Medieval Festivities and Entertainments in East Anglia
with Dr Kate Jewell (Independent Scholar)
at Sutton Hoo, on Saturday, 16th April, 2016


Medieval people worked hard but also knew how to celebrate.  This Study Day explores the ways in which Medieval East Anglians marked important festive occasions, and the activities they enjoyed at times of relaxation and entertainment.

Provisional Programme:

09.50 – 10.15:           Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:           The Festive Year – The opening session is an overview of the medieval festive year.  We will discuss how medieval life was structured around religious festivals and how the everyday was interrupted by periods of celebration.  We will also explore some of the smaller festivals which were important to medieval East Anglians.

11.15 – 11.40:           Coffee break

11.40 – 12.40:           Christmas and New Year – The second session focuses upon the major festivals of Christmas and New Year.  We will explore how medieval East Anglians celebrated at this time, which was also an important holiday, discussing the food, drink, music and other entertainments.

12.40 – 14.00:           Lunch break

14.00 – 14.50:            Carnival, Lent and Easter – Easter was the most important festival in the medieval Christian calendar and the period of preparation, Lent, was observed with great solemnity.  The third session considers the religious expectations of Lent and the ritual of Easter, as well as the somewhat less-restrained celebrations of Shrovetide.

14.50 – 15.10:           Tea break

15.10 – 16.00:           Festivals of the Landscape – Agriculture was an essential part of the medieval East Anglian economy and many people were dependent upon the landscape for their livelihoods.  Our final session explores how they used the rituals of certain Christian festivals to protect the landscape and discusses the celebrations they enjoyed when the landscape was good to them.

c.16.00:                    Thanks and Close

About Dr Kate Jewell:

Click on Image to enlarge

Click on Image to enlarge

Kate Jewell was recently awarded a PhD on the festive culture of medieval Suffolk.  Her MA thesis was focused on the performance of medieval plays in the area around Bury St Edmunds.  An experienced teacher, Kate works currently as a tutor for the Suffolk Records Office and WEA.

Previous Feedback:

When asked ‘What was best?‘ about a previous Study Day by Kate, participants said:

  • The enthusiasm of the tutor – she brought everything to life so well.  The video clips were good too.
  • Can’t chose one – enjoyed it all
  • All the classes were very good.  The clips in the 1st session on video
  • The enthusiastic speaker
  • Brilliant speaker and so enthusiastic so knowledgeable.  Wonderful images and slides.
  • Expert knowledge, good communication skills.  Lively delivery.
  • An excellent day
  • The lectures were excellent – lecturer excellent.  Wide knowledge and good presentation with relevant illustrations

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading:

Bennett, H.S. The Pastons and their England (Cambridge: CUP, 1995)

Cressy, David, Bonfires and Bells: National Memory and the Protestant Calendar in Elizabethan and Stuart England (Stroud: Sutton, 1989)

Farnhill, Ken, Guilds and the Parish Community in Late Medieval England (London: Dent, 1977)

Hutton, Ronald, The Rise and Fall of Merry England: The Ritual Year 1400-1700 (Oxford: OUP, 1994)

Hutton, Ronald, The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain (Oxford: OUP, 1996)

Redstone, V.R. ed. The Household Book of Dame Alice de Breyne trans. M.K. Dale (Ipswich: SIAH, 1931)

Roud, Steve, The English Year: A month-by-month guide to the nation’s customs and festivals from May Day to Mischief Night (London: Penguin, 2006)

Thomas, Keith, Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Belief in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century England (London: Penguin, 1971)

Warner, Peter, Bloody Marsh: A Seventeenth-Century Village in Crisis (Macclesfield: Windgather Press, 2000)