We are a group of enthusiasts and professionals who provide historical interpretations for museums.
We specialise in the period covering the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Formed in 1985 by a group of people with a background of battle re-enactments, we were all far more attracted by civilian re-enactments. Since then the membership background has become far more divergent and we now have members with purely 'civilian' experience, or no previous re-enactment experience at all.
The main thrust of our events is that we do first-person interpretation. The people we represent talk and act as much like people of the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries as we can (with a few provisos). We also strive to represent ordinary working days in these households rather than a sequence of high dramas, although there may well be a theme we've been asked to deal with such as trade, or marriages. In these circumstances we will seek to explore how the theme affects different levels of society.
From "houses into homes" is an article that first appeared in a "Social History in Museums", The Journal of the Social history Curators Group. Volume 19 (1992.) It gives an insight into the Workshop's outlook, and was written by Andy Robertshaw. This article was updated and referenced as part of the Workshop's constitution, and was included in the application to the Charity Commission.
If you wish to know anything about us, please email the secretary.
There is a good reason for including the word "workshop" in our title. Every year we have a series of learning sessions where we have visiting teachers/lecturers so that we can find out more about the technology and methods of the past, e.g. ploughing, tailoring, hurdle making, but also how we can better get this information across to the public with acting, language and trust workshops.
Occassionally we open these out to anyone interested to come and join in.
"Clothing not costume" - we wear copies of period clothing, made as accurately as possible. This means that because of cost and availability we have little in the way of hand-woven cloth, but we do have home-spun knitted garments (garters etc.), and the materials used in the rest of our clothes are wool, linen, leather, and for those rich enough to justify it, silk. Clothes are hand-stitched using techniques copied from originals. We have regular clothing Workshops with our clothing historian to keep us on our toes.
We have a wide variety of items in style appropriate to sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Depending on the size and number of rooms, we can equip a kitchen, pantry, bedroom, and parlour, as well as providing a large number of tools for outdoors work such as wheelbarrows, rakes, billhooks etc. In addition we have a great deal of personal items; books, combs, shaving gear, letters, toys, etc. all of which help to provide extra atmosphere.
These items are all modern reproductions, many being specially commissioned. As we continue research over the years it has sometimes been necessary to replace items with those that are more accurate, and we constantly strive to maintain as high a standard as possible.
Red T Guides
There are mixed feelings within the industry regarding First Person interpretation. Some people feel it can form a barrier to the visitor and limit answers. We feel we have a suitable mix of presentation methods within each event. With the main story being told in first person, a lot can be gained from talking and seeing daily tasks in action. But there are questions that will be asked that are either going beyond the story and characters there, to modern day questions about the group or where we obtain things. This is one of the major roles of the Red T, to bridge that gap in questioning, without the characters having to leave the world they are in. Although the characters stay in first person, we adapt our answers so you get the most out of the visit. We don't beleive in people leaving with unanswered questions.
The Red T's perform many other roles, from greeting the visitors and explaining what is happening, assisting with the interaction and movement of the visitors and characters, through to fetching and carrying.
We are a registered charity, which means that we have a constitution setting out the aims of the workshop and how we must go about achieving them. Even though we are all volunteers, we have to keep our focused professional outlook at all times.
The majority of our income comes solely from our events, but there are other ways to contribute to the Workshop.
As a registered charity, if you wish to donate any money to us as an individual, you can do so using Gift Aid, which means that for whatever you donate, the government will contribute the tax equivalent on top. If you wish to do so, either ask a Red T at an event, or conact us through the website.
Another way is to shop on the internet via www.easyfundraising.org.uk/causes/historyworkshop. This link will take you to our page to explain how easy it is to buy things on the interenet and help us, without it costing you a penny more.
There are some provisos in how we perform as people from the past. The main compromise is in the use of language. We did experiment in use of proper pronunciation and sentence structure, but found several drawbacks. Apart from being difficult and therefore open to lapses which can detract from the performance, we found this did tend to create too much of a barrier between ourselves and the visiting public. If the visitors cannot understand what we say it negates the whole point of presenting a re-enactment. We therefore use modern pronunciation, and a 'watered-down' sentence structure - trying to keep enough of the period style to make it recognisably different without making it impenetrable.
For any event there is never enough information to provide real known people to all the characters required. We therefore have to use our historical knowledge of the period and the location to create characters, to enable us to tell the whole story. This is normally restricted to the servants and members of the local community, rather than the owner of the property and their family. For clarity, any character named within the website is a real historic person.