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
- 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.
- The Hambledon Deux-ans
Last year for the first time we got a couple of apples from the young Hambledon Deux-ans apple tree, planted nearly five years ago now. It was the tree that was most munched by enthusiastic young cows in its first year and I’m honestly chuffed that it’s alive at all. I put the apples in the dining room and kept meaning to move them somewhere cooler but never got round to it, and finally decided to just eat them!
All things considered, I think the apple didn’t do too badly; more than half of it was eatable, though very tart. I can see why it’s described as a cooker. Fingers crossed the tree will do better this year, though with the hazards of drought and late frost, it’s an absolute unknown quantity.
- Yew tree and moonlight
Our good friend the Bogwitch made a reappearance over the midwinter festival and despite her incomprehensible ramblings in some strange language, she bore a gift! A yew tree, without which indeed no chapel or church is complete, and it has absolutely no pagan significance whatsoever. It’s on the small side and it’ll probably continue to live in a pot, as we don’t want it to be out in the orchard where livestock might nibble it. Yew is toxic, leaf berry and wood, so don’t mess with it.
Ah, I haven’t introduced you to the Bogwitch. Well, that’s something to look forward to! She’s….a bit of a character.
Anyway, yes, here’s a lovely tree. It needs a bit more soil in the pot, if it only stops raining for long enough I’ll get out there and fix it up.
I awoke before dawn (not so hard in early January) and was lured outside by the shimmer of moonlight on water…Lake Meadow is flooded good and proper, and looked very pretty.
As it was about 6am the moon, though full, wasn’t very high in the sky. But still, you get the idea, and it was well worth getting out of bed for. And I’m impressed that the camera on my phone managed to make any sense of the scene!
- Sunset on the lake
It’s almost the shortest day of the year and Lake Meadow is flooded after heavy rain over the last few days. Many ducks, which we rejoice to see.