Sunday 7 July 2024

English Bill & Durham Knights for Flodden

This post marks the start of a somewhat inevitable addition to the collection, some English troops proper to the Flodden Campaign and suitable for other various border clashes of the period.

My collection of Scots is slowly building and I'm keen to start a Northern addition to my existing English army rather than just using the same figures I already have.

I feel that the army mustered to defend the border would have looked a little different to that sent to France and wanted to see what I could create to effect my take on that.

To achieve a borders look I have increased the proportion of jacks and brigandines to coats and of the latter included both plain white coats and more contemporary white guarded green coats. There's also some blackened armour in there and a variety of poses blending different figures.

Arms, bodies and heads are from Perry Miniatures wars of the roses plastics along with some Tudor dollies and later medieval heads and bodies from Steel Fist Miniatures which include some very lovely bellows faced sallets. I really could have gone a bit mad with these as I like the look but less is definitely more here.

The unit includes some dollies sent to me by Pete of Pete's Flags to which I added arms from the Perry wars of the roses set. These are part of a Flodden range that Pete is working upon, this is still in the funding stage with no release data as yet. I'm very grateful to have these, I really like the jacks over coats look.

I really should also mention a recent source for painting that I cannot recommend more highly;

The Typical Tudor is a reference for those interested in reconstructing garments of the Tudor period, detailing how clothes were made, what they were made of, who wore them and of particular interest it contains some invaluable colour references for all garments. 

To give the unit a bit more identity other than just being Northern I then started thinking about potential commanders for an accompanying unit of knights and banner bearer.

It was a bit of a no brainer for me really as hailing from County Durham myself I couldn't resist the temptation to represent the 2000 or so men of the Palatinate of Durham who served in the vanguard at Flodden under the control of Sir Thomas Howard.

Command for the Durham contingent under the banner of St. Cuthbert
Lord Lumley (L) and William Hylton (R) are in surcoats

Various sources state these men were led by Lord John Lumley and Sir William Bulmer under the ancient banner of St Cuthbert. 

In 2012, the banner was painstakingly recreated at a cost of £35k (you read that right) to adorn St Cuthbert's Tomb in Durham Cathedral.

I've since seen this a number of times and I recommend a visit if you're in the area to see the recreation and stand in the place where the banner was handed to Howard prior to his march to the border.

This proved very useful for my own creation as someone else had already done all of the hard work in researching its appearance and dimensions, though not an exact copy i'm pleased with how my take on it turned out.

My friend Oli donated an old Essex miniatures medieval figure from which I salvaged the cross and the bearer is from the Perry Miniatures Wars of the Roses range. The banner was hand-painted which was quite a task but I listened to some interesting podcasts on the life of St Cuthbert and channelled my inner medieval scribe. It was an enjoyable creative exercise. 

To accompany the banner I started looking into any recorded nobles and knights from the Durham Palatine who were present at Flodden.

Lumley I was aware of largely from some memorable school trips to Lumley Castle. There are many Lumleys and it was interesting to read that this particular one was a mere 20 years old at Flodden and was knighted on the field, the Popinjay (parrot) heraldry was an interesting point as well which sealed his entry to be represented in miniature.

I was also familiar with Bulmer, who exists in my collection represented on horseback commanding a body of mounted archers. Whilst it was tempting to represent him dismounted I was eager to see if I could add some further Durham notables and so the leap into the internet rabbit hole began.

First stop was the excellent online Flodden eco museum which features an interesting page dedicated to Sir William Gascoigne

That's the first addition to the bag, within this others were mentioned as follows;

In the document known as “The Trewe Encounter”, which describes the battle itself, Surrey is said to have divided his army into two sections, the vanguard being nine thousand strong under the command of the Lord Admiral, his son, whilst Surrey led the rearward. Sir William Gascoigne is named as being in the breast of the vanguard under the banner of St Cuthbert along with Lords Lumley and Hylton amongst “diverse others”.

On the Battlefield Trust website, in the pages devoted to the Battle of Flodden, Robert White in his Cambridge History of the Renaissance is quoted thus: “The [English army] was separated into two bodies or wards, nearly equal in number, each having a centre and a right and left wing – the foreward being on the right and rear or mainward on the left. 

