Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Making History Come to Life | VIDEO

We recently completed a short video promoting ourselves which has been put together with various shots taken throughout 2015. It gives a little taste of what we do and hopefully soon we will have more videos delving a little deeper into what we about.

In the meantime enjoy the video here:

Saturday, 19 December 2015

How to have a Medieval Christmas

Christmas today is a time for giving, a time for sharing precious moments with our loved ones and a time for celebration. Back in Medieval times it was a little different, but not much!

The term 'Christmas' came about in England during the 11th century and was an amalgamation of an Old English expression for the Festival of Christ - 'Christes Maesse'.

Christmas at this time followed much older traditions and celebrations which predominantly celebrated the thought of longer days and the warmer, better weather of Spring approaching. They also were a time to think back and celebrate the past year while there was less agricultural work to be done and thus more time. Time for parties!

Festivals like the Scandinavian Yule and Roman Saturnalia had perviously been celebrated at this time of year and are where Christians borrowed the date for Christmas from.

The exact date for the birth of Jesus was never mentioned in the Bible so the Church used the dates of Pagan festivals as the time for their new celebration of Christ. This made sense as everyone was already celebrating at this time but it also could help Christianise the pagan winter festivals. Something desired at the time. The practice of gift giving at Christmas was even banned for a time by the Catholic Church as it was suspected it had pagan origins! Luckily this ban didn't last.

Christmas soon became a time for feasting, drinking, gift giving, singing, dancing and indulging. Similar to today!

So, if you want to inject a bit of Medieval Christmas into your modern celebrations here are a few suggestions that might help:

1. Get Rid of the Tree

People didn't bring trees inside to decorate their homes back then, although trees were important symbols. The Church would decorate outdoor trees with apples on Christmas Eve, a day known as 'Adam and Eve Day' at the time. Seasonal plant foliage was often used as inside decoration; holly, ivy and mistletoe were the most commonly used.

2. Don't Sing Carols in Church

Singing carols is a large part of Christmas in todays society but in Medieval England carols were banned in churches. Many took the word 'carol' too literally it meaning 'to sing and dance in a circle'. This kind of behaviour would ruin Christmas masses so the Church ruled to send carol singers outside the church walls.

3. Eat Rectangular Mince Pies

Mince pies were baked in a rectangular case in Medieval times to symbolise the crib which the baby Jesus lay in. Certain ingredients like nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves were meant to represent the gifts given by the three wise men. Originally these pies actually did include shredded meat alongside fruit and spices. It was also believed to be lucky to eat one a day over the 12 days of Christmas. You can find our more about Mince Pies in a great English Heritage article here. It even has a 1591 recipe for you to try.

4. Call it Xmas

Xmas is not a modern abbreviation, it in fact originates from Medieval times. The X stands for the Greek letter chi. This was the early abbreviation for Christ making Xmas Christmas. The X also symbolises the cross Jesus was crucified on.

5. Don't Eat Turkey

Turkey was not brought to this country until the 15th Century so never graced the tables of Medieval folk for Christmas feasts. Instead goose was the most popular option closely followed by venison. Of course the poor wouldn't get the best cuts of meat but may be lucky enough to be given the offal, or umbles as it was known, from their lords. They would cook this with other ingredients in a pie called 'umble pie'.  This later became 'humble pie' used widely in a common expression today.

6. Give to the Poor

Boxing day was seen as a reversal of fortune, a time where the rich would provide gifts, usually of money, to the poor. Money was gifted in hollow clay pots with a slit in the top called 'piggies', an early version of the piggy bank. These had to be smashed to get to the money.

There you have it, a few ideas to make your Christmas that little bit more Medieval this year.

We hope you've enjoyed this post and maybe learnt a little something new. What ever you get up to this holiday season we hope that you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday, 23 November 2015

Iron Shepherds Living History Turns Three!

And yet another year passes for Iron Shepherds Living History and boy has it been a good one! With new displays, events and members 2015 has been our best year yet and we wanted to share what we've done with you here.

January 2015

Our third year started relatively quietly this year, we had done Winter fairs the last two but this time we decided it best to forgo organising such events and concentrate on preparing new things for the coming season. Having said that we did get invited to a photo shoot ...

Photo Shoot with Barrow Digital Photography Club | 13.01.2015

In January the Barrow Digital Photography Club invited us to take part in one of their photo shoots. We accepted the invitation and went along for an evening of photo taking. We must have had hundreds if not thousands of photos snapped of us and it was a great evening! You can check out a video from the night bellow.

May 2015

Holker Garden Festival | 30+31.05.2015

In May we had our first event of the year, Holker Garden Show. We attended in 2014 along side English Heritage and Furness Abbey Fellowship and this year English Heritage asked us to return with them to put on a small display. We were there for two days, the first had Bertram, Brother Orme Tethera and new member Matilda, the basket maker, display to the public. We had may interested passers by and we promoted our brand new up coming event.

June 2015

Life in the Past | Day 1 | 06.06.2015

The 6th of May saw the start of a brand new event created by Iron Shepherds, Life in the Past.

