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
- A new Hnef
No, 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.
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.
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!
- Medlar jelly
Despite the general distractions of life, I managed to gather a fair proportion of the medlars, which by November were falling from the tree. The medlar is the only new tree so far to give a good crop of fruit. Most of the fruit trees were planted in 2018, so they’re five years old, and generally look healthy, and flower well, but are giving between “some” and “no” fruit (YES “Fairleigh” damson tree I AM looking at you).
I put the medlars in the utility room and within a couple of weeks they had “bletted” and were ready to eat / use. Raw medlars are good with cheese, but I don’t regularly eat a cheese course after dinner, so wanted to find some other way to use them.
Medlars are tasty, but even once you’ve bletted them, they are not easy to eat; the pulp inside the “hip” is good, but there are plenty of seeds and fibrous bits. So this year, I tried boiling them medlars for syrup.
I strained the juice overnight through muslin. It’s a shame to waste so much of the fruit pulp, but I just did not have the time or energy to separate pulp from skin, seeds and fibre this year. The juice didn’t look particularly promising, but I froze a box of it to use later for a flavoured mead, and made the rest into jelly.
8 lbs medlars and 11 pints water yielded about 6 pints of juice.
- 3 pints strained medlar juice
- 3 lbs granulated sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 bottle (125 ml) “Certo” apple pectin.
I boiled the jelly for a good hour and a half before it finally reached a setting point. This was much longer than I expected, as the Certo is meant to reduce cooking time and improve set. On initial tasting, I thought there was too much lemon juice, but actually it’s fine. The jelly gradually turned a very pleasing clear orangy colour, and has a delicate flavour. It’s a bit stickier than would be ideal because of the long boiling – it’s on the verge of turning into caramel – another time, maybe more Certo? For traditional jellies like blackberry, I use unripe apples in August / September, which are chock full of pectin. As the medlars aren’t ready to use until December, the apples are far too ripe to provide pectin.
The rest of the juice is in the freezer and I plan to try making a mead with honey, medlar juice and apples. This will be a longer term project!
- Booth me up, baby
A monastery can never have too many outbuildings. Obviously! Al’s latest construction is something that was originally conceived as a log store with a working area in the middle, but it’s coming out as more of a generally useful covered space with good light.
The Great Booth is not quite finished – Al is still collecting the last few extra-long pallets to break down for roof timbers – but doesn’t it look great?
- Protecting the harvest
The heritage apple trees are still not producing much fruit and I’ve scoffed what there was. But the old Bramley in our garden has given us many fine apples. Last year, we stored a good number but the rats, not surprisingly, made a bee-line for them (surely you can’t have too many animals in a metaphor) and deprived us of several trays of good apples.
Al, being the hero that he is, has reinforced the apple store, which lives in one of the guard-rooms in the gatehouse, with wire mesh. This is of course not historically authentic! Vermin-proof food storage will have been a perennial problem, with grain stores raised on ‘mushrooms’, sealed pits and other strategies used with presumably varying degrees of success.
I almost filled the store with the best apples, as they should keep for longest. We still have a good number in the kitchen that need to be used up asap. Stewed apple for breakfast, crumble for supper…it’s a rough life.