de Brien, or is it?

The Founders Chantry containing the tomb of Robert Fitzhamon, second cousin of William the Conqueror, who founded the Abbey in 1102, later being wounded at the siege of Falaise and dying in 1107.

Robert Filius Haymonis et Sibilla uxor eius ("Robert FitzHamon (d.1107) and Sibilla (de Montgomery)
his wife"). They are shown jointly giving the church building of Tewkesbury Abbey, of which they were
founders. He wears a tabard showing attributed arms of: Azure, a lion rampant guardant or.
Underneath below his wife is shown a shield of: quarterly 1 & 4: Azure, a lion rampant guardant or;
2&3: Gules a cross or impaling: Gules, a lion rampant or

The tomb of Robert Fitzhamon

The next important tomb on the list was that of Edward Prince of Wales and required a bit of searching out, requiring the new visitor to look upward at first to identify King Edward's badge, 'the sun in splendour', displayed on the ceiling, above the Lancastrian's heir's memorial.

The Sun in Splendour marks the spot on the choir ceiling.

Directly below in the south transept lies the diamond shaped brass memorial plaque.
On the day, access to the public was restricted. 

A close up of the plaque, a later version, which when seen closely bears the Latin inscription;
'Here lies Edward Prince of Wales, cruelly slain whilst but a youth, anno Domini 1471, May 4th. Alas the savagery of men. Thou art the sole light of thy mother, the last hope of thy race.'

Our final quest within the Abbey involved finding the door to the Tewkesbury Abbey sacristy reinforced with strips of iron reputedly beaten from scavenged pieces of armour.

Well we found the door this time, but sadly it was closed securely and the side that bears all the iron work was the other one, so we'll just have to trust the picture of it that was on display close by.

After our visit to the Abbey we were back out into the early afternoon sunshine and heading towards 'Bloody Meadow' and the Medieval Encampment.

Reenactors, rather like historical wargamers in my experience, spend a lot of time and effort researching and creating the look of the warriors they seek to represent and the opportunity to wander around the camp area during a muster is the chance to see vivid recreations of these camps and the men and women who would have occupied them that really help inspire the work of recreating something similar with scale miniatures.

Over the years academia has started to appreciate more the insights reenactors can bring to our understanding of how these people would have lived and fought based on actual experience of quite literally walking in their shoes that has revealed the fallacy of previously held academic theories, shown to be very unlikely by that experience.

A scene captured that would have most likely been a familiar one in many an encampment from the Wars of the Roses 

An opportunity to examine and have explained the way the common types of weapons were carried and used.

An arrow for every eventuality

As well as the scenes of camp life and displays of weaponry and armour, there was also a chance to chat with the reenactors about the realities of using the weapons on display and the practicalities of wielding them either in mock combat or for real.

This meeting has to be seen to really appreciate the scale of it with masses of tents and displays, together with various craftsmen and women selling their wares that help bring this period to life, not to mention the amazing artwork Graham Turner whose pictures have brought the images of the Wars of the Roses into vivid detail and with the artist hosting a display of his original pictures for sale on the day in one of the larger marquees.

Tents line the path leading through Bloody Meadow.

I have absolutely no idea what this is, so if you do, leave a note in the comments section

An opportunity to acquire a Graham Turner original painting

From the traders section we pressed on ever nearer to the field of battle with the campsite scenes ever present as we made a slow progress to stop and chat and to take pictures.

Announcements blared out from various loudspeakers dotted around the field and gradually the various contingents gathered to begin the march into the field of battle, led by the archers who would give an enthusiastic display of bombarding each other with a shower of arrows demonstrating the flight capabilities of this classically English medieval weapon, soon to be joined by the massed ranks of men at arms and their respective lords clad in full harness.

The arrival of the mounted men at arms to skirmish on the other side of the field heralded the appearance of the billmen and foot knights.

As the respective horse from both sides fell back, the lines of battle marched onto the field.

Edmund Beaufort, 3rd Duke of Somerset arrives on the field of battle

Having captured the arrival of the Lancastrians it was time to see if we could get some pictures of the Yorkist array from the other side of the field.

With the respective teams seen onto the pitch, Mr Steve and I took advantage of the drawn crowds to slip away and make our way back into town to grab a quick pint now that the pubs were somewhat quieter and the opportunity to slake our thirsts on what had been an extremely fun but very very hot day.

One advantage for historical wargaming over historical re-enactment, is that we tend to avoid so much physical exertion on hot days and the injury rates are much lower!

Thank you to the team running the Tewkesbury Medieval Festival for organising another spectacular event and if you are the slightest bit interested in seeing this festival up close, I would unhesitatingly recommend going along one year, you wont be disappointed.

Mr Steve and I continued our adventures in the week following our visit to Tewkesbury, whilst taking full advantage of the very hot sunny weather the UK is experiencing at the moment, with a two day tour of the English-Welsh border focussing on key sites from the English Civil War and Wars of the Roses as we based ourselves in Shrewsbury, posts to follow.


  1. I still say that it's some sort of game where you have to stop the wheel in each number slot but quite frankly it could be for counting bags of beans for all I know.
    One insignificant correction, the Riverside cafe where we had a very pleasant lunch is on the banks of the Avon which wiggles around in various loops at this spot before joining the Severn further down near the Lower Lode ferry. This loop is where the western end of the Swilgate river runs into.

  2. great post - thank you for sharing

    1. Hi, thanks for your comment and glad you enjoyed the read. JJ