WEST DEREHAM HERITAGE GROUP
Richard reports on one of the most interesting meetings of the group since it's incepttion
Members Liz and Paddy Murfitt have been involved with re-enactment for many years which covers what is generally know as the Civil War period. A time in history from 1620 to 1660, the year the monarchy was restored and Charles II took the throne.
Members gathered in the village hall as usual hear a lecture and demonstration given by Paddy, Liz was unable to attend due to work, about their hobby of re-enacting periods in history. It is by no means a new thing, it was popular during Roman and Victorian times as both generations entertained themselves re-enacting battles from the past. Today events staged by re-enactment Groups and Societies can range from Knights of the Round Table, English Civil War right up to WWII as was demonstrated at the Wretton at War event in the early summer when that period, WWII, was re-lived by those taking part both in dress, food and entertainment.
Paddy takes the part of a Parliamentarian well to do Tailor and as there are no surviving garments other than those which are in museums then he has to make all his own clothes in the manner of those from the early 1600, by no means an easy task. Patterns are not available so he has to rely on illustrations from the period. In recent years help has come from the film industry because of the need for greater accuracy in the way costume is depicted many more patterns are available.
Paddy does make all the garments he and Liz wear when at events much of it from traditionally woven wool and silk It is all hand stitched although he admits to trying a sewing machine it did not really work. It was a very austere time and English dress for the average person with the Parliamentarians under Cromwell was much simpler and plainer than their Royalist rivals.
Paddy had a number of garments to show us and everybody was very impressed as to the quality of his workmanship, from the fine hand stitching, embroidery and beautiful hand made buttons. Buttons are made from wool, silk and metal, silver or pewter. Metal buttons were cast then finished off by hand to work out blemishes in the casting. Many of the Ladies present were most interested in the cloak which when fastened by many small buttons down each side became an overcoat and of course vice versa when they were undone. It would look fashionable worn today. There were also examples of shirts and waistcoats, jackets with pantaloons, dresses with aprons and all manner of headwear. Footwear is made from leather as are gloves and military equipment. High leg boots were straight, no left or right foot.
Paddy also makes furniture of the period from English oak but in such a way that it can be taken down and to use a modern day term "flat packed" simply to make transporting it to events easier and less bulky.
Also on display were reproductions of everyday items like plates and bowls, weapons, cutlery and glass made items. Cutlery only just coming into use at that time, in fact forks had only just been invented, just a few being imported into England through ports like Kings Lynn from the Netherlands then known as Holland. So if you had a fork to add to your usual spoon, which could be wood or metal, and knife then you were likely to be quite wealthy and influential.
So you've got your period clothes, furniture, eating utensils, now what do you do? Well you should be a member of your Civil War period group or society in your area which will enable you to take part in a re-enactment events which will be organised by them at a site or venue where they have expressed a desire to see you all in action so to speak. Paddy is a Tailor so he will have a tent which will be set out to look like a shop where his work would be on sale and around it all the everyday articles and things that such a man and his family would have had at that time. They then proceed to act out the day to day activities that would take place in such an establishment. They do have to be careful about lighting of course, candles can be some what dangerous under these conditions, there are quite good electrical alternatives however.
Others will be adding to this scene by being a Blacksmith or Carpenter, a Butcher perhaps while those who prefer action will be taking part in the battles by acting as Musketeers, Artillerymen and Cavalry and these occupations are not restricted to the men, ladies are welcome to participate providing they have the right equipment.
Where the cannon come from I'm not sure or the horses for that matter but all the horse boxes parked up must have something to do with it.
Their rivals the Royalists have style too but the average male would not look all that different from his opposite but the leaders who supported the King had a much more flamboyant garments with silks and feathers. A far more expensive undertaking, I think I would stick to the cheaper option, being on Cromwells side.
Paddy was thanked by our Chairman, Jack Walker for one of the most interesting evenings we have had since we started four years ago, everybody was so engrossed I thought they would never go home..
Richard C. French