In living history, exhibit tent of Thomas & Rusty Aldwinkle.

Closer look at the teague and water jug.  Recumbent 'neath the table is Jack.

Thomas Aldwinkle, trying on a shiny new helmet to be used in a movie production of Cromwell in Ireland (and to be worn by the actor portraying Cromwell).  Tom was asked to 'age' the helmet for photogenic purposes, so he and I smudged it with grease, soot and dirt.  The movie company (from Ireland) came to the event for wide shots of red-coated English soldiery.

Tom Aldwinckle prepared this little exhibit of why armor faded from use during the English Civil War.  The holes in the breast plate were put there with an ordinary musket charge and ball.  Set behind it during the shoot was this mahogany plank, which was also penetrated.

Artillerists taking their ease by their piece.  For more pictures of artillery at Nantwich, please click here.
I attended the final Sealed Knot major event for 2007, which was held at Nantwich ('bout midway between York & Manchester.

Three Sealed Knot events had been cancelled due to rain during the summer and this one was threatened with cancellation because of an outbreak of foot & mouth disease in the south of England. But it was held, and over 2,000 Knotters came, ready to party. And indeed there was a lot of beer and bash, with a touch of blood.

Mm, yes, the beer. Good, sturdy English ales and ciders. The beer tent was selling it for a mere two quid a pint. The beer tent was erected over pasture, and within a day, the interior was heavy with the musk of stale beer and fermenting trampled grass. But no tobacco odors; England now has a law similar to California's about smoking in enclosed public spaces. Each of four nights a different rock band performed, mostly rehashes of '60-80's tunes - and piercingly loud. I would not have been surprised that residents of the north end of Birmingham were tapping toes to the tunes. Knotters thrived in the rush of beer and sound; although I drank much beer (and other incredibly mellow tastes from up north, Scotland), I lingered little about the beer tent at that sound level because my old ears find loud, high notes to be painful. Others, however, were undaunted. Envision a sergeant of Robard's, a Parliamentary regiment, build like a brick standing on end at, ohh, six foot, two - and attired in a thong, dancing the night away. Not to be overlooked, there was not one busload of Germans, but two, from Bavaria, and conjecture was the busses were carrying more beer than people.

Although I am sensitive now to ultra-loud sound, I indulged enthusiastically in history as a contact sport. I pushed hard in every push of pike for two days. Since the numbers for Stamford's is a bit too low to field it's distinct identity on the field of honor, we in Stamford's were rolled into Ballard's and Robard's of the Western Association (I went with Robard's). Of course we were cheerfully welcomed: the more mass the merrier for the push.

The morning of the first day, all were told we were to have a drill session on the field, and we all blithely marched to what we thought would be postures and motions drill. Well-l-l, drill soon devolved into practice pushes, one regiment against another. I dug in my hobnailed boots and rammed on. In the regiment we were pushing, a fellow broke his ankle. Among the Royalists, one push popped a man up above his mates and elevated he vomitted on all. Although I've not experienced such, others have in which the initial contact between the two regiments is so hard and with so much mass behind the leading ranks that a man can be forced up, sort of like squeezing toothpaste from a tube held upright.

That afternoon was the battle for the spectators. The actual battle, in January, 1643, was won by Parliamentary forces. So, in the end, Parliament was to emerge vicotrious on this and the next day, according to the script. The regiment I was in, Robard's, energetically confronted Royalist pike and pushed well. Then we seemed to have become isolated. I was critical of our immediate command because more than once we were ordered to break off Royalists in front to engage some on the right - and then heard the mention to look directly behind - where Royalist pike were gleefully descending upon us. Had that been real, we woulda been dead. At one point, though, when we were engaging Royalist musket who countered with clubbed butts, I parried with an officer, my pike against his partizan and drawn sword. Not making progress, I set down my pike and rushed him, knocking the partizan and sword aside and then simulated striking him with a knee and an elbow. Later I was told that officer likely did not appreciate my audacity but that was his issue, acquaintances said. What I did not realize until I was told the following day by the commander of the Western Association that, although Parliament was scripted to win and would do so at the end for the audience, the majority of the battle was an exercise in real tactics by commanders who maneuvered regiments about, which is why Robard's pike was hit on three sides - we were a probe and 'bait' to lure Royalists away from other Parliamentary regiments that afternoon.

The second day, the Western Association was permitted to remain together. And we swept the field, going from one Royalist pike to another and exhausting them. Plunging on to near the other end of the field, we in Robard's came upon a little group of Royalist officers, which we learned, in fact, was THE command for the Royalist forces. Following their own cunning plans, they had sent away their guarding musketeers and pikemen on other errands, leaving themselves alone and isolated. Those officers were displeased to discover themselves staring down the shafts of Robard's pike. In many Sealed Knot engagements, Royalists outnumber Parliamentarians, but not this day. They whined and we triumphed. One complaint of ours was we "hardly broke a sweat." At one point we were so keen for a good push, we invited Ballard's to heave against us for fun. They obliged merrily.

Certainly some participants played at being casualites. But there were others on the field who weren't playing at being wounded; they were distinguished by people kneeling around them, some of whom were medics. Others remained standing and soldiered on with blood trickling down their faces. And little ol' me emerged without a scratch.

Everyone was wowed by my coming there all the way from California. A New Yorker was the only other American (and he was raised and educated in the U.K.). One teenage girl was enraptured by my accent, claimed I sounded like Tom Cruise. Too bad I wasn't in a situation to, um, well... Even on the P.A. system for the event's battles, the announcer mentioned that a Sealed Knot member came all the way from California.

My days at Nantwich were filled with good conversation, good beer and good fights. 



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2008, Barry L. Siler