Tollerton Village event

On the 16th June 2007 Conroi De Vey held a small event as part of Tollerton village fete, Rosemary agreed to write a short report about the day to give visitors to the website an idea of the kinds of things we get up to.

Conroi de Vey needed an area for our regular weapon training sessions, so we made an a request to Tollerton Parish council to use the village open space. This was granted and we have had some training over the winter and spring months before the show season started. To express our gratitude we offered to put on a display at the village event in June.

On Saturday morning we arrived to a very soggy field after the rains and pitched our wic shelter and tent. Once we'd got the fire going, we cooked breakfast to set everyone up for the day.

Arena displays

Our Alfredian Thegn having just dispatched the 'hollywood hero'

During the first portion of our arena display we started by showing the differences between an Alfredian high status warrior (late C9th) and an equivalent Norman (mid C11th). The Alfredian thegn with little more than a helm, shield and spear was soon equipped, however, the Norman knight was a much lengthier procedure even with assistance from his retinue. This helped to demonstrate his multiple armour layers and the quantity of weapons he would have carried.

Anlack holding what little is left of a shield after the broadaxe demonstration

We moved on to demonstrating the use of different weapons with pairs of combatants, starting with the spear and shield. The efficacy of this combination was also shown against a 'Hollywood' attacker who armed in true hollywood style with 2 swords and was quickly dispatched to demonstrate both how effective a shield is for defense and how the big sweeping attacks favored in theatrical presentations leave the attacker open to all manner of simple fast attacks. Various other weapons were then demonstrated, including axe, sword, mace and a devastating display of a dane axe destroying a shield.

The warriors then retired briefly to the wic before moving on to the second part of the display. This comprised a short scenario that could have occurred around the dateline of the wic, 1086.

We know that Roger de Buisli (anglicised to de Bully) fought at the battle of Hastings with William, and was awarded huge tracts of land in several counties. His power base was in north Nottinghamshire, building his castle at Tickhill, and founding a priory at Blyth. Included in his lands was Tollerton (known as Troclauestune at the time), formerly owned by a Saxon thegn. In the Domesday book, this thegn still has some local lands attributed to him. It is possible that they may have been held by his widow if he had been killed at Hastings. We took this idea for our storyline, which ran as follows.

Our Saxon widow is travelling to a fair when she is accosted by Roger's retinue, who drive off her guards and hold her and her companions. Roger arrives, saying he wants her land as it adjoins his. When she refuses, he declares that he will gain it none the less by forcing her to wed him. A priest is summoned and the marriage service begins. This is interrupted by the return of the lady's guards with the shire reeve. A dispute arises when the reeve objects to the forced wedding, and the priest intervenes to arbitrate. In an attempt to minimise bloodshed, a trial by combat is suggested, the reeve represents the lady and Roger selects one of his henchmen as his representative. The Saxon wins the ensuing fight, but the outcome is hotly disputed by the Normans and a general melee breaks out and in the confusion the lady seizes the opportunity to escape. At the end of the day the Saxons were victorious, warning de Bully not to persue the lady further and he beats a hasty retreat.

Disagreeing with the result of the trial by combat a general melee breaks out.

All the fights in this sequence are competitive. The outcome was not pre-determined, this encourages our warriors to practise their skills in order to win.

Away from the arena

Spinning thread using a drop-spindle

Once the tale was told, everyone returned to the wic for our meal. One of our group, Sue, is particularly interested in the food of this period and has researched extensively, to our benefit! You can read all about the food we enjoyed at this event in the next section. Our digestion was aided by local beers and mead (from Castle Rock Brewery and Eglantine Vineyard).

The inclement weather prevented us from demonstrating a number of the period crafts we would normally have performed, but despite of the rain people got on with a number of projects in the dry space available including cooking, netting, nalbinding and spinning.

The rest of us where not idle and along with fetching and carrying for the kitchen our members spent a lot of time answering a diverse range of questions from the show visitors and discussing with them subjects ranging from military organisation to farming techniques. A lot of interest was generated by the range of food we where eating so we only felt it right to cover that in it's own section.

Tigwald demonstrating the basic points of net making.

Food

Sue (aka Miriel de Rouen) has kindly taken the time to write something about the food we where eating.

