Things to Do

Top 5 Things To Do in January

This January we've got plenty of ideas to help you step into history.

Make the most of the season with a breathtaking winter walk. Or go behind the scenes to discover how we preserve England's history. Read on to discover fascinating people, must-see artefacts and captivating videos.

The Month In History

  • On 10 January 1863, the London Underground came into operation. It was 70 years later that Harry Beck designed the iconic map of the network, which has since inspired similar metro maps around the world. Beck is commemorated with a blue plaque.
  • Elizabeth I was crowned queen regnant of England and Ireland on 15 January 1559. Her relationship with Lord Robert Dudley is famed, and the queen granted him Kenilworth Castle in 1563.
  • The ship Resolution, sailing under Captain James Cook, became the first vessel to cross the Antarctic Circle on the 17 January 1773. A slate plaque marks the site where his London house used to stand.
  • On 14 January 1878, Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated his new invention – the telephone – to Queen Victoria at Osborne, her holiday home on the Isle of Wight. Calls were made to Cowes, Southampton and London, as well as the Swiss Cottage within Osborne’s grounds.
  • The now-classic horror novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was published anonymously by Mary Shelley on 1 January 1818. Tilbury Fort on the bank of the Thames features in the story, one of many historic places that feature in literature.
  • Winston Churchill passed away on 24 January 1965. As a war leader, Churchill used his extraordinary energy and inspirational speeches to rally the nation. A blue plaque marks his Kensington home.
  • London became the first city in the world to be lit by gas lighting in January 1807. Thirteen lamps were installed along Pall Mall, which by the 1820s had expanded to 40,000 along 215 miles of London’s streets. Find out more about the illuminating history of lighting.

1. Go behind the scenes at English Heritage

A lot goes in to maintaining and restoring over 400 historic places. Use our behind the scenes playlist to uncover how we protect England’s past.

The playlist contains a range of videos from Cornish Cannon Conservation to 1930s cocktail recipes. Discover how we restore historic paintings to their former glory, such as Titian’s Orpheus and Botticelli’s the Virgin and Child. Gain insider insight into how we maintain our iconic gardens at Belsay Hall and Castle, and follow from plot to plate to see the process of preparing delicious seasonal produce for visitors to Walmer Castle. Learn How England Was Made: a series which explores the construction of several sites ranging from Neolithic Mines to Stott Park Bobbin Mill.

The series Homes through History offers the chance to meet residents of these historical homes as they give tours and answer kids’ questions. Get children involved and go behind the scenes of history with the Porter of St Mawes, the Woodward of Boscobel House and Apsley House’s Housekeeper.

Discover more about the places under our care and the dedicated people who maintain them.

Watch the playlist
Chesters Roman Fort and Museum, Northumberland

2. Discover our collections

Our properties are home to some of the country’s finest collections of ancient objects. This January, explore vast collections of fascinating artefacts and unearth their history.

Down House in Kent houses an array of scientific tools and personal objects which helped Charles Darwin form his theory of evolution. Ranger’s House in London contains the Wernher Collection, which consists of over 700 works of fine and decorative art.

Chesters Roman Fort and Museum was built in the 1890s and includes many of the discoveries unearthed by Victorian antiquarian John Clayton. The collection contains hundreds of fascinating finds from the central section of Hadrian’s Wall, ranging from jewellery to religious items and even the famous Corbridge Hoard.

Eltham Palace in London contains a beautiful 1930s art deco mansion, once home to wealthy art patrons Stephen and Virginia Courtauld. Alongside 1930s furniture and fittings, Eltham also contains a collection of Jacobean furniture and several original paintings, including a John Crome. There’s even a unique stitched leather map of Eltham.

Plan your visit
Osborne, Isle of Wight

3. Enjoy a winter walk

It’s time to wrap up warm and go on an adventure. Use our travel guides to make the most of winter.

We’ve compiled a list of a scenic routes between some of our most atmospheric properties. We also asked our Members for recommendations of their favourite sites to visit during the winter months. Several mentioned that our sites are more peaceful this time of year and offer dramatic winter landscapes.

Many English Heritage properties are dog friendly, so check out this guide of dog friendly properties if you want to bring your four-legged friend along on a winter walk.

Find a winter walk

4. Unearth the Stories Behind the Blue Plaques

Our iconic blue plaques represent extraordinary individuals. Learn more about their contribution to history and the people behind the plaque.

With over 900 official plaques there’s plenty of history to choose from. Many plaques play tribute to the work of talented individuals working in the medical field, dubbed Heroes of Health. Pioneering women also hold many plaques, as their exceptional efforts brought about the access to education and employment for women. An increasing number of blue plaques celebrate black history, such as that of Ellen and William Craft. The Crafts were African American freedom fighters who fled to Britain where they continued to support anti-slavery efforts. Several plaques are dedicated to LGBTQ figures, many of whom helped to challenge public perceptions of gender and sexuality in the fight for equality.

Find out more
Ranger's House, The Wernher Collection. Conservation of self-portrait by an unknown artist from the Wellington

5. Learn about the science that goes into our conservation

With half a million artefacts in the English heritage collection, the work completed by our conservators, conservation scientists and collections care assistants is vital.

The conservation efforts encompass a vast amount of artefacts, including unique clothes and original paintings. And much work goes into preserving the buildings and gardens themselves. In order to maintain these irreplaceable pieces of history, we control light, humidity, insects, mould, pollution, temperature, vibration and cleaning methods. Relying on science to inform our decisions often calls for first hand research and collaboration with other institutions.

One research project - Operation Clothes Moth - relied heavily on the public’s participation. Over 4500 clothes moth traps were distributed to collect data of rising moth numbers. The results informed our strategies to prevent infestations and damage to items of historic clothing.

Find out more
'step into englands story