The Festival

The aim is to excite, enthral and entertain about the past. All proceeds from the festival have, since 2012, been directed to the Chalke Valley History Trust, which promotes the understanding of history to all ages, but especially children.

The festival began in June 2011 on a small scale and as a fundraiser for the local cricket club. Club stalwart and historian James Holland had the idea for a festival but it was James Heneage, founder and former CEO of Ottakar’s bookshops and now historical novelist, who suggested a festival dedicated to history.

It began with the help of a number of local volunteers, among whom Peter Bell and Rachel Holland played a big part in that first year and continue to do so today. Jane Pleydell-Bouverie came on board in autumn 2011 and has been at the heart of the festival ever since. The Daily Mail became the festival’s principal sponsor in 2013, and it now consists of a week of talks, discussions, debates, as well as extensive and immersive living history and historic air displays.

Since 2013, the festival has also incorporated the History Festival for Schools. ‘An understanding of the past is essential,’ says Co-Founder James Heneage, ‘without that, it is impossible to make sense of the present or prepare for the future.’

2017, saw the festival move to a new site of over 70 acres in Broad Chalke, but still in the heart of the beautiful Wiltshire Chalke Valley.

Church Bottom, Bury Lane, Broad Chalke,
Near Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 5DP

Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

Sorry no dogs on site – including the car park. Please do not bring alcohol – there is a fantastic bar.

The Information Tent is generously sponsored by

“It has to be seen to be believed”

“The best history festival in the country. It’s fantastic.”

Designed to inspire, excite and inform.

Set in the heart of the beautiful Wessex countryside,
there is so much amazing entertainment for all the family.

Living History

With our wide range of living history, there really is something for everyone in the family to see and do. On visiting the festival, you will come face-to-face with Celts and Romans, as well as knights of Middle Ages, Napoleonic riflemen and Tommies from the two world wars. The best living historians are not only among the most informed people on any given period, they also know how to bring the past back to life in an exciting and visually compelling way.  Our living historians encourage plenty of interaction, and as well as putting on numerous displays and demonstrations, there are  plenty of activities for you to get in involved with too. Expect guns, armour, ancient skills, tanks, cookery from the past, dancing, music and a unique glimpse into the past…

Talks + Debates

Some very familiar faces can be seen mingling with crowds of eager history enthusiasts, as they join us to give talks, or take part in discussions. This year, for example, you might see Monty Don and Ken Clarke cross your path, or Antony Beevor and Dan Snow.

Throughout the week, we host a large and wide-ranging number of talks, from the time of the ancients to more contemporary subjects. There are hard-hitting discussions on contemporary issues placing them in their historical context, as well as a comedy panel show and a number of events specifically for children. We have household names and eminent historians, and brilliant performers who understand that the best way to impart their own love of history is to both inform and entertain. There will also be a chance to meet World War II veterans as well as Jacques Altmann, a French holocaust survivor.

Festival for schools

The Chalke Valley History Festival also plays host to an important History Festival for schools. Thousands of pupils from primary school to sixth formers visit the festival in the first half of the week on special days dedicated to different year groups. Blending talks by eminent historians with interactive living history and demonstrations, this is a crucial part of what we do at the festival.

Three days of history featuring a wide range of curriculum-based subjects delivered by leading historians. From 1066, through the Tudors and the First World War, and the Cold War, the programme offers a series of lectures, seminars, living history and inter-active demonstrations to bring history alive and inspire Year 6 -8, and Year 10 and 12 students.

In fact, we believe so strongly that everyone should enjoy and benefit from understanding history, that we’ve set up a charitable educational trust. All profits from the festival are ploughed back into the Chalke Valley History Trust.

BBC’s report on CVHF

We hope this has given you a brief taste of what we have on offer. Our festival is an intimate but involving celebration of history, and one we hope that you are never too young nor too old to enjoy…