The news is out. The good folk of Swords and Spindles will be heading to London in full force with our living history display. We will be on show at the Family Tree Live genealogical fair on April 26 and 27. There will be opportunities for make-overs seventeenth century style, to equip yourself for battle, to hone your Tudor household skills and to have your constipation cured but probably not all at once! It is a wonderous opportunity to understand how your sixteenth and seventeenth century ancestors would have lived. Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring those you might meet during the show. The good folk of Swords and Spindles are looking forward to greeting you and taking the big city by storm.
Some of the Swords and Spindles team will be at Buckland Brewer fete, North Devon on Saturday afternoon, with musket, pike and drum. In the afternoon, there will be an opportunity to try on costume or armour. Then, just after six o’clock, we will be mustering an army for the king on the amenities field. Pikemen (or women) of all ages required, no experience necessary, training will be given.
Truth be told they be venturing west as well – fording the Tamar no less to spend two days in a school in (whisper it quietly) Cornwall! Will they be let back across the border one is moved to wonder?
Assuming they escape the clutches of the pesky Cornish, on Thursday 4 May Mistress Agnes and Master Christopher will be found addressing all comers on the topic of The Civil War in the South West at Devon Rural Archive. Take a look, come along. It may not be quite what you are expecting – seldom is when the good folk of Swords and Spindles are about. Rumour has it that Master Christopher will be amassing an army for the king. He will not be gainsaid and will have swords and guns to aid him in his cause. Let us just say, if you require long tales of battles fought, stay at home and read a book. If you want a flavour of what it was really like for the ordinary folk down here in the bottom left hand corner of England in the 1640s, Devon Rural Archive is the place to be on the evening of 4 May.
Swords and Spindles provide presentations for audiences of all ages on life and conflict in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. We use replica artefacts to enhance the experience. Once seen, never forgotten.
That would be two years old, not two of us. It is now two years since a small band of experienced historical interpreters decided we weren’t quite ready to retire, despite our venerable ages and that we were willing to sword and spindle our way into our sunset years.
What have we achieved in just two short years? Numerous presentations at home, abroad and at sea; some for young people, others for more mature audiences. We have recruited and trained new team members; mad fools who are willing to join in our chaotic and somewhat random existence. We have acquired many artefacts and bizarre items of equipment from rats to medical syringes. The bowing ceilings of my upstairs rooms bear testament to the weight of armour, cauldrons and instruments of torture. Master Christopher has found room for pikes, swords and muskets and we have all continued to learn more about the period that we love. We’ve run workshops, written articles and shared our knowledge with enthusiasm. We have received some amazing feedbackand have had many re-bookings, so we must be doing something right. We are not complacent and continue to add new sessions to our repertoire and to improve those that we perform regularly. With a full calendar, what will the next two years bring? There are some very exciting future bookings on the horizon, which we hope we can reveal later in the year.
It has been great fun. If you have experienced and enjoyed our particular brand of entertainment, do spread the word. If this is a pleasure (and I use the word advisedly) that is yet to come, I hope that we will be presenting at a venue near you in the future. So charge your tankard with a suitable beverage, mead mayhap and join us in celebrating our birthday.
The holiday season is a time for family games. Forget those that require technology and indulge yourself with a test of skill and tactics in a game of our time. Sir Francis will challenge all-comers, as long as there is fortified wine provided for the winner.
Nine Men’s Morris is also known as Mills or Merels. It is usually played on a wooden or leather board but can also be played anywhere, by scratching a board in the earth with a stick and using stones, acorns or shells as playing pieces.
How to play
Each player has nine pieces of the same colour and tries to capture their opponent’s pieces. As soon as a player only has two pieces left they have lost. If you are playing more than one game, take it in turns to start.
Take it in turns to lay one piece on the board, placing it on any a corner or place where the lines cross. You are trying to lay three of your pieces in a horizontal or vertical line (diagonal lines do not count). The pieces must be on corners or points that are joined by a line, you cannot cross the square in the centre to form a line. At the same time, watch what your opponent is doing, as you also need to block their attempts to make a line of three.
When all your pieces have been laid, at each turn you move any one of your pieces (including those that are part of a row) to the next point on the board (in any direction). If you only have three pieces left, then you can move a piece to any point on the board, it does not have to be the next point.
As soon as you have made a line or ‘mill’ you can take one of your opponent’s pieces off the board. The piece that is taken cannot be one that is part of a mill. If all the opponent’s pieces are in rows of three, then you can take one from a mill.
As soon as one player has only two pieces left they have lost.
Mistress Agnes hath been busy with scissors and glue, fashioning various items of an historical nature. These will be launched on an unsuspecting public tomorrow when Swords and Spindles will be out in strength to provide merriment, entertainment and hands on history for folk of all ages. To be honest she is finding that ‘safety glue’ is really not up to affixing noses to plague rats or sequins to headdresses. Mayhap she should boil up a few bluebell bulbs or fish bones instead but methinks the elves and safety folk may disapprove.
Saddle your horses then good folk and head for that wonderous Pollyfield Centre, East of the Water in the town of By the Ford between the hours of half of ten o’clock and four. Skirmishes of the civil war mean that there be soldiers in town – best keep a close eye on Mistress Abigail. We be near to the fort of James Chudleigh, built as a Parliamentarian measure to control the busy trading river. We do hear tell though that in later times James did change sides and support the king. If the day be fine you can observe Master Christopher shooting a few Parliamentarians and you will be impressed into the army of the king to wield pike or sword. We do have pikes large and small so there is no escape. Master Christopher can cure all battle wounds (be warned the usual cure involves an axe).
Gather pomander, tuzzy-muzzy or charms as plague do abound in the town, brought in ’tis now believed, with a cargo of wool from Spain. Many have perished in this pestilence but our worshipful mayor John Strange be quarantining folk so we hope for survival. We will however let you through the barricades if you be stealthy (crossing our palms with groats always helps). Fear not, Mistress Mary doth have a wealth of herbal cures for any who succumb. John Davie did settle here, though his country estate be inland at Buckland Brewer, trading in tobacco and becoming wealthy. His former home is now a tavern of some renown. Sir Francis may take a pipe of tobacco with him, or imbibe the fortified wine but the mistresses need to have a care as John Davie did also testify against those of the town who were accused of witchcraft.