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St Mary's Gardens

St Mary's Gardens will feature 'Pirate Island', the Adventure Village, and a viewing area for river races

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HSBC UK St Mary's Gardens

The River Festival site expanded into St Mary’s Gardens in 2018 to create a chill-out zone perfect for those seeking a quieter side to the Festival. In 2022 this area is kindly sponsored by HSBC UK and there is still plenty to see and do here. St Mary’s Gardens is the new home of the heritage re-enactments, also known as ‘Pirate Island’ for this year’s Festival. Plus there will be plenty of adventurous activities for the kids brought to you by Canoe Trail. It is also the best place to watch the dragon boat races from!

On the other side of the river, Riverside Square will feature a static display of unique American vehicles presented by the Festival of Motoring.

Some of the highlights for Pirate Island include the following re-enactment groups and historical players:

Deeds of Arms

Deeds of Arms is a Hampshire-based society of historical players specialising in Naval Life below decks of an English ship of the line during the Napoleonic Wars. Join the men, women and children that fought against the rising threat of Napoleon’s naval ambitions. From shore to sea the Royal Navy of the late 18th, early 19th Century stood as a bulwark against the strife of the European continent keeping our citizens, trade routes and colonial concerns safe from piracy, pilfering and most awful of all, the French! Visit our shore party, meet the Lieutenant, Boatswain and the ship's Surgeon to learn about life aboard His Majesty's warship Temeraire, how they navigated, how they were punished, how they fought and how they were cared for in the aftermath of naval conflict that culminated in victory for England against the combined Franco Spanish fleet in 1805 off Cape Trafalgar.

HMS Wales

HMS Wales is a Navy Re-enactment group. We aim to portray the lives of those who served in the Royal Navy during the age of sail and Admiral Nelson's career. We mostly portray a group of Sea Fencibles (coastal defence), the Homeguard of the Napoleonic Wars, but we also act as a landing party of the Royal Navy, depending on the event. Our Welsh based group was established by three friends and experienced Napoleonic Re-enactors in January 2020, we aim to create an informative and interactive group for the public, as well as a fun and interesting hobby for our members. We are a Welsh based group, but our members are made up of people from across the UK, this helps us to illustrate the diversity of people and roles within the Royal Navy over 200 years ago.

Invaders, Traders and Raiders

The purpose of our company is to deliver re-enactment services that range from displays at Medieval Fayres to the selling of Replica Artefacts. The mainstay of our company however is our collection of Historic Ship replicas, which has been used successfully as a teaching medium in schools, museums and libraries and as a visual backdrop in all forms of Media work. We offer these services across a range of time lines from Ancient Greek to Victorians although we specialise in the Dark Age period of the Vikings! The company was founded in 2000 and has had many complimentary reviews. For Bedford River Festival, this will include a 27ft Pirate Jolly Boat, which will be land based and demonstrations including a Privateer with weapon display, net/rope making, musket ball casting, navigation and rations and trade goods.

River Rogues and Greyhounds

River Rogues and Greyhounds has been running as a pirate living history and re-enactment society. In the early years we have raised money by doing events for charities such as Cancer Research and MS. Outside of our events we have regular training days for teaching sword, musket, cannon and pole arms.

The Society of King George III (SKG3)

The Society of King George III was formed in 1993 by like-minded individuals from Devon and Somerset. The Group aims to bring to life something of the elegance and pageantry of the late-18th century. For the Bedford River Festival 2022, members will be dressed as officers and ratings of HMS Nymphe c.1793. The Nymphe, commanded by Captain Edward Pellew, had the great honour of capturing the first French frigate of the Revolutionary War.

The Coldstream Guards

The Coldstream Guards 1815 is a military re-enactment and living history society that portrays life during the Napoleonic Wars. Family groups are welcome to join us and experience what life was like during the period.

Redcoats & Revolutionaries:

Redcoats & Revolutionaries is a Living History and Historical Re-Enactment group based in the East Midlands. Our aim is to recreate aspects of the American War of Independence from both British and American perspectives. We craft clothing and equipment, and learn period techniques to portray ordinary soldiers and working poor of the late 18th Century.

What's on at St Mary's Gardens?


  • Go back in time at the heritage ‘Pirate Island’ zone
  • Dragon boat races on Saturday 23rd July all day from 10:30am
  • Canoe Trail Adventure Village, where kids can engage with their wild side
  • Festival of Motoring display in Riverside Square
Memories from Bedford River Festival 2018

 

 

 

Pirate Island Arena Programme

All displays are 30 mins

  • Saturday 23rd July

    Schedule of Events

    • 11:00 am Musket Display (River Rogues)
      30 minutes
    • 11:30 am Royal Navy Presentation (SKG3)
      30 minutes
    • 12:00 noon Redcoats and Revolutionaries Display
      30 minutes
    • 12:30 pm Musket and Drill (Coldstream Guards 1815) 30 minutes
    • 1:00 pm Cutlass Display (Deeds of Arms)
      30 minutes
    • 1:30 pm HMS Wales
      30 minutes
    • 2:00 pm Pirate Jolly Boat Talk in Encampment area
      30 minutes
    • 2:30 pm Children’s Sword Drill (Deeds of Arms)
      30 minutes
    • 3:00 pm Royal Navy Presentation (SKG3)
      30 minutes
    • 3:30 pm Redcoats and Revolutionaries Display
      30 minutes
    • 4:00 pm Musket and Drill (Coldstream Guards 1815)
      30 minutes
    • 4:30 pm Skirmish (River Rogues)
      30 minutes
    • 5:00 pm HMS Wales
      30 minutes
  • Sunday 24th July

    Schedule of Events

    • 11:00 am Musket Display (River Rogues)
      30 minutes
    • 11:30 am Royal Navy Presentation (SKG3)
      30 minutes
    • 12:00 noon Redcoats and Revolutionaries Display
      30 minutes
    • 12:30 pm Musket and Drill (Coldstream Guards 1815) 30 minutes
    • 1:00 pm Cutlass Display (Deeds of Arms)
      30 minutes
    • 1:30 pm HMS Wales
      30 minutes
    • 2:00 pm Pirate Jolly Boat Talk in Encampment area
      30 minutes
    • 2:30 pm Children’s Sword Drill (Deeds of Arms)
      30 minutes
    • 3:00 pm Royal Navy Presentation (SKG3)
      30 minutes
    • 3:30 pm Redcoats and Revolutionaries Display
      30 minutes
    • 4:00 pm Musket and Drill (Coldstream Guards 1815)
      30 minutes
    • 4:30 pm Skirmish (River Rogues)
      30 minutes
    • 5:00 pm HMS Wales
      30 minutes
 

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