Falconry, Lepers and the Angel

The medieval festival in the small Tuscan hill town of Montevettolini takes place in September for one day only. Montevettolini nestles in the hills about a half hour’s drive from Lucca and dominates the hinterland a few miles south of Montecatini Terme. This annual medieval experience is a crowd drawing event; being a fortified hilltop town there is only one … Read More

An Early Medieval Wardrobe

The Bayeux Tapestry and various manuscripts provide the writer of historical fiction with an insight into early medieval costume. For example the lavish wealth of this world is evident in Aelfric’s Colloquy where a merchant sold purple silk and precious gems, coloured garments and dyes. Anglo-Saxon wills are another source of information as they reveal bequests of clothing. Unusual Garments … Read More

A Medieval Summer Picnic

The early medieval climate from circa the ninth century until the Norman Conquest was mild enough to allow the cultivation of vines in Hampshire. Bede remarks ‘the land is rich in crops and trees, and has good pasturage for cattle and beasts of burden. It also produces vines in certain districts, and has plenty of both land-and waterfowl of various … Read More

Medieval Travel, Trade, Pilgrimage, Maps and Journeys

Exactly one year ago I took to the pilgrim route from Ferrol to Santiago de Compostella. It was the one favoured by the English pilgrims who sailed to either Ferrol or A Coruna to begin their pilgrimage to the shrine of St James. This experience reminded me of how much travel went on throughout the Middle Ages. Pilgrim routes were … Read More

The Bayleaf Farmstead, a Late Medieval Building

The Bayleaf Farmstead, a Late Medieval Building, is an inspiration for anyone who loves timber-framed constructions. This building is a Wealden Hall house that was extended in two separate stages and has now been transported from Chiddinghurst in Kent to the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum in West Sussex. The first phase has been dated to 1405-30 when it … Read More

A Titanic Weekend in Belfast

The weekend of 14th April was the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic, a hugely significant date in the maritime and social history of Belfast. We had arranged to visit the city for a Van Morrison dinner concert taking place that weekend in The Culloden Hotel. We had set out innocent of all knowledge of the imminent anniversary but … Read More

Stanfords, A London Treasure

Apart from the joy of reading books (and writing them!) there is also the pleasure to be had from just browsing in bookshops and handling the goods. Last weekend I visited Stanfords, probably Britain’s best travel bookshop. The store is in Covent Garden’s Floral Street, just down the road from Paul Smith’s flagship clothes shop. It is spread over three … Read More

She Stoops to Conquer at The National Theatre

She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith is one of those plays I always thought I had seen but actually never had, not unless I saw it as a school production way back when. Written and set in the eighteenth century, it is currently showing at London’s National Theatre. It is the best play I have seen so far this … Read More

Early Medieval Crafts- crosses and ornamental work

An interesting late seventh century Anglo-Saxon burial was, only last week, unearthed in Trumpington, a village near Cambridge. This early Saxon burial was that of a noble young lady and it is unusual in that her funeral involved a bed burial. Not many bed burials have been found. Yes, she was laid out on a bed, probably her own. As … Read More

Charms and Anglo-Saxon Medicine

When I came to research Early English medicine for The Handfasted Wife I found that there was no shortage of medical texts in the corpus of Anglo-Saxon writing. There are four books on healing in Old English and these are influenced by Classical learning on the topic. What I consider very interesting are ‘middle practices’. This is the accommodation of … Read More