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
- Bishop Godfrid
The humble monastery of Rumwoldstow was honoured to be visited by the esteemed bishop, Godfrid, and his utterly splendid cat Isidore. As Rumwoldstow exists before the Benedictine reforms of the mid-tenth century, the monastery and the behaviour of the nuns would not have been subject to very strict inspection.
However, Godfrid’s visit caused much consternation, as is told in a linked set of short videos made in association with the Dark Ages Society:
Bishop Godfrid visits Rumwoldstow, a tale in video
Not interested in videos? Well, the only other news is that the wild strawberries which have taken over part of the garden are ripe. And while the nuns live on a simple diet, it would be sinful to waste the lord’s bounty!
- Local rafters
Some six years ago now, we moved to the house adjoining what is now Rumwoldstow. At that time, there were two self-seeded sycamore trees which overshadowed the walled garden almost entirely, being to the south. We somewhat sadly had them felled (we’ve planted other trees in more suitable locations) and one of them had a fine section of trunk that I couldn’t bear to waste, so we had some guys with a mobile sawmill cut it into beams. At the time, Rumwoldstow was a very faint beginnings of an idea and we had little in the way of plan for using the beams. However, thanks to Al’s hard work, they have now come into their own! He has used them to build the rafters for the central gatehouse tunnel; they are perfect, and were just sufficient for the job!
It’s great to make a showpiece of timber that has travelled no more than 50m from where it grew.
The rafters over the guardrooms to the sides of the gatehouse tunnel are ordinary timber bought from a builders’ merchant. But it won’t be as visible.
One final shot of the garden, which has been strimmed so you can actually walk around it. Slightly inauthentic borage – the Romans had it, and the later mediaevals, but I don’t know of evidence of it in the tenth century. But it’s covered in bees. The Iris Germanica didn’t flower last year, apart from one randomly white blossom, but the plants have filled out excellently and we have some nice purple flowers.
- Rule one of tablet weaving: remove the cat
…so I read on the internet, and it is true, but yesterday I was roleplaying with friends and it was the perfect opportunity to warp up and start weaving my mantle trim. And my host has kittens. “Photos or it didn’t happen”, I hear you cry. Fair enough.
- Pin the mantle on the nun
My circular mantle is all sewn together, a complete circle with a round neckhole and an open front so you can easily put it on even when wearing a wimple. I described the garment’s cutting out stage here. And to close it, I’ve bought a lovely little ansate brooch based on a find from York, made by the skilled hands of Adam Parsons. These are now considered a common type of brooch for mid to late Anglo-Saxon clothing, and it works very well to pin my light, elegant cloak.
I am still unsure as to the accuracy of this reconstruction. In favour of the front opening is ease of putting on / taking off, and so far I’m finding that the front stays closed and by raising my hands at the sides, I keep my tummy warm! And a circular, or semi-circular, cloak seems somehow more of a European mediaeval garment than a poncho (but that is a really speculative argument).
On the other hand, maybe early mediaeval women just put the mantle on in the morning and wore it all day, living as they did in un-insulated houses in a chilly climate. And while I don’t think the opening shows much when worn, you could reasonably argue that at least some of the manuscript illuminations would show it, if it is a common part of garment construction.
Either way, I love it! It is lightweight, warm and comfortable, the fabric is super, and I have decided to tablet-weave a band instead of embroidery, because I’ve long wanted an excuse to design a high status band with crap lions on it. And this is a high status garment, using a vast amount of finely woven dyed cloth and wasting the cut-off corners (though I will likely use them for something). More on the lions in a future post!
- A herbal infusion
The nuns of Rumwoldstow were delighted this afternoon to receive a missive from the noble lady Wulfruna, who I believe to be an honoured geneat among the people of Cilternsaete. She sent us a gift to help us make our herbal infusions.
Yes, we’ve been given a teabag squeezer! It will live in the scullery drawer, and we thank the lady Wulfruna for her kindness.
Al has cut and fitted the rafters for the guardroom roofs, freeing up the pallets from inside the guardrooms, to now build working platforms for the next state which is fitting rafters in the tunnel area.