Mirial de Rouen (left) enjoying a well deserved rest from the kitchen and partaking of a small measure of mead with two of our warriors tucking into thier lunch of Mishimishya and Almond Milk soup

At the Conroi de Vey's recent local village show at Tollerton, the group was mad enough to entrust me with care of the catering. I can't sew, weave, stitch or any of that malarkey to save my life, but I'm not too bad on the cookery front and it's something I enjoy doing now and again.

Our dateline was 1086 and my aim was to supply food that would have been known to our Norman and English ancestors around this time. I aimed for a blend of high status dishes and everyday fare and tried to keep it in a seasonal context.

The main dish for the carnivores in the group was something called Mishimishya. As the name suggests, this is of Arabic origin versions can be traced back to the eighth century, but it came to be known in Northern Europe via pilgrimages, crusades, and sundry conquests. The neighbours over at Belvoir might well have known about it through their ancestor 'Ralf the Spaniard.' One of the spices involved cumin, was a heavily used spice in the Middle Ages, second only to pepper in the favourite stakes. Indeed, the closest style of cookery these days to the kind enjoyed by our early Medieval ancestors is North African.

Cooks hard at work, the couldren with pottage in can be seen at the front of the fire

For the peasants in the group I cooked a Pottage of Seasonal Vegetables broad beans, carrots, garlic, onions and herbs. Nothing fancy here. Just bung it in the cooking pot and let it get on with it. Broad beans were the only bean native to Europe. We had to wait for the discovery of the Americas for the rest. Had the peasants been feeling particularly well off, they might have added some chopped bacon to their dish, but I didn't on this occasion. The vegetarians, who could have dived into the pottage if they wished, also had a dish of Almond Milk Soup fairly high status, but affordable by the well to do middle classes. Almond milk was a basic staple of Medieval cookery.

Nibbles to keep everyone going between battles and getting soaked in the tradition demanded by English weather at summer shows included a herb omelette - basically the same as we'd cook today we know the Anglo Saxons ate them too. I used chive, sage and mint because I'd got them to hand in the garden, soft oat cakes very similar to pikelets or crumpets. There's a long tradition for these and Roger de Busli would doubtless have dined on these while staying at his castle at Tickhill. There was also shortbread of which we're almost sure there was a version in the Anglo Saxon period, seasonal summer fruits (cherries, strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants) bread, cheese and honey. I had also made a bread pudding somewhat similar to the Delia Smith version, but I'm still working on the provenances for that one, (although I'm almost there!) so we kept it hidden near the back!

So, to a couple of recipes. Do try these. They're really tasty, I promise you!

Mishimishya

The cook shelter full of helpers.

Take around half a pound of good stewing lamb (depending on appetite) per person cut into cubes and half a large onion per person. Chop the onion and fry in a large pan with the onion until the meat has coloured. Add a teaspoon of cumin per person and a teaspoon of coriander per person. Add a teaspoon of powdered ginger all told and a teaspoon of cinammon all told. Pepper and salt to preference. Cover with water and simmer until the lamb is tender. While this is going on, take half a pound of dried apricots, cover with boiling water and leave to stand. Mush to a puree in a blender or by hand. Once you're just about ready to serve the lamb, add the apricot puree a bit at a time, checking that it's too your taste. You might not need it all. Also scatter in a handful of ground almonds - again it's a case of taste it and see and test for thickness of the mixture. You can also add a sprinkling of rose water if you like. Serve with bread or flat bread if you're feeling Middle-Eastern.

Almond Milk soup

Put the ground almonds in a bowl and set aside.
Boil the onions in the water for five minutes.
Strain the onion water over the ground almonds and leave to steep for an hour.
Pour the almond and onion mixture into another bowl rubbing through a very fine sieve. Lining the sieve with a muslin will give extra refinement. You'll be left with a pile of almond grounds in the sieve, and a rich white 'milk' in the bowl.
Take your parboiled onions and fry them in a pan in a little butter until golden but not browned. Tip in the almond milk and wine, bring to a simmering bubble and cook until the onions are tender and all the flavours have mellowed and blended.
Check for seasoning and serve.

Bon appetite!


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