Battle medieval fayre was held on Battle Abbey Green situated just in front of Battle Abbey on Sunday 29th May through to Monday 30th May. The mediaeval Fayre has been held on every late May Bank Holiday since 1990.
The 1st of November, called “Samhain”, was the beginning of the Celtic New Year. On the eve of Samhain, it was believed that the dead walked the Earth. To drive them away before they could commit evil, our ancestors would process through their settlements with flaming torches and burn huge spirit effigies. This pagan custom much embellished over the centuries remained the prime winter festival until the Gunpowder Plot.
When Guido Fawkes was “catched with a burning match” on the 5th November 1605, a relieved King and Parliament decreed that the day should henceforth be an annual holiday. This was to lead to a fragmenting of the old winter festival. The eve of Samhain with it’s emphasis on the walking dead and things supernatural was still celebrated as Halloween while the bonfire burning became part of the new holiday with the effigy of Guy Fawkes being substituted for the old spirit effigies.
One of the earliest references to battle’s Bonfire celebrations so far discovered is in the churchwardens’ accounts of the parish church where it is recorded that in 1686, 17 shillings and 6 pence was “Expended at Gunpowder Treason” for “Rejoycing”. Amongst the churchwardens whose signatures appear on this document are Thomas Longley and John Hammond. The former’s descendants are still active in the Bonfire Society, showing continued association with Battle’s Bonfire celebrations for 300 years. Whilst John Hammond 10 years earlier, converted the watermill at Pepperingeye for the manufacture of gunpowder, an industry which was to continue at Battle until 1874.
The fayre ran from Sunday 29th May from 10am to 5pm to Monday 30th May from 10am to 5pm. There were stalls selling local arts and crafts; from traditional pottery to lacework along with a number of activities and performances through out the day including Jovial Jugglers & Jesters, Merry Maypole Dancing, Fortune Teller’s and much more. There was no entrance fee. All the stall holders were in mediaeval dress, and with a little bit of imagination and 16 pints of fine ale each the event took us right back in time.
Closely related with the Battel Bonfire Boyes are the Section 5 Drummers from Hastings and the Pentacle Drummers from Eastbourne, a non political, non denominational and non profit making group of people who like to get together and drum.
The Section 5 Drummers drum for their own enjoyment and for the enjoyment of others at public and private events that they are invited to, like the Battle Medieval Fayre.
The Section 5 Drummers do not seek to promote the personal aims, political beliefs or spiritual beliefs of any one member of the group. But they do enjoy a pint or two of fine ale.
Or a sandwich and a diet coke, for that matter.
A vintage double-decker bus (1928) was there for sight seeing tours in and around Battle.
The fire eaters are getting ready for the show.
A lot of people enjoy the fire eaters. We did, and we’re looking forward to the Battle Bonfire, which will be on Saturday 5th November 2011.