The story behind the picture: historical fencing outside the Royal Pavilion

In 2009 I was the Adult Learning Officer for the Adult Event Programme creating and running public events across Royal Pavilion & Museums. This was one of 62 events that were programmed in 2009.

This historical fencing demonstration took place on the weekend of the 3 & 4 October 2009 and was a display of sword fencing over the ages linked to a Regency-themed living history event taking place inside the Royal Pavilion. Called ‘For King & Country’ it was created by Past Pleasures, the UK’s foremost living history company.

The people in the pictures are members of the Sussex Sword Academy based in Brighton. They are demonstrating various techniques used in the past in duels and warfare. These skills are demonstrated as a martial art and not to be confused with stage or sport fighting. This means they really were fighting with swords, with genuinely clashing fast-moving blades.

The Sussex Sword Academy made historically accurate fencing masks specially to wear at the demonstration in keeping with the historic setting of the Royal Pavilion, which that year was undergoing restoration work. The swordsmen and swordswomen are dressed in white Regency style shirts and black breeches. Note the ribbons worn at the knees, the colour of which will have been chosen by the individual.

The display soon drew the attention of passers-by who stopped in amazement at such a rare sight. Members of the public had the opportunity to hear commentary on the proceedings by the fencing masters.

The Sussex Sword Academy also hosted a lecture-display in the Pavilion’s Music Room on a low stage. The fencing masters talked audiences through Regency fencing techniques with students of the academy providing demonstrations of correct body posture, moves and sword work.

I remember the weekend as exhilarating and sometimes nerve-wracking, especially after all the preparation necessary to keep the event safe with those blades flying around. Sword-reach was carefully assessed in the Music Room in respect to the precious glass chandeliers hanging low in the room. Thankfully, the weather was mild and dry all weekend.

Paula Wrightson, Venue Officer Preston Manor

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