Meet the Jouster: Nicky Willis

Age: 45P1090613

Height: 1.85m

Weight: 76kg

Jousting since: 2008

Team: England

Personal best/highlight: crowned as 2013 Joust Champion at the Tonsberg Tournament, part of the Oslo Medieval Festival in Norway. Career highlight – competing in a jousting tournament for the first time ever at Hackaland in Belgium in 2010.

Strengths:  a very empathetic rider and likes to treat each horse as an individual by playing to their particular strengths. She is also a strong team player and savours the sportsmanship of competition jousting.

Weaknesses: naturally left-handed. Tall height can sometimes be a disadvantage, especially on smaller horses where the leg contact is more difficult to maintain.

Motto: Qui dicit non u puellae (Who says it is not for girls!)

By day: Manages ‘Horses 4 History‘ in Northamptonshire, which trains and supplies horses for film, TV and live action events of all kinds.

By knight:

Originally from South London, Nicky started riding when she was 11 years old as a member of the South London Pony Club, where she competed in various events and exams. From 1988 – 2006 Nicky ran her own livery yard in South London where she started breaking in and schooling horses. Her horse supply work started with the 1415 medieval re-enactment group and her first joust was at the Tower of London in 2008.

Nicky has worked with horses in a variety of capacities and across many disciplines, including ridden and driven, for more than 30 years. Her first taste of the world of historical horses was back in 1997. Her career in historic equitation truly took off in 2001 when she was selected to train for and take part in a televised chariot racing contest in Spain. Since then her career has taken her to many parts of the world and over the years she has been privileged to work with the likes of renowned horse trainer and stuntman Tony Smart, Royal Armouries, English Heritage, Royal Historical Palaces and British Open Equestrian Championships.

Nicky is also very experienced in the world of film and TV, having supplied horses for and appeared in the likes of Pride and Prejudice, Robin Hood, War Horse and recently the TV series Crimson Fields.

Nicky has been involved with horse supply to the Royal Armouries for their flagship international jousting tournaments since 2003. She started jousting in 2008, and in 2010 joined the International Jousting League – becoming a jouster in her own right. In this capacity she went on to compete across Europe and beyond, as far as Australia!

Easter 2015 will be the very first time that Nicky has competed as a jouster at the Royal Armouries, and she is the first British woman ever to do so; she is relishing the prospect.

Nicky has taken part in:

  • 2010 Hackaland, Belgium
  • Horsans European Championship, Denmark
  • 2011 Hackaland, Belgium
  • 2012 Winter Fest, Sydney
  • Abbey Medieval Festival, Brisbane
  • Skive Europesn Championship, Denmark
  • 2013 Kyral Caste, Melbourne
  • 2014 Castellapertole, Italy

To see Nicky in action, book your tickets to the Easter Tournament on our website or by calling bookings on 0113 220 1888.

Day tickets cost from £10 for adults and £5 for concessions!

Nicky on Mutley!_Edited

Meet the Jouster: Andy Deane (‘Old Iron-arm’)

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Andy Deane as individual champion at Arundel International Tournament 2014

Age: 50

Height: 180cm

Weight: 82kg

Jousting since: 1993

Personal best/highlight: Leading the Royal Armouries team to victory a record breaking three times in a row for the coveted Sword of Honour in Leeds.

Motto: Fortis Labore (Strong work)

Strength: Experience.

By day: Visitor Experience Team Coach, Royal Armouries

By knight: (biography/career information)

As a young man-at-arms, in 1985, Andy strode out in front of an audience for his first ‘Trial by Combat’. Nervous, and with sword and shield in hand, he fought hard and well. That was it – he was hooked. As a boy Andy only ever wanted to be a knight, and that first combat gave him the thirst to practice all the martial skills of the medieval warrior. Having ridden horses since the age of four, to joust was the ultimate goal, and in 1993 Andy experienced the thrill of his first tournament as a jouster. In 1995 he joined the famous ‘Royal Armouries’ jousting team in Leeds, and had the honour of being captain of that team for many years. During this time Andy had the privilege of clashing with nearly all the top world jousters, past and present. Since that first combat thirty years ago, Andy has travelled across Europe, Asia, Canada and America performing and teaching the medieval martial skills needed by a knight to survive in tournament or battle.

Andy says “It is a privilege, once again, to represent the Royal Armouries at what is now the museums twentieth season of jousting here in Leeds. The truly international element of this years expanded tournament has ramped up my excitement at the prospect of crossing lances with some of the biggest, most aggressive Jousters ever seen in the museums arena.”

Additional talents: Open water diving, up to 30 metres.

See Andy’s epic training routine below in our epic mini-film with Leeds Dock’s Primal Gym – ‘How To Train a Knight’.

To witness Andy in action, book your tickets on our website or by calling bookings on 0113 220 1888.

Day combo tickets cost from £10 for adults and £5 for concessions!

