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Charcoal Incense Burners

Brass Incense Burner

We’re big fans of incense. We love making it, and smelling the fragrance as it burns away on charcoal. But it’s a bit of a dying art these days. So here’s some tips about burning loose incense on charcoal.

All charcoal burners require sand at the bottom. Charcoal is an intense heat and this sudden heat can damage the burner, especially ceramic ones. A level of about a cm at the bottom is required to smooth out the heat transition.

Firstly, find a good place to set the burner while it’s burning incense. (You shouldn’t move the burner once the charcoal inside). Make sure the burner is either on stone or on something which won’t mind the heat.

When lighting the charcoal, use tongs and a constant flame – either a candle, gas stove or a BBQ lighter. Once flame has touched the charcoal DON’T TOUCH THE CHARCOAL.

Lit charcoal looks extremely similar to unlit charcoal so don’t touch it if there’s a possibility it’s caught.

If you hold your hand above the charcoal, you should be able to feel the warmth emitting from it. If you’re in a quiet place, and you listen carefully, you should be able to hear a slight crackling sound – this also means that it’s caught. If you aren’t sure, put it back into the flame.

Once it’s lit, place it on the sand in the burner and then sprinkle a small amount of loose incense, or a cone, onto the charcoal tablet. The scent should release almost instantly. Be careful not to add too much or you could smother the charcoal.

A charcoal tablet burns for about 45 minutes. You may need to add more incense onto the tablet during this 45 minute period.

Our incense products

Want to learn more about charcoal burning?
Pamphlet on different types of charcoal and what they were used for

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How to Get Rid of Mould from a Canvas Tent

Canvas tents are great and authentic, but they have one key disadvantage over plastic tents. It’s not availability, cost, weight or bulk;? it’s that they are prone to mould.

So, how can you avoid the scourge of tent mould, and what should you do if it does occur?

About Mould

Mould is a type of fungi that grows in moist, dark environments. If your tent stays damp and dark for long enough, mould will flourish and spread by spores. The mould?can consume the fabric of your tent and if you try to camp in a mouldy tent, the spores can trigger asthma and allergies.

Mould Likes:
Neutral PH

Mould Hates:
Acid or basic PH

Avoiding Mould – Dry, Air and Store

Ideally, you’d like to not get mould in the first place. Whenever possible, the tent needs to dry completely before being put away. Check the seams and where the tent touches the ground – these are often the places that take the longest to dry.?If you do have to pack the tent up damp or wet, air the tent as soon as possible.

Air the tent by opening it right up in a spot with good ventilation. You can put the tent up, or just spread it out to dry. Ideally, air the tent in direct sunlight for extra UV treatment.

Store the tent in a dry place between events. Ideally, pack the tent loosely in a bag that breathes, rather than in plastic. Plastic helps keep water out, but if the tent goes away with any moisture at all, plastic will keep it in and foster mould.

Check your storage spot regularly. Leaky sheds, flooded garages and damp basements will ruin your next camping trip.

Dealing with Mould – Kill, Clean and Waterproof

So, you’ve unpacked your tent and found mould?- there’s discolouration, it stinks and the fabric is permanently weakened. The first step is to kill the mould and prevent further damage. Mould hates sunlight, so get that mouldy canvas into direct, burning sunlight.

Next, brush or vacuum as much of the dead mould off the fabric as possible.

Mix a solution of one part white vinegar to ten parts warm water. Using a cloth, scrub the vinegar solution over the mouldy areas. This kills any remaining mould and cleans it off the fibres. Allow the vinegar to dry completely, and then use a firm brush or a scrubbing brush again to remove the mould spots.

Check all ropes. Medieval tents have natural fibre ropes that can be easily weakened by rot. If the rope has rotted, it will need to be replaced.

Air the tent again to completely dry the cleaned area and store.

Some tents may require re-waterproofing after cleaning. In period, tent canvas swelled up when wet and became waterproof. Many modern reproductions use thin canvas with a waterproofing agent though. If you find water coming through the newly cleaned spot, head to the camping store for some canvas waterproofing agent and re-proof the cleaned area.

Prevention is Better than Cure

So, that’s how to deal with a mouldy tent. The science is simple, but the task is gross. Keep your tent dry and aired, and tent mould will be something that only happens to other people.

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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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Oh No! I Burnt The Soup!

It’s a terrible feeling?when you realise that you looked away from your delicious pottage for just a second and now it’s burnt. It’s too late to start another pot, and people are depending on this for their meal. We’ve compiled the list of medieval sources about removing the burnt taste from the pottage here.

Continue reading Oh No! I Burnt The Soup!

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Cooking with Ceramics

Ceramics are a great tool for use in campfire cooking. Cheap to make, there’s a reason that pottery fragments are the most common find in any archeological dig. Ceramics, particulary for use over a campfire are a lot less common now. Company of the Staple provided some great tips which they’ve kindly allowed us to reshare for everyone to spread the word about ceramic cooking.

Continue reading Cooking with Ceramics

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Midwinter Cookbook – AS51

The Midwinter cookbook

Assembled and Redacted by Lady Rosalind Beaufort

and Lady Safiya bint al-Shahid


Lady Rosalind and Lady Safiya did an excellent job at Midwinter AS51 and were kind enough to provide their receipes, scaled down to a normal portion serving. Here it is for everyone to enjoy the delicious receipes. The original source has been provided and then a modern redaction of how it was made, making it clear and easy to understand.

Midwinter Cook Publication

Pictures of the Salt dough serviced with the beef, pork and fish at Midwinter AS51


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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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2016 St Ives Menu – 14th Century

Louise has generously allowed us to publish the 14th century menu for the 2016 St Ives 14th Century Village.

It’s not an accurate representation of how a 14th Century encampment would eat because it needs to take into consideration modern eating times, and the practicalities of cooking in a camp rather than a castle kitchen. But it did work as an excellent modern mediveal faire menu.


? Friday Saturday Sunday Monday
Breakfast Porridge Porridge
? Scrambled eggs and ham (G/F) Scrambled eggs and ham (G/F)
? Bread and honey Bread and honey
Snacks Fruit Fruit
? Almonds Almonds
? Boiled eggs Boiled eggs
Lunch Cold spread Cold spread
? Chicken meatballs Leach Lombard with sauce
? Broad beans yfried Green Poree
? Lamb Ausoerre (Lamb cooked in green sauce) Gele of Flesh (Chicken Jelly)
? Cheese fritters Fenkel in Sops
? Salat Salat
? Tarte in Ymbre day (Onion and Egg Pie) Tarte in Ymbre day
? Fruit tarts Fruit tarts
Afternoon snack Cheese and herb ‘pizza’
? Leftover cold spread
Dinner Soup Kitchen:
Vegetable soup or Chicken and vegetable soup
Beef cooked as Venison, served with Frumenty Pease Pottage
? Lentil Pottage, served with pickled vegetables Pease pottage with ham
? The Castle Subtelty from Forme of Curye with individual sambocade tarts Applemoy
? Chamber spices Chamber spices


Louise is a member of Company of the Staple, a Living History 14th Century group which focuses on Calais in 1376. Company of the Staple were the host group of the 14th Century Village at St Ives 2016, and members from Company of the Staple did the majority of kitchen organisation and cooking for this event.