Markets Past and Present
By Lesley Wilson
A small North Yorkshire town provided me with the inspiration behind the fictitious settlement of Kilterton featured in my trilogy of medieval adventures. According to my research the town has hosted markets since the thirteenth century, and I’ve had great fun comparing the days of yore with twenty-first-century markets. Today, orderly stalls are set up, in the main, by well-mannered traders. Public liability insurance to the tune of millions must be carried by each one of them. Goods offered for sale need the stamp of approval from health and safety authorities, and woe betide anyone who flouts the rules. Baby chicks can sometimes be purchased, but rarely any other form of livestock. Traffic moves at snails’ pace along the street, chuffing out exhaust fumes for shoppers to inhale. On market day parking places are at a premium, and people using mobile phones bump into one another as they walk along. Smart bistros offer a dozen or more varieties of coffee and fancy foods for groups of friends to enjoy. Clinically tested medicines are available to help alleviate minor ailments. More serious afflictions require a visit to the Doctor. Pilfering from unwary shoppers occurs from time to time.
How different the scenario in medieval times!
Fumes rose from the steamy droppings of numerous animals brought to market for sale or exchange. Voices were raised in competition with hawkers and a cacophony of squawking, bellowing, and heehawing livestock. Traders squabbled over the best sites to display their wares, and fists regularly came to the fore. Items laid on the ground were accidentally trampled on; uncovered foodstuff swiftly became fly blown. No health and safety regulations in the thirteenth century! One or two affluent vendors enjoyed the use of a table, lugged into town on a donkey-drawn cart. Apothecary, Ichtheus, was one such fortunate attendee. Aided by his young apprentice, Oric, Ichtheus sold herbal remedies and gave free advice to those in need. Some of his potions worked, many did not. Bear baiting was popular, and the animals suffered miserably. Where oh where was the RSPCA? Jesters cavorted, and countrywomen gossiped in the village square, whilst their menfolk swilled liquor in the alehouse. Brawls regularly broke out at the close of day. Not much change between the centuries in this instance. Once a year, serfs of all ages were brought to market and sold to the highest bidder like so much horseflesh. Pickpockets were rife, and moneylenders plied their dubious profession at every available turn. Traders, on their way home after the market closed, needed to be on the alert for cutthroats lying in wait to steal the days’ takings.
If plunged back in time, I can’t help wondering how our twenty-first-century population would cope, and vice versa for the medieval folk. Which group do you suppose would handle the drastic differences best? Perhaps scope for yet another book…
The Oric Trilogy
By Lesley Wilson
Yorkshire’s wild moorland and rugged coastline provide a hauntingly beautiful backdrop for this 13th century, medieval adventure trilogy.
Brought up and educated by an elderly alchemist, orphan boy Oric is content with his life. His happy situation comes to an abrupt and devastating end when a band of marauders sack his home. Oric returns to the manor after an early morning foraging errand, to find the house on fire, the inhabitants dead, and his mentor, Master Deveril, mortally wounded. The old man relinquishes a key, warning Oric that a terrible a disaster will surely occur if the key falls into wrong hands. Deveril also tells of great wealth, but he dies before he can impart any further information.
Evil moneylender, Esica Figg, is hiding behind a wall tapestry in the Great Hall. He hears the exchange between Deveril and Oric and determines to seize the key, even if means killing the boy to achieve his aim. Oric runs into the woods and Figg gives chase, but soon loses his prey amongst the trees and dense undergrowth.
Oric is taken in by Ichtheus, elderly apothecary to Sir Edred Lord of Bayersby. The old man sets Oric on as an apprentice, and an hilarious, heart-warming rivalry develops between the pair. Friendship between Oric and kitchen maid, Dian, turns into an uncomfortable love affair, and Oric wonders if their strained relationship will ever be resolved. Things are brought to a dramatic climax when Dian suddenly disappears.
So begins a rip-roaring series of cat and mouse adventures as Oric seeks to discover the true origins of his birth. Helped, but more often hindered by wolfhound, Parsifal, and recalcitrant donkey, Braccus, Oric, Ichtheus, and Dian face many life-threatening situations as they struggle to resolve the riddle of Deveril’s mysterious key.
A cast of eccentric characters, both good and evil, add charm, intrigue and fear to this medieval adventure series for young adults and young at heart.
Across the street, a gang of urchins squabbled under a horse-chestnut tree. Oric stopped to watch the game they were playing with some fallen nuts. The noisiest member of the group swaggered over and confronted Oric.
“What you looking at?” the boy demanded.
Oric smiled hopefully. “I was watching your game. Can I have a turn?”
The boy thrust his face forward, his hot breath fanning Oric’s cheek. “Why should we let you join in with our fun? Clear off, else I will give you a thrashing.” To back up his threat the boy raised both fists and jabbed the air around Oric’s head.
“Give over, Ned,” shouted one of the smaller urchins. “Let the lad, be.” Young Joe was no fool. The newcomer worked for the apothecary. Most likely he would have money and plenty of it. “What say I take you on for a copper coin,” he added, handing Oric a shiny chestnut with a length of plaited horsehair threaded through a hole in the nut’s centre. A similar brown nut dangled from Joe’s outstretched hand. “On the count of three, make your strike.”
Oric wound the horsehair around his finger. Holding the nut in his other hand, he lined up his aim.
“One, two, three!”
Oric swung the nut down hard, smashing Joe’s target to pieces.
“Beginner’s luck,” snarled Joe, threading horsehair through a new nut.
Oric proved a deft hand at the game, with a strong and true aim. He trounced both urchins within a few heartbeats. Poor losers, Ned and Joe turned ugly.
“We will fix you… clever beggar.” Ned’s face was a mask of jealous menace.
Joe bared his small, greenish teeth. “Aye, you had best watch your back from now on, Master Clever Dick!”
Refusing to stump up the money Oric had won, the boys sloped off.
Oric had no idea that Ned and Joe were employed by Esica Figg as thieves, or that the unpleasant encounter would be the first of many.
Pick up your copy of
The Oric Trilogy
Lesley Wilson was born in North Yorkshire, UK and educated at St Martin’s preparatory School in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, Mill Hill School, and Pickering’s Commercial College, in Middlesbrough, Yorkshire. She completed a course in Journalism with the London School of Writing and is an active member of a writers’ group in Australia.
In 1957, she met a young man on holiday in Italy. A whirlwind courtship followed before he joined the British Army. Fifteen months and hundreds of letters later, Lesley, aged seventeen, boarded a troop ship bound for Singapore where she married the love of her life. She worked as a fashion model in Singapore for two years before returning to the UK. A three-year posting to Germany with her husband followed.
Returned to the UK after her husband left the army, Lesly worked as Girl Friday for a well-known racing driver/motor dealer. Looking for a change of career, she trained at Helena Rubinstein’s London Salon, and worked thereafter as a consultant for five years. Her other careers have included ownership of a sauna and health studio and market research, which involved many miles of driving throughout N. Yorkshire in all kinds of weather.
In 1982 she migrated to Australia with her husband and small son. She ran a craft shop for several years in which she manufactured all the items for sale. During this time, she was also a volunteer in a Maritime Museum. Hunting wrecks off the coast of North Queensland became an absorbing a hobby, and she helped to rescue an ancient, decommissioned lighthouse for transportation to the city in which she lives.
Today she is retired and enjoys spending time with her grandchildren. She is also a member of an active quilting group who involve themselves in charitable endeavours from time to time. She reads and reviews books for other authors, but writing is her major passion. When she isn’t glued to the computer keyboard she loves to travel, entertain friends, and work in her large garden in N. Queensland.