March 12, 2001
by Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Reporter
Medieval life is no longer a thing of the distant past. Enter a world of paupers and princes, knights and ladies, merchants, magicians and monks. Step into the year 1376. But first, you'll have to drive to Carnation.
And if you already live in Carnation, your drive is just a few minutes up Stillwater Hill Road. But no matter how long it might take, once you arrive you'll discover a historical recreation of medieval Europe resting in a nature-like setting. As you turn down the driveway at the sign reading "Camlann Medieval Village," medieval timber-framed buildings appear before you. The leaded diamond-shaped windows and the town gate tower are reminiscent of architecture straight out of a fairy tale. The name Camlann is taken from the Battle of Camlann where King Arthur perished. Camlann is a representative name of a typical medieval village since no one knows for certain where Camlann was actually located.
Roger Shell and his wife Sally are the inspiration and founders behind Camlann Village. Said Roger, "The goal is to put together a village so people can come here and feel like they are in the 14th century." He explained that his interest in the Middle Ages grew out of his vocation as a folksinger in the 60s. As he began to research the ballads of the songs he played on his guitar, he found life in medieval Europe to be fascinating. "It's colorful. It's interesting," he said and pointed out that the appeal of the Middle Ages is interesting to a lot of people. "People are fascinated by knights and armor." He said that he and his wife want to hold up the medieval culture as a comparison to today. The Middle Ages help us to understand where we come from. "This is where our values come from ‹ relationships, fashions, manners all come from the Middle Ages," he said.
The idea is not to return to the Middle Ages, but to take the good aspects of that time and incorporate it into today's life. As an example, Shell mentioned that the medieval family worked together as an economic unit. People in today's world drive to jobs they hate, making things they don't like. Shell hopes to remind people of a time when families worked together. To accomplish this, he brings the Middle Ages to the twenty-first century. "The idea here is to learn about it by experiencing it," he said. He wants people who visit the village to feel like they are living in the year of 1376. And he has left no detail out in this endeavor.
The village includes a restaurant called The Bors Hede. Dinner is a two hour affair with minstrel songs and food unique to the 14th century. Upon arriving, guests are greeted by Shell who is in full medieval attire. Wearing a woolly gown called a cote with a hood known as a capuchon, he speaks in hybrid Middle English, addressing his guests as Mílady and Mílord. Meals are served in the dining hall where a real, stuffed boar's head hangs on the fireplace. Instead of plates, guests are given a round slice of bread to eat upon just as guests were given 625 years ago. Entrees, like fenberrie pye made of pork, fowl and fenberries, are eaten with fingers or a spoon as forks were considered crude dining utensils. There are no lattes here and they don't take American Express or any other credit card for that matter. If it wasn't done in the 14th century, it isn't done at The Bors Hede. This is why customers are asked to leave cameras and cell phones at home. A ringing cell phone or flashing bulbs will spoil the authentic effect.
Attention to historical accuracy is also paid to the seasonal feasts which are held in the restaurant throughout the year, such as the Lenten Feast in March and St. George's Feast in April. In addition, there are several seasonal events, including the Festival for May in the spring and the Medieval Faire in the summer. The summer faire is a little bit larger than the May festival with a show of knights in armor competing in foot combat tournaments. There are also musicians, puppet shows, archery and an operational catapult. Actors perform small vignettes in and among fair visitors. Life-like scenes of common folk in the Middle Ages discussing the news of the day are acted out. One scene might entail a discussion about the King and what he's doing in London.
Craft Shops are also open during the festivals and by appointment year round. Shell noted that this year's Festival for May will have a new feature.
"We're going to have a textile demonstration," he said. It will be a "sheep to shawl" exhibition showing the process, from carding the wool to spinning to weaving and dying. His idea, he said, is to mix the fun and education together. And he believes that education about medieval Europe has been lost with the generalized depiction of the period in movies and in books.
"We tend to generalize history," he said. "The Middle Ages covers a thousand years and dozens of cultures and we tend to lump all these together." He went on to explain that the movies show the unusual and the exciting parts of medieval life, such as the battlefield scenes, and so the idea of what life was like then is distorted.
But Roger Shell is working to correct the distorted impression that many people have. He holds educational presentations for children who visit on school field trips. Through show and tell, he discusses life as it was in 1376 and sets out tools, armor and clothing for the children to see.
Shell has researched every aspect of Camlann Village, from the ballads he plays on his lute to the recipes used in restaurant entrees to the architecture on the premises. His goal is to develop the village so that people who visit can feel like they are transported back to the fourteenth century.
"We made several trips to Europe to research (the architecture)," he said. "We visited castles."
He also helped his wife in researching medieval recipes for a cookbook she wrote in 1998 called "A Boke of Cookry."
" We try not to do any new thing until we research it," said Shell. And by the looks of the medieval gardens with culinary herbs, the handmade windows, the handmade tables, the heavy wrought-iron hinged door, it's evident that time travel to a distant world is possible at the Camlann Medieval Village.
"At the terrible Battle of Camlann ... Medraut and Arthur searched until they discovered one another. Then these two grim warriors fought one last duel. Arthur slew Medraut, but in so doing received his own mortal wound ..."
For further information, call (425) 788-8624 or visit www.camlann.com. Reservations for dinner are recommended.