MGM 2007 - Witness Living History With Our Top 10 Re-enactments

By Graham Spicer | 04 May 2007
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photo of a man in armour swordfighting

Get a taste of chivalry at Helmsley Castle. Photo English Heritage

Historical re-enactments have long been a mainstay of events at heritage sites. There’s a certain good old-fashioned charm in watching a group of fully-grown men dressed as Romans bashing each other over the heads with wooden swords.

Adults can chuckle at the slight daftness of it all, kids will love the action and adventure and everyone might learn a thing or two along the way.

Museums and heritage centres across the country are keeping the trend alive by staging a satisfying swathe of re-enactments and costumed events throughout Museums and Galleries Month 2007 and we’ve picked out our Top 10 selection.

Who said chivalry is dead? Certainly not the folks from Helmsley Castle in North Yorkshire who are inviting the Royal Armouries’ resident knights-errant along on May 6 and 7 to teach the skills of the medieval tournament and the complex rules and etiquette that stopped them being pulverised by their opponents.

photo of a man dressed as a civil war cavalier holding a musket next to a young boy also holding a musket

See what it took to be a cavalier at Wycombe Museum. Courtesy Wycombe Museum

If your kids are complaining about their homework then why not see what they make of school and home life for the Victorian East End poor at the Ragged School Museum in East London on May 6? Kids actually enjoy dressing up in the Victorian uniforms and being told that there’s no talking in class - and it’s educational too.

It wouldn’t be a proper list of re-enactments without a nod to the Sealed Knot, that intrepid band of modern-day Roundheads and Cavaliers.

Wycombe Museum is inviting a veteran Civil War group to stage a Royalist camp, complete with musketeers, pike men, curly flowing locks and more, at an event on May 12. Visitors can try on their helmets, try their trusty pikes and swords for size and experience the drumming, musketball-making and atmosphere of a wartime encampment.

photo of two men dressed as gladiators fighting each other. One has a net and trident the other a sword helmet and shield

Which gladiator will win? Pasty spear and net man or barrell-chested shield wielder? Courtesy Coventry City Council

If the prospect of a trip to a DIY superstore on Bank Holiday Monday fills you with dread, then why not take a visit to Brewhouse Yard Museum of Nottingham Life instead and take part in your own 1940s knees-up.

It’s bound to shake the blues away with singing and memorabilia to get grandma all misty eyed and re-enactors showing how people on the home front made ends meet and had fun where they could find it. Takes place on May 7.

Veni, Vidi, Vici said Julius Caesar as he surveyed his empire, and the Romans of Lunt Roman Fort will also be conquering all with gladiatorial displays on May 6 and 7. Gladiator troupe Quintus Monnius Rufus will be providing the action with criminals, slaves and free men fighting to the death (or at least pretending to!)

black and white photo of two men in flat caps eating pies and holding cups of tea

Cornelius Long will be telling tales of life in the docks at Museum in Docklands. Courtesy Museum in Docklands

The gladiators will be joined by the Legio XIII Gemina re-enactors, showing how a 1st century AD Roman legion would live and fight.

A different era is explored on May 12 when visitors can Meet Cornelius Long the London Docker at London’s Museum in Docklands.

The museum has created this colourful character based on local family and oral history and he will regale all with tales of working life in the days when the docks were entering their period of decline. This family friendly event is specially designed to appeal to children from age seven.

Let’s face it – pub quizzes are good fun, but have you ever thought they could sometimes do with a bit of jazzing up? Then why not combine one with a celebration of the ancient Roman Lemuria festival of the dead?

photo of a man and a woman dressed in saxon clothes playing a game of skittles

Who wore the trousers in Anglo-Saxon Britain? West Stow has the answers. Courtesy West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village

It’s something only a genius or a madman could have come up with, and this grown-ups only Lemuria Symposium looks certain to make for an intriguing evening at Jewry Wall Museum in Leicester on May 19.

Running from 8.30pm to 12.30, there will even be a spooky reconstruction of the Lemuria rite at midnight.

Who wore the Anglo-Saxon trousers? Was it the men, spending their time fighting, feasting and carousing, or the women, back at home weaving and cooking? Some popular myths will be debunked at this event exploring the lives of Anglo-Saxon women and who really held the purse-strings at West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village on May 26 and May 28.

If your dancing skills only stretch to an embarrassing shimmy at a wedding reception then why not step back into the days of courtly dancing at Leicester’s medieval Guildhall on May 28? You'll learn a few moves that might not impress down the local disco but should certainly be a ball.

photo of an actor pretending to be attacked by a man with a knife in a ship's cabin

Try and solve the mystery at ss Great Britain. Courtesy ss Great Britain

A whole repertoire of society dances from the 16th to 19th centuries will be on the cards and period costume is welcomed, although it’s not obligatory.

Brunel’s will be hosting a stylish murder mystery party on May 31. Professional actors will create a plot where the onboard conditions have sparked a murder on the ship on its way from Liverpool to Melbourne for the Australian Gold Rush.

If you can’t solve the mystery don’t worry – there’s a welcome drink on the Promenade Deck and a three-course meal to get through too.

These are just a few events that have tickled our fancy, but you’ll find tons more going on throughout the month – check the 24 Hour Museum listings for more ideas and inspiration.