Friday, December 14, 2012

Richard de Grey's Company: Centre Ward Foot

Richard de Grey, knight of Codnor was the son of Henry de Grey and Isolda Bardolf. The Grey family’s principle estate held by the senior members of the de Grey family was Codnor in Derbyshire. Before continuing, as with many persons in the historical record there exists on the Internet a deal of confusion concerning lineages and there exists contradictory material on Richard. It remains unclear to be when my Richard was born and his age at Lewes, there being a good deal of suggestion that he was quite elderly at the time but I suspect on-line details of his life confuse this Richard with his immediate predecessor. I have relied on the tried and true websites such as The Peerage and the published works on the Barons War and Battle of Lewes. The details given, whilst not complete, are at least those I remain confident of.
What's left of Codnor Castle today
Richard certainly lived and was most probably born at Codnor castle. He had inherited estates of the lands formerly held by John de Humez (Leicestershire) and of Simon de Canci in Lincolnshire. In 1252 he took the cross in support of King Henry’s intended but unrealised crusade to Outremer. First having been made Steward of Gascony (c. 1248) he was given that office again in 1253.
Richard’s and his brother’s loyalty to King Henry failed by 1258 as Richard took up with the rebels under de Montfort. One of the committee of twenty-four Barons from the Provisions of Oxford; Richard was at the forefront of the Montfortian movement and also one of the fifteen perpetual councilors. He was appointed custos of Dover Castle and warden of the Cinque ports, controlling the coastal borders and in part was successful in running interference with Royalist traffic – intercepting treasure being shipped by the King's Poitevin relatives off shore.

As custos of Dover castle, he and his men refused the King entry into England in December 1263 and in 1264. Richard was an active rebel and moved to take part in the third siege of Rochester (April 1264). There is doubt about Richard Grey’s presence at Lewes – his having been recorded as returning to Dover when the Rochester siege was lifted. He was a man intent on being at the centre of the action and whilst later made custos of Rochester castle during the Montfortian ascendancy, he was with the surrendering rebels when Kenilworth fell in 1266.

Accepting the terms of the dictum de Kenilworth, Richard was taken prisoner and his lands confiscated; however, these were restored to him some time later. Richard died no later than 1271 most probably of natural causes, having survived the war.

I have placed Richard at Lewes for the purposes of my reconstruction in command of a body of foot in the central ward of the rebel army under the immediate command of Gilbert de Clare. I have selected a knight with an older fashioned kettle helm from the Gripping Beast range. I hedged my bets over the man's vintage instead of opting for an enclosed great helm which would have been more the fashion for a younger man. It's more probably practical for commanding foot for hearing, seeing and issuing commands. The remainder of the company is made up of Kingmaker, Gripping Beast, Essex and Mirliton figures. Whilst several figures have padded armour, this will perform as an essentially unarmoured body of spear.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

TABLE-TOP Building: Part 5 (TIPS)

Well, in spite of my best efforts, work, family and fate seem to conspire against my making too much progress along hobby lines. Having said that, I haven't been completely idle and have learnt how to use my airbrush and compressor - not without difficulties.

The above shot was taken on my new Canon EOS 600D (digital SLR) which I am also learning to use. Hopefully the three states of my synthetic fur painting are evident. At the rear is what the camel coloured fur looks like before painting. The section in the left side foreground is the fur after having been given one coat of spray over a week ago. The right side mid section is the greener area having been given a second coat.
The difference in colours are perhaps better seen in the second photo. I have picked up a number of tips as I've progressed which I thought may be of interest. First is more of a caution - spray painting this size project is extremely time consuming with an airbrush. It takes me more than an hour per coat. When applying the paint to the fur, I ruffle or brush the fur so it stands as upright as possible so that the spray gets down the length of the hair, ensuring better or deeper penetration. What I am attempting to do is give my fur as thorough a base colour as possible - I want very green grass for Lewes in spring time. When I spray, I work the whole section from one angle, spin the board 180 degrees and then hit it from the other direction - that's one coat. I tend to switch from spraying in a side to side motion to a circular motion and get the brush down to within 15 centimeters. Figuratively I am massaging the paint down to the roots.

