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St Alban’s Day – June 22nd

When brought before the judge and required to comply with the rituals of the Roman ‘Pagan’ gods, Alban refused and declared, “I worship and adore the true and living God who created all things.”

According to the venerable Bede, Alban lived and was martyred in Verulamium (now St Albans) Roman Britain, sometime during the 3rd or 4th Century. There are several versions of the martyrdom but in essence, Alban converted to Christianity while sheltering a Christian priest from persecution having been impressed by the piety and faith of the priest. So much so, that when the Roman soldiers deployed to arrest the priest arrived at Albans house, Alban donned the cloak of the priest and gave himself up in the priest’s stead.

When brought before the judge and required to comply with the rituals of the Roman ‘Pagan’ gods, Alban refused and declared, “I worship and adore the true and living God who created all things.” (The words are still used in prayer at St Alban’s Abbey).

After various torture, Alban was sentenced to execution by beheading and it is during the journey to his martyrdom that Alban caused several miraculous events to occur including the drying up of a river to allow the execution party to cross to the place of beheading, and a spring to flow forth at the place of execution to slake Albans thirst.

It was here that Alban’s head was struck off, along with the head of the first Roman soldier who was miraculously converted and refused to execute him. Immediately after delivering the fatal stroke, the eyes of the second executioner popped out of his head and dropped to the ground along with Alban’s head so that this second executioner could not rejoice over Alban’s death. It is this scene which is typically depicted in the medieval pilgrim’s Badges of St Alban.


Bede’s?Ecclesiastical History of the English People

10th century?Passio?(ASS?=?Acta Sanctorum, 347-8) second, 11th century?Passio?(ASS?345-6).

Antonio Niere,?Bibliotheca Sanctorum, op.cit. pp. 354-8;?ASS?Oct XIII 335-48

Spencer B, Pilgrim souvenirs and secular, ?EAN 9780112905745

Blick S, Beyond Pilgrim souvenirs and secular, 9781842172353

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Brass Care

Most of us no longer use unlaquered brassware around the home, so cleaning brass is no longer a weekly task; many people have never cleaned brass! Using Brasso or brass cleaning cloths is a perfectly functional modern technique for cleaning and maintaining your reproduction brass; seriously, just follow the instructions.

However, if you have very old brass (100+ years), or prefer not to use modern chemicals, there are other alternatives. Many have been used since the medieval period right through to the 20th century. They do take more elbow grease yet the result can be as every bit as good and with the satisfaction of being envirnomentally friendly. Even more, it is a direct link with our ancestors, when cleaning brass and silvers was not just a weekly chore – it was an opportunity to gather, gossip and a little friendly competition.

Cleaning small brass pieces;

Wash the brass piece in warm soapy water to remove the worst of the accumulated grime – use an old toothbrush to assist if there are intricate patterns and undercuts;
dry thoroughly with a soft cloth – and at this point you can check to see if the piece has been laquered. Look for a yellow tinge and/or scratches which you can widen with your fingernails. If it is, skip to the section at the end;
if the brass piece is small immerse in an diluted vinegar bath (so ~ 5% acid)
leave for ~ 60 mins;
gently agitate every now and then. Don’t leave it too long as the acid can leach some elements of the brass and cause pitting;
remove the piece from the bath;
rinse thoroughly with clean water and dry with a soft cloth;

Too large for a vinegar bath? 2 period options;

as above wash the brass piece in warm soapy water to remove the worst of the accumulated grime – use an old toothbrush to assist if there are intricate patterns and undercuts;
dry thoroughly with a soft cloth – and at this point you can check to see if the piece has been laquered. If it is, skip to the section at the end;
cut a lemon in half and rub the cut end into salt;
apply this salted lemon surface FIRMLY onto the surface of the brass – it will clean off the oxidation with a bit of elbow grease;
rinse thoroughly with clean water and dry with a soft cloth, buffing the shine as you go;

Alternative 2;

make a paste from equal parts of white vinegar, salt, and white flour and use cloths and/or an old toothbrush to thoroughly cover the brass surface with the paste;
leave the paste for roughly an hour – before it dries out as that will make it very hard to remove the paste;
rinse thoroughly with clean water and dry and buff to as high a shine as you like with a soft cloth using small circular motions;

Removing laquer from old antique brass;

Gently pour hot water directly over the brass to soften the lacquer;
peel the laquer away from the edges or wherever it has started to fail – you can often see a yellow tinge to the colour of metal between the laquered and non laquered;
If hot water fails, rub the brass with denatured alcohol or acetone in a well ventilated area with a soft cloth on a part of the brass that is not seen. Stop immeadiately and rinse with water if there are any unexpected changes.

