About CVHF

The Festival

The Chalke Valley History Festival is the largest festival dedicated entirely to History in the UK. Offering a unique blend of talks, discussions & debates alongside a vast living history through-the-ages encampment and stunning warbird air show, it is a celebration of history like no other. The site is set in the heart of Wessex where Thomas Hardy meets an ancient rolling chalk landscape that has been trod for millennia.  Whether young or old, there is much on offer at this truly unique festival of history.

Living History

Each year, our site becomes a giant encampment of living history through the ages, from Romans to the Second World War, and with displays by some of the very best re-enactors and historical interpreters in the UK. With an air show featuring Spitfires, a B-17 and other warbirds, and with Sword School, Have-a-Go Archery, an interactive First World War trench experience, and jousts and battle re-enactments, there is much to see for all the family.

Literary Talks

Throughout the week, the Festival plays host to many of our most popular, passionate and leading historians, from Dan Snow and Jeremy Paxman to leading academics and well-loved personalities such as Ian Hislop, Al Murray and John Sessions.  There will also be a chance to meet D-Day veterans as well as Battle of Britain Spitfire pilot, Geoffrey Wellum, DFC.  During the week, we will be covering a wide variety of subjects from Ancient Mesopotamia to the Cold War and with debates, discussions, lectures, seminars and events for all the family.

Schools Programme

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.

The principal purpose of the Festival is to support the Chalke Valley History Trust which has been set up to promote the understanding, importance and enjoyment of history to the widest possible audience of all ages.

The Festival was set up in 2011 and was the brainchild of James Heneage and James Holland, two history enthusiasts and writers. James Heneage had a background in Literary Festivals, having chaired the Cheltenham Literature Festival. It was James Holland who came up with the idea of combining literature festival with ‘living history’ displays, put on by the best of the re-enactment community. Thus a completely new kind of festival was born, one that would appeal to anyone interested in history.

The second year’s Festival took place at its new venue just west of the Chalke Valley village of Ebbesbourne Wake. The area chosen was not only outstandingly beautiful, but offered the space and setting to do everything from lectures to Napoleonic battles to a Spitfire fly-past. The Festival went on for six days and had a dazzling cast of speakers including Ian Hislop, Jeremy Paxman, Michael Morpurgo, Michael Gove and Alison Weir. Over 14,000 tickets were sold.

Last year’s Festival was even bigger and better with speakers including Boris Johnson, Antonia Fraser and Tom Stoppard with an Air Display featuring aircraft from the First and Second World War.


James Heneage, Festival Co-Chair & Managing Director                             

James Holland,
Festival Co-Chair & Programme Director

Jane Pleydell-Bouverie,
Festival Director – Literary

Rachel Holland, Festival Director – Schools & Living History

Peter Bell, Treasurer

Rachel Sykes, Operations Manager

Hannah Bell, Box-Office Manager

Terry Barratt, Event Manager

Philip Ewen, Digital Manager

Dave Allan, Living History

John Davis, Air Display Director

Paul Beaver, Air Display Co-ordinator

Kate Guthrie,

Abigail Ashton-Johnson, Stalls

Katie Whitmore & Emma Flint, Green Room

Sarah Ewen & Pam Clover, Social Media

Harriet McCalmont, Brochure

Sarah Horsley, Speaker Accommodation

Charlie Radclyffe, Retail