This requires patients as I don't want the paint to bead or the fur to thicken any more than I can avoid. This colouring will require a gradual build up of colour and I anticipate the mid to dark green base colour will require three separate coats before I start hitting it with lighter shades. I need to give each coat plenty of drying time - 24 hours at least and that's in a warm, dry Canberra Spring/Summer.

Whilst this is taking some time and I've never worked with these tools on this type of terrain before, I can see it's working and I am happy with the results. I've talked a long time about synthetic fur terrain and now that it's under way, I doubt I'll ever go back. It remains to be seen how much more progress I can make before I am posted overseas. I'll give it as good a nudge as I am able before having to shelf this side of my Lewes Project.

Monday, October 15, 2012

TABLE-TOP: Building Part 4

I don't know what came over me this past weekend but I found my terrain building Mojo and just got stuck in. Having glued the synthetic fur to the polystyrene, I needed to trim the material back flush with the edges. As you can see, I brushed the fur into the centre of the boards before trimming to ensure the fur length right up to the edges - I deemed this especially important for internal edges. Once that was done, there was no reason to put off giving the terrain it's hair-cut.

I trimmed those areas of intense habitation or use right down to the base - that being the rise where the furthest extent of Lewes township appears and the site of the windmill. I began by using a Breville brand electric hair clippers but after some time realised that the hair care scissors which came with the kit was far quicker and more effective at getting straight to the base. I finished off with the clippers though.
Pathways and habitation areas marked by brushing before trimming
The pathways were done similarly and then a blended trim was given to the fur either side to blend it into the fur line. I figures that some haphazard grazing might always occur along pathways in my period. I eased off on how closely I trimmed back the path as it neared the top of the ridge line, assuming the traffic to be heaviest nearest the town and certain from the mill to the town. There will be more stubble about the upper pathway than will be evident toward the bottom of my table-top.

Once the paths were cleared, I looked to trim back those areas most likely to be grazed upon the most. Lewes today still has sheep on it and of course the grassland or pasture needed to be trimmed back accordingly. I selected an extent which reached from the Lewes base line up to the path and contours ending at the windmill level. I took the pasture across the intersection with the upland pathway up to the natural rise which forms the spur running down toward the right side of the town. I ceased trimming on the rise of that spur as the other side is where the marshland commences and my terrain will reflect the habit of Lewes cow-herds corralling their beasts away from the dangerous bogs and sink holes over the other side of the spur line.
Grazed pasture either side of the track
Also, to be honest, trimming pasture land is hell on the scissor fingers and a little dull. I may represent some strip farming to the right of the town buildings but have as yet to decide. I don't want this turning into an impractical model - it needs to be a functional wargaming space. I cropped the pasture land by snipping in toward the base of the fur at about a 45 degree angle at about one inch intervals (very approximate) along a series of horizontal, then vertical axes. Apart from dropping the height and bulk of the fur, it presents as a tufted surface which is reminiscent of cattle grazing good pasture - those beasts being selective and going for greener, new growth shoots around the older, taller and less nourishing grasses. Am I thinking this through too much? Anyway, there are plenty of examples of this within the rural surrounds of Canberra which relies on unimproved grassland rather than the cultivated, fertilised and intensively farmed pastures of much of modern England.
Trusty dog brush - invaluable tool
Trimming the fur is a messy business and to keep things under control I used our dog hair brush. I could be as vigorous as I liked and the flexible wired side picked up all the loose fure very well indeed.

Now all I have to do is find all those photos I took of Lewes Downs to get my colour schemes before the next step - the spraying.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

TABLE-TOP: Building Part 3

The weather may have improved but my return to work has become more inconvenient when it comes to advancing my projects. A rapid deployment 'up north' took me out of action but I am back at it again. I might say that any terrain project of this size is going to have it's monotonous elements and it is hard at times to soldier on but the ends justify the commitment - at least they had better.

As is often the case, a break away from the coal-face often yields results as it gives me time to think. With foam layered construction of this depth, protecting the sides of each tile is an issue. Normally I would plaster it with soaked newspaper pieces and apply them with a diluted PVA (white or wood glue) solution as I have done for those areas of marsh. This has been a tried and true method for me when applying a paint/sand mixture for colour/texture.

