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A Day In The 15th Century


Alan Willis knew that Lullingstone Castle, a home to the Hart Dyke family for more than 500 years, was celebrating its annual medieval festival in May and would make a fine excursion for Moleside. 

And we were delighted that amongst the 36 of us who joined Anthea and him were Diana Thalben-Ball from our Ladies Group, on the left in our photograph, and Spencer Needs and his wife Anita.

Here’s Spencer’s report of our day together. 

“Things started well, weather fine but cool. At the wheel of our coach was Driver Fred, veteran of our Cadogan Hall concert trips. But as we approached our destination we found ourselves in a maze of tiny Kentish lanes. Victims, I suspect, of a satnav nightmare. Fred was duly applauded for his skill and nerve

A splendid vista then unfolded. A beautiful, placid lake close by an ancient mansion with a small church alonside. In the background the impressive brick bastions of a gatehouse.

Arranged in a circle in front of the house were white tents, each housing artisans at work demonstrating their medieval trades. 

With plenty to investigate we would go our separate ways but first stop for most of us was the refreshment tent and a very welcome coffee.

The estate’s church of St Botolph is early gothic with later changes. Among its tombs is one recording the history of Sir Percyvall Hart 1496-1580 who managed to survive the differing whims of four monarchs by skilful diplomacy! 

The current incumbent of Lullingstone, plant hunter Tom Hart Dyke, has created a World Garden here containing some 8000 species. Laid out by continents it ranges from cacti to Monterey pines, through Alpines and carnivorous plants, orchids AND The Most Dangerous Plant in the World – The Queensland Stinger.

Several of us enjoyed the picnics we’d brought with us in the heat of the sun now radiating from the estate’s ancient stonework. 

And, to get away from the sun, we were free to inspect, but not to photograph, the large rooms inside the manor.

Events outside started turning warlike. We watched archers firing in unison. One arrow every 6 seconds was, we learned, the rate of fire needed in battle. 

Then in the face of armoued intimidation and accompanied by occasional cannon and musket fire, we were given a close up impression of 15th Century hand to hand combat.

Photo of Archer with Cross Bow

A display of medieval infantry including pike men demonstrated their drills and practised their menacing screams as they made to attack us in the audience.

Happily we were allowed to recruit a couple of dozen enthusiastic children who were given mock weapons and were enthusiastically instructed to offer us some defence. The howls of delight indicated they certainly enjoyed it.

We managed to escape tired but very happy. On the M25 an accident on the other carriageway slightly delayed our retreat homewards, but back in Cobham we gave a well deserved round of applause to Fred, said our thanks to Alan – and our good byes to our other Moleside companions.

Another memorable Probus outing.”

Ed. A big thank you to Spencer for his report and to Margaret, Andrew and Alec for their wonderful photographs. 

For details of other recent Moleside visits click TAGS below.