May 2011

bolling hall

2nd May


TBS had a lovely treat on Saturday... Peter Algar, a Director of the Bolling Family Association, led us on a guided tour of Bolling Hall in Bradford. Peter opened proceedings with an introduction to the Hall and the colourful history of his Bolling ancestors, who had fought for the Lancastrians at Towton. After the lecture, Peter guided us round this splendid building (left) whose oldest part is a 14th century defensive pele tower (apparently needed because the Bollings were unscrupulous land-grabbers, mightily unpopular with their neighbours!). The rest of the building dates to the 16th and 18th centuries - apart from a sad fragment of the medieval banqueting hall, once connected to the main Hall by a timber walkway. Unfortunately, in the 20th century the local Council demolished the whole thing, apart from one stretch of wall (see pic below right), as constituting a Health & Safety hazard!

banqueting hall


bolling cake doggetts at bolling

Doggetts at Bolling Hall, in front of the armourial        The amazing cake with Bolling heraldry Peter commissioned                 Entrance to the sadly-defunct banqueting hall

                         stained glass window                                   for the Society's lunch (yes, it tasted as good as it looks!)

As you can see, a few Frei Compagnie members went in costume because for us, this was a multi-purpose visit. As well as enjoying Peter's fascinating tour - where we learned that Bolling is one of England's most haunted houses (I looked but didn't see any ghosts, alas) - we Doggetts enjoyed an excellent lunch; scooped the prize of a bottle of 'Elizabeth Bolling's Sloe Gin; then with hubcap and Mick Weaver resplendent in new Bolling livery tabards, posed for a few photos (see right). Then we did a site/risk assessment, because the Compagnie's due to appear at Bolling on the last weekend in September - hence the pics, which will be used to publicise the event. So we've sorted out where it's safe to pitch our tents, set up our archery range and do our combat demonstrations - and even though the event's still months away, I'm excited already! It's such a beautiful venue, a good cause - promoting an historic house with Wars of the Roses connections - and we can even use rooms like the Great Kitchen for our show n' tell/displays if the weather turns out to be rubbish. So we're making it the Frei Compagnie's end-of-season event, and I think it has the makings of a good one (especially if we get the private evening ghost-walk Peter's promised!!) - I can't help but look forward to it.



fierce micks lead open day

11th May


The drought in Yorkshire well n' truly broke last week, with some tremendous thundery downpours - and more forecast for the weekend. So as I lay abed at 3am on Sunday listening to it bucket down, I was afraid the Churches Conservation Trust Open Day at St Mary's would be a total washout - but no! Luckily it had brightened up by the time we set off at 8am, and we had a lovely day in every respect - as you can see from the pic on the right. The Crooked Billet car-park overflowed onto the verge - I reckon at least 200 visitors came throughout the day - great for the CCT, and the Billet's new landlords Richard and Joanne! So we were kept busy talking and running have-a-go archery... but Alex and I found time to sneak over to St Mary's at 1.30 to watch an excellent short play on Towton by drama group members from Boroughbridge School.

We also had a great 'pot luck' feast, thanks to generous contributions from all the Frei Co and TBS members who attended; Mick's latest batch of nettle ale went down particularly well! The only painful note was struck by our redoubtable Lord Clifford who, dressed in his grandfather's 14th century armour, managed to clobber both hubcap and Steve Clegg on the index finger while they were playing with swords...

14 c battle me at billet 14th c stu

A 14th century Clifford...                                                      an unfair fight with my husband!                                             Me modelling new over-kirtle (finished after

                                                                                                                                                                                                                         2 days of frantic sewing!)    


So a great day all round - then it was back to the real world! Having at long last finished our end-of-year accounts (the great grind of the self-employed), I'm chained to the computer again. Not that I'm complaining - I've just submitted a short piece on the new Towton Battlefield Trail for next month's Military Times, and am now working on an article on the Battle of Wakefield for Skirmish magazine... as well as preparing to give a guided tour of Sandal and Pontefract Castles to Boston Spa Archaeology & Heritage group on Sunday.... and excitedly awaiting news from Chipmunka as to when the paperback edition of Gondarlan will be in print - shouldn't be long now!

