EIGHT hundred years ago, the earl of Chester was saved from an advancing Welsh army by a band of musicians and entertainers.
So grateful was Earl Ranulf that he granted them a yearly minstrels licence, protecting them from being arrested for begging.
His gratitude has echoed down the ages and a special event to mark the licensing ceremony will take place on Saturday, June 28.
Cllr Samantha Dixon, of Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC), said: “A great deal of care is taken by the performers to be as authentic as possible and highlights include the procession through the city and the Minstrels Court, at the same location it took place centuries ago.”
The story goes that Earl Ranulf had been besieged at Rhuddlan Castle and despatched a messenger to return with reinforcements.
But the soldiers were all in the taverns for the midsummer fair and all he could round up were minstrels.
Fortunately, they made such a noise as they approached the siege that the Welsh army feared it was outnumbered and fled.
The Minstrels’ Court event has now become a firm fixture in the city’s musical and cultural calendar, bringing performers from across the country and becoming Britain’s biggest medieval music event.
It is held in the atmospheric location of the Church of St John the Baptist, Chester’s first cathedral and the oldest church in the city.
The licensing of musicians and entertainers took place every year from 1204 to 1756, before it disappeared for over 250 years.
The tradition was resurrected in 2008 by the Museums Service, in partnership with St John’s Church and community groups.
Cllr Stuart Parker, executive member for culture and economy at CWaC, said: “This particular event is growing in popularity every year and residents and visitors can enjoy the music and pageant as Chester steps back in time to medieval days and there is something for everyone to enjoy.”
Musicians will play throughout the day on medieval instruments including bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy, shawm, and harps.
There will also be storytelling performances, displays of arming a knight, historic craft demonstrations and a range of medieval characters, including soldiers, weavers, doctors, nuns, pilgrims and scribes.
Curators from the Grosvenor Museum will have artefacts from medieval Chester on display along with children’s activities.
The free event begins at 10.30am and runs until 5pm.
At 1pm the minstrels will set off for a musical procession through the streets of Chester, arriving back at the Church for 1.30pm where they will be issued with minstrels’ licences.
The daytime event will be followed by a special evening concert at 7.30pm.
Places for the concert can be reserved by contacting the museum service on 01606 271640 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .