Bringing the past to life at Warrington Market

Bringing the past to life at Warrington Market

Mark Olly

Bringing the past to life at Warrington Market

Bringing the past to life at Warrington Market

First published in Leisure News

WARRINGTON will be invaded by Vikings and knights will be riding around on horseback on Saturday, September 6.

Around 70 re-enactors and 50 specialist traders are stepping back in time for the Viking and Medieval Market in the town centre.

There will be an arena, where knights will battle it out and an opportunity to fire an arrow at a knight in armour, using crossbows and longbows.

‘The Knights of the Damned’, pictured inset, will also be out intimidating shoppers, while crowds are entertained by London ‘medieval rockers’ Serpentyne and atmospheric Liverpool band Leafblade.

Meanwhile, there will be two full size Viking ships in Buttermarket Street, along with Viking cookery, storytelling, runes, tapestry and weaving.

Enthusiasts can also check out archaeology demonstrations and visit stalls selling jewellery, woodwork, metal work, crystals, medieval costumes and props.

The annual event is organised by archaeologist and TV presenter Mark Olly, whose stall will showcase weapons and armour from the era.

“I do have a soft spot for some of my swords and armour,” said the Cinnamon Brow resident.

“Once you get the bug, it’s very difficult to stop. I think it’s the bling factor. As soon as you see one of these helmets, you have a burning desire to own one.

“I was in a shop in Conwy the other day and somebody bought a medieval helmet for paintball! You can buy pretty much anything.

“There is one trader who does sell archaeological objects, so if you want to buy a real Viking ring that is a 1,000 plus years old you can buy the real thing.

“Then there is the craftwork, like authentic wood bowls and things made from horns and antlers.”

Mark’s Viking and Medieval Market first invaded Warrington Market in 1999, but then things took off with Lost Treasures, his TV show about archaeological and historical finds, as well as folklore, ghosts and legends.

The event returned on a small scale in 2011 with just six stalls in Horsemarket Street, but it has quickly grown with an estimated crowd of between 9,000 and 11,000 last year.

Mark works alongside Warrington Market manager Steve Pickering and re-enactment groups Norse Film and Pageant Society and Regia Anglorum.

The former Stockton Heath Junior and Appleton Grammar School pupil added: “Over the course of doing Lost Treasures, we worked with a lot of these re-enactors to film the TV programme, so it was just a case of getting in touch with as many contacts as I could to pull it together.

“I’ve been doing costume reenactments for 25 to 30 years, so I had an idea that there were a lot of people out there and I went for the two periods where I know there are established groups.

“Because the theme is ‘legends’ this year, we’ve also gone off into Game of Thrones territory a little bit, and there will be a couple of faeries and Goths.

We might even sneak in the odd steampunk.”

Mark first became fascinated with archaeology as a youngster, thanks to his dad Ray.

“He put me on the first dig,” he said.

“It was Warrington Archaeological and Historical Society. I was eight years old and it was the Roman dig on Wilderspool Causeway. He literally dumped me in the trench and said: ‘Here’s a trowel – on you go’.

“I was just pulling out all sorts of bits of Roman pottery.”

Then Mark signed up as a volunteer during the dig at Norton Priory.

He added: “I was about 14 or 15 and it was the biggest medieval monastic dig in Europe. I’d be eating my butties gazing out at 120 skeletons. It was absolutely unbelievable.”

Mark told Weekend he is now working on a documentary about the real Robin Hood.

He has so far spent three years separating fact from folklore and he hopes it will be on screens next year.

Marl said: “As soon as you say Robin Hood, everybody thinks legends, Walt Disney, children’s storybooks, a load of nonsense.

“But nobody has actually gone back to the original source material and tried to reconstruct a proper life story.

What we’re left with is something quite plausible.”

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