On a showery summer afternoon, the Camlann Medieval Village, located east of the Stillwater General Store south of Duvall, transported me to what a rural English village must have been like in 1376.
Roger Shell, one of the founders, began the business as a summer festival in 1981. The medieval village concept ran as a summer event until 1993 when they were able to open it up as a permanent village year round. In 2006, the Camlann Medieval Association turned it into a living history museum when it bought the property.
“We are unique in North America. There aren’t really any other medieval living history museum projects,” Shell said. Camlann comes from what is believed to be the last battle where the legendary Arthur may have fought.
Throughout the year, the village hosts special weekend events, with festivals and feasts being the largest events of the year. Each festival runs on a Saturday and Sunday, usually from noon to 5 p.m. I attended the Midsummer Festival held the last weekend in June.
After entering the village grounds, I ventured down to the Tourney Field where two men dressed in armor were giving a presentation on knightly combat using a wide variety of weaponry. Enthralled along the perimeter of the field were young and old alike watching and learning how to properly fight in hand-to-hand medieval combat. Many visitors, especially children, were dressed up in period costumes.
On the other side of the field visitors tried their hand at archery with a large wooden bow and arrow. Nearby was a small outdoor shop where a craftsman demonstrated how arrows were made.
Set in a forest of moss-draped trees with meandering paths traversing the scattering of buildings and sheds, visitors can observe the local potter making bowls and cups, a knifesmith working hot metal in the smithy, a small shop selling the wares made in the village, and a scribe demonstrating and giving lessons on writing with a feather quill pen. One shopkeeper made and sold fresh flower headdresses, which several girls and women wore throughout the village.
One building is fashioned as the simple home of a villager, complete with a burning fire on the dirt floor. The woman tending to the fire was in character as the homeowner’s servant. She described what her life was like as a servant on a typical village day.
Anchoring one end of the village is The Bores Hede Inne, which serves authentic 14th century cuisine. During festival days, lunches are served from 12-3 p.m. on a first come, first served basis, but reservations are required to attend dinner feasts from 5-7 p.m.
I watched as a family asked for the lunch menu in the inn, only to be told by Shell, serving as the innkeeper, in a jovial manner, “We don’t have menus because we don’t know how to read or write, but I can tell you what we’ll be serving!”
There were two choices of lunch: a savory meat or vegetable filled pastry or a ploughman’s lunch. Those not able to find a seat in the inn could pick up a lunch at a booth just outside the inn’s entrance and walk around while eating, something Shell says was commonplace at the time.
For the feast dinners, Shell and his staff serve up a 12-course authentic meal with such seasonal offerings as pork and cheese tart, plum and wine pudding, and a sweet beef ragout. Feast dinners cost $45 per person and reservations are required.
He has done so much research on recipes from the 14th and 15th centuries that he and co-author Sally Charles published a cookbook, “The Bors Hede Boke of Cookry,” sold only in the village shop.
On a regular village weekend, visitors see the village as if it was a normal working day in the Middle Ages. But, on festival weekends, Shell hires minstrel singers and musicians who play instruments from the time period and sing songs from that era, too. Then, they host a communal dance in the Tourney Field.
The remaining festivals on the calendar are the St. James Faire and Feast on July 19-20, Harvest Festival and Feast on August 23-24, and Michelmasse Festival on September 27-28. The Bors Head Inne offers nine feast dinner weekends throughout the year, including every weekend in December for their Yuletide feasts.
Admission to village weekends is $5 per person. Festival admission is $10 adults, $6 children 6-12 and seniors, and free for children five and younger. The Camlann Medieval Village only accepts cash or checks for payment.
For more information on the village, including driving directions, event calendar, and daily hours, visit their website www.camlann.org or call (425) 788-1945.