Flodden & 16th Century Discovery

Tod Booth'Flodden reenactment by 'Living History' at Etal Show
Tod Booth'Flodden reenactment by 'Living History' at Etal Show

Weapon-making techniques abandoned 400 years ago have been brought back to re-create scenes from the Battle of Flodden.

However, the quest to achieve authenticity has made organiser Tod Booth’s hair turn grey, he claims.

This year is the 500th anniversary of the historic battle which saw James IV of Scotland perish in the field and, as part of the commemorations, a historical weekend featuring re-enactments of aspects of the battle is being organised at Etal, near Flodden, on August 3 and 4.

“I have gone grey over the last three years,” said Mr Booth. “To do it the easy way would have been like Disneyland history and no way I was going to do that. What we put on will be of the highest quality.

“When the public come to Etal they won’t have seen anything like it before. They will definitely feel the wow factor.”

It has taken him three years to get it right. He had to start from scratch researching the weapons, armour and clothes, as well as set up an era-specific re-enactment group called Armet named after a helmet of the time. Other groups such as the Border Clansmen, the Company of St Margaret and the Northern Alliance agreed to join in.

“I trawled every book I could find to get a basic kit list and asked different museums to advise me on the armour,” said Mr Booth.

However, one of the biggest headaches turned out to be the pikes used by the majority of the Scots soldiers. “The descriptions give them a length of 16-18ft but they farmed their woodland in a different way from us and grew the ash in straight poles. We don’t, so I had the problem of trying to find 18ft long ash shafts,” he said.

The pikes were finally found near Etal itself on Ford & Etal Estates. “We found 40 poles that would do and we used the same techniques as they did at the time to turn them into authentic-looking pikes.

“I found an old illustration of someone using a pike straightening jig and as far as I know no-one has used one of them for 400 years. Now I know why - it is extremely hard work.”

The battle was the first time the Swiss pike formation was used but the terrain was unsuitable and the Scots were hacked to pieces by the English who used much shorter weapons called billhooks.

As well as the battle re-enactment scenes, the weekend will include medieval craft demonstrations, living history performances, a Flodden-era military camp, historical traders, food stalls, a mini beer festival and a programme of talks by experts on topics including weapons and tactics, Sir Walter Scott and Abbotsford House.

Both days will culminate in the re-enactment of some aspects of the battle.

Mr Booth said the result will be worth all the hard work. “It has been a labour of love but definitely worth it as I am 52 and I will not live through another 500th anniversary of a battle which is so important in the nation’s history,” he said.

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WHEN & WHERE

At Etal on August 3-4. For more info go to the Ford and Etal website. Tickets can be bought online or at the door.

WHAT’S ON

Reenactments, displays in archery, steel weapons, cannons, guns, pikes and armoury, and talks on weapons and tactics, Flodden archaeology, Sir Walter Scott and Abbotsford House.