The Festival

26 June – 2 July 2017

The Chalke Valley History Festival is a true celebration of the past.  Offering a unique blend of talks, discussions & debates alongside a vast living history through-the-ages encampment and stunning historic air show, ours is a festival like no other.

Set in fields in south-west Wiltshire, the festival’s home lies in an idyllic part of the world. Here, chalk downs, etched by ancient droves, overlook lush farmland and, during the week-long festival, a large encampment. It is a stunning spot – where an ancient English landscape meets Hardy’s Wessex. And for one week at the end of every June, this normally sleepy corner of England comes alive to the sound of Merlin engines, cannon-fire, muskets and music.

Whether young or old, there is much on offer at this truly unique festival of history.

There will be hearing loops installed in the front half of each of the three event tents.

Church Bottom, Broad Chalke, Near Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 5DS

Festival Site opening times:

Mon, Tues, Thurs & Fri: 2pm
Wed: 4pm
Sat & Sun: 9am

“It has to be seen to be believed”

Ian Hislop

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

Dan Snow

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 Romans from the age of Vespasian, 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 also plenty of activities for you to get in involved with too.

This year, we will be putting on two large WWII battles, with British tanks, artillery and infantry attacking German positions, so expect plenty of bangs and smoke.  With veterans and experts on hand, this will be as authentically portrayed as possible and will be an incredible spectacle.  The tanks – a Sherman, 17-Pounder Tank Destroyer and a Cromwell – will be on display all week, as will many of the other guns, armoured cars and other vehicles.

Also new this year will be our large section of First World War Trench, constructed to scale and using both authentic materials and techniques.  Marking the centenary of the start of the Battle of the Somme, our Tommies manning the trench will be living through that week in late June and early July 1916 as though in real time.  Expect to be given a glimpse of what a trench on the Western Front was really like and to be both enthralled and deeply moved…

Another feature this year will be the Battle for Wessex during the time of King Alfred.  There will be well over a hundred Vikings and Anglo-Saxons, as well as a Long Ship, shield walls, battles and combat demonstrations.

Meanwhile, throughout the week we will be putting on a through-the-ages encampment, and our living historians will be providing a large number of interactive demonstrations, historical narratives and offering a wonderful and immensely well-informed window onto the past. From Romans to the Second World War, and with displays by some of the very best re-enactors and historical interpreters in the UK.

Expect guns, armour, ancient skills, tanks, cookery from the past, dancing, music and a unique glimpse into the past…

Speaker Events

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 Mark Knopfler and Peter Mandelson cross your path, or Ian Hislop 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, including a German Knight’s Cross winner and the last surviving Dam Buster, as well as Field Marshall Lord Bramall, who began his army career during the war and who landed in Normandy on D-Day.  During the week, we will be covering a wide variety of subjects from Ancient Britain to the Cold War and with debates, discussions, lectures, seminars and events for all the family.

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 and best-selling historians, including Dan Snow, Tom Holland, Professor Peter Hennessy and Dr Anna Whitelock. From 1066, through the Tudors and the First World War, and the Cold War, the programme offered a series of lectures, seminars, living history and inter-active demonstrations to bring history alive, excite and inspire Year 6, 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 2014

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…