12th February ALL CHANGE FOR TOWTON BATTLEFIELD SOCIETY!
Almost a decade has passed since I took this photo of TBS Chairman Mark Taylor (left) and Society member/battlefield archaeologist Tim Sutherland (right) at the grand opening of our TBS Visitor Information Centre at The Crooked Billet. Affectionately dubbed 'the Vic', this donated Portacabin stood us in good stead as a location to display information, objects and art/craft-works related to the Battle of Towton, and proved to be extremely popular with thousands of visitors over the years.
So in some ways, it was a sad moment for Society members and Billet staff to see it hauled away for scrap last week - but it had to be, because the roof was leaking badly and the 'Old Vic' really had come to the end of its useful life. However, the good news is that it will shortly be replaced with a spanking new one, purchased from TBS funds - a very timely development given that The Rockingham Arms in Towton is changing hands, and as the new management will be living in, TBS is in the process of vacating the first floor rooms we had been using as a resource centre and meeting/training space. So hopefully, when our new, secure, leak-proof Portacabin is ensconced at The Crooked Billet, a lot of the materials from the Rockingham 'Hub' can be relocated there to provide an attractive, informative display for visitors, and a space the Society can use for all sorts of activities. Watch this space for further information!
Meanwhile we're preparing for our first event of the season: an appearance at the prestigious community celebration in Tadcaster to mark the re-opening of the repaired road bridge across the River Wharfe next Sunday. Locals may have seen in the news that works were completed a little earlier than the rescheduled date of Friday 17th February, and the bridge has in fact already re-opened - but the medieval street market and other attractions planned to commemorate the occasion will be going ahead between c. noon and 5 pm on Sunday 19th February. So we're crossing our fingers that the weather will be kind, and hope to see you at the Frei Compagnie camp on the river bank beside the new bridge!
Yesterday we had the privilege of taking part in Tadcaster's great celebration for the re-opening of the roadbridge, which had partially collapsed on 29th December 2015 after days of massive flooding on the River Wharfe. You can see the extent of the damage in the picture top left - all the paler orangey-yellow sandstone of the parapet, arch tops and central buttress is new masonry. The closure of the bridge cut the town in half, causing huge inconvenience to residents and travellers, so its re-opening really was a cause for great celebration; although it did seem slightly ironic that the occasion involved closing it again for 12 hours in order for the festivities to take place!
Still, it was a wonderful day for the town, with thousands of people there to enjoy a medieval market with street entertainers, exhibitions and other activities - including the Frei Compagnie camp on the river bank (below left). Alas, the early sunshine didn't last, but the weather stayed dry and relatively mild for the time of year, (although it felt pretty nippy to us having been outside all day). But it was great to see the massive crowds - in the top left picture you can see hundreds of people on the bridge listening to the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, performing a service of blessing - and together with several guests from the Clifford Household, we all had a busy day around camp with lots of visitors and lots of interest; I certainly had a
Team Helmick at Tadcaster: Mick was wearing a thick linen-lined woollen doublet under his livery coat, and I had a linen-lined heavy tweed kirtle under my green wool over-kirtle - but we were still pretty chilly, so I was very glad I'd taken my cloak and gloves as well!
successful time in the TBS information and sales tent, telling people about the Society, giving out membership forms and event calendars and selling £20's of stock. In fact, the living history camp was so well-received, and the river-bank site so conducive to our activities, that we're looking into making another appearance in Tadcaster at some point - albeit in the summer! As it was, by the time we got home we had to unload the van in the dark, and we both felt exhausted after our long, cold, busy day... but it was such a worthwhile event I'm very glad we were able to be part of it.