The Mini-Barons Celebrate Christmas

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Throughout this summer the city of Lincoln celebrated the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta at Runneymede.  Only four copies of this ‘Great Charter’ are still in existence today: two in the British Library, one in Salisbury Cathedral and one that belongs to Lincoln Cathedral, but is on display in Lincoln Castle.

As part of the anniversary celebrations in Lincoln the organisers created a Barons’ Charter Trail for children to follow. Twenty five lifesized and colourful ‘barons’ were created and given names like ‘Truck Driver Baron’ and ‘Wild Flower Baron’. They were placed in prominent positions across the city centre and little ‘mini barons’ were produced for people to buy and decorate themselves.

I wrote a post about the Magna Carta, with pictures of the life-sized barons in August (here) but here is a picture of just three of them . . .

. .  and this one had changed his clothes to welcome people to the Christmas market over last weekend:


In September the barons were brought together for one last ‘reunion’ in the castle grounds before they were auctioned off.  Since then, as part of the Christmas festivities in Lincoln, many shops and businesses have been given one of these mini barons to decorate and display in widows, or on check-out counters. Again, the challenge has been to see how many people can find them. Last week we went into ‘downhill Lincoln’ – the main shopping area – and photographed some of the barons we found:

On Friday evening, we went to Lincoln Christmas Market and had a look for a few more of these little barons in shops in the ‘uphill’ part of the city. These are some we found:

The Barons – both big and small – have been good for Lincoln. Along with the Magna Carta and the Sand Sculptures, they have brought many visitors and trade to the city. Last weekend the Christmas market added to the festive feel as 2015 draws to a close. I wonder what 2016 will bring . . .?

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Reunion and Farewell To The Barons

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On Sunday morning we drove once again up to Lincoln Castle. This time, it was to have a look at an event held in the castle grounds called ‘The Lincoln Barons’ Reunion’. The photo of the Baron above is the ‘Baron of the Crystal Hues’. (Unfortunately, my husband’s shadow is hiding his name!)

This event, held from Thursday, September 24th until Tuesday, October 1st, is a chance for people to see all 25 Barons together before they’re auctioned on the evening of October 1st. The money raised will go to the national charity, The Trussell Trust – who organised the construction and displaying of the Barons in the city, along with Lincoln BIG, a business improvement group.

The Baron’s Trail was devised by ‘Wild in Art’ – an organisation that aims to make creativity and enjoyment of art accessible to people by working with artists, communities and schools and producing high profile and popular events. Individual artists from all over the country created the colourful barons, which have been displayed in locations around Central Lincoln throughout the summer. This one, the ‘Anything Goes Baron’ was standing on the bridge over the River Witham along the High Street:

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I wrote about the reason for ‘The Barons’ Trail’ in an earlier post but, in a nutshell, it was part of the city’s celebrations to mark 800 years since King John signed the Magna Carta (Great Charter) at Runneymede. One of the original copies of the Treaty is housed in Lincoln Castle, so the city was justified in hosting so many celebratory events.

The Barons who ordered John to sign the Treaty are represented in these life-sized, smile-inducing models we are now saying ‘Goodbye’ to. Last week, they were gathered up from their different sites and I’ve no doubt that the area will look quite dull without them. They’ve been a big attraction for locals and tourists alike, the characterful barons and the ‘Trail’ proving to be one of the highlights of the Magna Carta anniversary celebrations nationwide. Children in particular found it great fun to find the code letter on each one in order to claim the promised bag of gold coins (gold paper-covered, chocolate ones, of course).

There were a lot of people already in the castle grounds when we arrived just after 10 am – the opening time. Consequently, it was difficult for photo-taking. We’d hoped to be able to get a few good shots of many of the Barons all together, but that wasn’t at all easy. Firstly, the barons were placed further apart than shown on the advertising blurb, and secondly, people were standing close to individual Barons. That’s understandable, so we just went with the flow and got some ‘not-so-good’ photos.  Here’s  a few of them:

A mini ‘Paint Your Own Baron’ can be bought at The Lincoln Visitor Information Centre (shown below in the wonderful old building located on Castle Hill, between the castle and the cathedral) and a competition to win a free mini model of a Baron is also up and running. And finally, every shop in the city centre will be given their own mini Baron to paint and decorate in time for the Christmas season. By doing so, they will be creating a Christmas Baron’s Trail. These mini characters, unlike their bigger brothers, will be harder to find. Many will be ‘ hiding’ amongst other items displayed in the windows of shops and businesses.

