Welcome to Rumwoldstow

Rumwoldstow is a historic reenactment / living history project based around a fictional Anglo-Saxon monastery dedicated to our local saint Rumwold. At the project’s heart are a cloister, garden and orchard located near Banbury which represent an early tenth century monastery in miniature. We’re setting up a local reenactment group for crafts, living history and roleplaying. If you live nearby and are interested in getting involved, please contact us by email:

info (at) rumwoldstow.org

In our story, Rumwoldstow was refounded in 916 AD on the site of an earlier minster that was sacked by Vikings, perhaps in 914 AD. We are tracking the tenth century against modern years, so 2016 AD corresponds to 916 AD in the story of Rumwoldstow. We plan to build up resources to describe Rumwoldstow and its history, such as a founding charter and monastic rule.

In our story, Rumwoldstow is a monastery of women. The Anglo-Saxons used the word ‘monastery’ or ‘minster’ for for establishments of both men and women; they did not use the word ‘nunnery’. Please note that we welcome people of any gender – there are priests, craftspeople and lay folk as well as nuns at Rumwoldstow. If you’re more interested in the Vikings than Anglo-Saxons, that’s fine too; there was a strong Viking presence in Mercia at this time and it’s very much part of our story.

Latest posts from Rumwoldstow

  • Five flowers

    The blossom on the first seedling to produce flowers has opened. Some sixty-ish seedlings are NOT flowering, and vary between Nothing and Lots Of Leaves. But this Gala pippin is giving it a good go. Here’s a photo from a couple of days ago.

    Gala pippin’s first blossoms, Tuesday 9th April 2024
    The same blossoms, Sunday 14th April 2024
    The quince tree is starting to flower (mainly on the west side)
    The established apple tree (variety unknown) is also in bloom
    Local menace Tinky come to tell us what’s what
  • Hungry gapples

    The apple store is empty! It’s the end of March, just before Easter so we’re in the tail end of Lent (from the Old English ‘lencten’ meaning ‘when the days lengthen’ i.e. spring), and I took the last two apples out of the store in the gatehouse. This is the time of year known as the Hungry Gap (which may explain why Lent is in this season – make a virtue of a necessity), as the stored food runs low and there’s not much in season yet. Well, there are plenty of nettles, and I imagine the early medieval people would have cooked and eaten them along with other spring greens. Protein from eggs? But not so much bulk food, unless you had a good harvest and good fortune storing it.

    Quite a lot of the apples weren’t eatable, as the flesh turned brown, or bruises spread across the entire fruit. But the bottom couple of drawers seem to have fared better, with the apple flesh still white and crisp. Maybe it was that bit cooler?

    The bulk of last year’s apples were Bramleys, which ripen up into a very pleasant eating apple in defiance of the supermarket practice of only selling them green (and huge!). My Bramleys varied between VAST MONSTERS and cute little things.

    This year I hope we’ll get more of the other varieties, just for, well, variety, and also because some of them may be better keepers – and older varieties, closer to what our Anglo-Saxon nuns would have known.

    The last two apples: despite appearances, the penultimate apple (left) was good inside. Yes these are Bramleys!
    The very last apple! With the medlar and apple mead, which is still blopping away
    Inside the last apple

    The final apple was a beaut! Very tasty.

    The orchard did well; the apples have kept me going at about 1 per day plus crumbles and apple sauce, since 1 August 2023 to 26 March 2024. The trees were affected by a late air frost, or something, and didn’t produce at their maximum, though the Bramley did pretty darn well. Some of my friends reported having no harvest at all last year, so Rumwoldstow was luckier than many.

    What we didn’t get was pears; the older two (planted in 2018) flowered and set fruit, but dropped them all. When they were pruned, it transpired that they must have not been planted properly because there was a pot-shaped block of earth with the tree coming out of it, which wobbled alarmingly. Our pruner, Michael, suggested that the trees dropped their fruit because they didn’t feel stable enough to carry them, and also that perhaps because the ground is so wet, they hadn’t felt it necessary to send roots out searching for water. Al and Michael staked them up to be more stable, also the quince was a bit sideways so they staked that too. Fingers crossed this will help them. The two apple trees (Wyken Pippin and Hambledon Deux Ans) look fine; they may have been planted from bare roots? It shows the importance of spreading the roots from a pot-bound tree when planting it out. I’ll have to bear this in mind when the seedlings are being set loose on the world, wherever and whenever that ends up being.

    The pear trees are in blossom, as are the plum and damsons. The apples are just starting to bud.

    Pear: Louis Bonne of Jersey
    Pear: Uvedale St Germain
    Pears: Winter Nelis (left), Jargonelle (right)
    Floodwaters rising again after torrents of rain yesterday. Medlar (left) and plum (right, Rivers Early Prolific)

    So yeah, a very strong sense of ending and renewal.

  • Buds

    Look carefully at the photo…do you see them? Yes, the first ever flower buds from one of my apple tree seedlings! These were grown from apples collected in 2020 and germinated in 2021, so they are now three years old. I need to do an audit and empty out the pots of those that died over the winter but I must still have a good 50 saplings in pots dotted around the patio.

    It’s unlikely that these flowers will produce fruit but it’s still very exciting to see one of the little trees take this step forward!

    Seedling with first flower buds
    The leftmost tree is the one with the buds – the one in a terracotta pot. Grown from a seed from a Gala apple
    Seedlings by the pump
    Seedlings at the back of the patio
    Seedlings at the side of the patio
    Seedlings in Froghaven
    Seedlings by the path
  • A new Hnef

    No, I didn’t sneeze…my main Christmas present this year was a set of BEAUTIFUL handmade glass gaming pieces from Tillerman Beads. These are based on finds from grave 750 at the Viking-age town of Birka in Sweden and are about the fanciest gaming set you can have unless you’re going for carved ivory or gold (as in some sagas). I’ve long had a glass Hnef (the name given in Icelandic sagas to the centre piece) but it is machine-made and very regular. The pieces that accompany it are simple glass “pebbles” sold as pot toppers, which closely resemble some Roman pieces. This set is a much better match for the original finds.

    Replica glass gaming pieces

    The grave at Birka contained 8 dark pieces, 17 light ones. Al gave me 9 dark pieces and 17 light ones, which provides a spare of each colour if you are playing tablut, and also allows you to play merels or nine men’s morris. Tablut is the version of the game that Carl Linneus recorded and is played on a 9×9 board with 8 defenders, 16 attackers.

    Ready for a game of “tablut”
    Ready for a game of merels

    If you’d like to know more about the game of “hnefatafl” (it has several names and variants) you can read my article about the possible origin of the name “Hnefatafl” and see the other replica glass “Hnef” on my website. And of course there are lots of web pages out there with information about the game

  • Wintery bits and bobs

    Here are a few photos from the last month of things in and around Rumwoldstow. It’s the off season but it’s still always interesting to take a wander down and see what’s occurring!

    A pony in the neighbours’ meadow, which is called Barton
    (the meadow, not the pony)
    Bird’s nest, recovered from the top of the pivot stone in the gatehouse
    Pivot stone in the gatehouse!
    Frost and flood in late November
    Wild geese on the meadow to the north
    Rainbow moon
    It rained last night…the River Cherwell is about as high as I’ve seen it…all the lower part of the orchard is flooded and it’s raining again now!