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Annunciation – 25th of March

This month in the medieval world we celebrate not a saint ? but the principle Marian (Cult of Mary) event; Solemnity of the Annunciation or ?Festum incarnationis? (feast of the incarnation). It is held on the 25th of March and documentation across the medieval and renaissance world show that it has been celebrated on this date from the 4th Century.

Continue reading Annunciation – 25th of March

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Newsflash – October 2016

Greetings Gentle Readers,

St Ives has come and gone and October has arrived. Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who visited the shop and attended our lectures at St Ives. We hope you all had a wonderful a time; we certainly enjoyed the event, and look forward very much to going back next year.

With Christmas and the summer heat around the corner, its time to store those woollen finerys for another season. One of our non-period products is a boon for this time of year called Fresh Again, a spray designed for Sports mascots and delicate costumes that cannot be washed.

It?s also heading into the time of year where plans for new projects and research are being settled. In the coming weeks we will be adding a variety of new and classic products to help you in your endeavours along with snippets of useful information as we find them.

This year for Christmas keep your eye out for our new range of sample packs beautifully presented and likely contenders as useful and unusual gifts to loved ones.

Until next time, we bid you good reading!

Loreena, Roxy, Paul and Elden

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Fresh Again – Product Review

Product Review by Dr Loreena Johnson


Feeling the heat? Getting ready to store the re-enactment clothes

until Autumn rolls around once more? Wondering how on earth

you can wash away the accumulated fragrance from a dozen or

more events out of your woollens, silks and linens?


With a little research and testing, modern detergents and

whiteners are actually pretty good at removing dirt, food and drink

stains, particularly for the more robust textiles. However, for the

more fragile, unwashable or highly decorated gear, washing is not

always easy or desirable.


At the request of a customer we brought in Fresh Again Uniform

and Costume Deodorant spray ? and now we?re addicted. This

stuff neutralizes perspiration ? which means it does NOT remove

stains. It does however, kill and breakdown the bacteria left on

clothes after wearing. Seriously ? I?ve checked…


The spray works on natural and synthetic fibres, foam padding,

fabrics, stitching, foams, and leather. In the everyday world we sell

it to team mascots and equestrians for the inside of their helmets

and gloves. In the re-enactor community the fans are those with

the highly decorated fabrics, brocades, velvets and silks, fighter?s

armour padding and gambisons etc.


So far not yet found a fabric that it stains (including voiles, silks,

velvets, leather etc). It does have a very odd smell that evaporates

almost immediately. For the best results we found that spraying

areas like the underarms before wearing a garment for the first

time, and then spray when your nose tells you. Otherwise follow

the instructions and let it take the stress out of wearing your finest.

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Cooking Apicius: Roman Recipes for Today – Review

Cooking Apicius: Roman Recipes for Today

By Sally Grainger

Reviewed by Loreena Johnson


This handy little book is a stroke of genius on the publishers part. A collection

of recipes from Apicius as researched and trialled by the author ? who just

happens to be the same as co-authored Apicius ? A Critical Review. No

wading through pages of discourse, reviews and examinations of potential

influences ? just straight to the recipes.


To me, it?s not a stand-a- lone because the recipes are not accompanied by

the original text or even a translation of the original. I personally enjoy

knowing about the context a dish was created and enjoyed in. I was also a

little disappointed in the recipes selected (a solid 64 in total). They are either

totally unreproducible (due to extinction of main ingredient, ethical or safety

reasons) or what I would term ?safe? ? they will work and be very tasty (and

very accurate) but actually not very different from the flavour combinations we

are used to today.


This is a totally personal perspective ? and as a primer for someone starting

out presenting Roman style food, it is hard to go past.

