Sunday, 7 February 2010

Back to my roots 1: Historical re-enactment & Living History displays

Here are a few of my favourite photos from the '80s & '90s when I used to do historiacal re-enactment & Living history displays. These are mostly courtesy of the 2 groups best known as S.C.U.M & Wolfesbane.

I have recently got back in touch with a friend Marc from the 1980s & 1990s who has a brilliant blog about what they do in the Tudor Kitchens cookery project at Hampton Court Palace: Cooking the books. Please take a look, it is a fascinating step back into the past, as they cook authentically in the Palace Kitchens whilst it is open to the public.

In those days, my friends and I were passionate about history, especially that of the 15th & 16th century, and explored and researched it through re-enactment and Living History at fairs, castles, museums and other venues in the UK and Europe. We made all our own costume, and bought what accessories we needed for displays such as authentic shoes, bags, cooking utensils, tents etc from other friends & associates who became highly skilled crafts people as they furthered their own research. Many an evening was spent at the local pub, quaffing ale & mead, discussing the finer points of the shape of a doublet, or how many panels would be used to make up a 15th century dress.
It was lots of fun, we got to camp out most weekends during the Summer in some of the most beautiful historic sites, and all of us loved dressing up in such fantastic costumes!

When Morgaine was born, I still carried on until she was about 6, she really enjoyed it, but then we decided to focus on other things. I am sure that all that costume-making, research and passion about the daily cultural aspects of life in the past was one of the main influences that has led me to follow my current path collecting and researching textiles that have particular cultural resonance, mostly textiles used to decorate the homes or persons of real people, with real lives to research & theorize about. I am currently trying to look into the kind of costume that would have been worn by female camp follwers during the Napoleonic Wars. It isn't so easy, as it is mostly details about high-class women's dress & fashions that survive.


  1. What fun! I've lived in a town with Living History (St. Augustine, Florida) and had many friends in the local re-enactment groups. For a short period, my children and I joined a Renaissance re-enactment group...I can understand how immersing yourself in research and recreating the clothing and lifestyles of a certain period can develop into new paths and "callings".
    Your passion is evident in your stories and collections, and I love reading your interesting postings...and admiring the beautiful textiles... Thanks for sharing it with us!

  2. Do keep up your living history experiences with your daughter! We are 15 years post, with our 3,(circa mid 18th C in the US) and the benefits have been exponential! Great blog site, K (PS, this is on my daugher's gmail acct! :)

  3. Hi Stella, I would love to see some photos from your family's experience with Renaissance re-enactment! I think it is a lot of fun for all involved, and the public love to come & see events with live action, so to speak, and can engage more with history that way. x

  4. Hi K, welcome to my blog, I am glad you are enjoying it. While I don't think my daughter will be joining me soon in a continued involvement with re-enactment & research - she is 19 and at University - she has a great and genuine love for history, which is reflected in her creative writing, and love of vintage clothes, culture etc! x

  5. You continue to fascinate! I think this is one of the reasons you were inclined to pursue the textiles because there is so much history to explore in this area too. I love the photos of you and Morgaine. She must be so very proud of her accomplished mother. No wonder she has such a love of history and vintage clothing.

    I was part of a living history program in the town of Jacksonville, Oregon many years ago, and I have the best memories of that experience too. Thank you, Lois for letting us get to know you a little more. What wonderful things you have done over the years. I am enriched with all that you share!

  6. Hi Lois

    Super to see photos of your re-enactments, having heard about them from both you and Coral. A different world, and what fun for Morgaine in those early years.

    Sue x