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A Weekend Warrior

Last weekend I became a Parliamentarian musketeer once again at a large reenactment event at Newstead Abbey near to Nottingham. Luckily the photographer Carl Blythe was on hand to take a picture of me marching with my fellow Tower Hamleteers. (I will admit our average age might be just a tad over the average age the soldiers would have been – at 48 I myself am an ancient soldier!)


And the photographer Steve Liddle caught another image of me close up and looking somewhat pensive. I have no idea what was on my mind!

Thank you Steve Liddle for permission to use this photo
There are many more of Steve’s photos at steveliddle.smugmug.com/Sealed-Knot-2016/Newstead-Abbey/.

I can learn a lot by reading history books, but I gain a different kind of knowledge, also useful, from taking part in these reenactments: How small one feels when the horse soldiers are galloping by; how your ears ring when even a small field piece goes off close to you; the ease with which one can fall into step with the drums during a march (and the aching legs and back that comes with it); and the disorientation when suddenly the ranks and files around you have lost their form.

Click on these links to find out more about my civil war characters for school visits, the Civil War Castle Governor and Civil War musketeer.


Captain Burwash is a brave fellow indeed, who never baulks at a challenge no matter how fearsome the foe. Recently he has been traveling the length and breadth of the kingdom looking for scholars to help him prepare for his next cruise (there’s a LOT of typpling houses and ordinaries in Hull, which means he needs a big pile of advertisements if he is to put one on every door). He can’t help but tell stories and answer questions – he’s a talkative sort of man – but occasionally he falls into dispute, which can lead to trouble. Here you can see he may have bitten off more than he can chew, for this particular disputant had an unnervingly confident swagger and bold demeanour …

The Duel!

Luckily for both the bullets missed their mark and the matter was resolved without any rancour. They parted friends and Captain Burwash went back to telling his tales of piratical deeds.

How to Load a Pistol

The pictures come from a lovely day last week. The children learned about all sorts of things, from pistols and cutlasses, to tricornes and cartouches, from Blackbeard and Anne Bonny to sloops and salmagundi.

Wall Ahoy!

As for what ‘vapouring’ is – the captain could tell you!

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.

Just a Point of View

Over the years I have worked in a lot of classrooms, all over the north of England (and beyond, on occasion). A couple of weeks ago, however, I looked out of the classroom window and it took my breath away. This is what I saw …


I’ve seen everything from brick walls and rooftops to fields and playgrounds, from housing estates and roads to woods and parks. Many have been very pleasant views. But this one made me itch to explore it, and (otherwise it wouldn’t be here) to take a picture of it!

Wherever you are, however, and whatever the views are like near you, please feel free to contact me to arrange for one of my historical characters to visit your school. It’s a lovely way to get a view of the past!

A Dangerous Place to Be!


One Friday evening last month, John Nevison the highwayman was forced by circumstance to hide with the good people of the Sandal Community Association. Yes, the constables and watchmen were after him again – his life seems to be one long hue and cry!

This was a somewhat different experience for him, for his most oft’ preferred choice of refuge is in schools, where he can tell the children all sorts of adventurous stories about his life, after which the scholarly children can correct the many libelous accounts published in new-sheets and chap-books. This time the company were somewhat older – on average about six times older – yet they too enjoyed all the same stories!



What he couldn’t have known, however, was that it would eventually be at Sandal, in the Three Houses Inn, that he was arrested and taken to York for trial and execution! Had he known this I doubt he would have felt anything like as safe!

Of course, the history of his capture was exactly why the folk of Sandal were particularly interested in him – perhaps that’s why they had wry smiles on their faces as he described in colourful detail how gentlemen of the road were hanged for their crimes?

The evening was a sellout. The organiser, Richard Taylor, afterwards wrote: “Thanks for giving us such a great evening last night. It went down very well with everyone.” The evening even got a picture and an article in the Wakefield Express, although when I showed the newspaper to my boys (5 and 7) they seemed very underwhelmed. After all, what’s so special about a photo of dad?

Please click here – highwayman – to find out more about visits from the famous John Nevison.

Good Timing?

Sir William Petty, natural philosopher (mathematician, doctor of medicine and inventor of umpteen ingenious novelties) seems to have mastered the illusive art of time travel! At Easter last year (2015) he appeared briefly at Skipton Castle, and began learning what he could of this far future world.

Having managed to free himself from the shackles of time, so that he might move back and forth through the centuries, he did however discover that he had become stuck in space! It seemed his condition was now quite the reverse of that of other humans – they could move in space but were held fast by time. Thus it was that he was unable to leave the chamber he found himself in, and could not go into the town to witness the world himself. Luckily, a steady stream of visitors came wandering through, allowing him to make queries of a wide variety of people: comparing the marvels they described to his own time, offering them tales of his life in exchange for descriptions of theirs, and connecting the scientific theories and discoveries of their world to those of his Royal Society Fellows from the late seventeenth century.

Here you can see him explaining why, amongst a chest of instruments and artifacts he thought he might need, he brought a plumb-line with him (because he thought it entirely possible that the land around the castle might be inundated with flood waters, making just such an instrument necessary to discover the water’s depth).

2015 Time Traveller

The visitors learned that his chest was packed with a wide range of instruments and objects, from medicines to measuring apparatus, from a plague doctor’s mask to a pistol! Everything he thought he might need if he was to survive in the far future.

Although he was dragged back to his own time by the pendulum swing of his secret engine, he managed to reappear at the castle this year (2016) too, now armed with a leather-bound book brimming with many hundreds of questions to ask and investigations to carry out. Here you can see him (still trapped in that same chamber) thumbing through said tome to ask new questions of every visitor he encountered.

2016 Time Traveller

I don’t think he discovered answers to all his questions, but that is no reflection on the wit and wisdom of the fine and enlightened folk he met, rather due to the fact that he stayed insufficiently long to ask all of them!

Many people are now wondering whether Sir William might ever again succeed in traveling through time (whether it be from a later or even an earlier point in his life)? And if so, will he appear in the same or a different place? I myself think it likely that next time, perhaps soon, he could appear in a school!

(This time-traveler version of my Sir William Petty character is almost ready for school visits. If teachers are interested in exploring the possibility of a time-travelling themed day to motivate literacy, science and more, or simply to support a time traveling topic, then please be in touch!)