Living History Encampment - "The Village"

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What is the Village, or LHE?

The Village is the name given to the Living History Encampment (LHE) which forms the non-combat part of most events. During show times it is fully authentic to the timeline of the show, as opposed to "plastic camp" which is the modern campsite usually set up somewhere away from the main event location.

Accepting that the LHE is an important part of any show, the whole premise of having the village in the first place needs some explanation. This is because the first thing that the public usually ask is “why are you here ?”, which is closely followed by “so you all lived in tents did you ?”.

These are very thorny questions because in reality people of our period lived in houses and not tents, and it is fairly certain that not many people went travelling far or frequently enough to warrant even having a tent. The nobility and other higher status people would have travelled more than the general populace and would have had tents ; however it is more likely that such people would commandeer a local house or hall, and the tents would only be used as a last resort.

Considering that we have a whole community of tents there has to be an explanation as to why we are actually at the show site. Anyone who spends time in the village needs to have answers to these questions.

The reality of the situation is that logistics make it impractical to cart around houses to build a proper village, even flat pack ones, although some people have done this in the past, and at present there is at least one plywood longhouse that does the rounds of Welsh shows. We however should not admit this logistical predicament, as there are a few readily feasible explanations as why we are in a tented village at the show location. These can be tied into the show timeline and battle script.

Possible explanations include :-

  • We are away from home on campaign, either as part of the army or part of the entourage that inevitably end up following every army around. As the army and the entourage are mobile they live in tents. This is a good explanation of a Viking encampment.
  • We are all attending a court hearing. Courts were held in the middle of no-where at the boundary between hundreds and which explains why we all need our tents. As for armies on campaign any social gathering will attract followers and traders.
  • We are all visiting the Shire Reeve in order to pay our taxes, and as above the Reeve has as instructed us all to meet at the court-site between hundreds. This was a legal requirement every three or four years, and if forced to travel to pay your taxes then no doubt people made a holiday about it. This is a good reason for having a Saxon camp, which invariably gets hit by Viking raiders who by good intelligence know that there are a lot of people there with their money.
  • We could all be visiting a place for a saint’s day or similar religious or social gathering. In other words a bit of a party. Obviously people would have money with them and be ripe for a Viking attack. (this is especially relevant to Ireland).

There is an aside to all of the above explanations in that any army following or any gathering for whatever reason will attract traders and travelling craftsmen who similar to modern day showmen and market traders could recognise a captive audience a mile away.

These are not the only reasons, but suffice for a basic explanation, and they can be embellished and amended to suit the actual show in progress. Each variation of the story has huge social connotations in respect of who we are portraying but the nuances of these need not be covered in detail ; it is suffice that we can explain our village. However contrived the explanation may seem, it is better to have an explanation than none at all.