Fortis Labore

Andy Deane’s colours

 

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Andy Deane as individual champion at Arundel International Tournament 2014

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Meet the Jouster: Ben van Koert

non_armourAged: 35

Height: 167cm

Weight: 75kg

Jousting since: 2011

Personal best/highlight: won the Arundel International Tournament Joust 2013 chivalry prize. Highlight – Arundel International Tournament Team Champion 2014.

Motto: ‘Per Aspera Ad Astra’ (“Through hardships to the stars”).

Strength: Meticulous

By day: System and network administrator in a school

By knight:

Ben has been involved with the the world of re-enactment and historical interpretation since 1999, and part of leading interpretations of medieval war and tournament both on foot and on horse in Germany, Belgium, the UK, the USA, Australia and, of course, in his native Netherlands.

He has participated in medieval jousting events in the Netherlands, the UK, and Australia. He won the chivalry prize at the Arundel Castle International Tournament in 2013, and was a team champion the following year.

Ben’s talents also extend to fire-artistry, and he has recently produced videos of jousting and re-enacting at events as Kaos Historical Media.

This will be his first time at the Royal Armouries.

To see Ben in action, book your tickets to the Easter Tournament on our website or by calling bookings on 0113 220 1888.

Day tickets cost from £10 for adults and £5 for concessions!

On_Horse_2

Ben Van Kurt's colours

Ben Van Kurt’s colours

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On_Horse

Meet the Jouster: Steve R. Gagnon

Age: 50 00770_Steve_Gagnon_buste

Height: 188cm

Weight: 99kg

Jousting since: 2000

Team: Burgundy

Personal best/highlight: Best jouster in King John III International Tournament, Poland, 2013 against 11 of the world’s top jousters.

Strength: Overall strength and calmness.

Weakness: Training – In Quebec, long winters make it very difficult to joust as regularly and often as Europeans.

Motto: Ubi tenebræ sunt, ego sum (Where the darkness lies, I am)

By day: Art & Creative Advertising Director

By knight:

Developed jousting tournaments for sport and historical divisions, especially with the creation of the Lys d’Argent International Jousting Tournament, 2010. Steve has competed in Belgium, France, Poland, England, USA and Canada and won the Lys d’Argent international jousting tournament in 2012 with his teammates Marc Hamel and Patrice Rolland.

Steve is a pioneer in equestrian jousting in Québec and creator and organiser of medieval festivals for the past nine years. He lives in the countryside of Montreal on a ranch where he trains horses for historical jousting competitions.

Extra talents: Drawing, painting and sculpting.

To see Steve in action, book your tickets on our website or by calling bookings on 0113 220 1888.

Day tickets cost from £10 for adults and £5 for concessions!

Steve Gagnon's arms

Steve Gagnon’s arms

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de sable et d’argent

Meet the Jouster: Jan Gradon

Age: 3411050957_10206262886357958_1358098300_n

Height: 194cm

Weight: 100kg

Jousting since: 2007

Team: Poland

Personal best/highlight: highest individual score at Tournament of the Phoenix, USA 2011, the second individual position at Arundel International Tournament 2013 and Skill at Arms competition champion at Arundel 2014

Motto: “Amor Vincit Omnia” (Love Conquers All)

Strength: Composure

By day: Office General Manager

By knight:

Jan began his career in 1996 with historical re-enactment on foot, and then got on a horse in 2005. He’s trained in full-contact medieval foot combat, portrayed an Ulhan cavalry-man of the 19th century Grand Ducy of Warsaw, and rode as a knight at Europe’s largest battle re-enactments, the battles of Tannenberg (Poland) and Hastings (UK).

As a member of Xiazeca Druzyna, a Polish historical mounted display team, Jan competes in tournaments across Europe and America. In 2011 he burst into the top ranks of the international jousting scene in style by winning America’s most prestigious competition, the Tournament of the Phoenix, California.

2013 saw Jan compete at the Arundel International Tournament in the Holy Roman Empire team, at which he gained the second individual position, and the following year he returned under the banner of his home country and won the Skills at Arms individual competition.

This will be Jan’s first appearance at the Royal Armouries Tournament.

To see Jan in action, book your tickets on our website or by calling bookings on 0113 220 1888.

Day tickets cost from £10 for adults and £5 for concessions!

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Jan Gradon’s colours.

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C: Stephen Moss photography

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C: ARW Photography

 

Curator about & about: The Buff Coat of Sir Thomas Fairfax in York Castle Museum

From Keith Dowen, Assistant Curator of European Armour.

Recently I was very fortunate to be invited to examine the 17th century buff-leather coat reputed to have belonged to Parliamentary commander Sir Thomas Fairfax at the York Castle Museum. Fairfax was a highly talented and respected commander and is chiefly remembered for his victories over the Royalists at the battles of Marston Moor in 1644, Naseby in 1645 and the Siege of Oxford in 1645-1646.

