A professional jouster was killed in a freak accident when a splinter pierced his eyeball during a medieval re-enactment for Channel Four’s Time Team, an inquest heard today.
Tragic Paul Allen, 54, died when the shard from his wooden lance flew through the eye slit in his helmet and pierced his eye socket, inflicting horrific brain injuries.
The tiny balsa wood splinter was sent flying through the air when a joust struck his shield at Rockingham Castle near Corby, Northants.
Mr Allen, a professional jouster and member of historical re-enactment societies, was filming an episode of Tony Robinson’s Time Team focused on Edward III’s Round Table.
The born-again Christian was taken to University Hospital Coventry and Warwick after the incident on September 13 2007 in a ”stable condition”.
He died a week later on September 20 from horrific brain injuries caused by the splinter.
The inquest at Kettering Magistrates’ Court heard how Mr Allen had given up teaching English to take part in historical re-enactments full time.
Adam Plant, the jouster who struck the fatal blow to Mr Allen, said he was happy with the preparations for the striking scene.
He said: ”As the most experienced rider I would make the strike. We both had solid lances.
”I picked up the one with the balsa taper and we decided that that pass would be the strike pass.”
Anne Pember, Coroner for Northamptonshire, said: ”In the past you have walked away from productions if you were not happy with the preparations. But you were happy?”
He answered: ”Yes. Paul was on the other side of the field. We both set off to meet near the filming crew and I was to hit his shield in the middle.
”There were no problems. The meeting point was as we expected.”
The inquest heard that Adam rode a horse called Merlin and Paul was on a horse called Murphy, which were both provided by Claire Chamberlain from Stables Star Ltd.
Mrs Chamberlain, who provides horses for historical re-enactments, was also asked to provide lances with balsa wood tapers that would shatter on impact.
She said: ”Adam Plant in my opinion is the most suitable rider used to dealing with opponents. I was confident Paul was an experienced rider of some 20-years practice.
”They rode without shields getting used to the horses then rode with shields and there was a lot of adjustments.
”Most people in re-enactments carry shields at some point. It has to be fitted tightly otherwise you wouldn’t be able to keep hold of the horse.
”Some people have them very tight, other people have them loose. Everyone has a personal preference.”
American jousting expert Mike Loades, told the inquest that the way the shield was fastened lead to the tragic accident.
”The main cause was undoubtedly the angle of the shield. The straps which passed through the arms are set up differently on an artillery and cavalry shield.
”The strike was correct and hit the centre of the shield. It was the angle of the shield which caused the lance to slide up and into the eye zone.”
He added that the type of helmet may have been a contributory factor as breathing holes obstructed a smooth surface on the left where the lance should glance off on impact.
Mr Loades recommended that strict guidelines should be introduced to improve the safety of jousting.
John Naylor, a member of Time Tarts, who was a performer on the Time Team production, was responsible for recruiting other jousters.
He said: ”Paul was a very determined man and one of his ambitions was to ride as a knight – he loved the camera.
”On this day I had spent time giving readings to the camera. Paul wasn’t upset but wanted a bite of the cherry so it was a favour to a friend.
”He asked to do the ride. I thought you’re as good as me, go ahead. I was aware he was very experienced at receiving blows to the shield.
”We were trying to minimise the number of things Paul had to worry about so the whole set-up was to keep it to an absolute minimum for the cameras.
”He probably wasn’t experienced at having breaking lances but he was experienced in gimmick weapons, breaking weapons and breaking shields.
”This wasn’t two knights jousting and striking each other simultaneously. This was one person striking a second which is what we do in training all the time.”
Mr Allen, of Heydon, Cambs., was a member of the re-enactment society the Hoplite Association and several other groups.
His wife Sharon, 51, told the inquest: ”Over the years Paul had considerable practice in using a lance on horseback.
”He would practice his skills with a lance by sparring targets on the ground or held by someone else.”
Channel Four agreed to show the footage of Paul getting injured in the jousting during a screening of the episode in 2010 at the request of his family.
A spokesman for the show said yesterday: ”We have been deeply saddened by this tragic accident and our thoughts and sympathies remain with Mr Allen’s family.
”His family requested we include scenes of the jousting session in the
finished programme; we were happy to do so.
”We are sure that the evidence presented at the inquest will be of interest and value to organisers and participants in the re-enactment community.
”We take issues of health and safety extremely seriously for all our
The Health and Safety Executive investigated the circumstances of Mr Allen’s death and found that all the necessary and proper safety precautions had been taken.
The inquest continues.