Spectacular mock battles of medieval times in Dunstable relived

A new book about the spectacular mock battles held in Dunstable in medieval times has just been published.

By News Reporter
Sunday, 15th May 2022, 9:07 pm
Updated Sunday, 15th May 2022, 9:15 pm

Well-known illustrator Robin Davies has been working with John Buckledee, chairman of Dunstable and District Local History Society, to produce the 48-page book, titled Dunstable Tournaments.

“We think it’s very unusual to try to show what medieval tournaments must have looked like,” says John. “There are lots of books with illustrations of the tournaments of later centuries, with knights jousting in single combat.

"But the earlier Dunstable events were much more dramatic.

Knights in mock battle and, right, the book cover

"We’ve tried very hard to make the text and artwork as historically accurate as possible.”

Hundreds of armoured horsemen would travel to the town and assemble into armies to practice their fighting skills and demonstrate their bravery.

The mock battles would rage for many hours over large areas of open land. The lower slopes of the hills around Dunstable would have been ideal venues.

The battles were strictly controlled and a licence issued by King Henry III in 1232 named just four towns where tournaments were permitted. Dunstable was one of them.

A rare manuscript still exists which records the names of hundreds of knights who fought at Dunstable in 1309 during the tumultuous reign of King Edward II.

And many details survive about a particularly elaborate tournament held by King Edward III at Dunstable in 1342. That was the last tournament of its type to be held in England.

The book in full colour costs £9.99 and is suitable for all ages. It is published with financial support from the Medieval Dunstable project, for which John researched the tournaments in detail in 2013.

Signed copies are available from the author at 69 Derwent Drive, Dunstable, LU6 3PB. Cheques payable to John Buckledee should also include £2.40 for postage and packing.