Between the late 16th century and the Civil Wars (1642-1651) the amount of armour worn by soldiers on the battlefield gradually decreased. Armourers responded to the increase in the use and effectiveness of gunpowder weapons by making some armour thicker and thus heavier in order to provide better protection. The nature of warfare at this time was also changing; battlefield tactics emphasised smaller formations and lighter, faster moving troops. As a result soldiers discarded elements of armour that were felt to be too heavy or cumbersome.

coatpic

By the time of the Civil Wars, the lightly armoured ‘harquebusier’ had become the principal type of cavalryman on the battlefield. Usually armed with a sword and a short-barrelled firearm or pair of pistols, his defensive arms could comprise a back and breastplate and a type of helmet we often call a ‘lobster pot’. Such soldiers are popularly associated with the Parliamentarian side during the Civil Wars and are widely known as ‘Roundheads’, yet in reality harquebusiers were used by both sides. One item of defensive wear sometimes worn by harquebusiers was the ‘buff coat’. Made from oil-tanned leather, often cow or deer, buff coats provided good protection against edged weapons and flying debris whilst at the same time being relatively light-weight. 17th century portraits can be somewhat misleading at times, as many men chose to be depicted in full armour in order to associate themselves with the knightly figures of the past. Whilst it is true that some commanders continued to wear full armour on the battlefield, the majority chose to wear buff coats in the manner of harquebusiers.

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The first task undertaken by Dr Prior and Helen Thornton, of York Museums Trust and fashion student Glynis Hughs and myself was to assess the general condition of the coat and the main elements which it was made from. We found that the coat comprised eight pieces of buff-leather, one piece of thick felt for the collar, two sleeves made of a peach-coloured silk and braid made of gold and silver wrapped silk threads. Sixteen lacing holes ran down the front of the coat for the addition of decorative silk laces. Rust stains on the inside of the coat indicated where hooks and eyes were once located to fasten the coat together. Overall the coat was of medium size measuring approximately 43cm across the back of the shoulders and with a collar size of 46cm. Unlike most buff coats which would have been worn over a doublet, this one appears to have been worn over just a shirt as a waist-band had been sewn to the inside for the attachment of a pair of breeches.

Overall the design of the coat and style of braid points to a date of manufacture of around 1635-40. Between 1639 and 1640 Fairfax took part in the so-called ‘Bishops’ Wars’ against Scotland and led a company of Yorkshire dragoons. It is therefore possible that this coat was worn at that time as there is another coat said to have belonged to Fairfax at Leeds Castle in Kent which dates to around 1640-1650.

Though it was initially expected that the front of the coat would be thicker than the back, as any attack was more likely to come from this direction, the measurements we took did not reflect this (ranging from 4-9mm front and back). However, at the time of the assessment measurements were only able to be taken along the edges of the leather panels.

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Depending on the taste and purse of the individual, buff-coats could be either left plain or decorated. At first sight the applied braid on Fairfax’s buff-coat appeared rather dull, but when we lifted the arm the braid which had not been exposed to light shone-out brilliantly as bright as the day it was made. To say we all let out a gasp of amazement would be a bit of an understatement!

My special thanks to Dr M Prior of York Castle Museum for making the coat available for study and for such a rewarding day.

 

 

Conservation Live! at the Royal Armouries: Siborne’s Waterloo Model

Conservation of Captain William Siborne’s remarkable model of the battlefield of Waterloo is now underway at the Royal Armouries in Leeds.

Conservation Live! of the miniature soldiers of Waterloo.

Conservation Live! of the miniature soldiers of Waterloo.

The model, which was completed in 1843, shows – in marvellous detail – the battlefield as it was at around 1:30pm on 18 June 1815. It is more than five metres long and two metres wide, and it comes apart into ten sections. The battlefield is populated by more than 3,000 finely modelled and painted lead figures including soldiers, horses and artillery.

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Section of the model before conservation.

The model has been on display at the Royal Armouries since 1996. Now, in advance of the bicentenary of the battle, it is being dismantled and conserved piece by piece as part of a Conservation Live! programme.

Cleaning the thousands of models on the battlefield is a slow and careful process.

Cleaning the thousands of models on the battlefield is a slow and careful process.

British soldiers in miniature - look closely and you can see their individual faces!

British soldiers in miniature – look closely and you can see their individual faces!

A Waterloo soldier supports his wounded companion.

A Waterloo soldier supports his wounded companion.

The detail on each figure has to be seen to be believed.

The detail on each figure has to be seen to be believed.

Conservator Cymbeline Storey working on the model.

Conservator Cymbeline Storey working on the model.

From March until May 1st 2015 museum visitors can meet the Conservator, discuss the conservation programme and watch conservation of the model taking place. At 11:00 and 2:00 visitors can attend talks with the Conservator, which is ticketed due to limited access, or simply drop in between 2:30-3:30pm. For more information on how to take part please ring the Royal Armouries on 013 220 1999 or email enquiries@armouries.org.uk. Alternatively, keep your eye out for further blog posts over the next few months as conservation work progresses

Cymbeline Storey
Waterloo Model Conservator