Sword School Comes to Okehampton Castle

Sword School Comes to Okehampton CastleThe Bluebell Sunday open day at Okehampton’s historic monument returned with more action and engagement after a two-year hiatus for the pandemic.

Alongside the Bluebell Trail around the grounds, Okehampton-based historic martial arts group West Devon Swords brought their Medieval Sword School to accompany talks and demonstrations throughout the day.

While the ‘combat archaeologists’ thrilled the crowd with longsword and rapier demonstrations, Sword School offered a unique, hands-on experience for adult and child visitors. Instructed in basic sword-handling techniques using safe training swords, apprentice swordsmen and women from age six to sixty went through exercises, attacking a pell and training rings.

West Devon Swords’ lead instructor Robin Catling described the aim of their studies.

“We’re drawing on historical documents to recreate the combat systems of the Medieval and Renaissance periods, using a variety of weapons. We wear modern safety gear in place of period costumes or armour. This isn’t choreographed stage fighting; the weapons are blunt but the techniques are real and so are the hits in the heat of the fight.”

“We’re glad to be back at such a popular local event, seeing so many families engage with the history and the site. The level of interest and the followup questions have been really high.”

Attendance for the event exceeded seven hundred according to English Heritage staff.

When local businessman Sydney Simmonds passed Okehampton Castle to a charitable trust in 1917, a covenant mandated there should be one open day a year for the townspeople to enjoy the site for free. Bluebell Sunday continues that tradition under the stewardship of English Heritage which manages the old Norman stronghold today.

West Devon Swords runs regular classes at Okehampton College Thursday evenings during term-times.