Summer is in full swing, and there’s lots going on at our historic places all across England. As the school holidays begin, our Medieval Knights Season gets underway with live jousts and knights tournaments. New openings at Hailes Abbey, Osborne and St Augustine’s Abbey are bringing the stories of our sites to life, including the first English Heritage VR experience. Plus, our programme of summer events is packed with great days out for the family. It’s the perfect time of year to get out there and explore all that England has to offer.
Did you know?
- Man first walked on the moon on 20 July 1969. An estimated television audience of 530 million watched Apollo 11’s launch on 16 July – and even more tuned in for Neil Armstrong’s first step.
- In July 1928, a law was passed in the House of Commons to prevent the sale of alcohol to anyone under the age of 18. The campaign to raise the legal age of drinking in Britain was lead by MP Lady Nancy Astor – and the bill – nicknamed ‘Lady Astor’s Bill’, won by 257 votes to 10.
- Julius Caesar proposed a reformed calendar (the Julian calendar) in 45BC. After his death, the ancient Roman Senate renamed the month of Quintilis after him – and it’s now known as July.
Discover the hidden story of Hailes Abbey
A new museum at Hailes Abbey explores the dramatic story of the Cotswold monastery, bringing to life three centuries of tradition. The many artefacts on display include a rare fragment of 14th-century monk’s spectacles, a new invention at the time. Learn more about the shrine that was reputed to hold the blood of Christ, which made the abbey a site of international pilgrimage for 300 years, known to popes and kings.
Enjoy the terrace where Queen Victoria painted and wrote
Queen Victoria’s garden terrace at her holiday home of Osborne on the Isle of Wight was a creative retreat, a place where she could read, write and paint in peace. Newly reopened following major conservation, the Lower Terrace can now be explored in all its glory. The central Andromeda fountain has been restored, and the recognisable ‘Osborne Yellow’ hue, originally inspired by the warm Italian sun.
Experience a 16th-century abbey ‘rebuilt’ in virtual reality
Visit the Benedictine monastery of St Augustine’s Abbey in Kent this July to experience medieval England like never before. A new VR experience has been developed in partnership with the University of Kent. Wearing an Oculus Rift headset, you can step back in time to the 16th century and see parts of the abbey ‘rebuilt’ in all their ornate glory. Be one of the first to see this beautiful site reimagined as it would have been in its heyday, as well as new family-focused interpretation allowing families to explore life as a medieval monk.
Visit the Secret Wartime Tunnels where the Dunkirk evacuation was planned
Christopher Nolan’s summer blockbuster ‘Dunkirk’ will be released in the UK on 21 July. The film follows the events of May 1940 as British troops were evacuated from Normandy – but the story of Operation Dynamo, planned deep under Dover Castle, is even more extraordinary. And it’s brought to life in the Secret Wartime Tunnels. See, hear and feel the danger as the events and people from the Dunkirk evacuation are made real with special effects, projections and real film footage. Arrive early to make sure you get a tour time. You can also see costumes from the film until 31 August.
Events not to be missed this month
Grand Medieval Joust, Sunday 9 July, Eltham Palace, London
As part of our Medieval Knights Season, join our brave knights at Eltham Palace and feel the heat of the contest as they clash on horseback at speeds of up to 30mph. Cheer on your favourite in this thundering battle of honour. Soak up the medieval way of life in the colourful encampments and be entertained by the naughty court jester while your budding young knights are put through their paces.
Dracula, Sunday 23 July, Whitby Abbey, North Yorkshire
Think you know the story of Dracula? Think again. To truly understand Bram Stoker’s gothic icon, see his tale performed live in the setting of the writer’s inspiration, Whitby Abbey. Take in the gothic splendour of one of the most atmospheric abbeys in England, as three actors bring the famous story of Dracula to life before your eyes. Follow the actors among the ruin as the drama unfolds to really step into the story.
Medieval Falconry, Tuesday 25 July, Warkworth Castle, Northumberland
Join our costumed master falconers at Warkworth Castle in Northumberland and witness spectacular aerial displays of birds of prey in flight. Discover how these birds were used by nobles of the medieval period for sport and for the table.
Somewhere to visit in July
A beautiful shot of the atmospheric Whitby Abbey commanding the hilltop over the harbour! This dramatic image was submitted by @martinjefferies on his recent visit to the abbey this weekend – thanks Martin! To see your snaps featured on our page, just tag us @englishheritage or #englishheritage. We love seeing your adventures! #englishheritage #whitby #whitbyabbey #view #harbour #sea #britain #visitbritain #seaside #englisheritagesites #conservation #history #charity
On this day in history
16 July 1557 – Anne of Cleves, fourth wife of Henry VIII, dies of natural causes.
1 July 1858 – Charles Darwin presents a paper on his theory of evolution to the Linnean Society of London. The paper receives little notice, but leads Darwin to write an abstract which was published the following year as his book On the Origin of Species.
9 July 1877 – The first Lawn Tennis Championship is played at Wimbledon. The tournament was played on the existing croquet lawns, and Spencer Gore took the men’s title among 22 competitors. The prize of £12 would be worth almost £1,300 in today’s money.