Les Miles Des Marches - Shrewsbury Levy
09 Aug 2021
by Cathy Block

Following the great success that was The Battle of Shrewsbury weekend, we thought we’d speak to some of the reenactors, to find out more about them. You can catch them all summer at Battlefield 1403 too! 

Les Miles des Marches Shrewsbury Levy is a thriving local Shropshire historical re-enactment group. It is made up of two combined groups to recreate living history and inform, educate and entertain the general public.

Les Miles des Marches, created in 1991, is based on the Shropshire Marches from Norman times and comprises a structured military unit; an active living history encampment; an active archer unit and an enthusiastic banquet committee. We all enjoyed demonstrations of medieval craftsmanship in their tented village during The Battle of Shrewsbury weekend. 

They are a Norman group, historically linked to the overlordship of Fitz Scorob, who held Richard’s Castle, on the border of Herefordshire and Shropshire, in 1066. They cover the Civil War between Stephen and Matilda, up to the rivalries of King John and Richard I.

They are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, which might well involve a banquet, once Covid restrictions have been lifted. 

The Shrewsbury Levy was created in 2008, with the aid of a National Lottery grant from ‘Awards for All’. This group covers famous events from 1403 (Battle of Shrewsbury) to the War of Roses. It portrays a town levy (a bit like a town militia, or police force). They have recently joined the War of the Roses Federation, giving them one of the widest time bases of any UK re-enactment group. As a member, you may portray anything from a lowly peasant to a man at arms or even a Knight!

Normally, they would take part in around 12 shows per year, but Covid-19 interrupted plans.

The groups hold regular weekly archery demonstrations to increase their own archers’ skills and to invite the public to ‘have a go’ sessions - and there are plans for a new Medieval Archery Club too! 

Members come from all walks of life and are of all ages from Shropshire, Hereford, Staffordshire and more. Everyone is invited!

Group leader and founder member Martin Latham, who plays a Norman warlord and a common archer, says: “It's a great hobby - it gets you away from the mad world. You’ll find great friends, social life, campfires, drinks, exciting combat, discipline, new skills, keep fit - the whole family can get involved - and more!”

Martin, a retired teacher, was elevated into ‘the peerage’ in York Minster in front of the real archbishop of York!

Martin becoming a peerage

Martin being elevated to the peerage

It was Martin who helped start the Les Miles des Marches group 30 years ago: “Three of us wanted to play in history.” he said. “We started in 1991, got mentored by the national group, and learnt the trade as we went along.” 

He has special skills in sword fighting and with a spear and bow: “I taught myself to shoot from my own horse, who sadly died this year,” he said. 

The fights are not choreographed, they are fought competitively and the most skilful wins. All hits must register no harder than a slap, however (although we heard a lot of clashing weapons at the Battle of Shrewsbury! - ed).

The more skilled the fighters, the more realistic the battles, Martin says: “Groups who train regularly, like us, every week have more skills and are safer than those who do not.”

Where to see the re-enactors this summer

August 7 - 8 - Battle of Evesham 1264-1265

August 14 - Harvest and Heritage, Battlefield 1403 (10 am) with medieval training and public ‘have a go’ archery. 

August 22 - Shrewsbury Levy: living history crafts, archery and soldiers skills at Battlefield 1403 (NB no ‘have a go archery’), 2 pm. 

August 29 - Shrewsbury Levy out training: living history crafts, archery and soldiers plus have a go archery at Battlefield 1403 (2 pm) 

To find out more, visit their website here or their Facebook @lesmilesdesmarches