October’s Letter From The Curator (2021)

Dear Friends,

Such a warm September and now flames of colour are licking through the trees below the castle and in-between the wet and windy clouds I can definitely see patches of bright blue sky. We have just closed for the season for general entry, but the Castle remains open throughout the winter for pre-booked events. We shall be organising several of our own, open to anyone who books with us, but we are also happy to take bookings for events for twenty people or more, ideal for schools and works outings. Some people have booked their Christmas parties already – it still feels like ‘already’ but actually it’s not that far away.

October is a month of great change and the time, later in the month, when our ancestors believed that the veil between the living and the dead was at its thinnest and thus Halloween is a time for ghost stories round the fire and ghost hunts. We have a lot of ghost hunts here at the castle and they are both fascinating and often frightening in equal measure.  Do look at the castle website as we have some extraordinary events planned for that particular week. Amongst them is my one annual appearance as ‘The Witch of Manningtree” who is based on real witches in the seventeenth century. My staff hate me playing it, and bolt down the hatches as they all swear the tale I tell is so terrifying, it wakes up the castle and that lights go on and off and doors bang. It might just be that I appear tortured and ranting, having been already “questioned” by the self-styled Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins, who also existed. Although dead by his late twenties, Hopkins was responsible for a vast number of arrests and deaths, helped by his accomplices. So if you want to have a scary evening during Halloween  week, as most of us became sick of the TV during lockdown, do come and see my witch and be warned….

We’ve had a wonderful few months, as back to normal as we could hope for in such strange times. Thanks to everyone who has visited. Beautiful fairy-tale weddings, screamingly good ghost hunts and lots of character talks. Gosh, I missed the talks and now people are coming back in numbers, and we are joyful to be back together again. Our menus have been updated and much appreciated, so congratulations to our caterers. Nothing is being taken for granted in these strange times.

  I am appearing in Lichfield cathedral during the week ahead of me as the brilliant Victorian novelist George Eliot. Many people have heard of” The Mill on the Floss “ and “Middlemarch”, but know little about the radical author herself. Some people have stopped me in the street thinking I am now playing a man but it was a pen name you will be glad to hear. George Eliot came from Nuneaton so was fairly local. She would certainly have known the cathedral in the centre of Lichfield, so the link is moving for me.

There are lots of other costumed appearances coming up but most away from the castle and many hundreds of miles away. Every corner of Great Britain seems hungry for history, if the sweep of geography where I am appearing is anything to go by. People often have no idea I travel so far and that includes abroad too. I am looking forward to really getting going with my newest character, Henry III’s first wife Katherine of Aragon.

Thank you to the hundreds who have bought my book and particularly those who have been kind enough to write to me to say they enjoyed it. The next one is well underway… All will be revealed soon.

Thank you for your constant support and I send greetings to those who ready this article from far shores.

Keep warm

Lesley Smith