Gareth Williams

(Curator of early medieval coinage at the British Museum)

Dr Gareth Williams studied history at the universities of St Andrews and Bergen. He specialises in the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings, with a particular emphasis on how coinage can be combined with other archaeological and historical sources for the study of the period. He has published extensively in this field and won the Lhotka Memorial Prize of the Royal Numismatic Society.

Dr Williams is also Director of Research at Tutbury Castle, and has headed a research project on the Castle and the surrounding area resulting in exhibitions at the Castle and the British Museum. Current projects include a book on Viking warfare and a major research project on the Vale of York Viking Hoard.

Eric Bloodaxe

The legendary Viking King, Erik Bloodaxe: Heir to the Throne of Norway, murderer and warrior king who established reigns of power in both Norway and England.

Based on his research into available sources, Gareth Williams, Curator of Early Medieval Coinage at the British Museum and an expert on the Viking Age, has managed to extract a realistic image of the man and his times. He gives us a fascinating look at the relations and power struggles between the Norweigan and Anglo-Saxon dynasties in the 10th Century, as well as the infamous Queen Gunnhild.

Gareth, a true expert, has also published the first ever biography written about this fascinating man, which is available to purchase directly from the castle.

King Charles II

King Charles was 12 when civil war broke out and found himself having to fight furiously alongside his father. Becoming skilled in the arts of war and leadership he was commander of his own troops at just 14 years of age. He fled into exile in 1646 setting foot in France and then in Holland. King Charles I was executed and Charles II was proclaimed King. He led a hopeful army into England in 1651 but was defeated, hid in an oak tree and escaped dressed as a servant to France. After the death of Cromwell. Charles was restored and crowned in Westminster Abbey on 23rd April 1661.

As King he now intended to live life to the full. He married Katherine of Braganza who sadly produced only three stillborn children. However, his eight official mistresses produced at least 16 children between them. He was much loved and described as “The Merrie Monarch”. As a great supporter of the early scientists and all the arts, he did much to encourage learning and brought England’s glory on wonderfully well. You will see King Charles II come to life.

The rise and fall of the Kingdom of Mercia

The discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard has focused attention on the origins of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia. The kingdom began on a small scale in the 7th century, but grew from its original heartland in Staffordshire and the Trent valley to cover the area between the Thames and the Humber. Mercian rulers became the most powerful kings in Britain, and the most powerful of all, Offa and Coenwulf, were figures of international importance.

The fate of Mercia in the 9th century was more mixed: still a major kingdom, but conquered at different times by both the West Saxons and the Vikings, and eventually being swallowed into the emerging kingdom of England in the 10th century. The power and wealth of Mercian rulers is reflected in their coins, sculptures, churches and of course the great earthwork of Offa’s Dyke. Dr Williams examines how a number of major recent finds have thrown new light on this important kingdom, and on the history of the Midlands.

The Witch of Manningtree and the Witchfinder General

(with Lesley Smith, Curator of Tutbury Castle)

As grey mists of civil war roll over England, Matthew Hopkins the infamous witch finder general goes about his business of intimidation, cruelty and execution. Lesley Smith plays the witch of Manningtree in her most extraordinary role to date. Master Hopkins, played by Dr Gareth Williams of the British Museum, is as dark and sinister as you might expect.

This presentation is based on real events that took place in Suffolk, England. You should be prepared for scenes that are distressing and contain some violence. The history of witchcraft in England in the 17th Century is both gripping and fascinating as you will discover.