Welcome to the

Shire of Flintheath

Greetings, and welcome to the SCA shire of Flintheath!

We are the local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism (S.C.A) in the Principality of Insulae Draconis within the kingdom of Drachenwald. The general geographical coverage expands most of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and a bit of Bedfordshire, get in touch for further information to locate your local group.

The shire is comprised of living historians with interests in armoured & rapier combat, archery, arts & Sciences and much more, feel free to contact us for more.

As we are building and launching our new website, more and interesting content will be released often. Until then, enjoy and feel free to look around.

Yours in Service,
Lord Nero Lupo
Seneschal of Flintheath

The S.C.A is a non-profit, educational society dedicated to researching and recreating the Middle Ages in the present.

News & Updates from the Shire

Sadly, we've made the decision to cancel our combat practices until at least after Easter, due to Covid-19. However, your weekly fun historical posts will continue, as will the Drachenwald Try-athlon (drachenwald.sca.org/posts/news/2020/03/23/tryathon-week2/). This week's challenge: medieval food colouring. Have a go at some of our arts and sciences!

Today is Tolkien Reading Day, and as anyone who knows JRR Tolkien's works will be aware, he was heavily influenced by ancient and medieval European myth and legend, including works such as Nibelungenlied and Beowulf: These are epic poems which even at the time they were written were set in a far-off past.

Beowulf, written in Old English sometime before 1000 AD (since this is an estimated date for the one original manuscript we have) is often held to be the first work of English literature. This manuscript may be a reduction to writing of a poem which was previously passed down orally or may be an original work based on existing legends and folk-tales, but the result is a powerful and beautiful melding of Scandinavian tradition with the Christianity that was taking root at the time of its composition, along with themes of kingship and honour, all bound up in a great story of man and monster.

The Nibelungenlied is a cycle of stories which are related to the stories told in Wagner's Ring Cycle and the Volsunga Saga. It was originally written in Middle High German in about 1200 and is styled as a far more factual story than Beowulf, being about a conflict between humans driven by honour, greed, and revenge rather than man and monster. The cycle of death and revenge told in the poem climaxes in a massive last stand in a burning great hall. The heroes aren't necessarily sympathetic, but they're powerfully drawn and fascinating to watch.

If you're interested, translations of both these works are in the public domain and can be found online.
- Beowulf audiobook: librivox.org/beowulf/
- Nibelungenlied audiobook: librivox.org/the-nibelungenlied-by-anonymous/
- Beowulf text: www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/16328
- Nibelungenlied text: www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/7321

Images:
- The Death of Siegfried - Nibelungenlied Manuscript K
- Foleate Initial showing a Dragon - Roman Gradual - BL Egerton MS 857 f.1r
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Sadly, we've made the decision to cancel our combat practices until at least after Easter, due to Covid-19. However, your weekly fun historical posts will continue, as will the Drachenwald Try-athlon (drachenwald.sca.org/posts/news/2020/03/15/tryathon/). This week's challenge: twisted cord. Have a go at some of our arts and sciences!

As the activities of the Try-athlon suggest, though combat is the most obvious aspect of the SCA's activities it's far from the only one. Another activity we enjoy - especially at feast times - is music.

There aren't many secular tunes or songs that survive from medieval England, since these were mostly folk songs passed from person to person among commoners and thus not written down in expensive books or recorded by the church. However, there are some exceptions, such as the large number of verses contained in the so-called Harley Lyrics. One of these is a song about the coming of spring, which opens with all the imagery of flowers and birds that we would associate with the season today:

Lenten ys come with loue to toune,
With blosmen ant with briddes roune,
That al this blisse bryngeth.
Dayeseyes in this dales,
Notes suete of nyhtegales,
Vch foul song singeth.
The threstelcoc him threteth oo;
Away is huere wynter wo
When woderoue springeth.
This foules singeth ferly fele
Ant wlyteth on huere [wynne] wele
That al the wode ryngeth.

This is in Middle English, the same language as Chaucer used, and we can still make out a general sense, but here's a translation to Modern English!

Spring has arrived, with love,
With flowers, and with birdsong,
Bringing all this joy.
Daisies in the valleys,
The sweet notes of nightingales,
Every bird sings a song.
The thrush is constantly wrangling;
Their winter misery is gone
When the woodruff flowers.
These birds sing in great numbers,
And chirp about their wealth of joys,
So that all the wood rings.

(Transcription and translation source: Wessex Parallel WebTexts, www.soton.ac.uk/~wpwt/ ed. Bella Millett, English, Faculty of Humanities, University of Southampton)

As the days get longer, we can all feel some kinship with people centuries ago who sang that song!

Images:
- Member of the Shire of Flintheath at Bourn in a Barn 2019
- The above extract from "Spring" - The Harley Lyrics - BL Harley 2253 ff. 71v
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3 weeks ago

Watched some people fighting in the 16th century at Waterbeach today. It took me longer to write the letters than to make the quick sketch... ...

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This Saturday, join us for an afternoon of medieval combat on Waterbeach Green, starting at 1pm! The Society for Creative Anachronism supports almost any imaginable medieval craft or art, but we are at our most visible when practicing armoured tournament combat and the rapier dueling of the Renaissance.

There is no charge for attending. If you wish to try either armoured or rapier combat, please ensure you are wearing trainers/boots and long sleeves/trousers. You may wish to bring your own cup/box/groin protection if you do not wish to use the one in the group kit. We have loaner kit that will cover the rest of your needs.

It's commonly believed that medieval peasants lived in squalor, often in one-room huts in which they scratched a living on a tiny amount of land. However, documentary evidence shows that even as far back as the 1300s this was not the case. Lords of the manor frequently had legal agreements and disputes with their peasant tenants, and the resulting documents sometimes give details of the buildings on the peasants' plots as well as the size of the plots themselves.

In Flintheath, there are records of agreements between Ramsay Abbey and its tenants concerning houses with 420-square-foot footprints. While not large - a little over half the footprint of the average modern house - this is hardly a tiny hut. Some such houses also had multiple floors, and they were well built with wooden frames and wattle-and-daub walls.

Based on accounts from the time, it appears that building a house cost around £3 - about a year's wages for a skilled craftsman such as one of the carpenters building the timber frame.

Image: Add MS 24098 f18v - Book of Hours, Use of Rome (the 'Golf Book') - Calendar page for January
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Weather permitting, practice is on this Saturday at 13:00 on Waterbeach Green. If you're interested in trying out medieval or renaissance combat or want to talk to us about the modern middle ages, please contact us for anything you'd like to know!

There is no charge for attending. If you would like to try combat, please wear secure, closed-toed shoes and long sleeves/trousers. You may wish to bring your own cup/box/groin protection if you do not wish to use the one in the group kit. We have loaner kit that will cover the rest of your needs.

Last week, many of our members were attending the coronet tournament, at which we choose the next prince and princess of our principality of Insulae Draconis. The principality covers Iceland and the British Isles and heavy fighters come from all over the place to compete, each with their consort by their side. All genders can take part and all genders can be consorts; there's no rule that only a man can win the tournament or that couples must be opposite-sex!

The consorts not only inspire the fighters with their support from the gallery, but also take part in an arts and sciences display and contest, showing off the non-martial skills practiced in the society. For example, one of the ladies in Flintheath whose lord was fighting embroidered favours for them to take into the lists.

At the end of the day Prince Avery of Westfall and Princess Zoe of Enstone were duly crowned, and the event ended as many others do - feasting and merrymaking!

Image: Lord Ranulf and Lady Euphrosyne, members of the Shire, at the Coronet Tournament.
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Practice is at the usual time this Saturday at 13:00 at Waterbeach Green in Waterbeach (CB25 9HP). This week we will only be practicing rapier since many of our heavy fighters are at the coronet tournament, at which we choose the next prince and princess.

There is no charge for attending. If you wish to try combat, Please ensure you are wearing trainers/boots and long sleeves/trousers. You may wish to bring your own cup/box/groin protection if you do not wish to use the one in the group kit. We have loaner kit that will cover the rest of your needs.

