Home » Page 8

Sir John Stouts it Out Again

Last weekend Skipton Castle was once again defended by Colonel Sir John Mallory, as well as many well affected gentlemen, officers, soldiers and much of the populace of Skipton, as Commissary General Sydenham Poyntz’s besieging force set about surrounding the castle and building batteries for the artillery pieces expected to arrive any day.

Well, I say all those people were there … But the funny thing was Sir John could find none of them, not one soldier nor even his own manservant William Layton. It seemed to him, as he stood looking out over the little courtyard in the midst of the tower, that he may as well be on his own!

Sir John ponders

Sir John ponders

Luckily for him, great crowds of visitors soon arrived to swell the garrison, so he set about explaining the castle’s predicament and why they should not yet give up hope in the king’s cause. As the able bodied lads amongst the crowds could be put to good use defending the castle, he busied himself teaching them the art of war, such as the loading of a matchlock musket …


… as well as a pistol …



The time passed very quickly (at one point, when Sir John thought it must be about 1 o’clock, it turned out to be after 4 o’clock!) as he had the children act out stories from the last two years of the war at Skipton, asked the sneakiest looking children how many roundshot they could carry back into the castle that night so that they could be fired again the next day, as well as gleaning as much intelligence as he could concerning the ‘German game’ being played by Colonel Alured’s and Colonel Lambert’s men outside (which turned out to be very little.)

Whilst on the topic of being very little, Sir John failed to notice two things – one not so surprising, the other extraordinary. The first was that his little daughter Elizabeth, a girl of 3 years old, had sneaked in to listen to him wax lyrical about why he served the king so loyally. The second was the strange fact that his daughter looked just like a little boy! Admittedly a very handsome one, but a boy nevertheless.

Actually my real son Thomas

Actually my real son Thomas

It was a great weekend.

I am now preparing for the Autumn school term – from reading to sewing, from fashioning maps to buying spices. To see which of my characters you might like to visit your school, please take a look at my page of Characters. I hope to hear from you.

Sanctuary at Oakwell Hall

As so often in recent years, the infamous highwaymen John Nevison found himself in need of a place to hide a week last Sunday. Being close unto Batley, and once again parted from his wonderful horse Nutmeg, he was forced to make his way on foot to Oakwell Hall, the steward there being a drinking friend of his. Indeed they had shared several many rambuctious evenings supping at an alehouse east of Bradford while the steward was abroad upon his master’s business. Having promised he would say nowt to anyone concerning their friendship – public knowledge of which would ruin the steward’s good reputation, if not see him tried and punished for aiding and abetting a known felon – the steward graciously permitted Nevison to stay there for the day.

Nevison breathed a sigh of relief as he leaned on the gatepost and pondered his next move.


Of course, he did not want to lose his horse Nutmeg, for he reckoned her to be the best mount north of the river Trent. Thus it was he decided he would simply wait until darkness then sneak back to where she was stabled and make his get away. What he couldn’t know was that so many people would be visiting Oakwell Hall that day, and being a gregarious sort of fellow, he could not help himself but begin telling all and sundry of his adventures and escapes. Here you can see him in the heat of the afternoon sun, waxing lyrical of his cunning escape from Leicester goal to a crowd of visitors.


Having retrieved Nutmeg as he planned, he subsequently went about his usual activities, until more trouble today as the hue and cry was raised to have him arrested, once again close to Batley. So it is that tomorrow he will seek refuge again at Oakwell Hall.

The event is organised by the Milestone Society http://www.yorkshire-milestones.co.uk/ as part of their ‘Beyond Graffiti’ project http://www.beyond-graffiti.co.uk/ and takes place on Saturday 26th July 2014 at Oakwell Hall http://www.kirklees.gov.uk/events/eventdetails.asp?evID=20657&evDtID=130115

Please click here to find out more about Swift Nicks Nevison visiting your school.

Soldiering On!

I am just back from a fantastic weekend at the huge multi-period reenactment event at Kelmarsh Hall where I played the role of a blue bonneted Scots covenanter.

