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 An Afternoon Remembering...


Folk Hero of the Fens






01353 772050

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 A stellar line-up of Arts, Crafts, History and Heritage - all focused on the Folk Hero of the Fens, HEREWARD THE WAKE - will be lighting up the early Spring afternoon on Sunday 24th March at the pub in the city of Ely named after him.

There can be no more appropriate place to honour Ely's famous hero than The Hereward on Market Street where you can book a table for a Sunday lunch & drinks and be cast back in time to the days when William the Conqueror defeated King Harold

at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and everyone thought it was all over until this guy showed up!

Five years later one man and his rebel army stood defiantly here on the Isle of Ely fighting for the liberty of the folk of the Fens.

Hereward's heroic actions at the most cataclysmic moment in English history passed into legend and he once rivalled King Arthur in popularity, some calling him England's William Wallace, others

the real Robin Hood

Today we pause to remember Hereward, the 'Folk hero of the Fens' and his brave army of adherents who stood valiantly against insurmountable odds in defence of their own land, their own institutions and their own folk on the Isle of Ely against William the Conqueror. When Ely fell England finally fell. 

We will remember them...


Come join us at The Hereward and hear all about this amazing historical figure. Over the past ten years the WakeHereward Project have been instrumental in bringing Hereward back from the brink of obscurity, and the afternoon will be hosted by Historian David Maile who, with the aid of a powerpoint demonstration visible on all the screens in the venue will analyse the Hereward legend against the backdrop of the Norman Conquest and focus on how events unfolded at Ely as the Conqueror's army closed in, and the final moments of English liberty ebbed away, on October 27th 1071.

David will introduce the afternoon's proceedings focusing first on display of the magnificent replica of the Bayeux Tapestry being produced by seamstress Mia Hansson. Mia began her project to replicate the whole 69 metres of the world famous tapestry seven years ago. It depicts the events that led to the Battle of Hastings, the defeat of King Harold and the crowning of William 'the Conqueror' as KIng of England. It is the most famous historical moment in English history and the story of the tapestry forms the backdrop of

the story of Hereward. 


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So far Mia has completed over 40 metres of the tapestry and there will be two nine metre sections on display in The Hereward for people to view while Mia is on hand to discuss the finer details personally to those individuals interested.

In recent times Mia's work has appeared in national newspapers in the United Kingdom and major newspapers around the globe. She estimates her work will take another five years to complete and on the day will have books and embroideries on sale, which help her to fund the materials needed to undertake and complete such a mammoth task. Visit MIa's Bayeux Tapestry Story 

Rory Gibson's performances as Hereward the Wake are becoming so popular that they themselves are turning into folklore. Now in his third year performing as the Folk Hero of the Fens, Rory's skills as a medieval re-enactor donned in all the clothes of war and as an actor with a booming voice and quick witted timing, has meant that the WakeHereward Project has been able to engage audiences that may otherwise be ambivalent to a history story.

Performing 'The Heroes Journey' Rory as our Hereward regales the tales and legend of Hereward's life story as a soldier, from his exile at the age of 18 to his return to the Fens and his valiant defence of Ely against the might of William the Conqueror and his army.

Rory as Hereward will undertake two performances during the course of the afternoon, which will include a weapons demonstration of the instruments of war that Hereward would have used, and the way he would have used them. 

Like Mia Hansson and her replica of the Bayeux Tapestry, the appearance of Singer/Songwriter Gemma Parker is a rarity and, as with Mia, we are greatful to her for agreeing to perform today under the banner of the WakeHereward Project in memory of Hereward at an establishment named after him in the city where he made his fame.

Gemma performs under the stage name the Dark Bardess and the particular speciality and rarity here is the musical instrument she performs upon, the LYRE. The lyre is an Old English instrument with its origins deeply rooted in the Classical period. In Greek mythology Hermes is said to have created the Lyre and the museum of London Archaeology describes the lyre as the most important stringed instrument in the ancient world. It was not until the correct reconstruction of the lyre in 1970 that it was realised it was the typical Anglo-Saxon stringed instrument. 

Yet still today, how the instrument was actually played in Anglo-Saxon times and the kind of tunes or songs that were played on it, are not entirely clear. So what you experience here at The Hereward on this day is a rare opportunity to hear someone perform on this legendary stringed instrument as there are not many proponents in the country that can do so. Yet there is more...

If performing on the Anglo-Saxon Lyre is a rarity for you to witness, the repetoire by the Dark Bardess is her speciality. Gemma will open up 'An Afternoon Remembering Hereward...' with two medieval folk instrumental tunes, 'The Bear Dance' and 'The Harvest Dance'.