This time I am experimenting with material - calico to be precise. I chose calico as I had plenty of scraps lying around and it's cheap. I simply soak (briefly) in cold water and apply to liberally white glued sections - smoothing with my hands and the brush. Plenty of glue is painted over the top. This is a wet, messy process and the secret is not to spare the glue. It has proven far less time consuming than my paper alternative. To avoid creasing or wrinkling along the top fold, I have to cut several vertical vents all along the top where there are variations in depth. This allows for smooth and even folding across the top edge along the varying contours.

I ensure that the calico is wrapped across the top and underneath the terrain boards, providing a complete protective seal. When the teddy-bear fur is finally glued to the top, the foam will be completely encased. When completed, I will be able to paint the sides, making for a more natural appearance - perhaps in strata if I can be bothered. When wet, the calico is really easy to manipulate and all pockets and wrinkles are easily smoothed out by hand.
I am very pleased to say the experiment worked extremely well, providing a plaster bandaged type seal all around the edges. Any irregularities in the fit between terrain boards will be camouflaged by the thick carpet of fur across the top of the boards - the joins should appear seamless. Finally, it came time to apply the synthetic fur - "The ram has hit the wall!"
I spend some time and experimentation with adhesives when it came to sticking the fur to the foam. I ended up using Elmer's Extra-Strong Spray Adhesive which is readily available and in international distribution. I chose this because it only needs to be applied to one surface, the surfaces only need to be pressed together after no more than about 15 seconds and it takes an hour to set. It requires no clamping (bit difficult for fur on foam) and is really tacky so grips very well. Also, and perhaps a primary consideration was that it is non-corrosive and thus preserves the foam.
I thought I might have to cut various shapes of the fur to cover the contours but there is plenty of elasticity in the synthetic fur material and it just draped across all the lumps and bumps, rises and falls of my landscape. I was delighted. I draped the fur across each terrain tile and cut individually - smoothing the fur across the surfaces and into each contour with my hands. The fur gripped immediately to the foam. I then lifted, or rather peeled back half of the fur from each tile and liberally sprayed the surface underneath. I did not spare the spray on this job and did give the underneath of the fur (the material side) a light spray to assist. Being mindful to count as I went, I smoothed the fur back over the sticky foam and an hour or so later, repeated the process on the other halves.

Once the edges are trimmed, it will be time for clipping the fur, forming the trackways, crops and flats.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

TABLE-TOP: Building Part 2

Having fine but cold weather these past few days has enabled me to complete my Downs of Lewes to the sanding stage. I have completed all eight levels of the Styrofoam construction, being mindful to return and justify the sides repeatedly. They need to be a near to perfectly square as I can make them, requiring re-shaving and sanding back each time a new layer is added .

As you can see, it looks quite the colossus in pure white and for the time being my car has taken up residence on the drive. The dots in the mid-left quadrant are figures from my Lewes collection to give some idea of scale. There was a time early in this build that I pondered whether to add another 300mm to the left of this shot (another half tile width) but then decided against it. The table is big enough and players need to be able to reach into the middle from at least one side.
I moved straight on to the chamfering stage and started out with a hot-wire cutter - this time a hand held 'Polylon' cutter which I bought on-line. It was about AUD25.00 and is battery operated. Whilst it was effective, the wire is not that hot and a very thin gauge and simply took ages to cut along the slopes. It would be best for foam sculpting and smaller cutting jobs. After losing my wire twice, I lost patience with it and resorted to cutting them off with my trusty hand saw. Much quicker but very, very messy. I'm no stranger to working with foam; however, so had my trusty vacuum cleaner on standby throughout the process.
I also abandoned the pinning solution for shifting tiles. The thickness of the ply base boards (9mm) doesn't really allow for pinning with anything other than the flimsiest of dowels. Instead, I'll use a Velcro solution which the tiles can sit on. I was about to get stuck into the sanding phase immediately but having already taken one trip to the home hardware store, I was not inclined to go back this afternoon for sand-paper. I could have sworn I had some!

