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King John was at Odiham frequently during May 1215 and the spirit of Magna Carta was captured in great style on 22nd – 25th May during events to commemorate the 800th anniversary of its sealing. King John’s castle is actually in the village of North Warnborough, so a new castle was built to give Odiham its own, as the focal point of school celebrations on Friday afternoon. This led into an evening procession of approaching 400 children and adults dressed for the occasion and led by the ‘Bishop of Winchester’ preceding King John astride a war horse. Meanwhile a medieval village had appeared around King John’s Castle to bring history alive for everyone as the sun continued to shine on Hampshire during Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Families and many children flocked to this free event where Feudals Living History and other reenactment groups transported all back 800 centuries to life in 1215. The castle is relatively remote so minibuses and boats on the Basingstoke canal catered for those who were less mobile, making everything accessible to everyone. Daily arena events added to the occasion, ending with a confrontation between opposing forces straight from the 1st Barons’ War.

Odiham’s commemorative Embroidery was on display in Odiham throughout the weekend, attracting a continuous stream of visitors who progressed between this and a stunning Flower Festival in All Saints Church, where a Magna Carta Exhibition featured an inspiring reproduction of the French translation of Magna Carta issued from Odiham on 27 June 1215. Most visitors came here before or after visiting the exceptionally large Living History encampment, with children often returning on consecutive days.

Between ten and twelve thousand people thronged the paths and lanes of Odiham over the four days. The goals of education, participation and community were visibly achieved thanks to a grant from MC800th and matched funding from the National Lottery and others. Success and enjoyment were captured through numerous photographs that exploded across Facebook, adding to the insight given by a major TV feature on South Today on Friday evening.

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