Kelmarsh Hall

It was very strange seeing my normally red-coated regiment (Tower Hamlets Trayned Band) wearing grey coats and blue bonnets, like my eyes were playing tricks on me. Not so funny was the rain on Saturday – keeping a matchlock musket in working order in the pouring rain is no easy feat. Sunday’s sun made up for the day before, and my barrel became scalding hot after firing more than a dozen shots in quick succession.

I have already taken some (local history) civil war school bookings for Autumn term, and will soon be fighting again at Skipton Castle in August.

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


Sir Francis Drake’s Circumnavigation

A New Character

I am currently researching a new character – one of Drake’s crew who circumnavigated the globe with him on the Golden Hind. This is likely to be one Lawrence Eliot, although I have yet to decide for certain (there are over 40 sailors to choose from!) He has even already been booked for this September and I am very much looking forward to my first visit as him.

This new character will very much suit the new Key Stage 1 history curriculum requirement for “significant individuals in the past who have contributed to national and international achievements”. The national curriculum gives the example of a comparative study of ‘Christopher Columbus and Neil Armstrong’, but of course this works just as well with Sir Francis Drake as the earlier adventurer. It helps that I already have procured a chest of navigational instruments as used at the time, as well as all the costume and artifacts I need to tell the story of traveling all around the world in 1577-80. Now all I have to to is read, then read some more, until I am an ‘expert’! That’s my homework for this summer.

Already I am finding out about strange occurrences and events during the trip, from deadly quarrels amongst the men to dancing with the natives. What with storms and separations, hunger and disease, it wasn’t exactly a pleasant trip! But it certainly was an exciting one. During the session I intend to tell the story of the circumnavigation, with practical exercises dotted throughout – acting out events, looking at navigational instruments, hefting weapons and tying sailors’ knots.

Once I have done some more reading and planning, I shall create a web page about the new character. So, watch this space!

The New Curriculum

I have been studying the new primary curriculum and intend over the next couple of weeks to re-write the web site pages to reflect how my characters will work within it.

The good news is that there is not only scope for inclusion of my characters, but that they seem to fit the new history and literacy curriculum better than before! Sir William Petty is obviously going to remain in demand, as the Great Fire of London is actually mentioned as an example of a significant national event in the Key Stage 1 History Curriculum document.

Guy Fawkes is also key to an event “beyond living memory that is significant nationally,” so he will continue to keep me busy in October and November.

My pirate Captain Burwash and the highwayman John Nevison remain great characters for literacy topics (in Key Stage 1 and 2 respectively). Highwaymen and pirates were never in the old history curriculum, but lots of schools use pirates, or the sea, for topic work to inspire literacy and other areas of learning, and the highwayman poem should remain a very popular piece for Key Stage 2 literacy work. There is also mention in the new Key Stage 2 curriculum of possibly studying “crime and punishment” through history, and my highwayman character certainly shines a light on the seventeenth century aspect of that particular topic.

My English Civil War characters will be of good use for Key Stage 1, especially as part of the Key Stage 1 study of “significant historical events, people and places in their own locality”. A LOT of Yorkshire schools are near a castle or battlefield from the Civil War – that’s an event and a place of local significance. In the Key Stage 2 curriculum it again mentions a local history study from beyond 1066, but also requires a study of some history extending beyond 1066 – both of these studies could happily involve the English Civil War.

As for Captain Eynos, my late Elizabethan character, he will still be great as a stand-alone character for inspiring motivated literacy work – the creation and recording of an exciting adventure story. More than this, as he is a contemporary of Sir Francis Drake, having all the right costume and artifacts for the period, I am now working on the creation of a new character – one of Drake’s crew who circumnavigated the globe with him on the Golden Hind. This very neatly fits the Key Stage 1 history curriculum requirement for “significant individuals in the past who have contributed to national and international achievements”. One example the document gives is a comparative study of Christopher Columbus and Neil Armstrong, but this works just as well with Sir Francis Drake as the earlier adventurer. Already one school has booked me for their “To Infinity and Beyond” topic as Drake’s sailor. You can’t go much further on the earth than all the way around it!

I am very excited about the new academic year, and look forward to visiting schools old and new in my various guises.