How the Minstrels' Court Began

Oh, it was well before my time, back in the year of 1204 and Ranulf, Earl of Chester, was at the castle of Rhuddlan, besieged by the Welsh who were none too keen to have the Earl and his men laying claim to the land there, well Rhuddlan is in Wales after all.  The siege had lasted some time and was not nearing an end.  Then, one evening, a messenger crept out from the castle and headed to Chester Castle to seek more soldiers from Roger de Lacy, the constable there. 
Twthill, the old motte at Rhuddlan where the siege took place.
But he was not in luck as it was the time of the Midsummer Fair in Chester and all the soldiers had left the castle for the taverns and were already worse for wear.  Instead, Roger de Lacy rounded up all the minstrels and players who were in the city to ply their trade during the fair and sent them off to Rhuddlan in place of soldiers.  They played their instruments as they went and made such a noise as they approached the castle that the Welsh feared it was a great army and fled.

Recreation of the Minstrels' March
Earl Ranulf showed his gratitude to the minstrels by granting them his protection and freedom to play in the county of Cheshire without fear of arrest.  Their licences were to be renewed each Midsummer on the annivesary of their march to save the Earl and would be granted in the church of St John the Baptist, the most ancient church in the city.
Granting of licences to minstrels
And so the Minstrels' Court was born, and continued each year until 1756.  Then after five-and-a-half centuries of tradition it disappeared from the city.  But it was too good a story to disappear forever, so with David Chesters, Rector of Chester, we revived it in 2008 and it has taken place each year since, growing each time.  And now, it is the biggest medieval music event in Britain.

You can see it for yourself on Saturday 11th June 2016, from 10.30am -4.30pm in it's original and authentic location of St John's Church, just outside the city walls of Chester, next to the Amphitheatre ruins.  There will be performances from many musicians, living history displays, mummers plays and Renaissance dance workshops and it's all free! 

So, do try to get along to Chester and join us for this wonderful recreation of an ancient tradition.