23rd May


Wow! The Frei Compagnie's just had its best-ever outing to Sherburn Gala - biggest crew, most impressive camp, a great crowd of interested visitors and lovely weather to boot. Our usual ranks were swelled by three of our enthusiastic new members, Alex, Alan, and Master Bowyer Dave with his wonderful array of medieval weapons - plus a couple of welcome guests in the form of Hannah, gunner Des's grandaughter, and our friend Pete (both from the Savile household); so with 13 re-enactors, 3 awnings, 2 tents and an archery range, we put on a pretty good show:


sherburn 11 me at sherburn

My pic of the camp, showing Des's armoury and the company kitchen in the foreground                              Tall Mike's pic of me preparing lunch

Our new kitchen awning (bought from the Savile Household) is turning out to be a real Godsend - as well as looking great on camp, it gives plenty of shelter from the weather - and is high enough even for our tallest blokes to stand under comfortably! Must confess I spent most of the day there pottering about with the food, sewing and chatting to Alex and Fran (hurrah for medieval gender roles!) while the guys laboured out in the sun... although I did venture forth to drill 'Captain Cabbage-head' with a few arrows and (eventually) lend a hand with the have-a-go archery. So the day flew by most enjoyably - we even escaped the rain forecast for end of the afternoon/pack-down time.


Then we treated ourselves to dinner at the Crooked Billet - which I can wholeheartedly recommend. The new landlords Richard and Joanne have got off to a flying start - and their food is absolutely wonderful. I had a perfect home-made cheeseburger with yummy perfect golden home-made chips, onion rings and salad for a reasonable £8.95; Mick opted for a slab of melt-in-the-mouth belly pork with a crackling top, on a bed of mashed potatoes and apple sauce, served with a wine & mushroom sauce and a vegetable medley for £9.95. Just the thing after a long day eventing, and two of the best pub meals we've ever tasted... I can't wait till we eat there again!

Fran & Alex

Relaxing after the event - Tall Mike captures Fran & Alex sneaking a ride on 'Thomas the Tank Engine' - complete with ice-creams!


28th May


Thanks to lashings of rain and an overworked husband, our tiny patch of lawn has grown into a little meadow full of buttercups, daisies and dandelions - which gave us a rare treat this morning, in the shape of a beautiful bullfinch with jet-black cap and bright rosy breast. They don't normally land in gardens as small as ours... but normally they're not as thin as this one. Mick said he looked tired out and drained from feeding his mate and brood, and he was certainly very hungry... we watched him for a good five minutes working the dandelion heads, snipping the seeds off with his beak and spitting out the fluff. I'd never seen that before, let alone at such close quarters - it made me very glad Mick hadn't had time to cut the grass or do the weeding.


And I've another reason to be glad: Gondarlan has just come out in paperback - I got my first copy on Thursday! I'm delighted with the way it looks in the Chipmunka house style (see left), and delighted to see it in print at long, long last... so different to the on-screen version I'm used to working with. Admittedly, at £12.99, it's a lot more expensive than your average novel - albeit with a good reason. Chipmunka's not your average publisher; it's a social enterprise dedicated to publishing works by and for people with mental health problems, and to breaking down the prejudice and stigma that surround such conditions. As a recovered depressive, this is a cause close to my heart, and the main reason I hoped to place my fiction with Chipmunka rather than a mainstream publisher. So I do hope it sells lots of copies, because a percentage of all their books' cover price goes to fund this worthy endeavour... I feel proud to be a part of it, and (when my feet have reconnected with terra firma!) intend to do everything I can to publicise it and boost sales.


But for the time being I shall rest briefly on my laurels, and celebrate becoming a novelist with a glass of Mr. Doggett's nettle ale!