With a number of historical anniversaries and new openings at properties across the country, there’s a lot going on at English Heritage this year. Here are some of 2015’s highlights
Restoring Eltham Palace to its Swinging Heyday
The cream of society once gathered at Eltham Palace in South East London for sophisticated soirées as the guests of Stephen and Virginia Courtauld, and soon visitors will get a taste of the Art Deco glamour as the palace has undergone a makeover. Previously unseen parts of the house have been uncovered, shedding new light on life in this 1930s party palace.
When doors re-open next month, visitors will be able to explore the Courtauld’s luxury wartime bunker, an extensive basement billiards room, an opulent walk in wardrobe, two new bedrooms and a rare 1930s map room. There will also be a brand new visitor centre, shop and café in the former glasshouses.
Marking 200 Years Since Waterloo
On 18 June 2015 it will be 200 years since one of the key moments in European history – the allied victory led by the Duke of Wellington over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. This year, three new exhibitions at English Heritage sites with strong links to the ‘Iron Duke’ will tell his story and reveal the lasting legacy of both the man and of the battle which shaped the continent for a century.
Wellington Arch in London, erected to honour the Duke’s victory, will host a new exhibition telling the story of both the battle and its legacy, containing significant items including the sword the Duke carried at Waterloo, his handwritten battle orders on scraps of vellum, and an original pair of ‘Wellington boots’. Across the road, visitors to Apsley House, the Duke’s former home, will be able to get a taste of celebrations in the Waterloo gallery, re-displayed with banqueting table and magnificent silver service, alongside a host of memorabilia and brand new multimedia tours.
Last but not least, Walmer Castle in Kent, where the Duke of Wellington spent his later life and where he died, will open with reinterpreted rooms shedding light on the life of the Duke, his career and his iconic ‘celebrity status’, in addition to other fascinating figures who spent time at the castle.
Telling the Tale of Dover's Role in the World Wars
A reinterpretation of the iconic Admiralty Lookout at Dover Castle is just one moment in a significant year for one of Britain’s most important historic sites. The lookout, located high above the English Channel, will be represented as a First World War anti-aircraft position, to give visitors an insight into the key position Dover held during this conflict.
This year also marks the 75th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation, which Dover played a key role in, with ‘Operation Dynamo’ being coordinated in the Secret Wartime Tunnels beneath the fortress. The anniversary will be marked with the return of the site’s spectacular ‘World War II Weekend’ event, transporting visitors back in time to give a taste of what life was like.
Events and Activities Around the Country
A huge series of living history events around the country will bring history to life for visitors at historic sites across England, from Neolithic life to the Cold War.
English Heritage will be investing more money in highlight events, including the annual Wrest Park St George’s Day Festival, Dover Castle’s World War II Weekend, and the Grand Medieval Joust at Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire – so you’ll get more live historic action than ever before. Plus, for the first time, English Heritage will host a new event in September at Hadrian’s Wall sites, bringing this iconic monument to life with world-leading Roman living history and activities.
So where will your historic travels take you this year? With so much going on, your only challenge might be choosing where to start!