What to expect at this year’s Loxwood Joust

Gilbert Savage - the executioner
Gilbert Savage - the executioner

Heather Joy unveils what is new for 2017’s Loxwood Joust.

The Loxwood Joust mediaeval festival is renowned for its authenticity as it explores the full richness of our country’s heritage with an unrivalled programme of mediaeval mayhem.

The new rack

The new rack

From the first moment you see the sign – ‘You are now entering the 15th Century. Laws of the year 1455 now apply. You have been warned’ - you are transported back in time.

Mediaeval life was a terrifying one. But nothing brings that reality to light, more than the gruesome and frightening apparition that is the Executioner. As with most things mediaeval, crime and punishment was a grim affair and murderers were given the same trials as apple thieves, with both usually meeting the same grizzly end.

New for 2017, the Loxwood Joust is ‘stretching’ its torture zone area and Gilbert Savage, aka ‘The Executioner’ will be there to put his new rack to good use. Dressed in all black, wielding an axe or scythe, this fearsome arbiter of the law was once all that stood between the good folk of the realm and the gallows.

“This mediaeval character shows people in living detail the reality of true history,” explains John White, better known as Gilbert Savage the Executioner.

“The roles of torturer and executioner are ones that most people shy away from, but it was very much part of everyday life.”

Graeme Lougher from GrayZ Creations based in Cranleigh, is working with John and the Loxwood Joust to create a replica of the torture rack used in the Tower of London.

At the Tower of London he has taken hundreds of photos and researched the rack, so that he can be as accurate as possible.

So what was the rack used for? In mediaeval times if you were suspected of committing high treason for anything from forging currency to killing your husband, the penalty was death. If a man was found guilty he was hung, drawn and quartered. For a woman she was burned at the stake.

Only the king could remit the sentence and he would occasionally grant this favour if someone had been loyal to him, if they were of noble birth or if they were a friend. But the favour only meant that they could be beheaded instead.

To be executed you had to have a plea of guilt and if people refused to admit their guilt, the rack was used to obtain the guilty plea.

“I had not realised how big a torture rack actually was when I starting to build it,” admits Graeme.

Inside the frame, which is styled to give the appearance of aging forged iron, are three large rollers.

The ratchet system with ropes is on the middle roller and the ropes are attached to the outer two rollers, acting as a pulley system to turn the top and bottom rollers in opposite directions. Hands and feet are attached to these rollers by a rope loop and when the ratchet is turned, the body is stretched over the rollers.

To complete it, Graeme is also creating a ‘dummy noble man’ to go on the rack for demonstration purposes.

Having tried out the rack to test it, Graeme explains “I am surprised at how uncomfortable it is. I had always thought that you were stretched straight up and down. I had not realised that some racks, such as this one, stretch you over the rollers and that you bend too.

“This has been an exciting challenge and to see it all working is quite an achievement.”

But for those worried it won’t be family friendly John says reassuringly: “This is a really exciting addition to the event. “However, although it all sounds quite gruesome, the Loxwood Joust is renowned for its family atmosphere, events and activities and this will be no exception. The executioners talk and the demonstration of the rack will as always be suitable for everyone, both young and old.“

The Loxwood Joust Takes place between 10am and 6pm on August, 5, 6, 12 and 13 and is located in Loxwood Meadow, just off the B2133 between Wisborough Green and Loxwood and has ample free parking.

For more information, visit www.loxwoodjoust.co.uk

This first featured in the July edition of etc Magazine pick up your copy now.