Life in the Past had been planned and worked on throughout the winter and was set to be a two day event showcasing life in the past at and around Furness Abbey. Day one was meet the 12th century peasants to find out what life was like living in Furness and what it was like farming the land on a daily basis to produce food not only for yourself but for the Abbey.

We had two new specially written displays on the day: a farming talk written by one of our members Karen (aka Heather), which showcased farming in the 12th century and how tough yet vital it was, and a mummers play written by Paul (aka Toadflax) which was a type of play common in the time to poke fun at establishments as well as to entertain. Both displays went down well and have become part of our growing repertoire. 

Life in the Past | Day 2 | 07.06.2015

The 7th was the second day of Life in the Past and this time we were 13th Century Monks for the day!

Following the success of last years Monks Life displays we wanted to include monks in our new event so our second day was dedicated to them and how they lived in Furness Abbey in the 13th Century. We had our small display area but also put on a Chapter Meeting, something that the monks had every morning, and two tours of the abbey with Brother Bertram (Stuart). The chapter meeting involved a reading of a chapter from the rules of St. Benedict followed by Brother Earnolf having to flagellate himself as penance for grumbling. People really seemed to like it!

The tours went really well also with many visitors sticking around to go on them. With glorious sunshine all day it really made the day, even if we did get a little warm in our woollen habits!

Take a look at the pictures bellow as well as the advert created to promote the event.

Family Fun Day at Gleaston | 27.06.15

At the end of June we returned to Gleaston for their second family fun day. We set up our camp at the edge of the field and demonstrated through the afternoon. It was a lovely event that we were pleased to have returned to. It was also a very warm summers day, one of but a few we had this summer!

August 2015

Muncaster Living History Week | 25-26.08.15

What a lovely if wet time we had at Muncaster this year. We were back for a third year of Living History week and it was a great one! We arrived on the Monday night before our two day stint to find a very wet, marshy field to set up in. Every other year we had attended the field was nice and dry but due to heavy rain this time the site was saturated. We looked around and set our tents up on the slightly higher, dryer land near where we usually set up. We wanted to stay dry when we slept! Eventually we had our camp, this time in a long line of tents, something we had tried before. It proved to work over the course of the two days but we do prefer our usual set up. We met many people over the two days as we demonstrated various crafts, performed our mummers play and weapons display. As always it was a wonderful event to be part of!

Medieval Fair at Furness Abbey | 05.09.15

Early in September we were back at Furness Abbey for another Medieval Fair, the third in fact! The sun was shining and people came out in their droves to enjoy a day in the ruins and enjoying the entertainment. We could be found inside our camp working on our crafts or in the display arena performing our weapons display. The day was wonderful and we all had a fantastic time chatting to the public and demonstrating. It's always a pleasure to be at Furness Abbey and the sunshine and interested visitors always helps! We even set up a camera to take a time-lapse throughout the day, this can be seen in the video player below. It certainly shows the amount of people who move through our camp during the day and the bright sunshine.

Magna Carta 800, Cartmel | 26+27.09.15

Another new event for us in 2015 was the Magna Carta 800 celebration at Cartmel. It was a two day event to celebrate the 800th year of Magna Carta and it featured ourselves alongside another re-enactment group, Tournee. We showcased daily life and crafts while the they performed large combat displays to the crowds. Together we filled the majority of the display field next to craft stalls and food tents. Over the weekend many thousands of people (possibly 10,000+) visited the village and came to wander our camp and chat to us. We often had large crowds of people around us watching as we demonstrated which put the pressure on but also really made the day special. It was a truly fantastic event and something we are very proud to have been a part of! If this event were to happen again we would be there at the drop of a hat!

Apple Day, Ulverston | 03.10.15

Our first ever October event took place at Ford Park in Ulverston where we were part of Apple Day. We had a small camp set up in part of the  field where we spoke to the public about life in 12th Century Furness. Most of us were peasants but we did have one monk attend to give the religious aspect of the time. There was thick mist throughout the day which gave a certain atmosphere to proceedings and it did make it a little chilly. It was a lovely event and we met many interested people.

Magna Carta Medieval Fayre, Witherslack | 04.10.15

Another October event! This one the day after Apple Day. We were asked to attend a Medieval Fayre in Witherslack to celebrate the Magna Carta. We jumped at the chance and took out kit over for the Sunday event. This event saw us try out another layout for our camp, this time we pitched up in a sort of diamond shape in the centre of the field. This meant people could walk around us with someone always visible to talk to or watch. It worked well. We had a very pleasant and fun day here speaking to various folk about what we do, We even performed our weapons display twice. Something we hadn't done for two events now. It was the perfect event to finish our season off with and we thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

2015 has been a fantastic year for Iron Shepherds, we feel like we are going from strength to strength and are very excited to see what the future holds! We have many ideas for the coming year and hope we can share these with you in the near future, roll on 2016 lets see what you bring us!

If you would like to keep up to date with what the Iron Shepherds are doing then why not follow us on Facebook or Twitter You can also check out our website to discover what we do and what we have coming up.