Tan tara! Here's hubcap's pic from the TBS Palmsunday Archers meeting on 26th February: me and Alan Stringer (an apt name for an archer!) posing proudly with the proof copy of our new publication. Yup, that's Walk Towton 1461... we're very pleased with it, and the order's gone off for an initial 500 copies so that it can be launched at the Battle of Towton commemoration on Palm Sunday. (We had a good shoot that day, too - lobbing blunts at a padded plank representing Lord Clifford, to get us in trim for 'killing' him in the Battle of Dintingdale finale on the day). And we've already started tentatively discussing a third volume in the 'Walk...' series... Edward IV's continuing campaigns against Lancastrian loyalists in Northumbria and Wales, post-Towton to 1468... although both of us have other projects to finish before can embark on that!
For me, that means Lay of Angor... having worked hard on it lately, I'm now up to Chapter 22 of the second volume - so it's well on track for completion/launch later this year, which means there won't be too long a gap between the revised second edition coming out (should be any time) and the next instalment!
An interesting, if slightly painful, weekend in Helmickton! A fine sunny Saturday saw me pegging out laundry 'helped' by Henry Wowler in play mode. So I stopped to throw him a stick - yes, he really does play 'fetch', just like a little dog. He was so delighted I started to throw it again... whereupon he tried to catch it with a magnificent flying leap before it left my hand. Cue ludicrous waltz round the garden, Helen and Henry joined at the third finger... I was bleeding like a stuck pig by the time I managed to unsnag him. Ah, the pitfalls of having a pet with paws like squash-rackets fringed with fish-hooks... my punctured finger's still throbbing.
Then an even finer Sunday saw us at Towton, getting stuck into preparations for the forthcoming event - mucking out a year's worth of mud and pigeon-poo from the barn (top left), while hubcap and Steve chainsawed up a big pile of wood for the camp-fires (bottom left). As you see from the pic, I think they got the best half of the deal... at least they were out in the sunshine and fresh air, unlike the rest of us (top right)! But many hands did indeed make light work - some folk (Neil, Mark and Alma, bottom right) even found time to 'muck' about!
And with so many willing helpers we got finished in a couple of hours, leaving the barn spick, span and smelling of fresh disinfectant (as opposed to other less enticing odours) - though I can still hardly believe in only three week's time it'll be jammed full of traders, exhibitors and a hog roast for Palm Sunday. And then it was off down Old London Road to the Rockingham Arms for a well-deserved pint and pub lunch. I was glad I opted for the Caesar salad - crisp lettuce, shaved Parmesan and crunchy croutons in a yummy dressing - because it was light enough for me to indulge in dessert afterwards: their fabulous sticky toffee pudding, all gooey with dates, and a lovely smooth caramel sauce!
Some VERY exciting news to share! I was thrilled to receive a call this week from West Yorkshire Archaeology Service (WYAS), inviting me to get involved with a project that could (fingers crossed) be literally ground-breaking. WYAS are working with Wakefield Museums, Wakefield Historical Society, and Towton Battlefield Society's very own renowned battlefield archaeologist, Tim Sutherland, on plans to begin a systematic programme of fieldwork and research on the battlefield at Wakefield!
Needless to say that would be a dream come true for me... the battlefield has been crying out for serious investigation to try and clear up some of the mysteries, and answer some of the many questions, about the Battle of Wakefield. So, the first step is this free launch event (see left) at Sandal Castle Visitor Centre on Saturday 24th March, from 11.30 am to 2.30 pm. WYAS hopes it will raise local awareness and interest in this historic encounter, and that people living in the Sandal and Portobello area will come along with any objects they may have dug up in their gardens! Tim will be on hand to help with object identification, and explain the importance of such evidence in showing what happened literally in their back yards in December 1460... and I'll be there with some Frei Compagnie chums - in costume, of course - to give visitors a taste of living history and help to entertain the children.
The next stage, assuming funding and support are forthcoming, will be some field-walking (hopefully later this year), followed by other types of archaeological investigation and ultimately, a 'Big Dig' with test pits in local gardens to try and unearth finds from the battle. Meanwhile Wakefield Historical Society are busy studying maps and archive evidence... and I'm desperately hoping that in a couple of years time, I'll be able to revisit Wakefield Revisited with more hard evidence to back up my battle theories (or else to re-write it altogether!). This is SUCH an important project... I do hope it'll come off.
