In Part 1 of this post, I wrote about the construction and design of the various buildings that have become the Warwick Castle we see today. In this post I’d like to show some of the fun activities laid on at the time of our visit in August 2015 and a few of the displays and waxworks inside parts of the castle.
First, here’s the plan of the castle again for easy reference if need be:
The first thing we noticed on the gloriously sunny day we drove out to Warwick was the number of stalls and activities set up both in the outer ward (outside the curtain wall) and around the courtyard:
Warwick Castle was bought by The Madame Tussauds Group in 1978 and opened as a major tourist attraction. Throughout the summer holidays, fun events and activities are staged at the Castle, all aimed at attracting and entertaining families and hopefully, helping children to develop an interest in history. Entry isn’t free, nor is the castle owned/managed by either the National Trust or English Heritage, and families with several children would find it an expensive day out. In addition, there’s an extra fee for anyone wanting to enter the dungeon in Caesar’s Tower. A little about the dungeon later…
Most of the permanent displays are set out in the Great Hall, State Rooms and family apartments inside the collection of buildings along the eastern side of the castle, flanked by the River Avon. The waxwork figures are impressive, to say the least. These two photos show the inner/courtyard side of the buildings along the east side of the castle and a close-up of the entrance, which takes us into the State Rooms and many displays:
The first place we come to is the Great Hall. This was originally built in the 13th century, then rebuilt in the 17th century for visiting guests of the Earl of Warwick. It was further restored in 1871 following a great fire which left it in ruin. The displays in here are all connected with weapons and armour:
Next we headed to the rooms in the undercroft devoted to ‘The Kingmaker’, Richard Neville (1428-71). Neville was the 16th Earl of Warwick, who took command of the castle in 1449. He was a good administrator who did much to modernise and improve the castle, and in the second half of the 15th century he became the most powerful man in Britain. The exhibits describe his life and subsequent death at the Battle of Barnet. They also show his life at the castle, as well as the lives of others who lived there. Here’s a selection of the many photos we took – some of which were ruined by glary lights.
I won’t include photos of the various State Rooms here (i.e. rooms such as the formal dining room) just a few photos taken in the adjacent family rooms, which displayed events and characters from A Royal Weekend Party. This was a party given/organised by Frances (fondly known as ‘Daisy’) Countess of Warwick in 1898. The principal guest was the then Prince of Wales, later Edward V111. It is believed that the Prince of Wales’ infatuation with Daisy was the inspiration for the song that starts:
Daisy, Daisy. give me your answer do…
The song was written by English songwriter Harry Dacre (pen-name of Frank Dean) in 1892;
And this is a cute little YouTube video of the famous song, from kidsmusicshop1:
To finish this post, here’s a little bit about the gaol and dungeon inside Caesar’s Tower:
The rooms inside Caesar’s Tower are interesting to visit, although it was only permitted as part of a guided tour – and cost an extra £9.00 to get in. We were led round various rooms to watch a series of short dramatizations – some of which were a bit gory (all pretend!). One was in a torture chamber and another was a medical ‘operation’! Yet another was a medieval court scene whereby a judge pronounced ridiculously unjust punishments on prisoners who had supposedly committed some small crime – like stealing a cabbage. Needless to say, members of the audience were picked to play these unfortunate prisoners (my husband being one of them!). It was just a shame that photography wasn’t allowed.
Eventually we headed underground to the dungeon. This was similar to most dungeons I’ve seen elsewhere, with very little light and graffiti on the walls from prisoners of centuries ago. And awful torture chambers.
This image is from Wikipedia:
Apologies for the glary patch on this information board!
But the most interesting thing in this dungeon was this:
This grille on the dungeon floor is the opening into what is called an oubliette – a very chilling thing indeed. Any unfortunate prisoner put into to this tiny space – not even big enough for him to stand up in – was effectively forgotten and left there to die.
In the third post about Warwick Castle, I’ll eventually get round to writing about the event we actually went to Warwick to see: the joust.