Saxon Re-enactment at Milton Abbey

Living History at Milton Abbey

Saxon History Comes to Life at Milton Abbey's Re-enactment Weekend!

This magnificent location in North Dorset is bringing a slice of history alive across one weekend in July. The glorious rural setting of Milton Abbey is the "must see" venue for KS2 pupils (aged between seven and 11) studying Anglo Saxon history as part of their mandatory educational syllabus.

On Saturday 14 July and Sunday 15 July families coming to Milton Abbey to visit the new free Summer Exhibition, Athelstan's Dream, can expect the thrill and spectacle of re-enactments staged by an authentic re-enactment group known by the Norse name of Hildsvin.

The Summer Exhibition runs from 4 July to 31 August and focuses on the Anglo-Saxons and the fulfilment of one man's dream: a united kingdom of Britain.

The exhibition covers a whole range of topics including: Discovering the Anglo-Saxons, Anglo-Saxon Life, The Age of Heroes, Weapons of War, The Warrior King, Landscape and Farming, Language, House and home, Food and drink, Clothing, Art & jewellery, Transport, Trade, The Status of Women, Marriage, Children, Health & Hygiene, The influence of Anglo-Saxons on Literature today, King Athelstan's Dream, The gift of a Minster and The Abbey today.

At the Re-enactment Family Weekend there will also be displays of costumes to show the types of garments worn in what was known as the Dark Ages (the period of time after the Romans left Britain and before the Battle of Hastings in 1066). Some dressing up clothes including tunics, dresses, jewellery, belts and hats will be available for children to try on and immerse themselves in the history of the time.

Thanks to specialists in Viking and Saxon history educationalists The Longship Trading Company, there will also be an array of both Viking and Saxon artefacts, weapons and armour displays plus replicas of archaeological finds like the Jorvik helmet, Sutton Hoo helmet and a Vendal Helmet from Sweden. Most of these can be handled and tried on by visitors, and there are some coin dies for those who would like to make a copy of a period coin to take home. Children will see how prior to the modern era, coin dies were manufactured individually by hand by artisans known as engravers.

Other activities taking place across this free weekend in the living history village include a working kitchen set-up displaying Saxon foodstuffs with working fire pit; an apiary display (without bees) with a skep (domed basket) as well as candle and wax production; various soft crafts, such as tablet weaving and embroidery; a Lord's tent and a green-wood working set-up, with shave horse and pole lathe. Keep your eyes peeled for the famous Hildsvin raven and a few tame wolves (dogs!).

All of the activities will help towards an understanding of life in the times of King Athelstan who, in a story that resonates today, dreamed and then achieved the unification of mainland Britain.

The main Summer Exhibition at Milton Abbey traces Athelstan's dream and the journey of this unification, showing how much of the Abbey's heritage reveals the answer to many questions surrounding the mysteries relating to King Athelstan, the grandson of King Alfred the Great.

The location has a number of beautiful walks and it is easy to imagine the truth of one tradition which tells how Athelstan camped with his followers on the hill to the east of the Abbey and while sleeping there had a dream that he would prevail in a forthcoming battle against the Vikings and their allies who were seeking to conquer Mercia and Wessex. It is said that Athelstan on his return from the battle remembered his dream and founded a minster here in thanks for his victory.

Athelstan worked hard to give all his people safety, shelter and a Christian outlook - his charters stipulate that no one should starve, and that charity was a key responsibility of the church. He also set about reforming the administration of justice, control of the coinage, and the development of burhs.

Athelstan died in Gloucester in 939AD at the age of 47. He is buried at Malmesbury which is also home to the Athelstan Museum.

For more information contact: Brian Larcher, Development Manager, Milton Abbey Heritage Trust: Brian.larcher@maht.org.uk

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