Winchester history student Mark helps bring Black Death to life for TV

2 May 2023
man in medieval dress

A University of Winchester history student stepped back in time to play the part of a medieval surgeon in a harrowing re-enactment for a TV documentary about the Black Death.

Mark Hobden, 62, who describes himself as ‘a very mature student’, can be seen in Channel 5’s The Black Death, made by Dan Snow’s company History Hit.

The semi-professional living history interpreter was filmed pretending to lance the buboes of plague victims.

Mark, from Hedge End, specialises in playing surgeons from various periods and is all-the-more convincing because he is a retired nurse.

In addition to playing a medieval surgeon in Fiery Jack’s Medieval Circus, Mark portrays an English Civil War surgeon and a 17th century pirate surgeon.

The Civil War character is based on Richard Wiseman, a 17th-century Royalist Barber-Surgeon, who later became Charles II’s, personal surgeon while the pirate persona is a composite of different real-life sailing surgeons.

Mark makes all his own costumes, based on original items of clothing, has put together full surgical kits and has even created a set of prosthetic limbs for ‘amputations’.

“My dissertation is on the attitudes to and perceptions of 17th century surgeons,” said Mark. “They are seen as butchers but they were actually very skilled and professional.”

After being diagnosed with prostate cancer, Mark retired early from nursing in 2016 and turned his attentions to history.

Thankfully he is now free from cancer and is about to complete his degree. However, that won’t be the end of his studies ­- Mark wants to return to Winchester to continue his research on surgeons of the past as part of a Master’s Degree.

The Black Death is available to watch on demand on My5. Mark appears in the first episode, Bring Out Your Dead.

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