Fourth King Harold Day another great success

The fourth King Harold Day on 13 October 2007 was another huge success. For the fourth year running we were blessed with warm, sunny weather, and the number of visitors built up during the day so that there was a large crowd at the Arena events.

The event held in the Abbey Church, the Abbey Churchyard and Abbey Gardens, (by kind permission of the Church authorities and the Lee Valley Park), included major attractions, stalls, and demonstrations.

A living history enactment group, The Feudal Archers, had set up their medieval camp under the shadow of the Abbey walls. They cooked on their wood fire, and ate only food which would have been available in medieval times. The ladies demonstrated how wool would have been spun and woven into belts and decoration for clothes. The men made arrows, and prepared their arms and armour. In the morning they gave an archery display in the Arena, and in the afternoon they armed a knight for battle. They also demonstrated how archers could attack a line of approaching knights despite their protective shields.

The second major attraction in the Arena was the birds of prey from PL Falconry. The eagles, hawks and owls were on static display all day, so visitors could see them at close quarters. In the Arena, owner Paul Lewis described each beautiful bird and its flying action. The birds could be seen perched in the trees, and then swooped to return to Paul’s hand. Some lucky spectators were chosen to hold a bird and have it fly and return to their gloved hands.

Two items new to King Harold Day attracted great interest. John Sothcott used to have a musical group called St George’s Canzona. They played music in the medieval style on replica medieval instruments, which had been meticulously researched by John in his travels across the country. Sadly, John’s health means he can no longer play, but he put the instruments on display at King Harold Day, and talked to fascinated visitors about their history.

The second attraction was the wonderful embroidery of the Bayeux Tapestry worked by Annette Banks. It had been intended to have the embroidery on display in the Abbey Church, but on the day it proved just too long! So it was put up all along the path at the side of the Church leading up to the Lychgate. The embroidery followed the story of the original, itself an embroidery really, but the wording was in English rather than Latin, making it more accessible. The 56 foot length had taken Annette twenty years to work, but she lengthened it by another four feet specially for King Harold Day. The new part showed Edith Swan-Neck, Harold’s mistress, going from her manor house at Nazeing to identify his body after his death at the Battle of Hastings, and bring it back for burial at his favourite abbey of Waltham. Annette spent the day answering the questions of the large number of visitors who flocked to see the remarkable embroidery.

Epping Archers had large crowds all day at their Have a Go Archery, and both Epping Forest District Museum and Waltham Abbey Historical Society had displays of local history and medieval objects to examine. Popular “hands on” stalls included Sally Macpherson who helped children to make clay models and showed them her potter’s wheel; Veronica Bruton selling cards in aid of the Abbey Church and letting children make their own cards; and Georgia Wisbey teaching children to make decorated willow crowns.

The King Harold Day society’s own trader’s tent, Lady Edith’s Wares, sold out of bows and arrows, swords and shields, heraldry posters and medieval hats. After a year’s absence, Grunal Moneta, the medieval moneyer was back with us again, where he minted special King Harold coins, and let children have a go themselves. Two magnificent heavy horses were brought to the Abbey Gardens by Dan Gallagher and friends. Children and adults queued to take a ride in one of the brightly-painted carts pulled by the horses.

In the church there was an excellent lunch-time concert under the direction of Stephen Bullamore, with violin soloist Mari Poll. The Church Tower was open for visits, giving wonderful views of the Lee Valley from the top, the church bells rang, and there was a display of traditional bread making.

The work submitted to the Schools’ Art Competition was on display in the Lady Chapel. Most local schools took part, and the theme of the Bayeux Tapestry gave them scope for some imaginative designs, using many different materials, and with a large number of children contributing to the finished pieces. All the work was of such a very high standard that the Society believes it should be put on wider display and intends talking to the Town Council.

Medieval refreshment available included venison and wild boar from Howlett’s Hall, grilled meats from Master Daniel’s barbecue, medieval recipes and old English Ales.

A special focus of the day at noon was the ceremony at the Harold Memorial Stone in the Abbey Churchyard. Principal guests, Cllr Mrs Caroline Pond, Chairman of Epping Forest District Council, and Cllr Stuart Pryde, Mayor of Waltham Abbey, laid fresh flowers on the stone in memory of Harold, the last Saxon King of England. Jean Church, Vice Chairman, laid a wreath on behalf of Waltham Abbey Historical Society. The Rev’d Canon Martin Webster, Rector of Waltham Abbey, then drew the spectators’ thoughts to the work of uniting the country done by Harold and William I, and said that such efforts were still needed today. Peter Frost, Waltham Abbey Town Crier, was present, and a beautiful floral display on the memorial was kindly provided by Abbey Flower Designs. A guard of honour was formed by Waltham Cross Detachment, No 1 Company, Hertfordshire Army Cadet Force, under Sgt Paul Fury.

Joint Organizer, Tricia Gurnett, said, “It was a wonderful day once again. Everyone entered into the spirit of King Harold Day and set out to enjoy themselves. The King Harold Day Society is most grateful to all who took part. Particular mention must be made of Dave Giles and his friends working on site management, Sheila Giles, Grenville Welch and all their colleagues in the Abbey Church, Dan Gallagher, Richard Fletcher, the Prefects of King Harold School who manned the admission points and acted as marshals, the marvellous cadets from the Army Cadet Force who provided our security and willing and cheerful help wherever it was needed, and Waltham Abbey Town Council for their support in so many ways. Lastly, the Abbey Church and the Lee Valley Park who allow us to use this lovely venue.

“Next year King Harold Day will be on Saturday 11th October. We have used up all our financial reserves to stage this year’s event, but are determined that we shall be back next year, finding the £8,000 it costs us from somewhere. So put the date in your diary now!”


Published in: on October 24, 2007 at 9:44 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. very interesting. i’m adding in RSS Reader

  2. very interesting.
    i’m adding in RSS Reader

  3. Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Juicily.

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