King Harold Day recognized as the Best Event in Essex

King Harold Day has become acknowledged as an important part of the annual Close up of Best Tourism Event awardcalendar in the town of Waltham Abbey, and now that has been recognized further as the medieval festival has won the Best Event award at the 2010 Essex Tourism Awards.

The award was announced last Thursday evening at the Essex Tourism Awards Dinner, held at acclaimed restaurant, Le Talbooth, at Dedham in North Essex. 

King Harold Day had already been shortlisted into the final three for the Best Event or Festival Award, and at the Awards Ceremony Tricia Gurnett, Chairman and Organizer of King Harold Day, received the trophy from Digipix, its sponsor.  Tricia was accompanied to the dinner by Tony O’Connor, Curator of Epping Forest District Museum and a member of the King Harold Day Committee, and Kathryn Richmond, Town Clerk of Waltham Abbey. 

Now King Harold Day goes forward to the 2010 East of England Regional Enjoy England Awards for Excellence, having been chosen as a finalist there, which will be held at Ickworth in November.   

Tricia Gurnett said:-  “We are quite overwhelmed and honoured to have been chosen as the Best Event in Essex.  King Harold Day was thought up eight years ago by a few friends in Waltham Abbey who wanted to increase recognition of the town’s heritage, and particularly that King Harold was Lord of the Manor of Waltham.  We felt his place in history as the last Saxon King of England should be promoted.    In its first year the event had 3,000 visitors.   Now that has increased to 6,000 and our visitors come from many different parts of the country.  

“I’m sure that what helped us to win the award is that, in addition to putting on a really great event, we have built up strong links with other places in the Harold story:  Fulford, Stamford Bridge and Hastings in England and Bayeux and Falaise in Normandy, and we obtained Heritage Lottery funding to provide the interpretation boards around the Abbey and Abbey Gardens, which have very much improved tourists’ appreciation of the history of the site.

“The regional awards will cover the whole of East Anglia, which will mean we shall be up against places like Cambridge and Norwich with all their tourism attractions.  The awards criteria suggest places should have a footfall of about 20,000 at events so we have some way to go before we reach that, but you never know!   

“I want to thank our small committee of eight who make King Harold Day happen, all the other friends who help us on the day, and Lee Valley Regional Park, Waltham Abbey Town Council, Epping Forest District Museum and Waltham Abbey Church, all of whom have been involved from the start and have given us tremendous support during the last eight years.   Finally, of course, we thank all our visitors who have made the event what it is today   –   the best in Essex.   Come and see us at this year’s King Harold Day on Saturday 16th October in the Abbey Gardens.”

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Published in: on September 27, 2010 at 8:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Helen Hollick tells King Harold Day Society about her book, “Harold the King”

It did go a bit quiet when Helen Hollick declared that she firmly believed King Harold II was buried at Bosham in Sussex and not in Waltham Abbey.   But the sharp intakes of breath were released when she went on to say that she thought, like at many medieval and earlier deaths, his body was probably cut into a number of parts, (it was already badly mutilated on the battlefield of Hastings), with the torso buried at Bosham and the head and heart in Waltham Abbey.

Helen was the guest speaker at the King Harold Day Society’s autumn buffet supper and lecture evening, held last Saturday at the Abbey Church Centre, Waltham Abbey.

Well-known author, Helen Hollick was born and still lives in Walthamstow, and started writing at the age of 13  –  first about a pony and then sci-fi.   After school, she went to work as a library assistant, which gave her access to thousands of books, and developed a passion for Dark Age history.

Her first historical novels were the Pendragon’s Banner trilogy, a series of books about King Arthur.   On a lighter note, she has written a series of pirate-based historical fantasy novels, the Sea Witch Series, being the voyages of Captain Jesamiah Acorne.   And then, ten years or so ago, she published “Harold the King”, having become interested in the Saxon period, and, in her own words, “obsessed” by Harold II, the last Saxon King of England.   That was followed by a “prequel”, the “Hollow Crown” the story of Emma, Queen of Saxon England, who was Queen twice, to AEthelred the Unready and to Cnut, and who was the mother of Edward the Confessor.

Helen is also Co-screenwriter for the film “1066”, based on her novel, which is currently in preparation.

Helen spoke about how she came to write her books, the research she has done on King Harold, and her theories about his burial.  Bosham was the Godwinson family home, and she believes Harold’s mother would have wanted him buried there.   She accepted that her audience, being Waltham Abbey people, took the view that Harold was buried by the high altar in his Minster Church in the town.

The evening, the second such event held by the King Harold Day Society, was a great success, and Helen has agreed to join the Friends of King Harold Day, the Society’s support group.

(Photograph of Helen Hollick courtesy of Waltham Abbey Historical Society)

Published in: on September 21, 2010 at 9:07 pm  Leave a Comment