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Dunstable Tournaments

A new book about the spectacular mock battles held in Dunstable in medieval times has just been published. Well-known illustrator Robin Davies has been working with John Buckledee, chairman of Dunstable and District Local History Society, to produce the 48-page book, titled Dunstable Tournaments.

“We think it’s very unusual to try to show what medieval tournaments must have looked like,” says John. “There are lots of books with illustrations of the tournaments of later centuries, with knights jousting in single combat. But the earlier Dunstable events were much more dramatic. We’ve tried very hard to make the text and artwork as historically accurate as possible.”

Hundreds of armoured horsemen would travel to the town and assemble into armies to practice their fighting skills and demonstrate their bravery. The mock battles would rage for many hours over large areas of open land. The lower slopes of the hills around Dunstable would have been ideal venues. The battles were strictly controlled and a licence issued by King Henry III in 1232 named just four towns where tournaments were permitted. Dunstable was one of them.

A rare manuscript still exists which records the names of hundreds of knights who fought at Dunstable in 1309 during the tumultuous reign of King Edward II. And many details survive about a particularly elaborate tournament held by King Edward III at Dunstable in 1342. That was the last tournament of its type to be held in England.     

The book in full colour costs £9.99 plus £3 p.& p, and is suitable for all ages.

It is published with financial support from the Medieval Dunstable project, for which John researched the tournaments in detail in 2013.

Medieval Dunstable : Its Monasteries, Manors, Markets and Melees

Six local authors and historians, John Buckledee, Joan Curran, Vivienne Evans, Hugh Garrod, Tony Woodhouse and Jean Yates, tell the story of Dunstable from 1100 –1540.

From the building of Kingsbury Palace by Henry I, to the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Dunstable played host to kings and queens. An Augustinian Priory managed the town, and also owned property and land across seven counties.

One of England’s main centres for knightly tournaments, Dunstable, situated on the busiest of crossroads, was at the heart of Medieval England.

Size: 229mm x 152mm, 300 pages with colour section and DVD containing a virtual tour of priory, illustrations, geophys images and much more.

Priced at £12.50,  plus £3.95 p. & p.

Copies of both books are available from

The Chapter House, 3 Abbots Close, Bradville, Milton Keynes MK13 7EN.

Cheques payable to Medieval Dunstable, or payment may be made via bank transfer by emailing; for details.

Tournament Book