I really want to 'uneven' the flat surfaces and blend the slopes into the terrain as much as possible. A tip for anyone else trying this sort of application of map to terrain is to go for as detailed a map as possible. I could have used a more refined contour pattern with more contours at lesser intervals than 50'. As you can see, my map has provided for large gaps between each level which don't exist in the real world. A good sanding and the use of teddy-bear fur for my ground covering should assist greatly in merging this structured look to the landscape - at least I hope so. When I do this in future, I'll definitely go for thinner foam but more levels.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

TABLE-TOP: Building Part 1

The Royal army edge of the battle field complete to basic construction
Well now I'm home once more, I have commenced building the terrain for my version of a 28mm Lewes 'Downs'. This has required about AUD250.00 thus far with a ways to go before completion. I bought several sheets of quite solid (and rigid) 9mm interior ply which was cut into 900x900mm squares (near enough to 3'x3' in stone age measurements) and 14 sheets of 600x1200mm polystyrene (white foam) 25mm thick. I went with the 9mm ply to ensure against warping and help anchor the built up terrain pieces - they do make for heavy(ish) pieces.

In approaching the build I have layered the foam, cut to the contours as laid out in my map (see previous TABLE-TOP post) and after basic construction I will sculpt the slopes back from the edges of each sheet. In approaching this particular build the first thing I needed to do was determine what thicknesses of foam to deal with.

Whilst the contours represent 50' in the real world, if I were to work strictly to scale at 28mm then each level of foam would be 230mm thick and the highest point of my table would stand over 1.8 meters or so (over 6') and I'd need a ladder to reach the top. So that needed scaling back somewhat. With foam thicknesses of 25mm the highest elevation will stand 225mm (10') from the base boards - this includes the first 25mm layer as ground level. This should allow representation of the gradient and an adequate visual 'feel' for the ground. I admit that at current cost of materials, the less foam the better but the table needs to be playable and stability for figures is a consideration across the rises and fall of the ground.
Adding level 4 using off cuts where I can.
I decided to drill the base boards along their internal edges for receipt of dowel connecting rods in order that then fit or lock together when assembled. There's nothing worse than shifting terrain boards especially foam constructed ones which will be bulky. With the base boards representing higher ground, they will be quite deep and the last thing I want is a gap to shift open during an accident and watching my figures tumbling into a crevasse.

This is the first time I have embarked on anything other than modular terrain systems. Normally a wargamer wants to use the scenery he buys or builds again and again and construct variable battlefields for different games. I reckoned this time; however, that if I'm going to take this much time and make this much effort to research and build an accurate army over several years which fought one battle then the least I can do is dedicate a small amount of my attention to the ground upon which that army fought. As with other projects of mine which are not so far advanced (Quebec and Balaclava) this is how I will be approaching my hobby over the next few years. I am fortunate that I have the space for building and storage.

Not quite all of the foam is new and I have several thickness of scrap foam stored in my garage which I have put to good use. Particularly for the bottom layers, it doesn't even matter that some levels have only partial coverage - so long as the outer edges are established and there is sufficient coverage to base the next layer on top. I have been quite free with my off-cuts - fitting them into external and internal gaps with any residuals cracks and spaces to be filled with expanding spray-foam prior to the sculpting phase.

Whilst I had bought some expensive (AUD17.00) spray glue there is just no substitute for wood glue or white glue. Any brand will do - the cheaper the better - and it provides plenty of coverage, a workable and reasonable drying time and a product for which there just is no adequate substitute. Each layer does require some weighting down to ensure a good joint - flat and even - so I'm using tool boxed, cans and just about anything heavy enough to get the job done.

I use a small hand saw (like a blade with a handle) for small,quick and dirty cutting but primarily I've been using my hot-wire cutter which I made myself from instructions I downloaded off the Internet. It's a bow style construction of wood, two swivel arms  bolted to a cross piece - the arms holding the electrical connections to the fuse wire and kept tense by a spring tension connection aft of the cross piece. I'm not going to do into any detail as electronics is not my forte and I refuse to be responsible for anyone else: it's taken me some time to be comfortable with my handy work - in fact, I'm quite proud of myself because it works like a dream. It's connected to mains power through an old model railway transformer.

I found that I had to sand smooth the edges of the ply bases as the wire will run into snags otherwise. To ensure an even cut (very important as the layers gain thickness) I sandwich the ply base with a spare section of ply in perfect alignment and then run the hot wire ensuring it touches both boards to get that dead straight cut.
My home made beast
I wear a chemical double filter respirator when cutting the foam - it lets off a deal of noxious fumes which tend to hang about a bit so I don't feel the need to off the mask for a while after each use. I am working in my garage and have the door up and entrance open to maximise ventilation. This is not otherwise an 'indoors' job.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

TABLE-TOP: Battlefield Planning

I have been absent for some time now from both home and this blog, but not entirely idle - I have been thinking and purchasing. It had long been my intention to commence building my terrain for this project once I had reached the half way mark on building the Rebel army, which I have now done. This was essentially to ensure a complete match between my table-top battlefield and my figures' bases. Whilst not able to commence construction for a further two months, I nevertheless require consideration of what my table top should look like.


Yes, you guessed it - opinion remains divided on the issue of where the respective armies both formed for battle and thus where the battle took place specifically on the Lewes Downs. As used to be the case with Bosworth field, until such time as a full archaeological survey is undertaken we have two preferred sites remaining to chose from in Lewes. Without getting drawn into this ongoing and academically speculative debate, it must suffice for this posting to say that I prefer the 'traditional' site supported by English Heritage - both of which are shown to good effect on the attached Battlefields Trust map (2004).


Happily for me, the specific area I wish to recreate encompasses both options and will be able to accommodate scenarios from both hypotheses. Now I'm no master at graphics applications in cyber-world but I do have a steady enough hand and eye. Attached is my detailed section taken from the Battlefields Trust map from which I have expanded a 3x hand drawn map which will serve as my planning template if you will.


This map represents a 6' wide (c.1800mm) by 9' long (c.2,700mm) table top which will represent a 1.5 kilometers by 2.25 kilometres area of the battlefield. As you can see from the sketch, it will encompass buildings from the outskirts of Lewes town and I have nominated placement of the windmill within which Richard of Cornwall took refuge.
The placement of the windmill is also open to speculative debate. I have chosen it's location based upon it being at the site of what is today the bricked up reservoir. If I have read my copy correctly, this is indicated on the 'contemporary' battle map English Heritage has generated (the square structure at the alternative dispositions of the right wing of the Rebel reserve ward).

The placement of the windmill makes more sense to me at this location more so because of my preference for the traditional English Heritage dispositions on the day; the windmill being located to the rear of the Royalist right wing and a logical place for Richard to have fallen back to in retreat. Because it is on the lower slopes of the Downs, I have included a second 'tributary' track off the Ogilby road following the gentler slope - allowing for ox carts and the like to traffic grain from the mill.

I have retained the Ogilby road as these routes were often ancient byways and it makes perfect sense that it was in use at the time of the battle and may even have been used by Prince Henry to advance the Royalist horse more swiftly and forward of the rest of the army.

The marshland to the right of the map represents the flood line of the river Ouse which lies just off the right of my table-top. Should a retreat and pursuit come into play in any of my re-fights, the hard going afforded by this feature will in itself provide similar results to any army being driven into the water - especially as is provided for by the Warhammer Ancient Battles rule set.

The terrain will be of foam construction based on 5mm ply sheet in 3'x3' squares (six in total). I have not yet determined upon the thickness of the foam sheets. Each contour represents 50' which, at a strictly representative scale would require sheets in the vicinity of 220mm thick. This would make for a dramatic and expensive piece of scenery. Instead, I am intending to make it more representative (and cheaper) and will most probably opt for sheets 50mm thick. This will be more in keeping with the scenic view of the Downs - it doesn't look nearly so steep until you march up those top slopes.

To grade the jump in contours between my foam sheets I will be applying compressed foam and simply sculpting it by hand (with gloves naturally).

My Rebel army frontage (three wards) should take up about 3' with the fourth 'Reserve' ward behind or even concealed off table. This should provide any re-fight with traditional dispositions with enough wiggle room (1.5' feet either side) for divergent approaches and outcomes. One thing is for certain and that's any scenarios I develop will need to take into account the affect terrain has upon manoeuvre with advantages for elevation.


All maps save for my hand drawn template were obtained from the invaluable on-line source on the Lewes Battlefield, provided by The Battlefields Trust. There is a wealth of visual and historical information located on that site and can be found by clicking on the following link to their Resource Centre: