I have been fortunate enough this summer to have spent some wonderful days out with my children. One of the most memorable of these was undoubtedly our experience as spectators to the Grand Medieval Joust at the majestic Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire.
Tickets for this event were discounted for English Heritage members; and so our family ticket was a mere £9.00!
We arrived at Bolsover castle uncharacteristically late and found that the onsite parking and the closest car parks were full. As we drove only a short distance to another car park, we could see the droves of people armed with picnic baskets and deck chairs heading towards the castle – we knew this would be an excellent and extremely well attended event. I was in fact rather grateful for the short walk as it enabled a glimpse of the small, beautiful town of Bolsover I would have otherwise been deprived of.
Bolsover Castle has some excellent facilities; a well-stocked shop, a reasonably priced café and plenty of toilet facilities (also some admirably clean portaloos were hired for the event). There are also ample picnic tables and grassy areas for relaxing on the lawn.
The Day’s Events
The day for us began with a quick check of the itinerary (this was available online prior to the event).
One noticeable feature of this event was the sheer amount of activities planned throughout the day. Quite often at similar events, one main event occurs at one given time. This occasion was evidently huge with simultaneous events running in both the inner and outer courts. As well as the main events, a camp of re-en-actors had pitched up displaying all sorts of aspects of medieval life.
Some made weapons and tools.
There were stalls selling beautiful handmade gifts (which we of course had to sample).
Hand’s on History
One of the (many) things I love about the English Heritage is their goal to bring history to life. Their emphasis on ‘hands on history’ makes their events especially appealing to children. Aurelia made a silver coin and was told what the coin was worth.
Aurelia was also really keen to try on armour and helmets. There were numerous stalls and stands which encouraged children to play dress-up and really get a sense of what medieval knights wore (and the heaviness of the armour the jousters were wearing)!
The children sat down part way through the day to enjoy a medieval story which was told by some wonderful actors! The story gripped and enthralled the adults too!
One of the wonderful things about the day was the commitment of the re-enactors to make Bolsover castle actually feel like a medieval encampment. We continuously saw men and women dressed in armour marching amongst the adoring crowds (of children … and adults) to and from events in battle formation.
Medieval Falconry Display
We have seen this company at numerous English Heritage events and no two shows are ever the same. We were treated to a spectacle of mounted falconry in which the falconer demonstrates how medieval falconers would have hunted with their birds on horseback. Whilst doing so they give an extremely informative and interesting talk.
After the display, the birds are perched on display throughout the day and are always a firm favourite with all visitors.
The Grand Joust
The Grand Joust was performed twice – at 12.30 pm and at then 3.30pm which was the quieter event we attended. The knights take to the tilt yard and spectators are asked to cheer for their favourite knight. The colours are always the same at medieval events hosted by the English Heritage – blue, red, green and gold. Flags are also available to purchase and because they keep the same colours, spectators can bring their flags to different events and keep the same colour.
The knights then prepared for the joust in each corner allowing spectators a closer view of their entertainers.
The joust began. Jousting had a points system – the ultimate object of the game was to shatter the spear of your own lance. In the middle ages, the point system varied, however as a guide:
- 1 point for breaking one’s own lance between the opposing jouster’s waist and neck.
- 2 points for breaking the lance on the opposing jouster’s head.
- 3 points for unhorsing the opponent.
Points were also awarded for breaking one’s lance on the opponents head.
This was an astounding display in which the crowd cheered and jeered throughout.
Foot Combat and Tourney
The most hilarious part of the day was undoubtedly the foot combat display. The actors created a story; gun powder had been stolen from the castle and in two teams the foot soldiers argued and accused each other of stealing it.
It was evident that the actors were really enjoying themselves and this made the display so entertaining. The actors were amazing; they interacted with the crowd making continuous jokes and, to my delight, multiple Monty Python references!
The Castle itself will be the subject of a future post. In the interim I must say we loved the castle and the grounds and loved investigating the buildings. To see all of the delights of Bolsover castle is a day in itself and we will soon be returning to fully explore it.
The day was made so spectacular because of the enthusiasm, kindness and approachability of the re-en actors.
Aurelia was thrilled to have had her photograph taken with ‘knights’ and all individuals were so welcoming to us.
The effort these people put into their craft is astounding and I cannot thank them enough for such a memorable and entertaining family day out.1