Kentwell Re-Creation

The restored Kentwell Manor is the site of the annual re-enactment of a period in Elizabethan history.

Our last day in England was spent at the historical re-creation of Kentwell, an Elizabethan manor. Every year, Judith and Patrick Phillips, owners of the home organize two weeks in which visitors can witness domestic life in the 16th Century. Volunteers participate by playing various roles, including guards, cooks, servants, blacksmiths, crafstmen, spinners, weavers, laundresses, lords and ladies, ladies in waiting, stable hands and more. Every aspect of life in a manor is played out as visitors stroll through. Each year a different event of the Elizabethan Era is prepared for or enacted — this year it was preparations for the invasion of the Spanish Armada.

We stepped through the "time tunnel," a maze of black boards, on to the grounds of Kentwell. We were greeted by two guards who were eager to dish out the latest gossip on the visiting gentry who's brightly colored tents could be seen standing near the manor, and vent about Lady Annes' pesky dog.

We charged into the woods where we came upon a group of men melting iron and pouring it into molds. They told us that they were making musket balls to prepare for the Spanish invasion that was rumored. Word from Sir Edward Clere, cousin to William Clopton of Kentwell Hall, was that the Spanish had 210 ships and were preparing for a large scale invasion of England to return Catholicism to the Isles.

This woman was the official yarn dyer of the manor, and only used the traditional materials of the times.

Pushing on through the woods we came to the granary and great barn. In the barn we talked to one of the stable hands. He asked if I was married and was shocked to learn that I was not. He said that where he was from (my dress and speech made it obvious to him that I was foreign, as were all visitors) a girl of 15 years would be married and bearing children. I told him I was too busy with school to worry about that, at which point he pulled forth a chalk board and quizzed me on my roman numerals. I was okay until he got into the thousands. As punishment for my poor performance I had to jump rope 25 times and count out loud so that everyone could hear me. How cruel!

When I was chastised enough we walked next door to the granary. In the upper floor there were woman busily spinning wool into spools of yarn. They tried to teach us how, but our yarn was lumpy and uneven. One woman was stitching and she asked our help because she couldn't remember the seventh trial of Hercules. Unfortunately, we weren't any help with that either.

Complete failures with the spinners we walked on. Outside of the granary was a woman hanging colored yarn out to dry. She explained how she dyed the spun wool in vats of hot water, urine and organic material. Depending on the color desired she would soak the yarn with berries, leaves, or other substances. When the desired color was achieved she would hang it out to dry.

Tired of mucking through wagon ruts and dodging workers, we made our way into the manor. The gentry had just finished their midday meal and were scattering towards their various afternoon activities. The floors of the house creaked and echoed as we walked through admiring the tapestries and ancient oak furniture. At the end of the manor was a sewing room where the ladies of the house had retired to do their needlework.

The afternoon had offered a break in the hustle of activities and the dairy and bakery were empty as we walked around the house. A group of young girls from the house dangled their feet in the moat that surrounded the manor. Feeling the same exhaustion we walked across the expanse of lawn, past the visiting gentry towards the time tunnel.

We were all very impressed by the volunteers who spent their time re-creating life in 1588. They were all enthusiastic and accurate in their portrayals and gave an incredibly real feeling to the entire event. Cassidy and I practiced our old English on the way to the car in hopes that we could participate someday (even if we were stuck mucking out stalls or doing laundry), but failed miserably. We decided we would need roles that involved little to no talking. Maybe they need two village idiots . . . .

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