Skip to content

I’m Henry VIII, I am, I am.

The Katherine of Aragon Festival

Peterborough Cathedral, 27-29 January 2017

Hen16252474_10154908379471904_788030782686637915_oricus Rex, The eighth of that name since the Conquest in 1066. By Grace of God Kynge of Englande, Wales, France and Lord of Irelonde, Fide Defensor.

And so it came to pass that on the 7th January 1536, Katherine of Aragon, the Queen of England and first wife of Henry VIII, died at Kimbolton castle, having been exiled from Court since 1525. when Henry became infatuated with a Lady-In- Waiting, Anne Boleyn.

To the end, Kathryn still claimed to be England’s true and rightful Queen. Upon her death bed she wrote to Henry-
     My most dear lord, king and husband.

The hour of my death now drawing on, the tender love I owe you forceth me, my case being such, to commend myself to you, and to put you in remembrance with a few words of the health and safeguard of your soul which you ought to prefer before all worldly matters, and before the care and pampering of your body, for the which you have cast me into many calamities and yourself into many troubles.

For my part, I pardon you everything, and I wish to devoutly pray God that He will pardon you also. For the rest, I commend unto you our daughter Mary, beseeching you to be a good father unto her, as I have heretofore desired. I entreat you also, on behalf of my maids, to give them marriage portions, which is not much, they being but three. For all my other servants I solicit the wages due them, and a year more, lest they be unprovided for.

Lastly, I make this vow, that mine eyes desire you above all things.
Katharine the Quene.

Katherine was buried quietly and quickly in Peterborough Cathedral so as to avoid bringing her body back to London where she was much favoured by the people above Anne Boleyn.

Henry did not allow their daughter, Princess Mary, to attend the funeral.


Henry, Katheryn & Anne lurking behind.

Our role at the Festival was to give four Royal audiences each day.  These were well received, by children and adults alike,  in the New Visitor Centre in the Cathedral precincts. As well as pertinent topics of our reign and situation, we also discussed and showed off Tudor fashions, food, sports, and the King’s Great matter.

This is typical of the service that BKH offers- well researched, high quality, Interpretation and delivered in both 1st and 3rd person manner. Grateful thanks to Izabela [KOA], Molly [AB], Stuart for the booking , and Lucas for the pics.

Further reading can be found here:

Prior Attire

Timelight Photography

The Festival 


Veni- Vidi – Bicycle?


28th December 2016.

Yes it was that cold. And foggy. Without socks.

Minus 4 degrees on arrival at Venta Icenorum, the market place of the Iceni tribe just south of modern day Norwich, in the village of Caister St Edmund, and home to a thriving Roman township from the 1st to the 5th Century AD.

So what makes a guy like me do this?

Well, let me start – with an email in July ’16 from Mr David Yates of Norfolk County Council. He asks if I am interested in being part of their Winter ‘Walking & Cycling Festival’.   Intrigued,  and looking for work in the ‘quieter season’ of historical events, I am keen to say yes, without really giving the weather conditions/time of year much consideration.

So, what would the job entail, I ask?  David says we have 2 days for you – could you meet a group of walkers at Venta as if on a morning patrol as a Roman soldier?  And then ride a bicycle around mid-Norfolk, in the guise of an RAF airman from the Second World War, looking at the features of an old RAF Aerodrome at Attlebridge?  Of course, I’d be delighted to…

Both sets of equipment checked in readiness, all I needed was a period bicycle, and my good friend Stuart has one and happily obliged with a loan. Stuart had restored his bike into a WW1 guise; it has only one gear, painted khaki green for Historical Interpretation as 6th [Cyclists] Batallion, Royal Norfolk Regt. [below]


Stuart with his bicycle.

On the 14th December 2016 I arrange to meet David and some of his cycling colleagues out at Attlebridge station on the disused railway line now known as Marriotts Way for a recce of the proposed route, checking the surviving features on the map etc. [see below pdf]


I must, at this point, make a confession. I hadn’t ridden a pushbike for 30+ years. It was, as they say, interesting!  We stopped regularly to look at locations and archaeological remains en route, and the whole journey including stops for narration and explanation of features was scheduled for just under 4 hours- a comfortable trip for all ages and abilities. Surprisingly my backside was ok afterwards due to the quality leather Brookes saddle, my knees however were a different matter and much Ibruprofen gel was applied.

On the 20th December- a sunny winters day, I met David at Caistor Roman Town for a similar, warmer recce of the planned 3 mile route around the perimeter of the site, picking up useful additions to the talk/tour, such as the Defixio lead curse tablet found in the River Tas which flows adjacent to the site.

So, onto the events proper.

The scheduled walk around Caistor on 28 December coincided with a deep ground frost, the first serious subzero temperature of winter. De-icing the van, throwing my soft woolen clothes [ tunica, focale & panenula] into the cab for some thawing out as having been stored overnight in the van, I set off for the 40 minute drive to Caistor, ready to change into XX Legionnary Marcus Aurelius Dorsuo in the car park [glamorous, huh?]

Once there, I realised that I didn’t have my pedulia so barefoot in caligae it was! Now this IS cold- no socks! frosty-feet

Meeting the 30 walkers in the car park, they soon discovered that I take this historical interpretation m’larky seriously- they tried to get me to go back and change into my modern boots with socks! What would Nero have said to that? I just couldn’t do it- so 3 miles with frosty feet it was.

For those interested in the equipment, I was wearing a woollen tunica, scarf [focale], leather sandals [caligae], a mail shirt [lorica hamata], legionary helmet [galea],  military belt [cingulum militare], sword with baldric [gladius with balteus], dagger [pugio], with the cloak [panenula ] over it, and finally the shield [scutum] and javelin [pilum] .

All walkers including me made it back safely in about 2 hours. Feet now thawed and all well- no frostbite!


I was lucky enough on the 2nd January to be assisted by my dear colleague Mark Taylor in the guise of PFC Hank ‘the Yank’ Gently, from the 8th Air Force. Mark is an expert on the ‘8th in the East’ and as our story involved both RAF and USAAF, we made a dynamic team, full of insights and innuendo!


The weather was slightly different from the Roman walk – the previous day had seen heavy rain all day, and then a frost overnight, so the roads were icy but the sun was out, and fears of rerouting were soon avoided once we set off from Attlebridge station car park and the roads thawed in front of us.


Leading the cyclists past Attlebridge station 











We freewheeled south, crossing the A1067 and then headed up the long slope into Weston Longville,  past the Parson Woodforde pub [sadly closed for refurbishment this time].

We stopped at scheduled points around the aerodrome, now dominated by 2 huge wind turbines, and home to numerous Bernard Matthews turkey sheds, but the main runways are mostly intact. Originally home to 88 (Hong Kong) Squadron of the RAF flying Blenheims and Bostons, it became Station 120 with the arrival of our American cousins.

Picture:  below dated 1946  shows the extra long east-west runway, extended to 2000 yards long in 1943 to take Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers.


Our journey took us around the full perimeter of the site- hidden in the woodland to the east are remains of the ammunition stores and bomb dump.

There were 4 squadrons of B-24’s here in the late war, 784, 785, 786 and 787 squadrons forming 466 Heavy Bombardment Group of the USAAF.


A pair of Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bombers.

Wikipedia page below for anyone interested in more detailed history.

After surveying the south of the airfield we headed off west to Hockering woods, home of a major, yet secret WW2 bomb store- estimates of 10,000 tons of high explosive and  Incendiary bombs were stored here, with local roads closed and tight security.

Footnote- the route has a couple of gentle hills – slopes really, leading down on both sides to the Wensum Valley where it crosses the main Norwich- Fakenham road. They may not appear much when in a car, but on a single speed bicycle, they make you sit up and take note, especially the last stage of the journey back up hill to Attlebridge station carpark.

Upon our return David and the NCC team had hot refreshments waiting- thanks to them for the experience and opportunity.



A splendid end to 2016

Sometimes a place so special, so important, exists on your doorstep, and although known in the periphery of your mind, only pulses the synapses when one is busy, or generates a ‘light bulb’ moment when a thousand miles away, or is remembered when driving past to be elsewhere on a deadline.  Such as this.


A typical medieval Norfolk church. Our county is both blessed and cursed in having so many.  Indeed Norfolk has more surviving medieval churches than anywhere else of similar size north of the Alps [635 remaining out of 1000 approx built]. So why is this one so special?

In the mid 15th Century, during the reign of King Henry VI, the incumbent Vicar of Barton Turf Church, Andrew Cok de Estryston, oversaw the painting of a typical Rood Screen in this small church, not far from Wroxham in the Norfolk Broads.  They were all the rage and very fashionable.


Image of King Henry VI at Barton Turf

In this small church, dedicated to St Michael & All Angels, the clergy, laity and its benefactors made little attempt to disguise their reverence of the heavenly host, and – whether by divine providence or luck, the surviving paintings on this screen are an absolute delight and very rare indeed.

So, what makes this one so special?  After all, there are hundreds of rood screens across England with painted saints on them. Lets take a closer look.

During the wave of Protestant reform and Puritanical Zeal, the vast majority of rood screens, wall paintings, fonts, panels and all Papist/Catholic imagery was fair game for the Iconoclasts hammer, knife or paintbrush.


There are 12 painted panels forming the 2 halves of this screen, six either side. Of these 12, ten images are perfect. As if painted yesterday. By some miracle escaping the destruction wrought across the rest of the country.

According to Thomas Aquinas, writing in Summa Theoligica, [second half of 13th Century] there are 9 Orders of Angels, in 3 heavenly Spheres.

  • 1. Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones;
  • 2. Dominions, Virtues, and Powers;
  • 3. Principalities, Archangels, and Angels.

Here are the first two  images, to the left hand side of the central arch.

As you can see, typifying the vandalism of the age with faces crudely, hatefully scratched out.

The one on the left represents Dominions, the First Order of the Second Sphere (the Governors of the lower Angels).  Interestingly, the triple crown on its head is typical of that worn by the Pope and thus made this image an easy target.

The right hand figure swinging the thuribule, with 6 wings, ermine tippet and body covered in red feathers, is the head honcho of the Heavenly Host, the Seraphim.  [lit= the burning ones].

They are the highest angelic class and they serve as the caretakers of God’s Throne and continuously shout praises: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!


But now- a Revelation!

Here are the 2 images to the right hand side of the central arch. Just look at those faces!


The left angel here represents the Cherubim – the Second Order of the First Sphere, known as The Counsellors, and Guardians of the Tree of Life in the Garden in Eden.

Every feather has an eye hence all-seeing and omnipotent.

The right panel depicts Principalities, the First Order of the Third Sphere.

These are the angels that guide and protect nations, or groups of peoples, and institutions such as the Church. The Principalities preside over the bands of angels and charge them with fulfilling the divine ministry.


Back to the left hand side, central pairing.

The left image, of an angel in armour stomping on the devil, is usually attributed to The Archangel Michael, but here represents The Powers [the Third Order of the Second Sphere].

According to the information panel in the church this is Raphael, leader of Powers,  but I’m not sure. Raphael is mentioned in the Deuterocanonical Book of Tobias as one of the Seven who stands before the Lord and I’ve always known him as an Archangel.

The right hand figure is most assuredly Virtues [Strongholds]. These are  angels through which signs and miracles are made in the world. Typically 4 winged and blue feathered, with a lily.


Central Pair on Right Hand sideimg_3681

The left Angel defines Thrones, Third Order of the First Sphere, symbols of Justice & Authority [hence the Balance  & the Throne]. It has 4 green wings.

The other Angel is attributed here as the Second Order of the Third Sphere,  the Archangel Saint Michael, Captain of the Heavenly Angels and Satan’s nemesis, responsible for kicking him out of Heaven, here wielding mace & sword.

Other sources would say that Michael [ lit= like unto God] is the leader of the Seraphim and not just a mere archangel.


That leaves the last two pairings furthest away from the arch on either side.



Here we see [on the left] the 9th and most common of the Angels. Representing the Third Order of the Third Sphere, they are the ‘malakhim’- the messengers.

The strange shaped device in his left hand or attached to his girdle is an alms box; you can just make out the slot for coins. He has 4 wings and a spear.

The right hand panel depicts Saint Barbara- we have run out of the Angelic Host now, so three more saints are needed to complete the 12 panels and  St Barbara is a worthy addition to the Screen. A 3rd century Martyr, one of the 14 Holy Helpers, she was beheaded by her own Father after he had her locked away in a Tower, hence the Tower held aloft in her right hand.


For the final panel of the Screen proper, we have two more female saints. Was the donor or patron of this Screen a Lady I wonder?

One the left, the furthest image is St img_3685Appollonia, depicted with the instrument of her torture- namely pincers, and the tooth held proudly aloft- now the Patron Saint of dentists.

Legend says she was threatened with the fire in 249 AD if she did not renounce Christianity, and sticking 2 proverbial fingers up at the mob, jumped into the flames of her own accord.

The final panel depicts St. Zita or Citha, an Italian- born maid servant from the 13th Century, who stole food from her masters kitchen to give to the poor- and surprisingly for the time was not only acquitted but praised for doing so.



So there it is. 2 miles from my house. If like me you get inspired by 15th Century art, whether van Eyck,  Bosch or some crude red-ochre’d wallpainting, then make your own pilgrimage there. Take a comfy chair, and enjoy.

“An Angel can illuminate the thought and mind of man by strengthening the power of vision.” ~ St Thomas Aquinas

All images taken by me. Thanks for reading.

More pictures and info of this church from other sources here:

Swaffham 800

Battling knights, a petulant king – it must be Magna Carta. Come and join us as we share in SWAFFHAM 800 celebrations this weekend. The museum is offering free entry, there will be fire breathing, story telling and excellent music on the Camping Land and there are lots of things going on around the town and market place. Pubs are serving a special celebratory ale, there will be auctions in the market place and many shops and hotels are entering into the spirit by offering something special this weekend.

Celebrating Magna Carta

The royal Falconer and companions

The royal Falconer and companions

This weekend sees celebrations in many parts of the world to mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. In our country it’s being marked at Runnymede by a boat pageant amongst other things. However, up in King’s Lynn the angry barons of Black Knight Historical will be slogging it out with knights loyal to King John (yes, there were some!)

King’s Lynn are marking the momentous anniversary of King John’s humiliation by his powerful barons with a free festival in the Tuesday market square. Come and join us and discover more about the story behind the occasion, the impact of the Church, whether King John was the monster that history says he was – he would disagree – as well as the clothes, weaponry and customs that coloured this earlier medieval period.

Events run from 10-4pm on both days

Did we Succeed? Rebuilding the Bronze Age Roundhouse

Day one saw the removal of the remaining thatch and its residents

BEFORE:The dilapidated state of the damaged thatch was to prove the least of our worries

I promised that I would come back to the subject of the Bronze Age roundhouse that we were hoping to repair last Autumn: a useful exercise in experimental archaeology, as we hoped to do the work as our ancestors would have done it, using replica tools and the minimum of modern equipment to satisfy safety requirements and common sense. Well it turned into quite a story. Read more…

The Black Knight could be anywhere

Since the season for outdoor events came to an end with the usual flurry of re enactors’ markets in Cambridge and Rugby the main place to spot a member of bkh has been in and around the Flag Fen site just outside Peterborough, of which more in a minute.

However, schools all around the country are beginning to enjoy the range of  possibilities that having a living interpreter can bring to their curriculum. Edith Cavell, WW 1 soldier Tommy Atkins and the army Padre ‘Willy Woodbine’ have all been busy in schools bringing to life not just the horrors and the conditions of life in the trenches but also the camaraderie in this special commemorative anniversary year.

As schools are working through the implications of changes to the curriculum there have been a number of requests for pirates,Saxon and Viking warriors and storytellers, and our Bronze and Iron Age teams have been busy with younger students.

In a recent full day visit pupils handled tools and weapons, learnt the techniques needed to make a roundhouse and tried their hand at making butter and drinking vessels. Each visit is tailored to a school’s requirements.

The year is far from ended though and if you are in the Grantham or North Norfolk areas please come and help us see the year out in style. The weekend of the 22-23 November sees a return to the fabulous building that is Stoke Rochford Hall near Grantham, Lincs where a second grand Victorian Christmas market with entertainment is being held

The first two weekends of December see members of the team return to Holkham Hall in North Norfolk where the downstairs Victorian kitchen team will again be preparing for Lord Holkham’s Christmas tea party while other members will be adding magic to the fairytale upstairs. The Christmas openings at Holkham are always magical, with the rooms decked out in their Christmas finery.

As well as Father Christmas outside in the courtyard, the house is hosting the far older and more mysterious Holly king. He is an ancient spirit and might be seen anywhere in the house – but remember to be on your best  behaviour if you meet him.

Lastly, the weekend just before Christmas gives you a last chance to get into the festive mood if you visit Blickling Hall, also in north Norfolk. There will be a large marquee with a range of events for children, a festive trail and World War One soldiers and their sweethearts celebrating a day of peace.

News on the roundhouse will be coming soon. We wish all our readers and every visitor to Black Knight Historical events a very happy Chrstmastide

%d bloggers like this: