Film ID:
NEFA 19897

THE BATTLE OF STEWART PARK

1978

Visitor Tabs

Description

A film by Betty Cook of an English Civil War re-enactment event taking place in Stewart Park in Middlesbrough. The film shows groups of men and women dressed in traditional costumes and men as soldiers loading cannon and muskets. A number of arts and crafts stalls are also shown as well as a leather workshop. Betty Cook provides a commentary.

Title: The Battle of Stewart Park

Title: The King’s Army – A Reconstruction of a…

Title: Royalist Army of the English Civil Wars

The commentary explains that on a hot summers day members of the King’s Army and Roundhead Association, visited Stewart Park in Middlesbrough to re-enact some of the events of the English Civil War. These weekend gatherings are called ‘musters’(?) and can attract over 900 participants.

The opening shot shows ducks on the pond in Stewart Park followed by a group of men standing with pikes. One man addresses his troops before examining and tests the firing mechanism on his musket. He then reloads the firearm. He tamps down the charge in the barrel of his weapon with a metal rod. He fires it again, and on the ground a brief view of a leather bag (for ammunition?). The ‘soldier’ fires the musket again. A brief shot follows of a small bag lying on the ground made of hessian. On the bag, some writing which reads: ‘Englands Freedom Soldiers Rights’ A number of soldiers armed with 18 foot pikes practice manoeuvres.

The commentary states that these events are usually charity events and this particular demonstration has been organised by the local round table and the local Evening Gazette newspaper. All participants pay a subscription to be part of the English Civil War Society, which is a not-for-profit organisation. Regiments are modelled on those that existed at the time of the Civil War. More soldiers practice defensive tactics using muskets and pikes. Pikes are stacked together form a tent shape.

Participants retrieve costumes from the boot of their car.

A young soldier beats a drum alongside a small cohort of soldiers as they practice manoeuvres with pikes.

A bunch of small bottle shaped wooden vessels are held up by a soldier, one is removed from the bunch as they are all tied together. He removes the top of one and turns it upside down. These vessels may hold gunpowder which will be used in the muskets. One of the soldiers stands with a string of these containers strapped across his chest.

A metal helmet and a pair of wheels from a weapon lie on the grass. A woman dressed in a full length white garment, picks up some items from the grass. The authentic encampment is set up with food cooking over open fires, with tents erected to complete the temporary home. Men women and children wander around the camp. A soldier sits next to a fire, a drink of his favourite beverage next to him in a metal tankard. He takes a long drink and checks that the tankard is empty. A soldier puts on a protective metal helmet. One of the many small fires burns down to ash, while nearby a man and woman enjoy a meal.

Leather bags and other items lie on the grass. Another soldier fastens the buttons on his tunic. A small cohort of soldiers marches with pikes. One walks alongside carrying a flag another beats a drum. Another shot of a pair of wheels lying on the grass.

A poster which announces the civil war battle also has details of a ‘17th Century Faire’ which is also a feature of these events. The commentary states that the organisers strive for a good deal of authenticity at these fairs. A man stands in some stocks having wet sponges thrown at him at a price of 10p for three. Other participants act out mime, or short ‘sketches’

A man in a large hat which sports a large feather recites a monologue in front of some children.

A woman in contemporary costume demonstrates a small spinning wheel. A stall is set out with, items made of wood. The spinning wheel is left unattended. Another stall sets out items of folk art such as corn dollies, and other dolls in 17th century costume. A sign over the stall reads ‘Elizabeth Smith – Corn Dollies’. A woman in a hat with multi-coloured feathers stands near the stall, with other items of plaited corn on display. Panning from left to right a girl plays with hoop and stick. A potter walks towards the camera then stands next to his stall. General views show the participants milling around in and out of costume, generally preparing for the main event. A stallholder dressed in a sheepskin stands behind his stall of turned wood items. A young child enjoys a sandwich while the adults sit nearby in traditional costume. The young child eating a sandwich attempts to blow a bugle. A woman in a long flowing dress stands next to a large spinning wheel.

Another stall displays a range of pot flagons. A child collects a soft toy in the shape of a cat from one of the stalls.

A sign reads ‘The Leather Workshop’, on a stall are examples of ornate decorative belts and other items. A man in what may be a monk’s habit, stands behind another stall. Another ties a not in the cord of a small leather pouch. Another man in Royalist costume smokes a clay pipe, his small son also in costume stands close by his side. Two small children sit on the grass with their feet ‘secured’ by a set of wooden stocks. A woman demonstrates the large spinning wheel seen earlier, another woman operates a small spinning wheel. A close up shows the woman’s foot operating the treadle of the small spinning wheel, another woman teases out raw wool for spinning. Others ‘card’ the wool, the process in which the wool fibres are manipulated into a sliver prior to spinning.

The main event arrives and crowds gather to watch proceedings. A sound of beating drums as soldier’s march into the arena carrying pikes, muskets and flags. Women and children in costume also join in the march. Even the ducks on the pond are lining up in formation. A camera crew, also in costume, from Thames Television prepare to film events.

The protagonists on the field of battle kneel in prayer, and then two armies face each other. Bothe armies brandish pikes, muskets and cannon so it is difficult at times to tell the two armies apart. The two armies walk across the field of battle with their weapons, and wave flags. Cannons are prepared and fired, and muskets discharged. The crowds look on; some have bemused expressions. Smaller children quietly consume ice creams.

Men prepare cannon for firing, pike men create a defensive wall one side against the other, trying to push through each other’s defences. Cannons are fired, more muskets as fired and the pike men re group for battle. Musketeers fire at short range, ensuring maximum casualties. Small cannon brings up the rear of any onslaught with the same devastating effect. Women attend to the ‘wounded’ but children still find time to play during the mayhem.

A line of musketeer’s fire at the enemy, pike men march in the background. Another round of fire from the musketeers. A close up shows the flash of gunpowder in the firing mechanism of a musket. A woman tends to a soldier lying on the battlefield. A cannon is primed for firing, and the charge is fired the cannon recoiling as the shot is discharged. Pike men do battle, pushing and shoving each other, almost hand to hand, using musket butts as weapons each side tries to beat the other back. More shots follow of the battling pike men, and their jostling feet. General views follow of the mayhem on the battlefield, smoke from weapons obscures the view. A notice outlining safety advice reads: ‘The English Civil War Society – Battles Are Dangerous. Anyone crossing the barriers surrounding the Battle Area without authority is a trespasser and liable for any death, loss or injuries they may cause or suffer’.

The commentary outlines that the weapons are real enough to warrant such precautions. Musketeers attend to their weapons and discharge them into the field of battle. A casualty lies on the field of battle is attended to by another soldier. The commentary states however that real injuries do occur from time to time and St John Ambulance are on hand to deal with any mishaps. A group of ambulance men look on, looking somewhat out of place in their modern uniforms. More general views of the battle follow, but a soldier requires proper attention from those with 20th century knowledge of first aid. The ambulance men examine the soldiers leg. The crowds enjoy the sunshine as the battle progresses, the dead and injured strewn across the field. One soldier helps an injured pike man off the battlefield.

The battle is over and the soldiers from both sides trek back to the campsite carrying their pikes and muskets. They are also seen wheeling back their cannon along to the accompaniment of drums marking time, both the Royalists and Cromwellians looking remarkably fresh after their encounters.

The film closes with a shot of birds on the pond, swimming silently by as peace returns to Stewart Park.

Title: The End