The latter is acknowledgement of the coming Spring-time and the growth of plants that will hopefully bring on a successful Harvest and abundant crops to help feed the folk of old England during the long winter months. Most surely the refugees based on the under-siege Isle of Ely during Hereward's days here, were singing such songs. The Bear Dance symbolises the bear that Hereward fights when sent into exile on 'The Heroes Journey' and the growth as a man and in bodily strength that then sent him forward into the unknown world where he was to emerge as 'a famous knight among the more famous'.

The repetoire of the Dark Bardess extends into Viking Saga verse performed in the Old Norse (Viking) language, her own rendition of the famous Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf and also songs and ballads she has written about Hereward, specially for performances at WakeHereward Project events. These include 'Hereward the Outlaw', one about Hereward's legendary mother, 'Lady Godiva' and 'High Jinks and Carousing' (A case of Queen Edith's knickers), the latter one of some written for a Short Play that will be performed at venues across the Fens in the near future.

The Dark Bardess will perform two seperate sets of 20+ minutes during the course of the afternoon, as well as opening up and ending proceedings, the full running order will be listed closer to the date.

This is quality roots Folk Music at its very finest by a very rare talent, Gemma Parker, Musician, Singer/Songwriter is The Dark Bardess....

You can get a taste of Gemma's songs at

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As well as the above stellar line-up and the Bayeux Tapestry, there will also be a series of exhibition boards on display telling the Hereward story at The Hereward.

 'An Afternoon Remembering Hereward' will begin at 3pm and end around 6pm, we hope you will join us in celebrating the memory of a man who 950 years ago made a stand on the Isle of Ely in defence of the local folk, their land and their institutions against oppression, and appreciate the rich heritage we have in Ely and across the Fens.

Sunday 24th March 3pm

01353 772050


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Dr. James Pearce has now been added to the event along with Hereward's Band of Men. James is a Historian who works at Peterborough Regional College and will be talking about an Anglo-Saxon exile who left England during the course of the Norman Conquest and sought sanctuary among the Rus in present day Russia and Ukraine.

Hereward's Band of Men will be with Hereward during the event and engaging with the audience, displaying their weaponry, detailing their attire and telling people about the life and times of the Anglo-Saxon warrior. At the beginning of the event the Band of Men will be joining Hereward on a march through Ely Market Place from 2.30pm before entering the Hereward pub shortly before 3pm.

For those not living local why not jump in the car and be a day visitor to Ely and meet Hereward the Wake!

If you are an hour or so drive away and have a penchant for the mystery that surrounds Hereward and marvel in the magnificence of the cathedral at Ely, then this is the perfect Sunday drive-out adventure, themed on Hereward the folk hero of the Fens...

First, have your hiking boots handy and head out to Aldreth Causeway in the heart of the Fens. Set the Sat Nav to CB6 3PQ and at Aldreth Village Centre if you look carefully enough you will see a plaque commemorating Hereward, 'his actions at Aldreth passed into legend'. For the causeway you walk further down the village a couple of hundred yards until the road ends and you see the signs for the Aldreth Causeway, keep going!

If you like a bit of a ramble it is 1 mile to the Old West River and the bridge that takes you onto the causeway itself, and another mile along you will come to Belsars Hill,where legend has it the Conqueror based his troops pending his assault on the Isle of Ely in England's dark days following King Harold's defeat at the Battle of Hastings. According to 12th Cantury sources it is here where the Conqueror built a causeway and Hereward fired the peat fen, and the Conqueror lost a chunk of his army, as well as a witch!

It's still a historical conundrum as to whether this was where William actually broke through onto the Isle of Ely. Before the 17th C drainage of the Fens the island of Ely was surrounded by impassable waterways marshland and fen, a natural defensive island, and Aldreth was at its most south-westerly point, reaching towards Cambridge where the Conqueror had set up his Court.

Aldreth Causeway bisecting Belsars Hill

click on image to read more

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Whether the hiker/adventurer is within you or not, as it is a Sunday it is the ideal time to then carry on to Ely and visit the magnificent Ely Cathedral, because on Sundays it is the only day of the week it is free entry! It stands as a monument to the subjugation of the English on the spot where the monastery once stood that Hereward used as his rebel stronghold. If he had won, it wouldn't be there...

Whether you then walk down to the Ely Waterfront, or visit the centre, the museum, Toppings book shop or elsewhere, Ely most surely is among the more pleasant of the smaller English cities.

So then it is time to head to The Hereward on Market Street for Sunday lunch and drinks in time for our 3pm start

Music drama handcrafts history and heritage and an opportunity to visit the Aldreth Causeway and Ely Cathedral and having a great lunch in a pub named after the folk hero of the Fens!

Come see us at The Hereward,

45 Market Street, Ely CB7 4LZ.

Sunday 24th March from 3pm.

Tables & Reservations:

or Tel: 01353 772050

It is free entry but you will need to make a table reservation as it is likely to be busy.

Keep Exploring! Adventure's out there waiting...

Our Hereward Rory G seen here in the grounds of Ely Cathedral, click on the image to go to the

Ely Cathedral website

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