Skipton Castle, seated in the Gateway to the Dales, and witness to a terrible murder and its investigation.

Blessed with reasonable weather (neither roasting hot nor drowned) over 30 members of the Buckingham Household descended on Skipton Castle on 24 and 25 July 2010 to play out general life in the castle. Each member was given their own character, status and motivation to carry them through the plot and the weekend. There were servants in the kitchens preparing food and serving the top table; guards on the main gate to stop and check those who wished to enter, locals from the town and many more who made up the daily running of the castle.

It was understood that the Gloucester retinue had been billeted in the castle for a week, and the day started with the Captain of the Gloucester's (Jock) demanding an audience with Lady Joan Stanley (Zoe) and Lady Beaufort (Hill). A man more accustomed to talking to soldiers, the Captain did not impress the Ladies, and the more he threw his weight about and leered at Lady Joan's daughter (Laura) the more infuriated the Ladies became. The Captain was given the task of finding out where the stolen delivery of wine had gone.



Just then, a report of a death came to the Great Hall - the Butler of the castle, John Hammond, had been found dead at the bottom of the castle wall. Mistress Perry (Fran P) graciously allowed her family's barber-surgeon (Mark) to examine the body, and it was found that death was due to a stab wound to the heart. It was murder!! The investigation began in earnest - neither faction trusting the other - and both the Gloucester Captain and Sir Richard Brown (Darren) commenced the questioning. Master Booth (John) was questioned, as deputy-butler, along with the Gloucester soldiers, who were found to be drunk and gambling on the night of the murder, presumably on the wine which had been stolen. Even Mary (Mirielle), the castle common woman, was questioned, though her alibi was sound, as she had been with the Gloucester Captain most of the evening!! Somehow, talk of meeting in a tavern got thrown into the mix and the plot took an interesting detour for a while!

It was further found that not only wine, but spices and rabbits had been stolen from the castle kitchens, and Katy (Kaylea) was questioned and found guilty of stealing, though let off with a warning due to her being blackmailed by the late John Hammond. And thus the first round of questioning ended, with the public left to question those in the hall, and observe the people working in the castle.

As my first role play event, I found it very interesting to see the various people take on their role with gusto - working hard and obeying those above their station with grumbles and good or bad nature according to the plot story they had been given by Emma the night before. Each one with their own agenda and own goals and secrets to hide. It must have been great for the public to see Skipton Castle brought to life with people in each room - some in the armoury cleaning and showing weapons and armour, some spinning and netting, the Lords and Ladies paid deference according to their status by others, and table etiquette whilst eating the yummy food prepared by Mistress Beasley (Rachel) and her army of kitchen staff.

My role, as the daughter to a wealthy merchant family in the town, was to choose an allegiance with Gloucester, Stanley or Beaufort. I was also told that I was single and effectively "on the prowl". So I decided - with the gift of hindsight - to ally myself with Margaret, and seal the bargain with a betrothal offer to Lady Beaufort's Man-at-Arms (Andy), which was accepted. Great for me and Lady Maggie, but rather worrying for Lady Joan whilst the secret negotiation went on, as she believed that a conspiracy was afoot!

As the first day wound to a close, with the investigation in the Great Hall drawing a blank, The Captain of the Gloucester's staggered in with blood gushing from a stab wound, and Lady Brown (Emma) ran over to staunch the blood with her linen scarf. A complete surprise to everyone (including the cast), the further murder caused a state of confusion amongst the characters, not least because Jock had been one of the main suspects for many people!!

What most struck me was that no-where in the castle was truly secret - eyes and ears were everywhere, with every move noted. Whilst watching the archery and bill displays on Sunday I absent-mindedly put my arm around Dean, and by the time I got back into the Great Hall almost everyone had heard rumours that the local merchant's daughter was having secret liaisons with the castle Porter (Dean). I even had to calm the worries of my betrothed - how he had heard it so quick, god only knows (though I suspect Master Sellors (Chris))!

The second day brought more news - a letter was missing from the body of the Captain, and Master Glover (Kyle) was brought before Sir Richard and the newly arrived Sir William Stanley (Jock - again). It seems Master Glover had not only been flirting outrageously with Lady Laura - a young lady far above his status, but he had been the means of getting letters from a spy into and out of the castle unseen. Master Glover was given a sound beating, but had no further evidence to give. He was then caught looking at Lady Laura's juicy pear, and given another sound beating for good luck!!! Masters Sellors, Lamb and Booth were all treated as suspects and were instructed not to leave the castle.

Sunday afternoon rolled on, and it looked as though the murderer(s) would walk free. Katy was found to be stealing again, and had her left hand chopped off as punishment. Then there was a terrible commotion in the courtyard - an attempt had been made on Lady Beaufort's life! By the former porter of the castle, no less (Andy Horsfield)! After a short chase through the main street of Skipton, the assassin was apprehended and brought back to face judgement. It was with great relief that Emma finally shed light on the plot and those guilty of the murder of the Captain, John Hammond, and the attempt on the life of Lady Margaret Beaufort.

A great weekend, where the public could glimpse life in a castle, and also the cast enjoyed themselves with furthering the plot, or just generally stirring things up for everyone! Thanks to everyone for a great weekend - particularly Emma for writing the plot, Andy for organising the event and Rachel for the great food - I'd deffo like to do one again!


Fran Perry