Places like Studley, Bidford and Alcester were not entirely cut off from the outside world in mediaeval times; what roads there were supported a large variety of travellers on foot, horseback and cart. The lack of good roads and motor transport did not stop people from visiting towns and large villages on all sorts of missions: these folk, though regular in their visits, must have seemed the 'jet set' of the day, bringing a whiff of excitement from exotic places.
Among the most colourful characters on the road were the MINSTRELS. A minstrel was a professional entertainer, skilled at singing and playing as well as acting as a comedian and sometimes juggling or doing a ventriloquist act. His main income came from local lords and wealthy citizens, who, from the 13th century copied the patronage given by royalty to their minstrels. Many of these entertainers travelled from manor house to manor house in a regular pattern: as with today's out of work actors (said to be resting) mediaeval minstrels had periods between their engagements and took to the roads to earn an honest shilling at local fairs. Alcester probably saw a lot of them, with half a dozen manor houses in the vicinity and three annual fairs. Mediaeval historians suggest that by Tudor times the country was overrun by them and nearly every other traveller was an entertainer of some kind.
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© Alcester & District Local History Society 1991