Wimpole History Festival: Under blue skies and Spitfires, history fans flock to South Cambs for inaugural event

PUBLISHED: 12:02 12 July 2017 | UPDATED: 12:08 12 July 2017

Tudors Katherine Adams, James Biddlecombe, Paul Hargreaves and seven-year-old Tom Hargreaves.

Tudors Katherine Adams, James Biddlecombe, Paul Hargreaves and seven-year-old Tom Hargreaves.

Archant

Visitors took a trip through history at the Wimpole Estate at the weekend, encountering everything from Roman re-enactments to a talk on Brexit Britain.

Lucy Worsley delivered her Jane Austen talk to a packed audience. Lucy Worsley delivered her Jane Austen talk to a packed audience.

The Wimpole History Festival was the first ever by the National Trust and Cambridge Literary Festival – and the fruits of their collaboration could be seen in more than 7,000 tickets sold and people travelling from far and wide to delve into the past at the Arrington parkland.

The weekend’s events unfolded under blue skies and Spitfires, and both visitors and artists commented on the stunning setting, lively atmosphere and variety of talks and activities on offer.

The top names ranged from Orlando Figes to Stephen Poliakoff, Richard Dannatt to Lucy Worsley, Natalie Haynes to Bridget Kendall, and Sarah Dunant to Piers Brendon. The English PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize was awarded to David Olusoga, and Andrew Marr closed the proceedings on Sunday evening with his talk on what Brexit means for Britishness.

One of the most eagerly-ancipated events was historian Lucy Worsley’s sold-out talk on Jane Austen.

Confederate troops guarding their camp. Picture: Graham Jones Confederate troops guarding their camp. Picture: Graham Jones

It was the 200th anniversary of Jane’s death, but the Pride and Prejudice author was very much alive through Lucy’s gutsy analysis, witty observations, and thorough research.

She drew in the packed audience and left them in no doubt that Jane was far from being the lonely spinster she is portrayed as all too often.

Lucy thanked the audience on coming out and supporting history events, and described the Wimpole Estate as “just wonderful – a really, really lovely place”.

After taking in the talks there were plenty of stalls to check out, being manned by people dressed as crusaders, Tudors, Second World War soldiers and more.

Re-enactors at the festival. Picture: Graham Jones Re-enactors at the festival. Picture: Graham Jones

Peter Copeland and his wife Jenny displayed their wartime wares, and offered insight into what it was like on the home front for both men and women.

Jenny said: “I think visitors are coming here really focused on history and have done their research, so it’s great to have a chat with all sorts of people about what we do.”

Redcoats and Revolutionaries re-enactors of the American War of Independence came from Leicester, and Alan Ball and Peter Holyoake showed off their uniforms’ three layers of wool, which is tough and durable as they expertly showcased, but with the South Cambs temperature well into the mid 20s, it was all the more impressive.

The uniforms continued, with re-enactors from the Third Crusade coming forward to teach about their battles, each putting forward arguments as to why their weapon and clothing was most effective.

Wimpole Hall provided a stunning backdrop for the history festival. Wimpole Hall provided a stunning backdrop for the history festival.

A short walk across the field took you back to the 1580s, where Katherine Adams spoke about how having the Tudor period on the school curriculum helped young historians.

She said: “People have really engaged, and we’ve had children come up to us and talk about how we do things now, and how the Tudors did things then, because they’ve learned about ‘us’ at school. It’s been really great to be a part of.”

Festival director Cathy Moore said: “This weekend has totally exceeded all expectations. Wimpole History Festival has proved two things: that the estate was the perfect venue for a festival such as this, and that the appetite for history across the generations is voracious.

“History is so relevant in these turbulent times, in terms of what we can draw from the past and use to aid our future. The array of discussions was both stimulating and eye-opening.”

For more on Wimpole Hall and future events in its 3,000 acres of parkland and farmland, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wimpole-estate.

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