Heatstroke fear forces change in battle timings in Lewes

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The Battle of Lewes 750 years ago was brought dramatically to life on Saturday.

Some 500 participants in medieval costume filled the streets with colour and noise.

Role model: Simon de Montfort

Role model: Simon de Montfort

Thousands of people lined the route of the Battle Royal event from Landport Bottom on the South Downs to Priory Park.

Just as in a real battle there was a degree of chaos and confusion in the event timings.

David Arnold, one of the organisers, explained why the event got under way earlier than scheduled. He said: “The participants assembled up on Landport Bottom and at The Gallops on schedule. While we all prayed for good weather what we hadn’t counted on was the intense heat generated by the glorious sunshine.

“We had around 100 re-enactors in heavy chainmail armour and they were soon suffering. These were the guys doing the simulated fighting sequences.

“My wife Barbara rushed extra supplies of water up to The Gallops but it was clear we needed to be on the move more quickly than the original timetable allowed for. If we hadn’t done this there would have been a huge risk of people suffering heatstroke.”

Despite the early start the crowds were already out in force lining the route in their thousands. The narrow Bottleneck was positively heaving with people as the storming of the town gates was re-enacted. The sound of the Chameleonic Drummers added even more atmosphere to the scene.

At the castle soldiers peered over the battlements of the Barbican as they defended the fortress in the name of the King, hurling insults and worse at the rebel barons who responded in kind.

Later the armies made their way down to the priory remains, scene of the surrender of the King in 1264.

A huge crowd had gathered there and in an impromptu addition to the events of the day, they were invited into the nearby Dripping Pan where the re-enactors, having had some time to rest and recuperate, put on a marvellous demonstration of medieval combat.

David added: “We had around 100 re-enactors from all over the country camping out on the pitch of Lewes Football Club. They had come to Lewes on the initiative of medieval warfare experts, Francis Burrows and Ian Denyer. The pair decided to put on an extra show.

“Around 1,500 people came into the ground and filled every seat and all the stands. It was the football club’s highest gate of the season and made a fitting finale to a great day.”

Pictures: Pages 30 and 31.