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Arena Displays

Arena Displays


The Suffolks are not only close up historical interpreters, we also enjoy providing or collaborating in arena displays for much larger audiences. These take many forms, some straightforward historical demonstrations, sometimes audience participation and on some occassions we will even indulge in something a little more dramatic.

Sword Fighting

Many of the Suffolks enjoy the cut and thrust of the Sword demonstration. The 16th century was a time of transition. One transition was from heavy arming swords and men fighting in lots of armour, to lighter, faster rapiers and sideswords and men fighting with very little protection indeed. Our Sword Fight demonstration tries to cover the history of these changes, the variety of fighting styles and some healthy competition among the fighting members of the group.

Swords 2

Swords1 Swords 3

One of the greatest changes in military practice during the reign of the Tudors was the gradual move from the longbow to the gun as the dominant missile weapon on the battlefield. There were many good arguments for keeping the bow, but as with most things you can't stop progress and the bow fell out of favour (it was finally removed from the statutes as a weapon of war around 1590, although it did make a comeback) Guns became more prevelant during the reign of Queen Elizabeth and by the end of her reign, in a well equipped trained band it was hoped that around 45% of a company of soldiers would be armed with calivers or muskets. We really enjoy our Firepower demonstration which follows the transition from bow to gun.

Long bow

All the guns

Tom and the enemy

During the 16th Century it would have been very unusual to find a woman firing a gun, especially on a battlefield. And while we are very keen to get our history correct we also see no reason the women in our group should be denied the pleasure of shooting blackpowder weapons, and we have several  very experienced, female gunners who love taking part in our demonstrations.

The weapon being fired by Bess and Jenn in this image is an old fashioned weapon even by Tudor times, but a hook gun like this would be an excellent weapon to use in defending a castle and a well drilled team can achieve a terrifying rate of fire of at least five shots a minute with this weapon.


Night Time Fire Power

We always like to try new things if they would improve our displays. We were asked if it would be possible to do some shooting in the dark for a select audience at Pendennis castle and we jumped at the chance. With some help from some talented photographer friends of ours we managed to capture the displays in all their awesome glory.

Ant Ted Jezebel

Our Fire Power display isn't just limited to personal arms. We have some larger calibre weapons like - Jezebel - a robinette - a quarter pounder swivel gun. And whenever we are given the chance our gun teams will never turn down an invitation to work bigger guns, like the sakers on the chemise at Pendennis Castle.

Night Sakers

bill drill
Bill Drill

The soldiers of the time of Queen Elizabeth I were expected to practise their weapons drill on their own village greens. Every able bodied man was expected to be ready to fight if required. Many of the Suffolks are accomplished soldiers and know their pike drill, but there is always an oportunity to improve. Our Bill Drill arena display however is not for members of our Trained Band, we are usually looking for new recruits, young and old to join us and see if they could follow simple instructions given to soldiers of the period.

Bill Drill 2

Drama, theatrics and skirmishes
Some events require a little more than just a straight forward commentated demonstration. To really get into the history and get a feel for the events of the past it is necessary to witness them (well an approximation of them) At some events the Suffolks will take part, either as the main players or as part of a supporting cast to present a dramtic representation of events that might have occured in the sixteenth century. These displays differ from what else we do as they will usually have a narrative to follow with good guys and bad guys to cheer and boo. It's great fun to put together the elements of what we do together into one big show and join forces with friends of ours from other groups to entertain an audience.


We have fought through the Elizabethan gardens of Kenilworth Castle and have defended the walls of Pendennis Castle from the enemies of the queen on several occassions. This kind of show is quite different to anything else we do - but still hugely rewarding to take part in or to watch. We love doing what we do, whether up close, having a personal conversation with just a couple of visitors or entertaining crowds of hundreds who can ooh and ahh at the appropriate moments.


JT & Charles in Action

Get him!

Nan the Pan

Everyone in the Suffolk Free Company is responsible for the defence of the castle. When the men are fighting with swords, the women find anything they can use as a weapon. There are few adversaries more intimidating than - Nan The Pan


Line up

We hope to see you somewhen in the 16th Century.

About Military Living History Domestic Living History Arena Displays