Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Archive Antics Part One.

As promised I've been trawling through the archive, well looking at some images on the hard drive at least, to see what, if anything, we had done in the past that might interest you while waiting for some more up to date stuff to post.
As I mentioned on Twitter, I was leaning towards some images of a non-cookery event we had done back in the dim and distant past (2001), if only for the simple reason that it shows us when we were much thinner, younger and not in a kitchen....yes, that's right, in the past they used to have us do non cookery related projects....and at other HRP sites too. Now I realise that for a large number of you out there what I'm about to post is of absolutely no interest to you what so ever as it has NO references to food at all....if that's the case, then fret not as future trawls through history are nearly all foody in some way or another....well at least they are kitchen related anyhow....but for now you may wish to pop off and make a cuppa or read a good book whilst I present the 2001 event at the Tower of London entitled The Iron Duke.....

morning parade

Now with these posts of stuff from the past you mustn't expect too much in the way of actual details about what we did, when we did it and the like....let's face it, I have trouble remembering things that happened yesterday let alone almost a decade ago! Best to be thinking broad brush stroke descriptions here I think.

If I remember correctly, the event used a flimsy pretext to allow us to recreate a part of a British army regiment from the Napoleonic era....something about Wellington in his later life as governor of the Tower, reviewing troops dressed as those he commanded at the height of his military career...or something fairly lame like that (I have to say that even at the time it was a pretty poor reason to get us togged up, but we were 'up for it' as they say and I wouldn't be too shocked if it was actually our idea in the first place!!). All of this meant that we worked with the other interpreters on site to create a large scale interpretation event that saw us build a unit from scratch in a few months, drill and practice in order to march through the Tower twice a day (or was it three times??) and parade outside of the Fusiliers Museum before marching outside, along the river wharf and into the dry moat to demonstrate musketry skill at arms for the thousands of visitors that the Tower gets.

As well as officers, nco's and enlisted men

Sgt on parade

guard duty

we also had a few civilians and and Corps of Ordnance and Surveyors (I think)

As I said, we marched about a bit

at the ordinary time...march

made a bit of noise


and generally posed.....a lot!


It was the middle of summer, it was hot, it was busy and it was a blast!! We must have looked the part, well the officers at least, as all of the active soldiers in the Tower kept saluting us...must be ingrained in the training....salute the shiny uniform...and they certainly were shiny...if it looks like silver or gold on one of the officers then it is...either solid or very thick plating.....and yes the silver tarnished ridiculously quickly.
We were billeted in an army centre in London and each night on returning from the Tower the first job was to change then spend the next hour or so polishing buttons and buckles, wings and whistles....buffing shoes and boots and the re-whitening all of the leather strapping with liquid pipe staybrite or plasticote leather here !....apparently all the hard work was noticed and commented on by the soldier at the billet and word spread to those at the Tower too that we were putting the effort in to get it right which was nice for us to find out.....only when it was cleaned and ready for the next day did we have dinner and relax for the evening, before heading off to bed....well a horse hair stuffed mattress on the floor if I recall.

Other memories..sewing, sewing, sewing up to the last minute....ill fitting boots....thousands of people staring at interesting commute each day....a cracking regimental supper in full dress on the last night....the look on peoples faces when the command 'fix bayonets' is given....a laundry 'service' that defined clean in a new way for behind a security fence to protect us from the locals....afternoon naps in the officers tent interrupted by the 'men' throwing stones at me!....the ability of a marching unit of armed men to clear a path through a crowd....the tale of a trip to the off license that those who went will never forget....pleasant luncheons with Mr Hoare.....and the visitor who asked for directions to 'here' as the sign said "tours begin here on the hour"!?!?

It was one hell of a week of really hard graft made light by the company of a great group of people...all of whom had put in gargantuan effort in the preceding months to make uniforms and clothing as well as learn an exacting drill all of which was not open to interpretation unlike the work that we usually do within the safety of our kitchens. We repeated the event, well sort of, but larger in 2003...perhaps I'll post some of those images in the future....but have not been back since....well let's face it, time has not been kind to the uniforms as they mostly seem to have shrunk terribly, especially around the waist area!
On reflection whilst I really enjoyed the lead up to the event and the stuff that we did between ourselves when there, I didn't actually enjoy working at the Tower itself. That may seem an odd thing to say, but I think I can put it down to the completely different visitor demographic that existed then compared to that at Hampton Court. I believe that in the whole event I probably had an in depth conversation with no more than a dozen members of the public and half of those were probably directions to the toilet, even though there were many, many thousands of them each that to a day in the kitchens when talking to people is all we do. The main reasons for this are simple....loads of the visitors don't actually speak English, it is after all THE place to visit as a tourist to London, if not England...couple that with the fact that as a 'tick list' destination, many of the visitors, even if they do speak English, aren't actually that interested in the History, they just want a fun day out and a nice photo.....which they the thousand....all in all a fun event to do, but with hindsight, not one that would be financially viable to repeat unfortunately.

There are a few more images along with these here over on the Flickr page, but I'll leave you with the photographic proof that things actually never change....Dave, as always, captured for posterity doing something 'odd'....he's actually trying to brush up on his waltz, but I'm guessing that you would never work that out.....


Dave does his thing


terrylove said...

I'm not sure you'd get away with setting off black powder in central London any more. The first salvo would have every ARV and the CO19 heavy mob on you in a flash. Shame really.

Tudor Cook said...

it wasn't exactly plain sailing back then!!

Anonymous said...

Fabulous, thanks for posting this!