A wonderfully varied and very busy week for Herstory! I'm pleased to say I've now taken delivery of 100 lovely shiny new copies of Walk Towton 1461, and it's already begun selling well! So if you'd like a copy, you can now buy it from www.YPD-books.com, and from behind the bar at the Crooked Billet; it should also soon be available in Waterstones - and of course you can buy a copy (signed by both authors) for the special launch price of £6 at the Towton Battlefield Society event on Palm Sunday, April 1st.
Then on Thursday I was up at Boroughbridge Primary School, doing a show n' tell session on Towton for the Hands on the Past after-school archaeology club - 30-odd 7 to 11-year-olds drawn from 13 primary schools all round the district. As ever with school groups, it was marvellous - they loved all the gory bits, playing about with the weapons and trying on the costume! And doing the bill-drill, which I had to lead, twice in succession... great fun but oh, my aching back afterwards from all the 'hacking' and 'thranging' (not to mention sore throat from the 'drill sergeant' bellowing).
Next we were off to Sandal Castle on Saturday for the launch of the 'Searching for Wakefield's Battlefield' project (see pic on right). It was great for me personally, hooking up with old (and new) friends from the West Yorkshire Archaeology Service, Wakefield Museums and Historical Society, the Friends of Sandal Castle and
our chum Tim Sutherland. It was also a great day for the project, with several hundred people coming along to find out about it, and take part in activities from shield-painting to making play-doh 'subtleties' with Alex, using a quill pen with Fran, trying on costume with Alma, and handling weapons/doing the bill-drill with Alan and the Micks large and small - as you can see from the pictures below! (L - R: Fran with her calligraphy; bill-drill led by Big Mick Weaver, with Little Mick Doggett at the end; and Louise Martin of WYAS chatting to visitors).
Then on Sunday, we rounded the week off in perfect style (and in perfect, glorious sunshine) with a trip up to the Crooked Billet for our last archery practice before the Big Day (at least, I did - hubcap went off to Towton to tidy the field up with a bit of strimming)! Alan and I were very pleased to make our first sale of Walk Towton to 'Tall Mike' Wilson of TBS... and after a very pleasant shooting session we all sat down for a slap-up lunch. Somehow Mick managed to pack away one of the Billet's ginormous burgers with all the trimmings, while I thought I'd go for something light... only to find the char-grilled chicken salad with sauteed potatoes was almost as substantial! Ah well... I guess we'd burned off a lot of calories...
I don't know if I'm coming or going - TWO books released in a week! Yes, the revised and improved 2nd edition of Gondarlan is also now available from YPD-books.com at the much more affordable price of £7.99... and will soon be out in e-book and Kindle versions too, at £4.99! Added to which, we're already taking advance orders and making sales on Walk Towton 1461... so it's been a pretty exciting time on the publications front.
We also had a splendid time last night - doing the Doggett double-act on 'The Savile Family & the Battle of Wakefield' for the Friends of Rectory Park at the beautiful parish church of St Michael and All Angels at Thornhill. A very apt setting, since the family's chapel there has just been cleaned and restored, so we got chance to come face-to-face with some 14th and 15th century Saviles... quite a thrill, as you can see from the pictures below. As was going to the Savile Arms for a drink afterwards - because my very own husband (albeit a rather younger version!) features in a mural in their back room, painted by TBS member Stephen Hines:
RIP: Sir John Savile, Richard of York's friend and Constable St Michael and All Angels Hubcap, Mark Taylor and John Oldknow
of Sandal Castle, with his wife Lady Alice (Mick still wears that hat and doublet!)
And we'd barely had time to recover from all that excitement before we were off to Towton again... We'd both been getting so panicky about the much larger camp we'll have this year (around 60 trader and re-enactor tents to fit in quite a small space!) that we made a special extra trip this morning to mark the field out with white lines, just to be sure we can squeeze everyone in. Luckily for us, fellow Frei Co member Paul Griffin, who just happens to be an ex-groundsman, came along and helped hubcap lay and mark out the 'streets' for the tents, while I went around banging stakes in to show the early arrivals where to pitch camp... so feel a lot calmer about it now, and looking forward to the weekend. Let's hope the fine weather holds until April 2nd...