Centingas, previously known as Westcentingas, is an Anglo-Saxon living history society dedicated to the accurate portrayal of life in England during, what is known as, the Anglo-Saxon Period. Pronounced "KENT-ing-as", we borrow our society's name from the Anglo-Saxons themselves, and means "followers of Kent". The Society was originally formed in Kent in August 2007 as a Regia Anglorum local group but in 2010 Centingas became a fully independent society. We retain strong links with Regia Anglorum, as well as many other national and international groups and societies.
Centingas is centred on the Kentish Jutish/Saxon sphere of historical influence, which stretched far beyond its geographical boundaries. Today, the membership is made up of families and individuals from all over the country, each representing their own unique Anglo-Saxon cultural heritage. Mercians, Northumbrians, East, West and South Saxons, and East Anglians, all visited and/or settled in Kent. It was also the case, due to Kent's close proximity to mainland Europe, that the kingdom enjoyed a unique relationship with the Franks, many of whom may well have settled here. So there’s lots of scope for individuality and self expression, so long as it remains in line with Centingas’ high standard of authenticity.
We are from diverse backgrounds but share one common passion: to explore, understand and educate others through displays just what it was like to have lived in the turbulent period between the arrival of Hengest and Horsa in Kent in 449AD, through the reign of England's first Christian monarch, King Aethelberht, and the rise of Wessex under Alfred the Great to the death of King Harold in 1066.
Anglo-Saxon Arts & Crafts
Centingas is very fortunate in having within its membership some very exceptional crafts men and women. It is their passion to seek to accurately recreate historical items that have survived the passing of a millennia or more. Everyday items that once existed in the world we now call Anglo-Saxon England.
Recreating period clothing relies very heavily upon surviving art and manuscript evidence. Pictured left is an Anglo-Saxon man's tunic based on the late 4th century ivory diptych depicting Flavius Stilicho, a high-ranking general in the Roman Western Empire. Despite Stilicho's Roman credentials, his father was a Vandal and therefore of Germanic decent. Stilicho himself is shown wearing a style of tunic that appears to have remained in use in England until the 11th century.
This particular tunic was made by Jill Moore who wove the diamond-twill woollen fabric by hand. She then constructed the tunic, again all by hand.
The neck decoration is based on a 7th century Kentish tradition of Animal Style II design found at Thurnham in Kent. Jill has used red and white silk, outlined with gold thread to embroider the design onto blue silk, thus creating a tunic that would have been the highly personalized property of a member of the Anglo-Saxon ruling elite.
Arms & Armour
Much of what is left to us is in a poor state of preservation and therefore requires a great deal of accompanying research before attempting an accurate reconstruction. An excellent example of this is the Pioneer Helm, pictured right, together with Tim Noyes' superb reconstruction.
This uniquely English period helm, which is also known as the Wollaston Helmet or Northamptonshire Helmet, is a 7th century Anglo-Saxon boar-crested helm and was found by archaeologists from Northamptonshire Archaeology at a quarry site operated by Pioneer Aggregates. The original helm was found in an incomplete state but enough remained for Tim Noyes to make his extremely accurate reconstruction.
Tim Noyes has is own company called Heron Armoury which is located in Whitstable, Kent.
As with weapons finds, Anglo-Saxon domestic tools have survived the passage of time in various degrees of preservation. As with textiles, a great deal of research and experimentation has to be undertaken before a reconstruction can be made and shown to the public.
Dennis Riley has dedicated thousands of hours to the research of Anglo-Saxon iron-making and its products. The net result is a collection of Anglo-Saxon woodworking, ironworking, leatherworking, domestic and agricultural tools. Dennis also reconstructs the more ornate personal items found in Anglo-Saxon graves, such as belt fittings and their many attachments, such as girdle hangers, toilet sets, sieve spoons, etc.
Dennis, as one might expect, is based in Sheffield, famous for its steel industry. His company is called Daegrad Tools.
Modern English contains thousands of words of French origin, together with Scandinavian, Latin, Greek and other imports: but strip all these words away, and the foundation of our language is revealed.
The Old English Language
The English language belongs to the ‘Germanic’ group, which includes, among others, modern German, Dutch and Swedish. Its origins are obscure, as very little written evidence survives before the seventh century. From the ninth century onwards, however, enough written material survives for the Old English language to be reconstructed.
The study of Old English can be a rather daunting task, with its complex grammar and archaic vocabulary, but it was once a living language, and Matt Love has borne this in mind in his book for beginners, ‘Learn Old English with Leofwin’. In the same way, apparently dry and dusty poetry can be brought to life with a little drama and to the accompaniment of the Anglo-Saxon lyre. Matt also uses ink, quill and parchment to re-create the gentle art of writing in the Anglo-Saxon style.
Associated Groups & Societies
Centingas maintains its historical links with Regia Anglorum, with whom it has had a long association. Centingas is still known by its old name 'Westcentingas' in Regia and retains its old landgrant in West Kent (denoted by the green area in the modern inset map). A "land grant" is a Regia Anglorum term reflecting how land was distributed by the King, Church and the aristocracy.
This division of the county is due to the fact that two other Regia Anglorum groups exist within Kent. The Milites de Bec and Medwaeg.
El Clan del Cuervo
El Clan del Cuervo (The Clan of the Raven) is the premier Spanish re-enactment society. They seek to recreate life in the Early to Late Medieval Period. They have three sections; one focused on the Scandinavian Viking Age at the end of the 10th century, another on the Visigothic Kingdom of the 7th century and the last recreates the different cultures (Christian and Muslim) within the Iberian Peninsula in the age of El Cid, in the second half of the 11th century.
El Clan del Cuervo have become our very special friends and we endeavour to work together, either here or in Spain, whenever the opportunity presents itself.
If you are interested in joining Centingas, we suggest you come along to one of our 'hearth nights' - essentially, an excuse for us to meet in a local hostelry and do business over a sherbet or two - or, if you're interested in becoming a Centingas warrior, come and see us at training. Alternatively you could visit us at one of our many events.
Centingas has members from all over the country, many of whom play a very full and active role in the society.
If you are interested in joining Centingas or would simply like further information please send an email to: email@example.com