England is a country which takes its history very seriously, so it is not surprising that there are so many history festivals on offer, to give the history buff a fully immersive vintage experience. Here we list the regular festivals which return year after year - from the huge, week long Chalke Valley History Festival to the new We Have Ways Fest. Some are ticketed, some are free, some cover a specific time period, others encompass it all, but if you are a lover of history, there will be something here for you. Festivals are listed in chronological order.
Medieval Fayre, Glastonbury Abbey, Somerset
22nd - 23rd April 2023
The Medieval Fayre takes place every year across all of the abbey grounds, right in the heart of Glastonbury. It features re-enactments, performances, demonstrations and offers an entertaining and immersive experience for all ages. It’s best to buy tickets in advance which are reasonably priced at £12 per adult. The Fayre takes place on both days of the weekend and you can buy a ticket for just one or both if you want to take your time.
Glastonbury Abbey was a monastery founded in the 7th century, although legend has it that the abbey was founded by Joseph of Arimathea in the first century. At its peak it was one of the richest and most powerful in England. It is closely associated with King Arthur as medieval monks claimed that Glastonbury was actually Avalon and that it is at Glastonbury Abbey where King Arthur and his wife Guinevere are buried.
Read all about a day at the wonderful Medieval Fayre at Glastonbury Abbey >>
Southwick D-Day Revival, Nr. Portsmouth, Hampshire
2023 Dates to be confirmed - will be a weekend in June
Southwick house played a key role in the D-Day landings of 1944 as this Georgian Manor house was the supreme headquarters of the Allied expeditionary Force and home to Allied Supreme Commander General Eisenhower, Naval Commander-in-Chief Admiral Ramsay and Army Commander-in-Chief General Montgomery.
The large wall maps that were used on D-Day are still in their original positions in the main map room, showing H-Hour on D-Day. The house is now home to the Defence School of Policing and houses a military police museum.
For one weekend every year around D-Day, the villagers put on a whole weekend dedicated to World War II. The centrepiece of the Southwick Revival D-Day weekend is the tours to the D-Day map room where you can take a period shuttle bus to the house, see the famous D-Day wall map, listen to talks by museum staff on the scale and detail of planning that went into within those walls for Operation Overlord and visit the Royal Military Police Museum.
In the nearby village of Southwick they have both home front and military displays, 1940s school lessons in the old school house, entertainment, a street market selling wartime and military memorabilia and a twice daily motorcade of military vehicles. Visitors are encouraged to dress in 1940s attire, either civilian or military
Find out more about the Southwick Revival Weekend >>
Chalke Valley History Festival, Broad Chalke, Wiltshire
26th June - 2nd July 2023
The biggest history festival in the UK, the Chalke Valley History Festival is now in its 11th year.
What started out as a small, local festival now takes place in 70 acres of the beautiful green Chalk Valley in Wiltshire and is attended by some of the biggest names in history, literature and politics who give talks to thousands of enthusiastic visitors.
There are re-enactors from every time period, demonstrations, a history festival for schools and much more - it is the most civilised festival you will ever go to and really is something special.
There are a variety of ticket options available and on-site camping for those who want to stay the whole week.
The Leicester History Festival, Leicestershire
2023 Date to be confirmed
Leicester History Festival is a free public history festival event on June 25th from 10am-4pm. It is not ticketed but visitors are asked to register online in advance. The 2022 theme was Empires and featured new voices in History such as BBC Broadcaster Jeffrey Boakye, the National Caribbean Heritage Museum and Best selling Historical Crime Novelist, Abir Mukherjee. Visitors also enjoyed expert guest talks on Russia, the end of the USSR and the Cold War by Oxford academic and author Professor Archie Brown and on China and Hong Kong (by former Sunday Times Far East Correspondent Michael Sheridan) to consider how history has shaped geopolitical tensions that affect us today.
Alongside this was a range of family friendly workshops and exhibitions for children and adults including Japanese Samurai history culture and weaponry with 'Samurai Joe' and Britain's leading expert on Ancient Greek catapults to teach youngsters how to 'Fight like a Greek'. Opportunities were also available for students to participate in Roman archaeology workshops or discover how to play children's games from the Stone Age up to the current day.
Find out more on their website >>
We Have Ways Fest, Nr. Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
2023 Dates to be confirmed - should be in July
We Have Ways Fest is a new history festival which began in 2019 and is based on the famous We Have Ways of Making You Talk podcast which focuses on World War II history. The podcast is hosted by comedian/military history fan Al Murray, and historian/author James Holland who started the Chalke Valley History Festival. They have produced over 500 episodes of their podcast and have developed a firm fan base of World War II buffs. They cover nearly every aspect you can think of connected to World War II and many of their episodes include veterans, authors and guest experts.
The festival is two days filled with talks, re-enactors, historic military vehicles, artillery demonstrations, a modelling exhibition, a bookshop and plenty of ale, as the festival site is in the fields of a Buckinghamshire brewery. This is a place for like-minded history buffs to get together and talk all things World War II.
Find out more about the We Have Ways Fest >>
Yorkshire Wartime Experience, Bradford, Yorkshire
11 - 13th August 2023
This festival is the north of England’s biggest military vehicle and living history event and it is a firm favourite in the reenactors calendar.
Over 50 living history groups from the first and second world wars can be seen demonstrating everything to do with the military side of the wars, from uniforms to weapons, equipment and vehicles. The festival re-creates large scale battles with full-on displays of firepower and massive pyrotechnic explosions and gunfire.
You can see the World War I trench systems in action complete with gas attacks and the use of war horses. Other lighter activities include military fashion shows, swing music, vehicle parades and several fly pasts. Fly pasts include the aircraft such as the Supermarine Spitfire and a Lancaster. There are stalls selling vintage clothing, collectables and much more on offer.
Find out more about the Yorkshire Wartime Experience >>
Tewkesbury Medieval Festival
8th - 9th July 2023
Tewkesbury Medieval Festival is the biggest free medieval gathering in Europe, with people travelling from across the continent for the weekend, living in full medieval style in living history camps around the site of the famous battle of Tewkesbury.
There is a large Medieval market, an exhibition tent, medieval inspired crafts and shows for kids, roaming minstrels, jugglers and a varied program of events. On Sunday, the people of Tewksbury hold a parade through the town.
The centrepiece of the weekend is the re-enactment of the battle of Tewksbury which was fought in May 1471 between the Lancastrian army and the Yorkist army. It was a fierce battle and one of the most decisive battles in the Wars of the Roses. Lancastrian heir Prince Edward died in the battle, paving the way for the Yorkist King Edward to claim the throne. Now over 2000 people in full battledress come together to re-enact this bloody fight.
Find out more about the Tewkesbury Medieval Festival >>
Market Lavington Vintage Meet, Nr. Devizes, Wiltshire
15 - 16th July 2023
One of the smaller history days, this is a locally run festival of vintage family fun to raise money for Wiltshire Air Ambulance.
There are displays of vintage vehicles and classic cars, living historians, demonstrations, falconry displays and much more on offer, including a fly past by either the Red Arrows or Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, which is still to be confirmed.
Find out more about the Market Lavington Vintage Meet >>
If you know of any festivals we’ve missed, or you run a history festival and want to be included in this list, please send us an email.