September’s Letter from the Curator (2018)

Dear Friends

I’m sat here with a cup of tea, recovering from the excitement that was our Fairytale Bank Holiday Weekend 2018! The whole of the castle team has worked tirelessly to ensure that the weekend was magical, and indeed, it was! It warmed my heart to see our visitors making wonderful family memories- meeting their favourite princesses, having a giggle with the pirates and racing round the fairground! You may have spotted me at the event- I was the Fairy Godmother! I do enjoy the excitement of it all, putting on my beautiful dress and pretty pink fairy wings- but what I really remember from the event is when children share their wishes with me. I’m so over-joyed to hear children consider others- this might be a family member, a friend or they may wish for children less fortunate than themselves. It brings a little happy tear to my eyes- they are a credit to their parents and guardians! It wasn’t just the children who showed this kindness- I am overcome with gratitude to those who reached out to myself and the team after the event to tell us how much they enjoyed their day here. It really means a lot to me that they took time out of their day to send their thanks.

And so, with a little sadness, I look into September. We close to the public on Sunday 30th September, meaning that we will only be open for private bookings and public talks. We have had a lovely season- we’ve hosted so many wonderful events and welcomed thousands of visitors through our doors. The sun shone bright for most of the summer- really showing off the beauty of the castle! But, alas, the Autumn season is upon us and like many heritage sites across the country, we will be closing our doors to the public over Autumn and Winter. This does not mean that the castle goes quiet, however. Far from it! We will be hosting our Octoberfest celebration, Fireworks show, paranormal evenings, historical talks and Christmas dinners! Keep an eye on our website to find out more and to book tickets.

With the start of September comes the start of the Autumn season. The word “Autumn” is very apt- from the Latin work “autumnus”, the word has long been associated with “end of summer” and “harvest”. I was reminded of this when I arrived at the castle to find a vase full of lavender- our own little harvest from our very own Healing Herbery garden. For many centuries, castles and country houses have included a herbery garden such as ours. Various herbs would be grown to be used for medicine- recipes passed down through generations. It was usually the Lady of the House’s role to concoct medicines to treat the household. We often consider medieval and early modern medicine to be entirely backwards- that people had no idea how to treat sickness. But studying medicine recipes from the past offers a different insight- mint was used to treat indigestion problems, ginger to cure nausea and lavender to relieve pain- such as headaches. All these herbs are still used today to treat ailments.

So as I sit with my cup of tea, with the soothing smell of lavender in the air, I reflect on the summer season here at the castle- the excitement on children’s faces during a school trip, the laughter and tears of audiences as they listen to the tales from their favourite historical characters and the families enjoying a day out together-making memories. And I will take this opportunity to say “thank you”. It is because of you that this significant landmark remains. Your support means that this 950 year old building will remain standing so that future generations may hear the stories of people from the past.

Best Wishes

Lesley Smith, Curator.