Take a walk down a
PULL on your suit of armour, pick up your sword and untie your trusty steed, for we are about to travel back in time to medieval England. A time of castles, outlaws and fair maidens in distress, it saw magic and mystery, along with death, disease and a gr
HISTORY fans can take a trip back in time with a brand new exhibition that takes in both the majesty and misery of the Medieval era.
Located at the Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery, staff have been working hard in preparation for the multi-sensory project, It’s Medieval.
now open to the public, visitors can experience life as it was in the 1400s, in a specially-built replica street.
As well as exploring shops, homes, a castle and dungeon, there is plenty to do, from trying on costumes and armour to “touch and feel” displays and activities.
Walking through the strawscattered street you can hear the monks from the old monastery sing, as you take in the scent of smoke from fires, created by scent projectors around the room.
Scent boxes also play a big part, offering visitors the chance to smell medicines once used in the treatment of ailments and even the nearby river, which was not as clean as it is today.
The exhibition has been in the planning stages for the last year, with the team assembling the homes and shops two months ago.
Stuart Orme, historic interpretation manager for charitable trust Vivacity, said that the team really pulled together.
“It was a real team effort. Our museum buildings team are fantastic and when it came down to it we had everyone involved, from helping to display artefacts to rolling up their sleeves and painting the sets,” he said.
“Working together has made a real difference to the end result. Having a variety of talents and expertise involved has created a much richer experience for our visitors.
“This is an exciting and ambitious hands-on exhibition for all the family to enjoy. It’s Medieval uncovers what life was really like in this fascinating period of our history, and with sights, sounds and even smells brings it all vividly to life.”
Although the majority of Medieval England was pretty much the same, Peterborough had something special.
“One of the Kings of England was from the city, along with a number of holy relics and the Becket Chapel, which became a place of pilgrimage for many,” Stuart said.
So what is left of a time when we rode around on horseback and threw all our waste into the river?
Stuart said: “The street plan of the city centre has not changed since 1150. The area we know today was drawn up by the local monks of Peterborough Abbey. Although the buildings and their contents have changed, the street layout has not.”
Clues to the past are all around us, even in the roads we drive along and the streets we walk down.
The Viking name for street was ‘gata’ or ‘gate’ and evidence of the city’s past can be discovered simply by reading street names. For example, Cowgate would be where farmers would herd their cattle down into market, and Priestgate would lead to the important and influential people of the city.
You can even see an original Abbots prison door just inside the Reba gift shop in the city centre.
With an awful lot of very dirty water under the bridge since Medieval Peterborough, why should people visit the exhibition?
“These people were our ancestors, and despite thinking that they might be below us because they didn’t have the internet or television, they were actually incredibly rescourceful. They had a lot less to work with than we have today,” Stuart said.
“It is also important to remember that they were just people, the same as us. They would have had the same concerns, family disputes and issues. They would have worked hard and found ways to enjoy themselves, the same as we do.
“Things that happened during the medieval era shaped life as we know it. Peterborough would not be the way it is today without it, which is why the exhibition is a great way of finding out how events of the past have shaped our city.”
Despite being a time of great misery, with disease and hardship rife, many think of Medieval times as exciting.
Stuart said: “I think it is a time that appeals. People have romantic ideas because a lot of our popular stories are based around that era, such as the tales of King Arthur.”
With knights in shining armour and damsels in distress, royalty and back to basics skills and tradesmen, there really is something for everyone of all ages. All those on horseback should note that trusty steeds will have to wait outside.
The exhibition is open now and runs until november 21. It is open from 10am to 5pm, Tuesday to Saturday, and 12pm to 4pm Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays.
Admission is free to all. A programme of special events and activities to tie in with the exhibition will run throughout the summer.
Visit www.peterborough heritage.org.uk, e-mail museum@ peterborough.gov.uk or call 01733 864663 to find out more.
living History: Shannon and Corey Genovese, aged five and eight, look around the museum’s exhibition. (METP-14-06-10DL009)