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Hereward Returns to Joyous Response!

Hereward Living History at Folkingham Castle Sunday 19th September

Hereward and his Band with Lady Godiva and Oger the Breton celebrate the ending of festivities at Folkingham Heritage Festival. Back from left: Dan as Wluncus the Black, Chunk as Hogor the Cook, Luke as Maerleswein Sheriff of Lincoln, Marcos as Geri, Matt as 'The Sickle', Rory as Hereward, Heather as Lady Godiva. Front from left: Nigel as Acer Vasas, Troy as Siward the Red, Benji as Siward the White, Stephen as Oger the Breton, Oleg as Godric of Corby. (Image copyright wakehereward/davidmaile)

Hereward's return from exile was greeted with joy, laughter and happiness by the folk attending the Folkingham Heritage Festival on Sunday, as part of the national Heritage Open Days celebrations arranged locally by the Aveland History Group. The WakeHereward Project were invited to present a Hereward re-enactment show under their Hereward Living History programme and those involved produced a magnificent performance across four acts to keep people happily entertained.

The story goes that Hereward had been exiled at the age of 18 and went on a series of adventures in the north, in Cornwall, then Ireland and on to northern Europe where he settled in Flanders and made quite a reputation for himself as a warrior. When he heard England was now under the control of the Normans, Hereward returned to his home and found that Normans were occupying his family home, they had killed his younger brother and were holding his mother prisoner. He duly leapt from the shadows upon the drunken unarmed Normans and slaughtered the lot, the next day 14 Norman heads were hanging above the entrance to his family estate, his legend grew.

Rory Gibson as Hereward and Heather Bailey as Lady Godiva put on superb performances, ably supported by the equally impressive Stephen Hansen as Oger the Breton, the very man who killed Hereward's brother. Hereward's Band of Men consisted of re-enactors from Grantanbrycg and Jorvik Vikingr and ably supported the main characters.

Heather Bailey as Godiva, recollecting that journey on that horse after that Hen Party, to the amusement of the crowd. (image copyright wakehereward/stevemoore).

In Act 1, the imprisoned Godiva manages to free herself and slips out of her home, running to the villagers to tell them of her plight and to warn about the Normans, and a good chuckle was had by the crowd as Godiva thought it necessary to explain the real story behind her famous ride on that horse. Apparently it came about the morning after a Hen Night in Newcastle, that she fondly remembers as 'the Howaying of the North'. The story about protesting against her husband's high-taxes came about because she was looking for an excuse to cover over why she had been out all night!

But soon Oger caught up with her and threw her back inside before he addressed the local folk of Folkingworth to tell them that all they were good for was castle-building and working the fields, where he promised to put Hereward to work if he ever dared to return.

Oger the Breton, played by Stephen Hansen is a historical figure who held the Manor of Bourne in 1086 at the time of the Domesday Inquest. One early twelfth century source says that Oger and Hereward fought over the land. (Image Copyright wakehereward/davidmaile).

In Act 2 Hereward returns to his home lands, happy to see his friends and kinsmen and to regale tales of his adventures in fighting a bear, rescuing a princess and in Ireland and Flanders, when he quizzes why his old friend Maerleswein the Sheriff of Lincoln is there, what was happening to his land he enquired, only to have the news broken to him that his brother was dead and they were holding his mother caprtive. Hereward erupts and swears revenge. The whole act was a sterling effort by Rory Gibson in his role as Hereward and despite the smattering of the rain he won lots of admirers with his powerful display of warrior acting.

Act 3 was a workshop class of living history, weapons and warfare and demonstrations led by Luke Marshall and Matt Greatrex of Jorvik Vikingr and Grantanbrycg, the two re-enacting groups that form Hereward's Band of Men for Hereward Living History, which drew a lot of interest from a good crowd.

Hereward's Band of Men practicing for warfare, the group consists of members made up pf Grantanbrycg and Jorvik Vikingr re-enactors.

Act 4 was the big finale, the 'Slaughter of the Normans'. Rory and the re-enactors had spent quite some time working out the moves required for Hereward to hack his way through the drunken unarmed Normans before his final showdown with Oger the Breton, a man regarded as equally fierce as Hereward in warfare.

The final act was highlighted with the re-appearance of Heather as Godiva, who kept halting her son's progress so she could tidy up the bodies and talk lovingly to the crowd about her little boy, who in the meantime was slicing French meat in her hall. Godiva couldn't resist taking over from Hereward and killing the last two Normans before reaching Oger. Brushing her aside Oger meets Hereward in a frantic sword fight before Oger gets the better of the hero of the Fens and has him pinned down ready to strike a fatal blow when Godiva rams a blade into Oger from behind. The crowd cheer Hereward and Godiva's victory and the memory of our cultural heritage is cherished by all who either took part and watched.

Heather Bailey and Rory Gibson performed magnificently, as did Stephen Hansen as the bad guy, and all the re-enactors showed their professionalism, enthusiasm and good spirit. A wonderful day with like-minded souls, having some fun while commemorating a legend, or two...

The WakeHereward Project would like to thank Aveland History Group and Heritage Lincs for the arrangement of such an enjoyable festival in its inaugural year and all the re-enactors that came along, enthusiastically and professionally, to make for a very special moment in commemorating Hereward.

All images by Stephen Moore (copyright: wakehereward/stevemoore) who we also thank for attending and supporting the project.

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