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A War Without Enemies!

Last weekend (being August 1645) Colonel Sir John Mallory, the governor of Skipton Castle, attempted to reassure the many good folk who had sought refuge in the castle that all would be well. Although Commissary General Sydenham Poyntz and several thousand Northern Association soldiers had taken the town and come within pistol shot of the castle walls, they were so busy arguing amongst themselves (‘playing a german game’ as some of Mallory’s officers had put it) over their lack of pay that they had yet to put the garrison to any particular trouble. Understandably, people were still worried, what with the batteries being built on Park Hill and Sod Hill. If artillery pieces of sufficient size were brought and sited there then all within would be in danger.


As he spoke he put on a brave face, even making light of their situation, and explained that he would negotiate a surrender under honourable terms long before the garrison was made to suffer over much. Wish so many in the castle he was able to discover much intelligence concerning the king’s deteriorating cause in the rest of Yorkshire and beyond, scouring his maps to place their reports …


Of course there were some who found it all bewildering and worrisome, including one little mannikin who simply scratched his head in confusion and concern.


(Thank you Thomas, my youngest boy, for your very fine, if accidental, acting.)

I have to admit I don’t do too many English Civil war days in schools as not too many schools study said topic. But if you do and you are interested in a visit then click on a Civil War Castle Governor to find out more. To see which of my other characters you might like to visit your school, please take a look at my page of Characters. I hope to hear from you.

A Short but Merry Life!

Ten days ago the infamous highway robber John ‘Swift Nicks’ Nevison once again found himself hiding from the hue and cry at Skipton castle. Luckily, he did not want for company, as the steward (a drinking friend of his) allowed a great number of folk in the visit the castle, all of whom he believed could be trusted with keeping Nevison’s presence secret until his getaway after dark.

The crowd included several lads who Nevison had met previously upon his travels, and he soon fell into conversation. After bemoaning his lack of ale …


… and the fact that the steward refused to give him any more (saying if he was to hide a highwayman for the day then he wanted that highwayman sober throughout for his own good) Nevison wondered if the lads might make good cutpurses or pickpockets. They were certainly too short to make much of an impression as ‘gentlemen of the road’ (he never liked the term highway robber), but if they were nimble fingered and fleet of foot might yet profit from the noble art of the nip and foist. By the use of some bells and string, upon which a purse could be hung, he encouraged the little lads to try their best to remove the prize without the slightest of tinkling sounds.


When that proved impossible, he decided to show them how distraction might be employed instead. Clearing an area for the game, and taking the role of the coney himself, one boy became the stall and another the coney-catcher. Soon umpteen children in the castle yard were trying their luck at plucking a purse from Nevison’s coat pocket without him noticing!


This coming weekend a far more respectable character will inhabit the castle, no less a personage than Colonel Sir John Mallory, governor of its royalist garrison. His troubles make Nevison’s concerns seem trivial, what with the lives of everyone in the castle depending on his decisions!

In the meantime, if you like the idea of a highwayman visiting your school, then please click on John Nevison to find out more.

Note: It is very useful when one’s own boys and some old friends come to visit on one of my days, as it means that not only is there someone to take photographs, but I can also use those photographs afterwards. Thanks Ruth, James, Thomas, Daniel, Duncan, Brian and Jackie!

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!