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Developing Guildford Castle as a tourist attraction

Introduction

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Comparison with other castles suggests we could enhance the visitor experience at Guildford Castle in the following ways

  • Trail round Castle Grounds interpreting the wider site with reconstructions and models
  • Creating an audio visual experience on the ground floor of the castle
  • Adding hands on exhibits
  • Using models to interpret the first floor level
  • Using volunteers as interpreters
  • Organising events to attract audiences

We not only have the remains of the Keep but also evidence of a royal palace. Guildford Castle is the best example of a castle for miles around and we have the opporunity to tell the story of castles from the Conquest to the Thirteenth Century.

I think we should look into the potential and costs of some of the ideas below.

Current Visitor Experience

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Model of Guildford Castle

The current visitor experience at Guildford Castle was created in 2004. It includes:

  • A ground floor exhibition area with a model of the castle, display panels and an admissions desk
  • A first floor providing access to historic features such as the chapel and chambers built into the thick walls as well as access to the viewing cage

 

Interpreting the Castle Grounds in relation to the castle

The Castle Grounds stand on the site of the original Motte and Bailey castle. Castle Cliff Gardens is the site of much of the Royal Palace built in the thirteenth century. It is hard for visitors to see the Great Tower in context but this could be improved using a trail, models, reconstructions and possibly a phone app.

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Model of Peveril Castle

At Peveril Castle in the Peak District a resin model has been placed outside and  it allows visitors to orientate themselves and see how the site originally looked.

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Model of Lincoln Castle

Lincoln Castle uses the same technique.

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Totnes Castle and the building of the Shell Keep

Artists reconstructions are another way of orientating vistors. Whereas models allow them to get a feel for the layout of the site, reconstructions allow them to imagine the view in front of them. This illustration is from Totnes Castle and shows the building of the Shell Keep. I have include it here because I think an similar reconstruction could be used to inform visitors about the purpose of the motte at Guildford Castle.

The photo of Guildford Castle at the top of this article shows the Great Tower, the original battlements, the ruined shell keep and the motte. It is quite a lot for a visitor to take in and I think a series of reconstructions or diagrams showing the development of the site would be helpful.

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Thirteenth Century Hall at Peveril Castle

This illustration shows the thirteenth century hall at Peveril Castle built by Henry III as was the hall at Guildford Castle. At both castles there are now hardly any remains and certainly not enough to allow the visitor to interpret them. This reconstruction is very helpful and a similar one in Castle Cliff Gardens would greatly add to the visitor experience.

 

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Peveril Castle when newly built

I have included this reconstruction simply because of its similarity to Guildford Castle. It shows the facing stone that has since been robbed.

Guildford Great Tower - Ground Floor - A/V presentation

The ground floor of the Great Tower at Guildford Castle is total enclosed space and can be darkened. It would be very suitable for an audio-visual presentation. An easy solution would be have a light show with sound that lights up different parts of the existing model (illustrated above) and explains the evolution of the castle. Of course, if budget permitted a more ambitious A/V production could be created which could add to the tourist attraction.

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A/V presentation/model at Lincoln Castle

Lincoln Castle has a very imaginative a/v which is a 3d model onto which are projected images of the site at different periods.

Guildford Great Tower - First Floor Displays

The first floor at Guildford Castle could house some exhibits but for conservation and security reasons it would probably not be possible to display historic artifacts. However, hands-on exhibits, models and display panels would work well.

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Dressing up at Carisbroke Castle

Dressing up is a very good way of getting children interacting with the past. At Carisbroke Castle people can try the weight of chain mail, put on helments and event touch weapons fixed to an information panel.

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Sword display at Salisbury Cathedral

At Salisbury Cathedral it is possible to pick up and feel the weight of a sword which is cleverly fixed so it can only be lifted about a small distance.

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Reconstruction of Peveril Castle Keep

A reconstruction of how the first floor at Guildford Castle might have been used would help visitors.  It is difficult for them to make sense of how the it might have looked. This is partly due to the fact that historians and archaeologists lack sufficient information themselves. At Guildford the changing use of the space over years can add to the confusion. It might have served as living quarters but also had an admistrative role and in the sixteenth century changes were make to turn it into a residence or hunting lodge.

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Modern illustration by Alison Merry show obeisance of Adam Gurdon in 1266

I have included this painting by Alison Merry (http://www.merryilluminations.co.uk) which shows Adam Gurdon bowing to Edward I and Eleanor of Castile at Guildford Castle. She has also done one of Edward III celebrating Christmas at the Castle. These are great paintings that could also be displayed in the First floor

 

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Edward III celebrating Christmas at Guildford in 1347

Modern illustration by Alison Merry

Guildford Great Tower - View from the Top

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Reconstruction of view from Totnes Castle

Guildford Castle allows visitors to view the town from the top of the Great Tower. At Totnes artists reconstructions allow visitors to imaging how the town looked in the middle ages. Although space is limited something similar would be very useful at Guildford

Interpreters and Events

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Historia Normanis at Castle on Heritage Day (2016)

Events are always a great way to bring a site alive and attract audiences. We are lucky to have Past Pleasures and Historia Normanis (www.normanis.co.uk)on our doorstep. There is a good article on historic costume from the Norman period click here

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Story Reading for Christmas Castle Event (2016)

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Past Pleasures at Christmas at Castle (2016)

Comment from site visitor

There are some great ideas here and not too expensive in the main.The council could try to tick some of these off next time someone offers some public art? The castle being fairly empty and the outdoor ideas here could together with the "new" museum attract a lot of people who I am sure would love to see Guildford castle brought to the fore more in the town. Is there scope for a guided "Explore Your Castle" walk? The recent Christmas at the castle event proved what a lot of interest there is, many people commented on how good it was to see the castle being used and "come to life". The public also seemed to appreciate having someone at the castle to talk to and ask questions of.