The former was commanded by Lord Thomas Howard the admiral, with Henry Lord Clifford, usually called “the Shepherd Lord” aged sixty, Richard Nevill Lord Latimer, Lord Scrope of Upsal, Sir Christopher Ward, Sir John Everingham, Sir Nicholas Appleyard, Sir William Sydney of Penshurst, Thomas Lord Conyers of Sockburn, John Lord Lumley, William Baron of Hylton, Sir William Bulmer and others, being the power of Bishoprick under the banner of Saint Cuthbert, Robert Lord Ogle, Sir William Gascoigne the elder of Leasingcroft, Sir John Gower and divers gentlemen of Yorkshire and Northumberland, with their tenants and followers, also the mariners brought by the admiral himself, the whole amounting to about nine thousand men,”

There's lots to go on from here so it was a case of picking one, I settled upon William Baron of Hylton, in particular for this interesting detail attributed to the battle of Flodden;

'In the account rolls of the masters of the cell of Monkwearmouth there are frequent notices of gifts bequeathed to that church as “mortuaries” by the barons of Hylton. The mortuary banner, standard, and coat armour of Baron William Hylton, who died in 1505 or 1506, were removed a few years later from Wearmouth to grace the walls of the Cathedral of Durham. Here they remained until July, 1513, when they were lent by the prior to the then baron, another William, who, in the following October, fought in his sire’s armour, and beneath his sire’s banner, on the field of Flodden.'

Of worthy mention is Hylton Castle, within which there are twenty arms in the entrance hall of notable families of Durham, Scotland and Northumberland. I must visit next time i'm in the area.

Here's Hylton and Lumley together with knights in armour from the first decade of the sixteenth century. I particularly like the pointing figure, the body is a dolly from Steelfist Miniatures which matches effigies from 1500+ I matched this with an appropriate sallet and painted the cross of St George on the breastplate.

Quite a mean looking bunch. There are further names I'm aware of, Sir Ralph Bowes, just down the road from my hometown, another young soldier, knighted on the field is also worth a look. Then I found further names mentioned by name and county on the Flodden Muster site. 

Lots to think about there, I really could have some fun doing a deep dive into this but, as with my choice of Scots commanders I equally want the figures to have some diversity so I'll start researching some of these individually to see if any were career soldiers of the era.

Further bases of Durham foot knights could be added to continue this indulgence......No Stuart stay on the task, get one of the Howards done at least ! haha, i do love a tangent.

Here's the unit with some more ranks from the collection and archers in support;

Hopefully that was an interesting read and shed some light on the men of Durham who answered the call to arms. I certainly enjoyed the rabbithole and learning more of my home county.

Bye for now


Thursday 7 March 2024

Filthy Rebels !

The painting desk is back in business !

I recently moved home and this unit s the first from the new set up, I now also have a gaming space too so hopefully the creative output shall increase.

The next addition to the collection is a unit of Tudor rebels, very much inspired by the latest and i'm told, expanding range of German Peasants Wars figures from Steel fist miniatures.

Whilst these were commissioned using contemporary woodcuts and drawings of german peasants as a primary source I felt with a tiny bit of tweaking that they could be suitable for use as English peasants.

I particularly considered the packs of standing figures to be ripe for a first attempt at conversion which was simply to add longbows and quivers / arrows along with a couple of head swaps from the Perry miniatures wars of the roses bow and bill set as well as some of their Tudor heads.

These were simple but effective conversions, I like the nonchalant poses, lots of these appear in conversation.

When it came to painting I was particularly keen to ensure these figures looked right and invested in a copy of The Typical Tudor, a recent release by The Tudor Tailor. This is a deep dive into contemporary sources from wills, to woodcuts, carvings, paintings and surviving items to present a study of what ordinary tudor people wore. Of particular note were some excellent reconstructions with detailed photographs as well as pie charts detailing the colour and type of fabrics used which I found to be fascinating. In addition there is also The Kings Servants which though smaller offers a similar dive into the clothing of Henry VII's early court. I heartily recommend these books and know I will return them regularly.

