Sunday, 1 November 2015

Martinmas Fair 2105 at Priory Church

BFTF went to the very interesting Martinmas Fair at the Priory Church of St Anthony, Lenton recently.

But before talking about the event itself, perhaps worth setting the scene with a little background...

The “original” Priory
Although little trace of it remains today, there was once a very large Priory on the site of the Priory Church in Lenton. The Priory was founded in 1109 and grew in size until, by around 1290 it had become one of the richest in the country, and held an annual 12 day long fair in which the monks levied tolls on many of the goods sold. You can read more about this at the site here, here and especially, here.

In the 16th century, the Priory, alongside many other establishments, was taken into state hands during the confiscated by Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, with the monks being pensioned off (or executed!). With the monks gone, there was no little protection for the Priory and, over following decades, the Priory’s lead roof and stone walls were progressively removed for use in other building works.

Martinmas (or St. Martin's Day) is celebrated on November 11th, and is named after St. Martin of Tours who was a Roman soldier who was baptized as an adult and became a monk. Martinmas became associated with the end of autumn wheat seeding and the the annual slaughter of fattened cattle. In addition fairs were often held at which farm labourers would seek new posts. Interestingly, the term for a late spell of warm weather used to be "St. Martin's Summer", although this has now largely been replaced by the American term “Indian Summer”

Making woollen thread

Martinmas Fair 2015
So, with the background out of the way, a little about the event, which was “rebooted” in 2014 after an absence of several hundred years! The 2015 Martinmas fair featured falconry, medieval combat, food stalls, medieval music, and much else, all comprehensively listed here.

Harris Hawk on No3 Sons head. Surprisingly heavy apparently

Medieval musicians. No idea what instrument the lady is playing! 

One of the Falchion medieval re-enactment group, Nick Jackson, was kind enough to give a short interview about the era they were enacting, who he was playing and the weapons being used. He began by explaining that the group was enacting the era of the mid 14th century, when Edward III was king and when there was an emphasis on chivalry and on tournaments. Nick's character was Sir Nicholas de Cantelupe who was the Baron of Ilkeston and Lord of Greasley - and had built Beauvale Priory in outskirts of Eastwood.

Sir Nicholas de Cantelupe (courtesy of Falchion)
Regarding Sir Nicholas's troops, Nick commented that :

“Most of his troops would be farmers or foresters on his lands and they would mostly be skilled with bows although a lot of them would use tools....They owe [Sir Nicholas] 40days service a year. Now 40 days might mean they have to go up to Scotland. Now it takes 2 weeks to walk to Scotland and if they go more than 40 days he pays them more. He has to get about 20-40men normally. Some of them will be knights and armoured soldiers, , most will be bowmen, because Nottingham and Derby is very famous for its bowmen. He would then take them to the Earl of Derby, who would take them to the Earl of Lancaster [who] would take them to the king...They would have to go along reluctantly….fighting didn’t tend to happen this time of year because everyone was working on their crops and winter storage. The lords knew this and they didn’t want they people to starve over the winter so most fights happened from spring to late summer”
These are the instruments used to fix you up if you get wounded on the battlefield

Regarding weapons technology :

“In armour we were a little bit behind because Milan in north Italy and some of the forgers in Germany were producing the heights of armour technology. There was an arms race between weapons that could kill people and armour that could keep people alive. So as plate armour came in at around the mid 14th century the swords were just bouncing off [so] they changed the weapons. Arrows could pierce certain types of armour at close range. We started using spears and axes because you could chop through people, you could concuss people and then stab them on the ground. There’s not much chivalry when you start doing that but when someone is fully dressed up like a tank, you can’t really hurt them with a sharp piece of metal [sword]. So this was the height of armour until firearms came in, and bullets could go straight through this and ruined warfare as a chivalrous sport!”

A final comment :

"As someone who is a knight I would be very privileged..until 1348 when the Black Death comes and wipes out half the country”

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