Wherever you go you can always find stitching!

As you know on my travels I like to look for textile arts of all forms and the recent trip to Berkeley Castle for the re-enactment event was no exception and there were some excellent examples there.

We arrrived on Thursday for a very, very wet pitch – soaked to the skin by the time we got the tent up but we dried off and had a lovely if a little damp weekend as it also rained heavily on Sun as we were packing up. It is a fantastic castle which has been in the same family for over 900 years and we were lucky enough to be camped in the meadows with this view.

Berkeley castle on an overcast July day
Berkeley castle on an overcast July day

It is always a real shame when wet weather happens as the organisers of the events (in this case the lovely Plantagenet Events people) put such an effort into doing this and without paying members of the public turning up they will not happen. I know that it is not the same coming to an event when the weather is not good but can I make a plea to all you out there to not let a bit of rain put you off coming to something – you will still have a great time .

We pull out all the stops to make sure that things go ahead as planned and things will only be cancelled as a last resort if it is really unsafe to go ahead.The people that run these events do not do it to make a vast profit and a couple of bad events can bankrupt them, they do it for the love of keeping our history alive. As participants we do it all for free, we receive no expenses at all for the bigger events and fund all our own costumes, travel and kit (hence the need for the day job!). So please come along – you may be a bit damp but you’ll still have a good time and if you stay indoors every time it rains in England you’d never get out!

We had intended to go round the castle on Fri but it was shut so instead went to the Edward Jenner museum which is located in Berkeley Village right next to the castle in the doctor’s old house. It was a very interesting museum indeed – I knew the story of how he experimented with inoculation having learnt it at school but there were lots of original exhibits relating to his life and family including these two touching examples of stitching.

The whitework detail on the Jenner Family christening robes
The whitework detail on the Jenner Family christening robes
The needlepoint cushion on Edward Jenner's garden chair - in the middle are his intials
The needlepoint cushion on Edward Jenner's garden chair - in the middle are his initials

This is what I love about stitching – it is everywhere from the most ordinary places to the biggest palaces and it still absolutely fascinating me that so much work has been done by so many people that we will never know anything about. I would love to know more about the people (women?) who made these items but sadly nothing is usually recorded.

We then visited the 13th century St Mary’s Church which is between Edward Jenner’s house and the castle. There was some lovely goldwork on the altar frontal and banner.

St Mary's Church
St Mary's Church
Painted screen inside the church
Painted screen inside the church
A tudor rose motif on an altar frontal
A tudor rose motif on an altar frontal
The same motif on a beautiful banner
The same motif on a beautiful banner

There was also a very lovely effigy on the tomb of Thomas 8th Lord of Berkeley and his Lady Katherine dated 1361.

The effigy
The effigy

Ellie and I were admiring the headress and discussing what type it was ( a nebule or goffered headdress ) and I remarked that my friend Kat had made one similar which was on her web site. When we came out of the church who should we bump into but Kat, Richard and Isabella who had come to look at the same effigy before going to the event!

Lady Katherine's nebule headdress
Lady Katherine's nebule headdress

We had a very good tour round the castle itself on Saturday – the grounds were really lovely and I took lots of flower pics which I intend to use as the basis for some embroidery projects later on.

My friends Carl (Geoffrey of Woodstock) and Denise (Matilda de Monfichet) in the castle gardens
My friends Carl (Geoffrey of Woodstock) and Denise (Matilda de Monfichet) in the castle gardens
One of the paths leading to the castle
One of the paths leading to the castle
The view of the medieval tent enacmpment from the castle
The view of the medieval tent enacmpment from the castle

Sadly you couldn’t take any photos inside the castle as there was the most amazing embroidered bedspread and pillow slips made for Elizabeth 1st on display. Couldn’t find any pics of it on the web either so you will just  have to go and see for yourself!

We have just come back from another event at Ashby de la Zouche Castle – a mixed weekend in terms of weather with rain all day on Sat (big thanks to the 120 people who came to see us in that!) and glorious sunshine all day Sunday so we got to pack the tents away dry!

I will leave you with a lovely picture from Tewkesbury this year with yet more embroidery and lots of shiny armour. This is us on the battlefield under the very fine goldwork banner of the Duke of Gloucester (aka Rob).

Lots of men in shiny armour!
Lots of men in shiny armour!

You can just see my head and hand on the right of the pic giving water to Dave . This pic was taken by someone called fac man who has a Flickr site with more pics if you want to see more of the event and the armour!

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