It was easy to just go for a muted palette but I think these show quite a bit of variety in various tones of wool and cloth,  they were relatively quick to paint and the faces in particular really stand out.

If you're looking for some more palette inspiration I also recommend looking at the detailed paintings of Breugel which depict various aspects of country life in the mid sixteenth century.

Peasant Dance, 1568, Pieter Breugel the Elder

Banners presented something of a challenge. For this command I was loosely basing them around the Cornish rebellions of 1497. It is recorded that the rebels carried religious banners, perhaps specially made but equally likely to have been taken from supporting churches. Whilst none survive from this period (though the 5 wounds of Christ is a banner carried in later rebellions) I wanted to try and find some surviving pieces as a reference point.

These came in the form of wood carved church bench ends, while on holiday in Cornwall I came across some great examples in the church of the holy trinity in St Austell, dated to around 1480;

I thought these would make great simple banners and sought out more information. I landed upon this in depth study by Ed Fox. Incidentally who is also author of The Commotion Time which I recommend for a great read of the Cornish Rebellion of 1549. There is also a re-enactment group of the same name with an active Facebook group which is very much worth a look. To quote from the above study;

'Bench ends give us a truly unique insight into the lives of the rural people who lived in the West half a millennium ago. Each church commissioned its own bench ends to be carved and in many places we must assume by their nature that the parishioners themselves had some input on the designs chosen. In many cases there are mere decorative patterns or tracery, but other designs naturally include a lot of religious symbolism and images of saints which can tell us about how they viewed religion, or more secular designs representing local trades, people, and popular stories. As a collection of relics bench ends are the most incredible window into the lives of the commoners of Tudor England.'

E.T.Fox, Tudor bench ends of the west country.

Using two examples from the bench ends in St Austell (which are typical across the West Country) I came up with these interpretations. 

The crowned 'M' represents St Mary the Virgin. I wanted this to look like a processional / service banner taken straight from a church.

The hammer and tongs are symbols of the passion though i thought they may also be dually emblematic of the Cornish miners to whom rebelled at raised taxes and the crown stopping the operation of its tin mining industry. I wanted this to look more like a standard banner perhaps made for the march on London.

Note, the white cross of St Piran on a black field was not a symbol of the Cornish rebels nor indeed Cornwall. The first use of this dates from 1838. 

The command group with drummer, banner bearers, a friar and bodyguard. All Steelfist miniatures with the exception of the friar which is from Perry miniatures.

Here's the unit based up and ready to go;

These mix in well with my existing units of unliveried bill and bow (below), you can read about these conversions here.

I enjoyed working on these figures and look forward to doing some more.

It's great to be back in a creative space again.

More figures are on the workbench and coming up very soon.

All the best



Saturday 25 November 2023

Landsknecht Pike Block

This project has been in my mind for quite a while and stayed kicked firmly into the long grass for fear of its enormity but I finally took the plunge to re-base my standing Landsknecht Pike.

The first reason was one of gaming versatility, the pike I had were based on 120x60mm diorama type bases which made for great little vignettes but committed a lot of figures to one base and limited their use as either Imperial or in French service, here's a couple of images from the archive;

Landsknechts in French service, painted 2016

Imperial Landsknechts, painted 2013

I reasoned that if I split the command from the pike figures I could field a large pike unit with a choice of interchangeable commands and I also wanted to have the pike as densely packed as I could whilst not losing their individual character and detail. 

This would require me to paint some more figures and once that ball started rolling I just kept on going so I actually ended up with more figures than I intended which has made for an even bigger pike block potential.

Here's some photographs of the latest painting prior to basing;

Figures are predominantly Wargames Foundry with a couple of Warlord figures and also the additional plumes are from Steel Fist Miniatures.

These were all painted using contemporary sources, in particular The First Book of Fashion by Matthaeus & Veit Konrad Schwarz is an absolute must have. In this father and son catalogue their outfits in a series of painted drawings which log the changes in fashion from 1496-1561. I cannot recommend it enough if you want to gain an understanding of the Landsknecht dress.

