Report of August Meeting
The August meeting of Orton & Tebay Local History Society, welcomed David Wallington and Stewart, Joanne and Megan Hopwood of the Sealed Knot. They came authentically dressed in period costume. The Sealed Knot or the ‘Society of Cavaliers and Roundheads’ re-enacts battles of the English Civil War.
The Society was formed in the early 1960’s by Brigadier Peter Young DSO, MC and two bars. After a distinguished active army career, he became head of war studies at Sandhurst. Having always been interested in the Civil War he started writing history studies on the period. At a Garden Party at Sandhurst, friends and students dressed in costume was so enjoyed that it led to the foundation of the Society.
At it’s peak in the late 1970’s there were around 8000 members, but today the Society still thrives with an average of 4000 countrywide. In the early years there were no Parliamentarians, these were introduced in 1971. The name comes from a secret society which was formed by supporters of the dead King Charles I, during the Commonwealth of Oliver Cromwell. The society’s aim being the reinstatement of the monarchy. It was disbanded after 1662 when Charles II was crowned.
Today members of the Sealed Knot cover all age groups, and walks of life. Their main aim is to re-enact actual battles as authentically as possible, including costume made from materials of the time, and authentic replica weaponry. All ‘battles’ are basically scripted, but ‘officers’ are in charge of the men. There is a chain of command laid down on Civil War lines and are formed into companies, regiments and ‘Tercio’s’ or Brigades.
The Society is the most authentic re-enactment group in the world, the largest in Europe, and second only world wide in size to the American Civil War Society. They put on 3-4 major ‘battles’ a year with 2000 plus members taking part, they also perform 5 - 10 mini battles, and up to 50 smaller events.
The re-enactments are strictly controlled by health and safety rules, and anyone handling weapons of any sort are provided with training. Weapons used are pikes, swords, muskets and cannon. All replica weapons are specially made, and muskets and cannons including the powder must be licensed.
Cavalry are also involved, but usually in smaller numbers because of the cost of transporting horses around the country, but David said that even a few horses, used in a re-enactment charge can be very impressive.
David and Stewart admitted it was true ‘escapism’ and said it was a wonderful way to spend a weekend. Having both worked their way up the ranks, David is a Col. General, and Stewart a Lt. Colonel. Stewart is especially involved with the artillery.
But there is plenty of scope for the women, Joanne besides dressing as a woman of the period and being in the support-camp cooking, also dresses as a soldier in some battles, carrying a pike. Daughter Megan, is a drummer.
Many civilians join in the fun, playing to the crowds, as wenches, jesters, lepers etc. and their are lots of tasks in the true to life camps for those not wishing to be involved in the fighting.
The Sealed Knot raises many thousands of pounds for charity, and its main aims are to provide exciting performances, educate school children and the public about the Civil War, to provide memorials and protect known battlefields.
Chairman, Bernard Thornborrow thanked them for a fascinating and interesting talk, and the evening finished with a flood of questions and refreshments.