Master Christopher visits the Nineteenth Century and encounters the Parish Constable

The folk of Swords and Spindles are nothing if not versatile. Today Master Christopher was spotted in slightly more modern garb than usual, captured in a pillory. Had he been found drunk in the street? Was he guilty of selling underweight herrings? Will he spend his full six hours thus pinioned? More to the point, will the nails affixing his ears to the wood be removed gently, thus earmarking him as a criminal henceforth, or will he make his escape in a more painful manner and become a tearaway?

Amongst our many presentations, Swords and Spindles offer a session about crime and punishment.



Our #FamilyTreeLive Adventures

It has been some days since the good folk of Swords and Spindles ventured to the bright lights of the big city to entertain all comers at Family Tree Live. Truth be told it has taken us some time to walk home, not having the aid of horseless carriages as modern folk do.

We had a wonderous time sharing details of our lives. We recruited an army for the king, equipping volunteers with armour and sword. There were many shameless women sporting the britches of a man but we were swift to advise them on modest dress, not that the goodwives amongst our company know aught of modesty.

Mistress May whiled away the time with toys and other frivolities.

Master Christopher cured a few ailments and none returned for a second ‘cure’. He claims that this is because of the efficacy of his treatments but in truth methinks it may be more to do with the invasive nature of his interventions.

Sir William and Sir Francis deigned to associate with the peasantry. Mayhap they had their eyes out for the witches amongst us. Passers-by were challenged to solve the puzzle of the horseshoes and a few glasses of ale were earned by the gentlemen, as visitors failed to rise to the challenge.

We were grateful to the disreputable Goody Begum, who helped us whilst Mistress Agnes had to travel to the twenty-first century.

There were many enquiries for our services so mayhap you will encounter us out and about afore long.

Swords and Spindles and friends

If you go Down to #FamilyTreeLive on 26 & 27 April ………. Part 6: Mistress May

Mistress May is serving wench to the irascible Sir Francis. ’Tis not an enviable task. Her time is spent fetching and carrying, supplying him with vittals and fortified wines. She brews, she bakes; ensuring that Sir Francis is at all times the recipient of the upper crust. She is skilled in the use of herbs, particular those that can beautify and enhance womanly charm. Ofttimes those from her village will turn to Mistress May for advice on how to pamper and primp, in order to secure the attentions of a young man, or to retain the interest of a spouse with a roving eye. Her unguents and ointments can restore firmness to the flesh and youth to the features. Mistress Agnes has been applying them faithfully for nigh on 400 years – ’tis a shame that in her case they are yet to be effective. Nonetheless, let that not deter you. Head to stand 167 to seek Mistress May’s advice.

Mistress MayIn twenty-first century life, Mistress May is the talented and versatile actor Imogen Moone. She has been living in the seventeenth century intermittently since childhood.


If you go Down to #FamilyTreeLive on 26 & 27 April ………. Part 5: Goody Begum

Should you dare to venture towards stand 167, you may encounter Goody Begum. She is a goodwife of disreputable character and an inveterate gossip but always on hand to aid with the delivery when women be with child. We use the term ‘goodwife’ advisedly, as none have set eyes on Master Begum for many a year, though tis rumoured he may have been a sea-going man who, regretting having married a scold, did depart from whence he came on the first available vessel. He was last seen heading for the New World. Goody Begum, spends her time mixing a herbal brew or three and avoiding ducking-stool and witchfinder.

Maureen Selley.jpg
Trevor Burrows Photography

Seen here in her twenty-first century guise, ‘Goody Begum’ is well known in the family history world, having been a mainstay of Devon Family History Society for many years; she has deservedly been honoured for this work. She is currently involved in planning events to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower.

If you go Down to #FamilyTreeLive on 26 & 27 April ………. Part 4: Sir Francis Holyoake

witchfinderSir Francis is a casualty of the Battle of Naseby and great friend of Samuel Pepys. We hear tell he was in London Town during times of plague and fire. He wields a sword with relish and will demonstrate the niceties of sword etiquette to all-comers. It is Sir Francis’ role to deal with miscreants with aplomb. If you need anyone hanged, drawn and quartered, Sir Francis is your man. Gossips will be ducked and scolds bridled. If there are witches amongst you, Sir Francs will seek them out.

In his 21st century life Sir Francis spends time, storytelling, acting and helping to run a North Devon Arts Centre. In another role, he will soon be spending 15 hours watching paint dry, whilst invigilating A level art exams.

If you go Down to #FamilyTreeLive on 26 & 27 April ………. Part 3: Sir William Tyrell

Tyrell 2 resizeSir William Tyrell lives at Pentargon Hall with his wife, the Lady Kateryn. He is the local landowner magistrate, having taken on the role from his father-in-law, the late Sir Edward Cardew. Whilst many of his cases are run of the mill village disputes, occasionally a case comes along with more wide-reaching significance…

In the 21st Century, Sir William is a character from the acclaimed play WITCH, written by Tracey Norman and performed by Circle of Spears Productions. He is portrayed by Tracey’s husband, folklore author and researcher Mark Norman. Mark is the creator and host of The Folklore Podcast and writes books, articles and a newspaper column on folklore and its interaction with our family and social history.



If you go Down to #FamilyTreeLive on 26 & 27 April ………. Part 2: Master Christopher

Just who might good folk encounter should they dare to venture to stand 167 at Family Tree Live? So that you might be suitably forewarned, we will be preparing you for all eventualities over the next few weeks.

Clyster in use sepiaMaster Christopher will be standing by to cure all ills. Headache? Never fear, he will apply the trepan with vigour. If a stray musket ball comes your way, he can lop off limbs with aplomb. Should you be suffering from the noxious wind of the belly, you might wish to approach with caution, for then he doth wield the clyster syringe. Granted the cure do be white wine and honey but ’tis not for the drinking.

Master Christopher is also a musketeer with the army of the king and will tell you of the weaponry of our time.

Chris in Armour 1In real life, Master Christopher is a fisherman, churchwarden and a keen genealogist, who has been studying the history of his family for nearly forty years.