In painting these figures I used Citadel contrast paints as washes to achieve really deep vibrant colour, the process is as follows;

  • black undercoat
  • shade tones painted, I use Foundry's triad pots (shade, mid, highlight)
  • armour wash where relevant
  • flesh wash (foundry scarlet shade, foundry bay brown shade, contrast gulliman flesh, water)
  • contrast wash applied to primary colour, thinned for tonal variation
  • wash applied to everything else ( a generic brown wash of a mix of contrast skeleton horde, foundry bay brown and a little water)
  • shade tones re-applied as a mid tone
  • actual mid tone
  • highlight
  • extra highlight
This takes a little more time, especially with stripes, probably coming in at 3-4hrs per figure but I'd say these are the best Landsknechts I've painted.

Then the tense process of removing figures from bases, fixing any damage that you might do in the process - re-gluing pikes in the main. this took a day.

Then sorting the figures into composition and re-basing on 60x60mm square bases, 9 figures to a base for the pikemen and 6 figures to a base for command. - I found putting the newest figures in the front ranks gained the most pleasing arrangement.

Here's the result, neat, colourful ranks of pike with interchangeable command. I'll probably do a further command base for Imperial and French whilst I still have the Landsknecht enthusiasm.

Landsknechts with Imperial command bases

Landsknechts with Swiss / French command bases

In addition to splitting them between commands I can also group all the figures into one allegiance, here's a force of Imperial Landsknecht pike with arquebusiers in support;

And finally, the real end goal I've been striving for, a dense pike square with the front ranks preparing to charge or receive the enemy, 160 figures in all spanning 22 years from the oldest to newest painted figure - quite an undertaking !

Imperial Landsknecht pike square

Detail of the standing bases, packed in deep ranks but still showing off individual character

Close up of the same square with French Flags

I'm not quite done here, as I mentioned i'll do a couple more command bases, possibly some further bases of supporting arquebusiers or perhaps work on a marching column.

You can never have too many Landsknechts !

All the best



Saturday 13 May 2023

Landsknecht Pike

Well, it's been a while hasn't it !

Life has been rather busy and unpredictable for a while and unfortunately in my case the hobby is often the first casualty though equally when I return to it it's a comforting sign of things getting back to normal.

All is well and i'm very happy to be presenting another unit.

What better unit to reinvigorate the collection than some colourful Landsknechts !

I like to return to Landsknechts from time to time and especially so if I feel my painting style has improved or changed somewhat so I've quietly had this little unit very slowly being worked upon over the last year or so - yes i did say very slowly.

This unit with pike at the 45 will complement my existing pike though equally can be used as a unit in its own right as in fact I have done only yesterday in a game.

The unit consists of 36 figures with a mix of figures from Steelfist miniatures, Wargames Foundry and Warlord. With the exception of a couple of head swaps all were painted straight out of the packs and assembled with 100mm pikes available from Steelfist Miniatures.

Here they are prior to basing;

All were painted using Wargames Foundry Paints and thinned Citadel Colour contrast paints mixed with Foundry paints as washes which achieved some really vibrant results that I was very pleased with. 

Each figure is based upon a contemporary source, most notably borrowing from the magnificent coloured drawings in The First Book of Fashion from the collection of  Matthaus Schwarz.

Based up and ready for action, the bases are 60x40mm available from Warbases

I will at some point add some command to go with them.

Here you can see how they fit in with my existing collection of Imperial pike, I've wanted this missing link from pikes upright to pikes levelled for quite a while and seeing them together was a great moment.

The whole block of Pike, 120 figures in all, the oldest figure in the unit was painted in 2001 

Arquebusiers in support 

Looking at the whole unit together some of the older bases need cleaning up a bit and I may (gasp) re-base some of the standing figures to pull the command out on separate bases that way I can field a large Landsknecht or Swiss block with their commands.

If I awake with this madness still in my mind i'll no doubt do a few more standing figures just to marry all of my styles together, and possibly add some newer flags too. We shall see.

Bye For Now :)