The Luttrell Psalter Film

Journey with us into the colourful pages of the Luttrell Psalter and across the fields of Medieval England

The Luttrell Psalter Film is a short film based on the famous images of medieval village life from the 14th c. Luttrell Psalter. The Psalter was made for Sir Geoffrey Luttrell of Irnham in Lincolnshire and is famous for its depiction of ordinary people. It is a remarkable and precious part of Lincolnshire’s heritage. The film was made to be shown at The Collection, Lincoln’s museum.

The Background:

The film was the inspiration of Nick Loven who devised, researched, directed, shot and edited the film. The film depicted the different activities that went on in the four different seasons and so to accurately represent the seasons, the film was shot over the course of a year. The project became a community-wide collaboration led by WAG Screen community group (a branch of Washingborough Archaeology Group) and was sponsored by local businesses and universities and invoved over one hundred local specialists, craftspeople and performers. It is very much the product of two local degrees; Media Production (The University of Lincoln) and Heritage Studies (Bishop Grosseteste University College), and both faculties have been extremely supportive.

The film took almost two years to make and the small, dedicated team of graduates have worked full time and unpaid for the duration. It was made on a cash budget of around £10,500, but with a great deal of support from local people – one company has allowed us to use two fully-equipped offices free of charge. We even resorted to a medieval bargaining system of exchange of trades; our harrow, for example, cost two hand made Tudor shirts!

We have found the experience extraordinary; we had to overcome awful unseasonal weather, limited funds, sick actors (people and animals) and other unexpected disasters. We have, however, met so many wonderful people and had so much support and goodwill that that experience far outweighs any of the problems we have met. We have searched out and found the local specialists we needed – often in the most unexpected places. The experimental archaeology we have undertaken has at times been ground breaking (literally). We have recorded music from the Psalter which has not been played for over 600 years. We have been involved with the Time Team, and Terry Jones (Monty Python) has become the film’s patron. We have also gathered an internet following and now have considerable international interest the film.

WAG Screen’s intention, apart from making a short film to inspire an interest in Lincolnshire’s medieval history and heritage, was to stimulate the development of a local film heritage industry to create jobs and opportunities for the very talented graduates and undergraduates from the two universities. We do hope that this is the start of something much bigger.

The film features an original sound track of medieval music and 48 minutes of extras, including behind the scenes documentaries, which explore medieval life and the making of the film.

A bit about the film:


Guided by the detailed and often humorous images of everyday life from the Luttrell Psalter, the Luttrell Psalter Film gives a unique glimpse of a year in the life of a medieval village. Filmed over four seasons, it shows the changing landscape with its fields and flowers, and the daily activities which dominated the lives of our forefathers. This 20-minute film draws on over 35 different images from the margins of the manuscript, allowing the people from the Psalter to walk out from its vellum pages.

The Luttrell Psalter
Women carrying a jug and wooden pail on their heads. Luttrell Psalter. Photograph (c) Jo Turner

A series of detailed images in the Psalter portray the significant events of the medieval agricultural year, from sowing to harvesting, including the odd domestic incident on the way, and these formed the basis for our short film. Our aim was to do on film what the original artist achieved on vellum through a keen observation of people and nature, an infinite attention to detail and a sense of humour!

(c) Nick Loven
Woman feeding chickens. Luttrell Psalter. Screen grab (c) Nick Loven
We wanted to recreate the richness of the mediaeval landscape, including the wild flowers, insects, animals and birds, which would have been so abundant then, and were significant enough in the lives of people of the time to be recorded in detail in the Psalter.The film includes a wealth of wildlife filming, which has mainly been done on Lincolnshire nature reserves, but where necessary further afield. For example, Nick Loven, director, (above) had to travel to the rorth west to film red squirrels (below).  We wanted to illustrate how deeply and intimately people’s lives were connected to the landscape and the seasons.

Nick Loven
Red squirrel, photograph (c) Nick Loven

Director: Nick Loven
Producers:  Pauline Loven and Chris Roberts
Costume By: Pauline Loven


13 responses

  1. Very much enjoyed this video and a brief study of the Luttrell Psalter. Enough to prompt a trip to Irnham in the Springtime and perchance a meal at the Griffin Inn. This was twenty minutes of enthralling viewing as a reward for your days and months of work. Tres bien.

