Events: Oxford Castle

Oxford Castle Show 2007

Oxford Castle staged a Mediaeval Fair as part of the County Council's Opening Doors, Opening Minds season, which celebrates 1000 years of Oxfordshire. We were given two stalls, which we covered with weapons, armour, clothing, nalbinding, tablet weaving, and Al's very pretty jewellery. Shelagh set up a tablet weaving loom and the rest of us occupied ourselves sewing, lucetting, embroidering, chain maille-ing, spinning, talking to the public and putting helmets and hauberks on small children. We were next to Magnus Sigurdsson and his longsword chappies (the Guthrum Squires), and both they and us put on three combat displays over the day.

The combat displays were a mix of one-on-one fights, some shield wall drill and advancing on the audience, and wall fighting. Some of the one-on-one fights were choreographed, others were free fights and sometimes we just demonstrated attacks and ripostes. Emily commentated on the fights over the PA. One bit that went particularly well involved Dom attacking a shield wall and failing, then a small child being invited from the audience to charge at the wall, whereupon we all screamed and fell over.

Conclusions from the day are as follows:

  • It was great fun!
  • Audience participation (booing, cheering, joining in) really works
  • People are very interested in seeing authentic crafts being practised
  • And in seeing people fight dirty with lots of grappling
  • Throwing axes at the Castle lift is to be avoided

Oxford Castle Show 2008

Six of us went along to the Oxford Preservation Trust's annual Mediaeval Fair in June 2008. We set up a stall covered in lots of kit, Shelagh set up her tablet weaving loom and we all stood around doing crafts, talking to the public, showing weapons to children and generally looking approachable. The fair was very similar to the previous year's, with the addition of 15th-century reenactment group the Companions of the Crow. Both we and they put on combat demonstrations during the day and the two extreme ends of 'Mediaeval' combat made a nice contrast.

Because there were so few of us and because the ground was very wet, we adopted more of a 'show & tell' approach to the displays than in 2007. Freya introduced us and commentated while the others fought one-on-one with a variety of weapons: spear & shield, single sword and sword & shield. There was also a two-on-two fight. Support and cries of 'kill him!' were encouraged from the audience. We also did a brief demonstration of the gentle art of the Dane axe. Then all the combatants (Paul, Ferny, Chris and Gwen) did a shield wall drill, advancing on the audience with fearsome battle cries. We then used the tried and tested the 'pick a small child and get them to attack the wall' routine. All in all, this approach seemed to work really well with a small number of people.

Oxford Castle Show 2009


Wychwood was back at the Castle in 2009, on the 13th-14th June. It was wonderful weather, and we were down to do two combat displays as well as our normal ever-popular table-of-weapons. As well as Wychwood, there were some clankies from Birmingham, the Companions of the Crow and A1 Pegasus Hawking. Everyone was really friendly, and it was a great day! Wychwood especially enjoyed posing for photos with the birds of prey from A1 Pegasus…

There's a couple of photos (mainly of us + birds of prey) here.

For our combat display, we did a history of Oxford from it's founding to the founding of the Castle: first the Saxons came on, then they fought some Vikings. Then peace was declared. Then there was the St Bride's Massacre at St Frideswide's, Saxons stabbing Vikings. Then came 1066, and a mini-re-enactment of Hastings, the Normans victorious and founding castles.
After the history bit, we demonstrated the strength of the shieldwall- then got a member of the audience to use the Daneaxe to destroy it! We also got members of the audience to choose their champions & decide what the champions would fight with, and did Circles of Treachery. Lots of fun!

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