West Suffolk town prepares to mark its link to Magna Carta

Curator of the Clare Ancient House Museum Reggy Smith hangs a screen print at the Clare Castle Count

Curator of the Clare Ancient House Museum Reggy Smith hangs a screen print at the Clare Castle Country Park in preparation of a Magna Carta celebration. - Credit: Su Anderson

A west Suffolk town will celebrate its association with the Magna Carta in style this summer, with a festival of events to mark the 800th anniversary of when the charter was issued.

The people of Clare have special reasons for celebrating, because two Lords of Clare were appointed to ensure that King John abided by the document, which was sealed in 1215 at Runnymede.

Last year, they formed their own ‘Magna Carta in Clare’ association to organise a programme of colourful events, which will take place mainly in June.

Eight hundred years ago, 25 barons were elected by the baronial opposition to King John. They formed the Magna Carta Barons Association with the aim of ensuring that the king honoured the charter.

Clare is associated with the signing of the document because Richard de Clare – a wealthy land owner who lived in Clare Castle – and his son Gilbert were among the original 25 barons elected as guarantors.

Keith Haisman, a member of the Clare association, believes that without the barons, the document might just have been another piece of parchment, forgotten by history.

The Magna Carta in Clare Festival will include a ‘Tastes of 1215’ evening of music, drama and food at the town hall and a medieval banquet.

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The focal point for the celebrations will be a costumed procession around the town leading to a main stage in Clare Castle Country Park on June 13, where there will also be a medieval fair.

Clare Ancient House Museum will feature an ongoing exhibition about the Magna Carta barons. To ensure the town looks at its best, a group of women including the museum’s curator, Peggy Smith, have created around 2km of bunting featuring a symbol from the De Clare arms, which will stretch along the procession route.

She said: “We will use it to decorate the park and the town to make it a look bit showy for the festival.”

Visit www.magnacartafestival.org for more details.

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