I’ll probably do an update on the mini barons around Christmas. Hopefully, we’ll be able to find and photograph some of them in their hiding places. Until then, I’ve got a few more posts on Malta and other places we’ve visited this year to keep me going.

Magna Carta Sand Sculpture at Lincoln Castle

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This is my fourth and last post about King John and the Magna Carta – a short one this time, following another trip to Lincoln this afternoon. We went specifically to take a few photos of the newly created sand sculpture in the grounds of Lincoln Castle:

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This impressive, 3D sculpture is 13ft. (4m) tall and 30ft. (9m.) wide. Work started on August 17th and continued for two weeks. It was created as part of the celebrations marking the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta (Festival800) and depicts King John meeting with the barons at Runnymede in 1215:

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Its creators were the world renowned Dutch artist, Remy Hoggard and her husband, Paul, originally from Beverley in East Yorkshire. Between them, the couple have more than 30 years experience of sand sculpting. Of their sculpture at Lincoln, Paul Hoggard said, ‘This is probably one of our most adventurous projects in terms of size and scale…after fourteen days of shovelling, pounding, shaping and sculpting we were physically aching and are ready for a few days’ rest.’

The end product is quite awesome and well worth seeing.

The couple now live on a farm in Bulgaria, but spend most of their time travelling around the world, creating amazing sand sculptures. Remy said about their work: ‘With sand and water we make very detailed two or three-dimensional works, as well as large sculptures, in a relatively short amount of time.’

The brief video I found to finish with shows the delivery of the sand and the artists discussing the work about to be undertaken:

King John is at Newark!


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I intended to write this post before I headed off to Hadrian’s Wall a couple of weeks ago but, as usual, I didn’t manage to fit it in. I particularly wanted the post at that time, as it was to be a ‘follow up’ to the one on the Magna Carta I’d done the week before (here). Still, the Magna Carta celebrations in Lincoln will continue into October, and I suppose any information about King John could be shared at any time. So here it is now…

Over the weekend of July 22, about forty members of the re-enactment society, Regia Anglorum, presented a living history ‘encampment’ in the grounds of Newark Castle to demonstrate  to visitors how people would have fed and clothed themselves at the time of King John and demonstrate use of their weaponry skills. The society was invited to Newark by the castle warden as part of the region’s celebrations to mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta.

Newark is about 18 miles away from Lincoln, and the castle at that time belonged to the Bishop of  Lincoln, who was also present. Here are a few photos of what is left of the castle today. Some are of the outside from across the River Trent and others are views of the inside of the curtain walls and gates:

And here are is a photo of King John as he looked on this occasion. John is the one in the decorative blue tunic, enjoying a snack:

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And this is the Bishop of Loncoln, inside his tent:

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Medieval characters were milling about enjoying the day or gossiping around the camp:

Throughout the day, display tents were set up to demonstrate the different roles in 13th century society – from shoemakers, leatherworkers, metalworkers, chainmail and jewellery makers to those carving a variety of everyday goods from deer antler, such as combs, needles and gaming dice. Other stalls displayed common foods eaten and demonstrated cooking methods:

The highlight of the day was a tournament put on by twenty members of Regia Anglorum. Warriors came from all ranks of society – peasants, sergeants and knights – to entertain King John and the Bishop of Lincoln, the Right Rev Hugh de Wells, with their skills – some of them hopeful of being selected as future knights. The king and bishop put on jovial faces for the tournament, when in reality (according to the actor who played the bishop) relations between the two were never easy. At one time he had been banished by John.

