On Friday, March 4th we held a Medieval Supper set at the time of the early fifteenth century, in the Church of St Denys. The building was set out to resemble a medieval hall, with platform and benches and tables decorated with ivy on which candles flickered softly. We even managed to recreate the medieval temperature!!
Guests on the top table, the serving wenches and serfs and quite a few guests, dressed up in authentic costume and looked splendid, really adding to the wonderful atmosphere. From the helpers and guests eight people volunteered to cook and duly delivered their offerings to the church’s ringing chamber, converted for the evening into a kitchen full of hostess trollies and hot trays, to keep everything warm (everything that is except the helpers!)
The evening was hosted by Stephen and Jan Smith (formerly of Colmworth Parish and local history experts) , as Lord and Lady of the Manor, the Braybrookes. Sir Gerard Braybrooke was Lord of Colmworth Manor at this time. Between courses, Stephen described historical events and customs and told the villagers how Sir Gerard’s dining room would have looked. He began with a description of the medieval village with its Church, manor, fish ponds and dovecote surrounded by a huddle of wattle and daub houses. There would be large open fields, with no hedges and little woodland. The village was inhabited by the Braybrookes and their retainers; a vicar, clergyman, miller, carpenter and wheelwright with 200 various types of agricultural labourers. It was self-sufficient but damaged by the effects of the Black Death. This hard life was spiced up by religious festivals, moots and feasts.
During the supper there was a fanfare between each course, sounded by Kai Hall on trumpet, and each item of food was presented to the taster (a dashing David Marks) by Leofric ( Charles Brighton). If David Marks was not poisoned, the food was then passed around. There were authentic medieval recipes, eaten with a spoon. Knives were used for meat, but forks were rare!
The SALT sat in state before the place of honour. Individual plates were almost never used, so our food was served upon trenches, slices cut from specific bread used when 4 days old. Hands were ceremoniously washed after each course and napkin, when not in use, rested on the left shoulder.
Some rules of eating :-
Do not stuff mouth with bread or you will look like an ape
Do not slurp soup
Do not pat the dog (you might get fleas)
Do not spit in the basin when washing hands, especially when a prelate is present
A Latin grace was said and then the following courses were served:-
Bowls of Carrot and Caraway Soup
Liver Pate and Herb Salad
White Fish Pastry Tarts with Walnuts and Herbs
Mushroom Pasties and Pastry Pork Rolls
Chicken with Rice and Almonds
Green Pea Pottage
Apple Tart and Currant & Almond biscuits
The menu consisted of food that would have been found or produced locally at the time- fish from fish ponds, pig the most common animal to eat, chicken and various vegetables and herbs. The luxury on this menu was the rice!
The Friends of St Denys’ worked hard to make this Medieval Supper a resounding success and our thanks go to the cooks: Kathy Jones, Kate Abrahams, Kate Thorogood, Felicity Evans, Sharon Woolmer, John Leashon, Angela Huddart and Doug McWilliam, all of whom kindly donated their ingredients.
Stephen concluded with a historical roundup of life in the community (including football and crime!) and the important role of the church which gave spiritual sustenance to hard lives. There was much superstition especially regarding nature. The Church bells drove off approaching storm; holy water exorcised evil; animals were excommunicated and baptism for babies was the most important religious ceremony after the Mass. Our thanks go to Stephen for transporting us back in time and making this a memorable evening, reminding us of the importance of St.Denys’ as a building.
Aside from religion, the church building meant so much to the community. And, as a building it needs preserving and it also needs restoring as a community asset. Today’s visitors and guests were most generous with their donations on the evening and we raised over £1,400 towards repairs to the church.