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History of Group

Frei Compagnie

The work of re-enactors has provided invaluable research for history enthusiasts by means that cannot be learned in books.  For example, there is no better way of testing how many arrows an archer could loose at the start of battle by trying it out for real.  The strain of pulling a bow with a draw weight in excess of 100lbs soon gives a build-up of lactic acid in the muscles, which proves you cannot do this indefinitely.  Fighting in a full suit of armour leaves you severely dehydrated after a matter of minutes, rather than hours, so we know that men-at-arms were stood down during battle and rotated with rested troops.  Through Living History, we can enhance the historian’s knowledge of battles and medieval life in general and provide a better understanding of events which were often scantly recorded or poorly explained. Towton Battlefield Society has long supported the work of living history groups and are proud to have one associated with our organisation.

Who are the Frei Compagnie?

The Frei Compagnie is Towton Battlefield Society’s affiliated living history group, founded in 2007 by members of the Society and friends from the European Historical Combat Guild. We are all volunteers, drawn together by our common interest in Towton and a passion for the fascinating ‘lifestyle hobby’ that is living history.

The Frei Compagnie is similar to a Wars of the Roses Federation re-enactment group, and uses the same insurance, kit standards and conduct guidelines. However, as a group with an affiliation to an historical society, we differ from many Federation groups in that we do not represent a specific household; and while many may wear Yorkist livery, some Frei members routinely portray Lancastrian characters (notably Lionel, Lord Welles). We also actively encourage non-re-enacting members of TBS to appear with us at events, running the Society stall.

What do we do?

The Frei Compagnie supports the Society’s community outreach and interpretive work by providing TBS with a ‘medieval face’ – a powerful tool for publicity, fund-raising and engaging the interest of members of the public of all ages. The group’s objectives are to:

Support, promote and raise awareness of Towton Battlefield Society (TBS) and the Western Martial Arts revival, with particular commitment to delivering and supporting ‘local events for local people’ to a high standard of quality and professionalism.

At these events we establish a small living history camp with displays typically including weaponry and medieval food. If possible, we also set up an arena for sword combat demonstrations, archery demonstrations and/or have-a-go archery. Another favourite activity is the ‘kids bill-drill’, where children learn 15th Century infantry manoeuvres with miniature pole-arms.   Any monies raised through these appearances are used to pay Compagnie expenses, and a proportion of any profits is donated to TBS.

How do we do it?

All active Frei Compagnie members acquire at least one full outfit of medieval costume, along with the kit consistent with the role they wish to play (archer, man-at-arms, cook, doctor, artisan or whatever). Some of these items we make ourselves; others we buy from specialist manufacturers and suppliers; and we encourage visitors to handle or try things on to literally get a ‘feel’ for the period.

Our clothes and accoutrements are authentic working replicas based on 15th Century examples drawn from a wide range of sources: painting, manuscript, stained glass and monumental images; descriptions and patterns from medieval documents; archaeological finds; and historical structures and collections. We try to reproduce all items as accurately as possible using the materials and techniques of the period. This means clothing of wool, linen and leather, often completely hand-stitched, and fastened with authentic buttons, laces or hooks. We cook on a fire-range using cast-iron or ceramic pots, eat off wooden plates, and drink from pottery and horn cups (only using glasses if we’re being very posh!). What we consume is either recreated from authentic medieval recipes, or modern equivalents of foodstuffs available at the time.

Our activities on camp are also authentic to the period, with a natural focus on the weaponry and martial arts of the Wars of the Roses:

Archery

The longbow made English medieval armies highly successful and gave the Yorkists an early advantage at the Battle of Towton. By law, all 15th Century men were required to practise the longbow; many women shot too, for sport or home defence. Many Frei Compagnie members are keen archers, and some can also make bows and arrows. So archery is an important feature of our shows, and the group is well equipped with longbows of varying draw weights, authentic arrows with goose-feather fletchings, horn nocks and replica medieval heads, and other archers’ equipment to show the public. If possible, we also let visitors have a go – as well as being great fun, archery is a way of connecting directly with the 15th Century experience and helps people understand the devastating impact of the longbow in medieval battles.

Arms & Armour

Representations of medieval infantry, from common foot soldiers to a knight in full harness, completes the military side of our displays. The Compagnie’s collection of fighting men’s weapons and equipment – swords, daggers, pole-axes, helmets, padded jacks, brigandines and armour – is always a great draw for the crowds, as is our sword combat practice. Members who train with the European Historical Combat Guild (EHCG) and Kunst Des Fechtens (KDF) can demonstrate medieval combat techniques with all kinds of edged weapons – not merely stage fighting, but real martial arts drawn largely from period combat manuals from Germany and Italy.

Related Activities

We can show the public how arrows were made and our woodworker can demonstrate carving. We have a doctor to minister to the wounded and sick – with an impressive collection of ghastly surgical instruments and catalogue of revolting remedies which inevitably make visitors thankful they live in the 21st, not the 15th, Century! And as well as showing our medieval kitchen- and tableware, we demonstrate a range of textile crafts (making and mending clothes, carding, spinning wool with a spindle, weaving and making laces). We can demonstrate medieval games and even challenge members of the public to a game or two and our musicians add to the atmosphere in our living history camp.

For further information and Frei Compagnie events, see the Frei Compagnie Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/freicompagnie

Frei Compagnie provide a small interactive medieval encampment. Including tents and displays showing Knights in armour, archery and craftspeople bringing medieval skills back to life.

For enquiries, including booking Frei Compagnie for your gala/fete or show

Please contact:  freicompagnie@gmail.com

Frei Compagnie Officers:

Chairman: Alex Harrison

Secretary: Wayne Reynolds

Treasurer: Stuart Ivinson

Second Signatory: Dean Davidson

Health & Safety Officer: Mick Weaver