Here are some pictures of the tourney and preparations made by the combatants beforehand. Squires were on hand to assist the knights into their gambesons (padded jerkins) and heavy chain mail. King John certainly seemed to be enjoying himself:

King John has often been linked with the Nottingham-Newark-Lincoln area through the many legendary tales about Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest, which once covered much of this area. But perhaps an even greater link with Newark is that he died inside its castle:

By October 1215, after the signing of the Magna Carta at Runneymede in June – a treaty that John had no intention of keeping – war with the barons resumed. In May 1216, Prince Louis of France invaded with a powerful force in support of the English barons who had wanted him crowned king in place of John. John spent the rest of his reign trying to regain control of his kingdom. At Lynn (now King’s Lynn) in October he fell ill, possibly of dysentery. On October 11th he led his army on a short cut across The Wash at low tide – a disastrous move. Whether due to the returning tide or the quicksand there, his baggage train and treasure were lost beneath the waves. This was the last disaster of a disastrous reign.

John’s health rapidly deteriorated and he headed for Newark Castle on a litter, reportedly ‘moaning and groaning’ that the journey was killing him. On arrival he confessed his sins and received Communion for the last time. He died on the night of 18/19 October in the middle of a great storm.


Lincoln and the Magna Carta

023 Barons' ShieldsOn June 15, 1215 – or 19th according to some sources – at a place called Runneymede (near Windsor) on the River Thames, King John of England reluctantly signed a treaty with the powerful barons of the realm. The document was a series of written promises that John would govern the country and deal with its people according to the customs of feudal law. In other words, the charter was an attempt by the barons to stop John from abusing his power and the people of England suffering as a consequence. The charter became known as the Magna Carta: Latin for the Great Charter. Here are a couple of artistic interpretations of the signing:

19th century coloured wood engraving of king John signing the Magna Carta. Public Domain
Link John Magna Charta by Ernest Normand, 1900. Uploaded by william Avery. Public domain

By 1215, John had been king for 16 years, and had a series of mistakes, misdemeanours, and cruel or treacherous acts behind him and at last the barons had snapped. I intend to look at some of these in another post, but today, I want to think about the Magna Carta.

2015 marks the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. Several copies were originally made and delivered to religious establishments all over the country. Only four of these copies are still in existence today: two in the British Library, one in Salisbury Cathedral and one belongs to Lincoln Cathedral but is on display in Lincoln Castle. Lincoln’s copy has been in the city since it was sealed by King John – it even has instructions to deliver to ‘Lincolnia’ written on the back.

Lincoln is also the only place in the world where you can find an original copy of Magna Carta together with the Charter of the Forest, issued in 1217 to amplify the document, and is one of only two surviving copies.

Throughout the summer, Lincoln has been celebrating this momentous signing, along with several other places around the country. And since Lincoln is only 7 miles away from where we live, Husband and I decided to pop along and have a look.

Lincoln Castle is worth a post on its own – another one I have planned for later on. It’s a fine old Norman structure, unusual in having two keeps. The County Law Courts are still located inside the castle, as is the old prison – well worth a visit in itself. It is in the subterranean vault inside the prison building that the Magna Carta is on display. It’s the red brick building in the photo (bottom left) below.

Unfortunately, the controlled lighting in the vaults makes taking photographs impossible. Flash photography is a no-no. So I have no photos of the documents to show. But there are some online that can be seen.

As part of the anniversary celebrations in Lincoln, the organisers have created the Barons’ Charter Trail for children to follow. Twenty five fun ‘barons’ have been created, all painted in bright colours and given amusing names like ‘Truck Driver Baron’, ‘Wild Flower Baron’ and ‘Lincolnshire Waterways Baron’. They are spread out across the cultural and commercial areas of Central Lincoln. On finding all 25, and copied down the code for each, children collect a bag of King John’s gold – in other words, chocolate money.

We found all of these ‘barons’ and here is a selection of them:

The barons’ shields, used as the header image above, are on display on the wall outside the vault where the documents are housed.

A week after this visit to Lincoln Castle, we had a visit to nearby Newark Castle, where a  re-enactment group were putting on a display about John and medieval life in general. We have some good photos of that event, too. Needless to say, John is featured a lot this summer. He was an interesting character, and one of the most memorable kings in English history.