Whole of History on Show - from BC to AD; FROM GLADIATORS TO MEDIEVAL SEAMSTRESSES, CROWDS GET A TASTE FOR THE PEOPLE AND PLACES OF DIFFERENT AGES AS THE PAST IS BROUGHT TO LIFE AT STONELEIGH PARK

Article excerpt

Byline: EMMA RACE

Thousands went back in time at Stoneleigh Park this weekend, with visitors going back through the centuries to sample life gone by. The English Heritage Festival of History was visited by families, clubs and couples, with many posing as people from the past. Reporter EMMA RACE went along to see what it was all about

IT WAS a crazy, mixed up world as times collided at Stoneleigh.

A gladiator could be spotted majestically watching ducks on the lake, the reflection of his heavily moulded breastplate glinting in the sun, then across the footpath a medieval seamstress scurried to her workroom, turning the head of a 1940s British soldier, weighed down by his woollen uniform in the scorching weather.

All human life was there, from BC to AD and covering the bases in between.

Jane Lawrence, a spokeswoman for English Heritage, said: "This event is about bringing the past alive for people. We're trying to show as many aspects of life in the past as possible and demonstrate their relevance to our lives today.

"The weekend is aimed at families so they can discover how our country's history evolved.

"There is the military side, and the glamour of jousting, but we also want to show the concerns and activities of the lives of ordinary people."

John Stowe, a 47-year-old printer from Hampton Magna in Warwick is a member of the Living History Group which was well-represented at the festival.

He travels the country in the character of a seventeenth-century wheelwright, a professional who made cart and wagon wheels, and talks about the skills, standard of living and experiences men of his ilk would have encountered.

In taking on this role John was tracing his family heritage, his great- grandfather was a wheelwright.

John said: "People often come up and say my surname is Cartwright or Wheelwright and those titles came through families with the job."

First-hand experience is also crucial to members of The Sealed Knot, an organisation which carries out battle re-enactments, providing a frankly frightening understanding of England's Civil War period.

But while many of the organisation's members are charging about on the battlefield Wendy Little, 36, a legal secretary from Alderman's Green, demonstrated the more serene art of seventeenth-century embroidery.

Wendy said: "I make all my own clothes from costumes I've seen in books.

"The good thing about them, especially in heat like this, is that they are all natural fibres. …