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 the Dark Ages Society.
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
- Riddle me this…
The Anglo-Saxons were very fond of riddles and word-games. At a recent feast, I spoke these riddling words:
In youth I stood still.
People slew me,
They spun me round and round.
After death, I am still again,
But people grow dizzy.
As the banquet-guests puzzled over these words, I took a drink of mead and explained that it wasn’t something obscure.
The answer is given below, in white text. Highlight the box below to read the answer!
A wooden cup, turned on a pole-lathe, and filled with mead.
Did you guess it?
- Tree pruning
An orchard in February doesn’t look like much, but there are promises of spring appearing – snowdrops, catkins, and swelling buds on the trees. High time to prune those apple and pear trees!
Our first task was to prune the older tree, which we’ve been gradually reshaping to a proper ‘tree’ shape (it had grown very siiiiiiideways due to the light from the south being blocked). We went at it somewhat cautiously, pruning a bit at the ends, and removing branches that crossed each other, or went too much straight up.
The variety is unknown but it produces nice eating apples.
The Hambledon Deux Ans got a bit of a trim, as did the Wyken Pippin. This latter is such a sturdy tree now, and has kind of gone sideways, so Al removed the protective frame around it. We’ve kind of decided to keep livestock out of the orchard now, as it’s clear that the fruit will always be low enough to be munched even by sheep. And the frame was very rickety. But it may be reused later.
- Last apples from 2022
Candlemas has been and gone, marking the beginning of the end of winter, and the first signs of spring as the days lengthen. Indeed the name of the coming Christian period of fasting, Lent, derives from the Old English ‘lencten’ meaning ‘lengthen’.1 Although rats ate most of the good eating apples in the apple store – and this would be a disaster in a farming community, and we’ll have to rat-proof the store for next year – the Bramley apples proved less tempting and although there were some depredations, most were left for our use. Their keeping properties were mixed, with some surviving well and others decaying. By January they were mostly showing their age with brown fibres appearing in the flesh. On the 29th January 2023 we brought the remaining apples in to the kitchen.
Over the last week I’ve worked through them, and about one in three has eatable flesh now. If I’d been more organised I could have stewed and bottled or frozen vast amounts of good apple, but I just didn’t have the time and energy. I started eating the Bramley apples in August of 2022, as they were sharp but OK cooked, and they made excellent jelly then as they contain more pectin while unripe. So the tree has kept me in apples for about six months.
The trees now need pruning, and I have of course no idea what kind of harvest we will get this year, but I hope for a few more of the new apples, and that I’ll manage to look after the fruits better.
- Ice on the meadow
January of 923 included a week or so of really cold weather – almost unknown in these later years – following on from some weeks of flooding. Thus a layer of ice formed on Lake Meadow, and as the water level fell it was left lying on the meadow.
You can see that the cold weather was protracted by the row of ice circles removed from the bird bath, one per day!
The ice was several centimetres thick and you could walk on it; it was like walking on a glass surface suspended over the grass. Sadly not safe for skating, I think, because in so many places the ice had broken and refrozen leaving holes and jagged edges.
Now, a week later, the ice is gone and there are catkins on the hazel trees.
- A silver Cuthbert cross
On the 13th January, the nuns of Rumwoldstow celebrate the Feast of St Eadwald of Rumwoldstow, that local priest who received St Rumwold after his baptism. And on this day in 923, the local silversmith presented Abbess Cyneswithe with a fine silver pendant cross in commemoration. Its style is notably old fashioned, but then we are an unreformed house, honouring that early saint, Rumwold, and seeking to refound a house based on those early Christian principles.
The Rumwoldstow Cross is essentially a Cuthbert cross, in a plain style inspired by a silvered bronze cross held found at St Hild’s abbey in Whitby, and now held by the British Museum.
Photos of the Whitby cross copyright Alister Perrott.
The Whitby cross is entirely plain, and forms almost a complete circle.
The Winfarthing cross, found in 2015, is gobsmackingly fancy but is a complete circle. It dates to around 660 C.E. and forms part of a collection of jewellery buried with a woman thought to be one of the very earliest Anglo-Saxon converts to Christianity – and fortunately for us, buried with grave goods, as soon ceased to be the custom in England.
The picture above shows the cross after conservation. From earlier photographs you can see that the base is a plain shape very similar to that of the Rumwoldstow cross, but it has been embellished with indented gold wire and a gold boss.
So our silver cross at Rumwoldstow derives from two early Anglo-Saxon finds, both Cuthbert crosses, one plain, and one a complete circle. And we thank Alf Silversmith for his gift with all joy.