Saturday 24 October 2015

The Black Tudors' Trail at Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, Epping Forest

Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge (1589)
Visiting the Black Tudors’ trail  at Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge in Epping (Thu 1 Oct - Sun 1 Nov 2015) Forest was a fun day out with my friend and colleague Dr Miranda Kaufmann.

The fun started at the door where  we were greeted by a very welcoming & cheerful volunteer who invited us  to don Tudor caps to get into the spirit - which did and did!

The Black Tudors' trail consisted of cheerful, bright caricature cartoons by Joe Lillington accompanied by text by Sophie Lillington. To her great pleasure Miranda identified text coming from her web site - Miranda's book Black Tudors is due out next year. There were also quotes from  Onykea’s work on the subject - Blackamoores: Africans in Tudor England Their Presence Status and Origins, which I have reviewed in this blog.

The brightness and cheerfulness of  the Black Tudor images by Joe contrasted sharply with the only human figure portrayed in the house that of the figure of a servant in front of the fire. His role wasn’t clear - maybe his job was to keep the fire - but his filthy, ragged appearance and his dirty, grey cloths for footwear indicated he was not as happy as Joe’s smiling Black Tudors.

Peter Blackmore - Black Tudors' Trail Image
The only evidence we have for the actual existence of any Black Tudors are fleeting references found in official records of the day. For example Peter Blackmore that record is a 1522 military survey in the parish of St Petrock in Exeter, where he is listed as an ‘alien ….a moren born…..billman able for war  …who is worth nil in goods’ This brief, sketchy bio is expanded thru informed fabrication & conjecture based on the lives his contemporaries of whom more is known by  the exhibition’s researcher and illustrator to create Peter Blackmore’s image.

View from top floor
The building itself was well worth the visit for its spectacular views of Epping Forest. One could easily imagine the Queen and her entourage enjoying viewing  the hunt from the high vantage of the Lodge gives with its panoramic views of the forest below.

Dressing up 
On the first floor there was the opportunity to dress up in Tudor clothes. An excellent idea, as along with caps really put one in the mood as well as being a lot of fun.

Sadly, this fun day out for Black History Month 2015 is not as well known as it should be as Miranda and I only found out by accident, perhaps more could have been done on the web and through social media. Also there was no Black Tudor related merchandise on sale in the gift shop to support the event, sales opportunities missed perhaps.

Having said that in the space allocated a very reasonable introduction to the Black Tudors the exhibition was fun and its setting is very original. I shall certainly take Sophie up on her request for contributions to next year’s Black Tudors’ Trail.


Mark Harris said...

Hello Michael,
This is a fantastic article you have presented here. I got very nice information from your post. Your presenting various pictures is also beautiful. Thanks for your excellent sharing.

Lesley O said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lesley O said...

Morning. I've just read your article and it reminded me of my visit to the Lodge, back around 1976. As the only black child in the class, I do not remember seeing or reading about black tudors. Glad this has now been amended. May take my own children on this tour now too. Many thanks.