The stereotypical image of a medieval tournament is the joust, in which two knights ride towards one another with lances, each trying to knock the other off his horse. While this is a very romantic image, it actually wasn't the main feature of most tournaments during the middle ages. That distinction went to the melee, in which knights formed into armies to fight in a huge "mock" battle, using real weapons and striking to injure.

The standard form of the tournament as a whole appears in sources as early as the 1160s and -70s, most notably the Life of William Marshal and the Arthurian romances of Chretien de Troyes. Knights arrived individually or in companies and their "sides" in the upcoming tournament were decided by the settlements they chose as their lodgings, of which one was the "principal" settlement. The tournament began on a field outside the principal settlement, where stands were erected for spectators.

Parties hosted by the principal magnates present were held in both settlements, and jousting offered knights an individual showcase for their talents. On the day of the event, the tournament was opened by a review in which both sides paraded past the stands, calling out their respective war cries. There was then more individual jousting, mostly among the younger, more inexperienced knights, and finally in the mid morning the knights lined up for the charge.

At a signal, the lines would ride at each other and meet with levelled lances. Those remaining on horseback would turn quickly (the action which gave the tournament its name) and single out knights to attack. The melee then degenerated into running battles between parties of knights seeking to take ransoms and would spread over several square miles between the two settlements. Most tournaments continued till both sides were exhausted, or till the light faded. While the aim was not to kill or seriously injure, tournaments were responsible for the fact that many medieval knights were probably missing teeth!

Following the tournament the event's patron would offer lavish banquets and entertainment with prizes were for the best knight on either side.

Video: Members of the Shire of Flintheath practicing melee (on foot!)
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Fight practice is on this Saturday on Waterbeach Green as usual, beginning at 1pm. We will be practicing medieval heavy and renaissance rapier combat as well as preparing for a major upcoming tournament and you're welcome to come along.

There is no charge for attending. If you would like to try out the combat, please wear trainers or boots and long sleeves and trousers. You may wish to bring your own cup/box/groin protection if you do not want to use the one in the group kit. We have loaner kit that will cover the rest of your needs.

Please be aware that there is a weather warning in place from the Met Office and plan appropriately!

While the climate overall is changing in the modern era, our ancestors did have to deal with the occasional extreme weather event. A terrifying example of this was the Saint Marcellus's flood or - as it was called in Europe - the Grote Mandrenke, or Great Drowning of Men. This was a massive storm which hit the British Isles, the Netherlands, northern Germany, and Denmark in January 1362.

The most destructive part of this event was a storm tide in the North Sea, which peaked on the 16th January - St Marcellus' day, hence the name - and was so severe it reshaped the coastlines; along with other similar storm surges in the 12- and 1300s, it formed the inland Zuiderzee in the Netherlands. It also wiped towns off the map, including Ravenser Odd in East Yorkshire and, in Flintheath, the harbour of Dunwich.

Before the floods, Dunwich was a busy trading port, dating back to Anglo-Saxon times. Low tides reveal the fact that shipbuilding used to occur there and underwater archaeology has found the ruins of many medieval stone buildings just off the coast. Now it is a small village overlooking the sea, though legend has it that sometimes church bells can still be heard from under the waves.

Inland, there were also effects from the storm, which was therefore also known as the Great Wind of 1362. Anonymous of Canterbury, a chronicler of the time, described it in apocalyptic terms:

"Around the hour of vespers on that day [15th January 1362], dreadful storms and whirlwinds such as never been seen or heard before occurred in England, causing houses and buildings for the most part to come crashing to the ground, while some others, having had their roofs blown off by the force of the winds, were left in the ruined state; and fruit trees in gardens and other places, along with other trees standing in the woods and elsewhere, were wrenched from the earth by their roots with a great crash, as if the Day of Judgement were at hand, and fear and trembling gripped the people of England to such an extent that no one knew where he could safely hide, for church towers, windmills, and many dwelling-houses collapsed to the ground, although without much bodily injury."

(Quotation source: www.medievalists.net/2015/02/great-wind-1362/)

Image: A devil raising a storm at sea - Matfre Ermengaud, Breviari d'Amor - BL Royal MS 19 C I f33v
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