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Medieval Yorkshire Comes To Life




YORKSHIRE’s chilling medieval history will come spectacularly to life this weekend at Bradford’s famous Bolling Hall.

Yorkshire’s ‘most haunted medieval house’ will play host to dozens of events re-capturing the sights and sounds of 1461 and the bloody events of the Wars of the Roses period.

Visitors will be able to take part in longbow and archery demonstrations, discover how doctors practised the dark arts of medieval medicine, watch medieval gunnery demonstrations, dismounted knights in battle, and a host of other exciting events.

Youngsters will also even be able to take part in archery, calligraphy and bill-hook practice all against the backdrop of historic Bolling Hall.

There will also be plenty of people walking around in medieval dress, taking part in re-enactments, pitching camps and staging other related side shows with a medieval feel.

The event is being organised by Bradford Council with key support from Towton Battlefield Society and The Frei Compagnie.

Organisers say the emphasis is very much on getting both youngsters and adults alike away from the trappings of the 21st C to learn a little more about both the history and chivalric attitude of Yorkshire’s rich medieval past.

Co-organiser, historian and author Peter Algar , from Leeds, says the event, which has been six months in the planning, is just part of a campaign to put the ‘lost’ history of Yorkshire’s ‘1461 country’ back firmly on the map.

He says:

“Yorkshire is famous throughout history for many happenings and events, but there’s often a feeling among some historians that the period of the Wars of the Roses is often overlooked, or glossed over a little bit in schools.

“It’s certainly a very complex period but at the same time, it is wonderfully rich, exciting, and important in terms of our identity and heritage, with real relevance right up to the present day.

“Right on our doorstep here in Yorkshire we have Towton Battlefield, which was arguably the pivotal point in the clash between the Houses of Lancaster and York, which took place in 1461, which not only was Britain’s bloodiest medieval battle but to many a ‘forgotten’ one.

“The people who lived in the 1461 period were passionate people, who lived in violent and devoutly religious times, but who also believed in honour and chivalry in what was known as the feudal system, which for many years played a key role in the tapestry of our Yorkshire heritage.

“We’re absolutely delighted to be here at historic Bolling Hall  - which itself has a lavish (and ghostly) history – in the hope of encouraging both adults and youngsters to spend a few hours away from the tv, computer, and games stations etc,  to literally re-discover and re-live the age of chivalry and to bask in the fabulous medieval history our county has to offer, at this very special event.

“Visitors will be able to see how a knight or a lady might have dressed and why it was so important that they did so in a certain way, out of honour and loyalty to a lord etc., and will also be able to watch and take part in various exciting demonstrations and activities which we hope will fully evoke the period and ethos of the time.

“Bolling Hall itself has the most marvellous history and is the perfect backdrop to the two-day event. Adults might like to listen to many of the history talks which will be going on or chat to the very knowledgeable experts and staff who will also be there.”

Peter adds:

“During the Wars of the Roses, the north was very much controlled by powerful magnates, such as the Percys, the Cliffords and the Duchy of Lancaster so there was pressure to support their side in the conflict. 

“A popularly held Victorian myth is that the warring factions of the period; were the counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire; in fact this cannot be further from the truth. 

“By the time of the Battle of Towton, the country was generally, but not exclusively, divided between the Lancastrian ‘north’ and the Yorkist ‘south’. 

“In fact, the biggest recruiting grounds for the Lancastrian cause, was Yorkshire. 

“In the West Riding of Yorkshire, the gentry were not always willing to support their lords outside of the county during this civil strife, but we know for a fact that the Bollings, and the later occupants of Bolling Hall, the Tempests, did so. 

“One historian has suggested that Tristram Bolling was in fact a member of Lord Clifford’s crack light infantry troop, known as the Flower of Craven; the armour bequeathed in his will would seem to support this.  If this is true, it may be that Tristram was sent to serve in John Clifford’s household as a boy, where he would have learned his skills with weapons. 

“As for the remainder of the population in the West Riding, there was a long tradition of them turning out to provide common defence against external threats, typically incursions by the Scots. 

“Since the statute of Winchester in 1285, all men between the ages of 16 and 60 were required to be trained an armed according to their status. 

“From an early age, boys were expected to train with the longbow every Sunday after church, and there was a statute banning football, so that this practice was rigidly maintained. Whether they liked it or not, the menfolk of the county were pressed into service under a “commission of array” that would take them to the biggest and bloodiest encounter that England has ever seen.

“We hope this weekend’s event will encapsulate just a little of the spirit and sense of chivalric endeavour of the time and that adults and  children alike will both learn by enjoying themselves as much as possible. It promises to be a great event.”

The two-day event starts at 10am on Saturday September 24 running until 4pm and is repeated on Sunday 25 September.


  • ‘The Living History Weekend - Wars of the Roses’ event is being staged and promoted by Bradford Council in tandem with ‘The Frei Compagnie’.
  • Bolling Hall is now owned by Bradford Council, and is free to enter. Aside from its rich medieval history, it is reputed to be Yorkshire’s most haunted medieval house with its own ‘house’ ghost which has been reportedly witnessed by many visitors.