    15 February 2011 at 3:24 pm Edit

  2. Very well done. Well worth the effort you put into it. Education of History is vital. If History teachers and professors had access to this level of films it could instill a greater history in who we are and where we came from. It is my belief that all History teachers should be living history or re-enactment participants.

    Keep up the good work.

    Sir Stephen!/photo.php?fbid=1112280203071&set=a.1112278523029.2017414.1108884544&theater

    27 February 2011 at 4:42 pm Edit

  3. Tony Watson

    What a superb, understated, literal translation of a seminal mediaeval text! This is film-making at its best, allowing the action to speak for itself – would that more directors had the same vision!
    I can’t thank you enough for bringing this beautiful manuscript to life.

    6 August 2011 at 11:36 am Edit

  4. Robin Dorn

    Utterly Splendid! A marvelous idea beautifully realized. The cinematography is wonderful, the evocation excellent and the matches between the ms. and film ingenious. Congratulations on an admirable project!
    All the Best,
    Robin Dorn
    California, U.S.A.

    9 September 2011 at 4:51 pm Edit

  5. jampan1

    very good. loved the info it gave u put alot of effort into it and it paid off very well. my history teacher would love it!!!!!!!!!!

    12 November 2011 at 7:04 pm Edit

  6. Brilliant! The film is beautifully evocative of the life close to nature, with the lightness of the psalter illustrations. I’m recommending it on my blog.

    12 December 2011 at 2:01 am Edit

  7. Elizabeth

    Thank you, That was beautiful, music, sight and sound. With all the hardships people were more aware of each other , and the animals and flora they shared. Will you make more of our history, we need this to remind us of what we were and what we have lost. Thank you,

    12 November 2012 at 12:29 am Edit

  8. MrsIpstenu

    Visually beautiful, and with such attention to detail. I particularly enjoy hearing the music; music is where I focused my undergraduate studies. I’ve already learned a lot that will influence my living history/reenactment activities from watching this, which I haven’t learned before from your (and other) primary source material, as I have a hard time learning through still pictures. I kept wanting to stop the film and ask some invisible teacher/narrator questions; it got me very excited to go and do some research. Thank you for this beautiful film.

    5 May 2013 at 4:14 am Edit

    • Thank you and please feel free to ask any questions – a great deal of thought went into every moment of the film!

      5 May 2013 at 7:35 am Edit

  9. Marina Schlegel

    A great film and homepage! Thank you so much for your efforts! It helped me a lot during my research on the Luttrell Psalter for my presentation about images of peasants in the Middle Ages.

    Carry on the good work!

    Marina Schlegel
    Braunschweig/ Germany

    13 June 2013 at 5:51 pm Edit

  10. Katherine

    Beautiful film, but completely misses the religious perspective that married nature and humanity. It is a medieval Psalter, after all; not Beatrix Potter. Where are quotes showing the interplay between the illustrations and the text?
    “He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, the green herb for the service of men, to bring forth bread out of the earth; and wine maketh glad the heart of man.” (Psalm 103)

    15 July 2013 at 12:46 pm Edit

    • It was not always apparent what the connection was between the margin illustrations and the text. It is something that we tried to understand and spoke to many experts, but the meaning was often elusive. However, we did not use the illustrations from folio 180 recto, which contains the text of Psalm 103, as the human figures were two men fighting (each holding the other by the hood and with their swords raised). All of the folio references are included as an insert with the DVD so anyone can study the context of each of the illustrations used for meaning if they wish to. You might be interested to know that the music you hear at the outset of the film is from the Psalter itself and was recorded in Irnham Church, the original home of the Psalter.

      15 July 2013 at 2:06 pm Edit

  11. I am reading a little book on the Psalter published by British Library, which has put out many lovely texts on Medieval MSS. I wondered if Internet Archive had anything on the Psalter, and it referred me to your most delightful film. Thank you ever so much for bringing this joyful experience of the Middle Ages to us of the electronic age. Your dedication to artistry and the generosity of all your folk have my gratitude and admiration.

    Marcel B. Matley
    San Francisco

    3 September 2015 at 9:47 pm Edit

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