15 January 2013

Unlock Hidden Heritage and Secret Spaces This Winter

English Heritage is encouraging people across the North East to take another look at the fascinating history and secret spaces on their doorstep, as it unlocks a programme of hidden and unusual things to see and do across its sites this winter.

Child placing key into lock

Every English Heritage property in the North East has its own intriguing history and a visit to any of them won't be the same again as you take a fresh look at their fascinating history with the special programme of events and activities, designed to showcase each destination in a whole new light. 

The programme launches this month, taking place until March at key English Heritage sites in the North East and along Hadrian's Wall, where there will be everything from behind-the-scenes Roman stone cleaning workshops and 2000-year-old artefact exploring to historical pets and a sneak peek at some of the site's hidden gems.

Liz Page, Historic Properties Director for the North at English Heritage, said: "It's the start of a new year and we want to encourage people in the North East to discover some new things about the heritage on their doorstep. We're inviting you to take another look at the rich history on offer at our sites.  You'll be able to see and do things that you wouldn't ordinarily have access to at peak times of the year.

"The programme has been designed to give people a new perspective on some of the region's best-loved historical destinations, with surprises round every corner. Our sites are open every weekend and all the events, activities and new things to see and do are included within our standard admission price. So we hope visitors will use this opportunity to enjoy days out this winter."

Hadrian's Bust on display at Housesteads

Hadrian's Bust on display at Housesteads

Hadrian's Wall

As a World Heritage Site, the story of Hadrian's Wall is known the world over, but this winter, English Heritage is giving visitors the opportunity to get up close with some real Roman artefacts like never before, discovering the stories behind the 2000-year-old finds and what they tell us about Roman life, at the 'Roman Finds and Artefact Exploring' workshops (Chesters Roman Fort - Saturday 26 January and Saturday 2 March, 1 - 4pm and Corbridge Roman Town - Saturday 19 January and Saturday 23 February, 1 - 4pm).

What's more, English Heritage is inviting people to meet the Wall's creator throughout January and February, when a bust of the Emperor Hadrian will go on display in the new museum at Housesteads Roman Fort, with supplementary talks, tours and Roman object handling taking place throughout this time. The Sculpture is a plaster cast of the original marble bust of Hadrian which is housed in the British Museum. It was found languishing in the loft at Housesteads during the new museum refurbishment last year. It seems unbeknown to visitors and staff, Hadrian had been watching over the Fort for a number of years, as the bust was found looking out of one of the roof windows! Now he is on display in the museum for a limited time.

For a behind-the-scenes look at the impressive stonework at Chesters Roman Fort, why not join the conservator and curator for a series of 'Stone Cleaning Workshops' at the site, where people will have the chance to help with the essential preservation task of cleaning the stone altars and sculpture (Friday 8 February, 10am - 11.30am and 12pm - 1.30pm). It may be a bit of a dusty task but it will guarantee you have played a vital part in retaining these 2000 year old items for future generations.

Belsay Hall

Eagle eyed visitors often ask staff at Belsay Hall "Who are Polly, Mandy and Lucy?" The Middleton family buried their dogs in the East Quarry Garden and engraved their names above. Visitors to Belsay this winter are tasked with finding that secret legacy to the Middleton's pets as they take a walk through the Quarry. The pets' names are not the only secret stone engraving at Belsay. Visitors can also see the Belsay cook's face carved inside the Castle's log store. Legend has it that when the manor house was being rebuilt in the 1870s Sir Arthur Middleton had employed a stonemason to work on the property. The master mason took a fancy to the cook and to show his affection he carved her face in the stone.

Carving of the Cook's face at Belsay Hall

The Hidden carving of the Cook's face at Belsay Hall

Warkworth Castle

English Heritage will also be offering visitors to Warkworth Castle the chance to take a sneak peek behind closed doors to discover the captivating history of the Duke's Rooms, which contain reproduction furniture that the Dukes of Northumberland had designed and inscribed with their personalised coat of arms and designs. The Duke's Rooms consist of two rooms at the top of the castle and will be open to members of the public every weekend in January and February

Lindisfarne Priory

In 2013, Lindisfarne Priory is preparing for its star attraction, the Viking Raider stone, to travel to Durham to form part of a special exhibition, in which one of England's great treasures, the Lindisfarne Gospels, (on loan from the British Library) will return to the North East after hundreds of years. Throughout January and February, visitors are invited to come and see the fascinating stone before it makes this exciting journey. The stone has long been reminiscent of the terrifying raids on the Priory in 793AD, featuring a carved procession of armed men bearing swords and axes on one side and the imminent Judgement Day on the other, with two figures kneeling at the foot of a cross under a sun and a moon.

Opening Times

All English Heritage properties mentioned above are open every Saturday and Sunday 10am - 4pm until the end of March.

Find out more information, prices and opening times at all of English Heritage's properties in the North East.

You can also follow English Heritage on Facebook and Twitter