[tabs] [tab title=”Publishers Content”] Sally Grainger has gathered, in one convenient volume, her modern interpretations of 64 of the recipes in the original text. This is not recipes inspired by the old Romans but rather a serious effort to convert the extremely gnomic instructions in the Latin into something that can be reproduced in the modern kitchen which actually gives some idea of what the Romans might have eaten. Sally Grainger, therefore, has taken great pains to suggest means of replicating the particular Roman taste for fermented fish sauce. It may sound unpleasant, but actually is not too far removed from the fish sauces of the Far East and any reproduction of Roman cookery must depend on getting this particular aspect right.” [/tab] [/tabs]

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Roman Cookery – Ancient Recipes for Modern Kitchen

Roman Cookery; Ancient Recipes for Modern Kitchen

By Mark Grant

Reviewed by Loreena Johnson


Want to make the snacks for your average roman barfly at the local Taverna?

Or impress the neighbours with a bang up dinner on a week night but you?re

not really into the larks tongues and dormice? Well neither was the average

Roman citizen ? even if they could afford it.


From the information and recipes presented by the author, I?m happy to report

I could reliably re-create dishes and even entire meals, pretty much only

shopping at the local grocery store. So for a change, I could surprise people

with a meal that didn?t require a second mortgage; yet the flavours and

textures were still different enough to be a bit of a challenge for some.


You might remember this title with a different cover from a decade or so ago

(possibly longer ? whose counting?); same title, same author, new (second)

edition. I remembered the first edition with affection; so was pleasantly

surprised to find enough extra recipes and updated research in the second

edition to buy it as well.


Only point to consider ? If you are still learning to cook, don?t be deceived by

the apparent simplicity of some of the recipes. You need to know your



[tabs] [tab title=”Publishers Blurb”] More than 100 everyday recipes from Ancient Rome enjoyably recreated from the work of writers and poets of the time and adapted for the modern kitchen: healthy and delicious soups, stews, breads and salads that gave birth to the modern Mediterranean diet. [/tab] [/tabs]

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Apicius: A critical edition with an introduction and English translation – Review

Apicius: A critical edition with an introduction and English translation

Sally Grainger and Christopher Grocock

Reviewed By Loreena Johnson


Of all the many translations of Apicius, this is the one I?d save if a fire broke

out. The kernel of this book was Sally?s PhD thesis with judicial editing and

input from Christopher Grogock to make it more readable. It is a beautiful ? if

hardcore academic ? consolidated translation of the various fragments of

Apicius de re Coquinaria around the world.


Scared? There is a ton of other cool stuff within the covers regarding the

social and environmental influences, glossaries, facsimilles of original bits and

a fabulous cross referencing index and bibliography. There are even

appendices reviewing the current arguments in academia about Garum

recipes and production.


As to recipes; along with the original and the translation, a select number of

the dishes also have Sally Grainger?s notes and further instructions on how a

modern cook can reproduce a Roman flavour profile. Finally, these recipes

have been trialled by a great cook as well as scholar (Sally is also the author

of ?The Classical Cookbook? with Andrew Dalby) ? they work, they are tasty,

and they won?t kill you or your guests.


[tabs] [tab title=”Publishers Blurb”] Apicius is the sole remaining cookery book from the days of the Roman Empire. Though there were many ancient Greek and Latin works concerning food, this collection of recipes is unique. The editors suggest that it is a survival from many such collections maintained by working cooks and that the attribution to Apicius the man (a real-life Roman noble of the 2nd century AD), is a mere literary convention. There have been many English translations of this work (and, abroad, some important academic editions) but none reliable since 1958 (Flower and Rosenbaum). In any case, this edition and translation has revisited all surviving manuscripts in Europe and the USA and proposes many new readings and interpretations. The great quality of this editorial team is while the Latin scholarship is supplied by Chris Grocock, Sally Grainger contributes a lifetime’s experience in the practical cookery of adaptations of the recipes in this text. This supplies a wholly new angle from which to verify the textual and editorial suggestions. [/tab] [/tabs]

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August Newsflash

Greetings Gentle readers,

Just a brief letter this month; The move into the new warehouse is finally complete and the great unpack has begun. While we are continuing to operate, sadly it is a little slower until the unpacking is finished and we apologise for any inconvenience.

During the interim, why not look through posts on the blog? This is where we have our latest reviews, post interesting and amusing snippets from the past, and links to useful resources and information on the maintenance of gear.

Until next time, we bid you all ? good reading!

Paul, Elden, Loreena and Roxy.