Tucked in a forest off of Carnation’s Kelley Road Northeast, one need only pay a small fee to take a step back in time to the mid-14th century.
Villagers spring to life at Camlann Medieval Village, a living history museum that has weekend festivals once a month.
Now in its 37th year, president and founder Roger Shell said the medieval village has changed throughout the years.
“For the first umpteen years, we operated as a medieval fair,” he said. “Then we switched to being a living history museum, so we don’t have vendors coming in and renting spaces, although the villagers who are here are villagers who have studied and taken on a medieval character, so they will talk to you in mid-14th century.”
Characters such as a blacksmith, who actually welds as one would back then. Other characters include a cotton spinner and a timber framer’s wife.
“That gives us a little bit of a different picture about what women’s roles were in the middle ages,” Shell said of the timber framer’s wife. “They’re usually given the bad rap by the Victorians, but they are actually essential.”
He explained that 90 percent of the people in England back then were farmers and the family acted as their own small business.
“You’re dependent on yourself. You become self-sufficient. You have a village of 80-100 people who all interact and support each other,” Shell said. “There isn’t very much crime except in London, of course. No one wants to go to London.”
In addition to seeing life as it was back then, patrons can opt for lunch or an evening meal at the Bors Hede Inne. Described as “the Northwest’s most unique dining experience, where you may enjoy our medieval dinner -theatre presentation,” guests are treated to English cheeses, fruit or meat or vegetable pottage for lunch and a two-course meal for supper. The dinner dishes include everything from rastons (bread fortified with egg) to roast chicken in dragon’s blood sauce and buttered worts (lightly sautéed greens).
Although Camlann Medieval Village is only open in the summer, the restaurant, built in 1993, is open year-round 5-7 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday with reservation only.
The village offers unique storytelling and magic shows as well, plenty to keep children interested and entertained. On its opening weekend, May 5-6, there was a May pole dance. Guests are also welcome to rent medieval clothing for the time they are at the village.
“It’s more than just looking at things, it’s actually participating and being there as much as we’re gradually putting it together,” Shell said. “If you go to some places that are just commercials and pirates and vikings and crusaders and god knows what, and then some places are more like a lecture. But we think you could get that in school and go on the Internet and find out that.”
Shell said he founded the village with an interest in history and art, as well as a place to sing and play the lute, as he was a folk singer in the 1960s.
Now Shell has goals to expand their number of cottages so more people can see the living conditions of the time period. They’re currently in the middle of building a new gate house and interpretive center, which Shell estimates will be complete in a month or so.
The onsite library has reached up to 1,400 volumes each 20-something volunteer has access to for research on their character. There are also six workshops every spring for those truly interested in embodying a mid-century persona.
“Each of the villagers has an activity that they’re doing, whether it’s textiles, carpentry or blacksmithing and then they also have an insight, which is another presentation that goes along with what their life is like,” Shell said. “So that involves the family history and all sorts of things.”
He said part of the reason Camlann Medieval Village exists is so that the community can see where they came from.
“We don’t want to go back to the 14th Century, although there’s a lot of good things there, but if we take the good things from there and bring them into our lives, we can improve our lives,” he said. “You can have a garden, you can build your own house, you can have your own business and you can actually talk to people in person.”
Camlann Medieval Village is open from 12-5 p.m. on weekends May through September and is located at 10230-10372 Kelly Road NE in Carnation. Admission is $5 for adults and $10 during festivals. Discounted admission is available for seniors and children. Children 5 years old and younger are free.
For more information on Camlann Medieval Village, visit www.camlann.org.