As we were driving to Gilly and Yevgeni’s house in the countryside north of London, we came upon a sign for Rockingham Castle. Not only that but it was a sign saying that there would be jousting there that weekend!
The funny thing was, Gilly and Yevegeni had already been planning on taking us to it! Perfect! I was really excited as I love historical recreations and I thought that Z would get a real kick out of seeing a castle, and “real” knights jousting on horseback. Plus it was my first time at a real castle in England!
As we arrived at Rockingham Castle, I was impressed with the well-organized parking area and ticketing process. In no time at all we were at the ticket booth, the prices for the event and the walking tour of the castle were £10.50 per adult and Zoë was free (children are £7.50, but I am not sure at what age that starts).
We entered the grounds and walked towards the castle. The jousting didn’t start for a couple of hours so we decided to check out the castle and its gardens first. On the way to the gardens was a “Medieval Living History Village” which consisted of a couple of rows of tents with people acting out their parts as archers, cooks, wood workers, and many other trades. The “villagers” seemed very authentic and appeared to really know what they were talking about. At one point we stopped and listened to a soldier talk about the strategy in battle with hand to hand combat. I never realized that there were so many ways to get around a spear. It was all very fascinating, and the “villagers” were enjoying themselves. Many of them even had their children and pets with them, playing their parts as well. It reminded me of Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts, but much smaller. Still, it made me feel like I was in medieval times.
After we had walked through the village, we came upon the pristine gardens, which I unfortunately did not take any photos of! I know I can’t believe it either! D’oh! It was filled with flowers and the most perfectly cut lawn I had ever seen.
Anyways we walked through the garden (there was also a wild garden, but we didn’t make it to that one) and came to a downhill path. The view from there was amazing. Seeing the patchwork landscape of farms fenced with hedges and flocks of sheep meandering through grassy pastures looked so quintessentially English to me. I almost couldn’t look away. We all stood there for a time and took in the sight, even Zoë was impressed with it and sat still looking at it as well.
We finally had to pull ourselves away from the overlook and turned around and there was the castle! The Rockingham Castle was originally built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century and has been upgraded in many ways over time. It was gifted by Henry VIII to Edward Watson, the ancestor of the current owner James Saunders Watson. I was blown away at the craft and quality of the construction of the castle. I doubt if a house built in the present day would last 100 years, let alone many centuries.
We walked to the entrance of the castle walking tour and saw that no phones, cameras, or video were allowed. I was pretty disappointed but stuck by the rules and didn’t take pictures of the giant kitchen (with a room that acted as a refrigerator), or the massive wooden doors that were built in the 13th century, or the many painting and portraits that adorned the walls. The only time I broke the rules was for the photo below… I just had to!
After we walked through the castle and passed quickly through the little gift shop at the end of the tour, we headed outside to the storyteller. There was a gentleman that was telling stories about the history of the castle to children (and their parents too). The stories were fascinating and he was really good at making the kids laugh and participate. Zoë didn’t want to leave, but we were running late for the jousting by that time so we had to move on.
We walked quickly back to the jousting area and saw that they were having some sort of activity with older kids, they were teaching them how to march into battle, and yell the battle cry. We took the opportunity to get an ice cream from the ice cream truck there. I know, it’s not very medieval, but hey, I can’t pass up a good sweet snack. And it was DELICIOUS! They were called Mr. Whippy’s and were whipped soft serve ice cream on sugar cones with a Cadbury Flake in them. It was so whipped that it tasted like whipped cream (YUM!!!). I wanted to eat 10 of them. But I digress…
We made our way back to the jousting arena and sat down just in time as it was officially starting. The MC was introducing the knights that would be jousting. There were the good knights and the black knights and each side had 4 knights. The rules were given (although I couldn’t hear them) and then the knights went around the arena asking for favors from the ladies, and women threw them their scarves so the knights could wrap them around their jousting poles. My mind wandered off for a bit after that wondering how the ladies would get their scarves back.. some of the scarves looked really nice.. hmmmm. Anyways, when my mind returned the jousting was starting and the knights were very good at making it look authentic. They fought hand to hand first with a mace and shield and then got on horseback for the jousting. It was really fun to watch.
All of us had a fantastic time at Rockingham Castle. I left feeling like I had stepped back in time for a day. For a history buff such as myself, it was the best kind of day… experiencing history in real life.
Have you ever been to a jousting event? What did you think?