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Being the Constable of Bolsover

I had a great time at Bolsover castle in the 1670s (!) this weekend being Benjamin Grainger, the parish constable. I attempted to convince the crowds not to be afeared of the soldiers, for I had lodged them according to the law and was keeping an eye on them, whilst simultaneously encouraging the townsfolk to fear the consequences of the law in regards to their own behaviour. Hopefully the illegal taking of clay from Shuttlewood Common by the town’s pipe-makers will now cease!

The constable spoke a lot about highwaymen, especially the notorious local robber Edmund Bracy and his gang, telling stories I ‘borrowed‘ from my highwayman character John Nevison; whilst being dressed in clothes I borrowed from my Great Fire of London and Great Plague character, Sir William Petty.

Now I have seen the picture, I have decided all my characters are going to stop eating puddings!

To see which of my historical characters you might want to visit, please take a look at my page of Characters. I look forward to hearing from you.


On the Right Side of the Law

A couple of weekends ago I played the part of a petty constable from the parish of Birstall at a Queen’s Regiment event at Oakwell Hall. The year was 1715 and the Tory rebels and Jacobites were threatening to cause turmoil in the kingdom. Thus it was that my constable found himself having to find lodging and victuals for the company of soldiers ordered to assist in the keeping of the peace in the parish.

Here he has found a suitable alehouse for several soldiers, and they sit patiently awaiting some ale to quench their thirst.

(Thank you to Becks Knight for this photograph.)

Of course it is one of a constable’s duties to keep His Majesties Peace and so I found myself delivering some advice to the visitors concerning their behaviour, warning them about the consequences should I be forced to read the brand new ‘Riot Act’.

(Thank you to Kate McFarlane for both the photo above and the one below!)

I like to think that I acquitted myself well, despite the fact that I was wearing the hat, shoes and coat of my 1720 pirate character, Captain Burwash!

If you want to know more about Captain Burwash, please click here. And if you want him to visit your school, please get in touch. To see which of my other historical characters you might want to visit, please take a look at my page of Characters. I look forward to hearing from you.


Two Formidable Words: Stand and Deliver

(Although many folk argue that is three words!)

Once again this August the notorious highwayman John ‘Swift Nicks’ Nevison was forced to hide in Skipton Castle until he could make his getaway after dark. Luckily, the castle steward commonly frequents the town’s gaming tables and consequently owed Nevison a considerable sum of money – a debt the highwayman was willing to forget in return for protection. It is also a good thing that the Dowager Countess of Pembroke is so often at one of her other castles, for I doubt she would agree to such a notorious robber within her walls!

On Saturday Nevison had lots of company, allowing him to carouse throughout the day with all and sundry, boasting of his brave exploits and many cunning tricks. No-one pointed out, however, that whenever he removed his hat it left a strange line around his forehead! Still, better there than a similar line around his neck!

He met with a lot of children too, many of whom he reckoned would make good ‘land pirates’, being brave and good fellows all. Some of the people he met were so poor they could afford neither hats nor coats or even sleeves for their shirts! He reckoned that a spot of highway robbery could lift them very quickly from their miserable condition.

His own son visited on the first day, and the two of them played a strange trick in which both were there but one was not.

And at the end of the day it was hard to say farewell to the little chap, but Nevison had had so much fun he wanted to stay another day!

On Sunday it rained, which was lovely because huge crowds gathered in the Great Hall to hear his stories, and Nevison was able to correct all sorts of lies that had been written about him. All who visited now knew him to be a true gentleman of the road, like Robin Hood reborn, and knew to ignore the libelous stories printed about him in the news-sheets.

As the day came to an end I think the highwayman felt very good about himself, for although he knew full well he could hardly expect a long life (yet a very merry one), at least he would not be turning in his grave subsequently!

Nevison already has plans to visit quite a number of schools over the next 12 months, but he is always on the look out for new places to hide for the day!

If you are interested in Nevison visiting your school, then please click on Swift Nicks Nevison to find out more about him. To see which of my other historical characters you might want to visit, please take a look at my page of Characters. I look forward to hearing from you.

The Burwash Portfolio

These drawings were included in the thank you letters sent to me by the children of a Kirklees school Captain Burwash visited last month. I love receiving drawings like this, and thought I would share some of them with you.

Here you can see the Captain with the whole class. The artist, presumably the little one right next to him, is saying ‘Cool’, while the captain seems to be coughing!

In this one the captain is drawn in much greater detail, but I don’t like the way he appears to be robbing the child!

In this next one captain Burwash has removed his shoes, probably by necessity as his hands and feet have swollen considerably. He is still smiling though.

These two images are from two different children who may have been inspired by other pirates when drawing their own particular depictions.

Here the captain has apparently transmogrified into a nurse with what appears to be a caterpillar living inside her hat.

In this drawing it looks like the captain was visiting not the school but instead his family. There is a very clear familial likeness.

These two drawings could be before and after images. I don’t know what sort of scrape the captain got himself into but he does look angrier afterwards!

Here the captain and a friend appear to have gone on deck on a windy day. Not only have their hats blown away, but their hair is trying to follow!

In this detailed drawing you can see many of Captain Burwash’s possessions – his tricorne, pistol, cannon ball, musket and what I think is a cuttle fish!

In the next drawing I am not sure which one is the captain, as I don’t recall him having either one leg missing of a pet parrot. Perhaps these are two of his crew?

I this last one the captain seems to be setting a new fashion by wearing a little boat upon his head. I reckon it could catch on.

If you want to know more about Captain Burwash, please click here. And if you want him to visit your school, please get in touch.

1666 and All That


My characters have had a very busy Spring and early Summer term. This week is the first time bookings have eased off, allowing me – among other things – to put together this post.

As always, two of my characters have dominated, being my Great Fire of London character Sir William Petty, and the pirate Captain Burwash, although recently my highwayman John Nevison has made a lot of appearances too! Over the years I seem to have done more news stories about my pirate, so this time it will be Sir William’s turn.

Sir William Petty has two guises, one (very popular) in which he tells the story of the Great Fire and the other (very rare as it is still in-development) in which he travels forwards in time to the present day.

One February trip took Sir William to Wombwell’s Park Street school. The teacher Sarah Allen wrote afterwards that the children “thoroughly enjoyed” the day, and that it gave them lots to talk about. The children also sent a very big bundle of thank you letters, and so I have made collages of their dramatic pictures of the fire and of some of their written comments.

Here you can see London burning – each street is from a different child’s picture!



And here are some of their comments about the day …


A little boy called Thomas came to see Sir William at Skipton Castle this Easter and saw a big picture of the man himself outside. He was very surprised to see that Sir William looked extraordinarily like his father.


Please click on the Great Fire of London to find out more about Sir William Petty, and on Captain Burwash to find out more about my pirate character. To see which of my other characters you might want to visit, please take a look at my page of Characters. If you want any of my characters to visit your school, please do get in touch.