Visitors to a North East battle re-enactment this weekend are in for the “wow factor”, organisers have said.
This year is the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden which saw James IV of Scotland perish in the field and, as part of the commemorations, a historical weekend featuring re-enactments of aspects of the battle is being organised at Etal, near Flodden, today and tomorrow.
However, the quest to achieve authenticity has made organiser Tod Booth’s hair turn grey, he claims.
“I have gone grey over the last three years,” said Mr Booth.
“To do it the easy way would have been like Disneyland history and no way I was going to do that. What we put on will be of the highest quality.
“When the public come to Etal they won’t have seen anything like it before. They will definitely feel the wow factor,” he said.
It has taken Mr Booth three years to research and recreate the weapons, armour and clothes used during the battle.
“There are hardly any actors specialising in early Tudor England or the James IV period in Scotland, so to try to put on something like this is an uphill struggle,” he said.
Mr Booth had to start from scratch researching the weapons, armour and clothes, as well as set up an era-specific re-enactment group called Armet named after a helmet of the time. Other groups such as the Border Clansmen, the Company of St Margaret and the Northern Alliance also agreed to join in.
“I trawled every book I could find to get a basic kit list and asked different museums to advise me on the armour,” said Mr Booth.
However, one of the biggest challenges turned out to be the pikes used by the majority of the Scots soldiers.
“The descriptions give them a length of 16-18ft but they farmed their woodland in a different way from us and grew the ash in straight poles. We don’t, so I had the problem of trying to find 18ft long ash shafts,” he said.
The pikes were finally found near Etal itself on Ford & Etal Estates.
Mr Booth said: “We found 40 poles that would do and we used the same techniques as they did at the time to turn them into authentic-looking pikes.
“I found an old illustration of someone using a pike straightening jig and as far as I know no-one has used one of them for 400 years. Now I know why – it is extremely hard work.”
As well as the battle re-enactment scenes, the weekend will include medieval craft demonstrations, living history performances, a Flodden-era military camp, historical traders, food stalls, a mini beer festival and a programme of talks by experts on topics including weapons and tactics, Flodden archaeology, Sir Walter Scott and Abbotsford House.
There will also be displays in archery, steel weapons, cannons, guns, pikes and armoury. Both days will culminate in the re-enactment of some aspects of the battle.
Mr Booth said the result will be worth all the hard work. “It has been a labour of love but definitely worth it.”
The Flodden & 16th Century Discovery Weekend takes place at Etal today and tomorrow.
For more information and times go to www.ford-and-etal.co.uk/events . Tickets can be bought online or at the door, as one-day or two-day passes.