With two bank holiday weekends and the half term break this month, we’ve got lots of historical inspiration for all ages. Our historic gardens are transforming as spring comes to a close and the summer season begins. We’re also continuing our celebration of Stonehenge being gifted to the nation, and a century of care and conservation, with a fascinating lecture from Professor Mike Parker Pearson.
Did you know? 🤔
- The landscape and portrait painter Thomas Gainsborough was born on 14 May 1727. His portrait of Mary, Countess Howe can be seen at Kenwood, alongside famous works by Vermeer, Rembrandt and Reynolds.
- The smallpox vaccine was first trialed on a human by Dr Edward Jenner on 14 May 1796 when he injected smallpox from a milkmaid into eight-year-old James Phipps. Jenner coined the term ‘vaccination’ for the new technique of injecting milder forms of a disease to encourage natural immunity. Read more about health and medicine in the Georgian period.
- The Dunkirk evacuation began on 26 May 1940, a bid to rescue the British Expeditionary Force trapped by advancing German armies on the northern French coast. 933 ships ferried 338,226 troops back to safety between 26 May and 4 June.
Step into history with events throughout May 🎫
With two bank holiday weekends and a half term break this month, it’s a popular time for family days out in history. To help you plan, we’ve put together a round-up of our top events. Meet Victorian toymakers at Audley End House in Essex, try the pirate musket drills at Dartmouth Castle in Devon and get hands-on with exotic critters at Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire or Belsay Hall in Northumberland. There’s something for all ages at our historic places this month.
WWII Weekend, Dover Castle, Sat 26 – Mon 28 May
Our spectacular wartime event returns for 2018, with more action than ever before. England’s biggest castle will once again be transformed, taking you back in time to walk among soldiers in the military encampments, hear tales of engines and espionage, get up-close with a spitfire and more. There’s also a new-for-2018 battle display, tea dances and a musical show marking the centenary of the end of the First World War. The WW2 Weekend is an event for the whole family to enjoy together.
Gothic Falconry at Whitby Abbey, North Yorkshire (Sat 5 – Mon 7 May)
Enjoy a weekend of spectacular falconry displays set against the beautiful backdrop of Whitby Abbey. See how the hawks and falcons hunt in the air and on the ground.
Medieval Festival at Framlingham Castle, Suffolk (Sat 5 – Mon 7 May)
Explore medieval England at Framlingham Castle, with combat training for young warriors, and demonstrations on domestic life, cooking and medicine.
Museums at Night at Apsley House, London (Fri 18 – Sat 19 May)
Take the opportunity to see the home of the Duke of Wellington after dark. Explore the resplendent rooms with period music, and hear tales of the house brought to life.
Recent Research on Stonehenge with Prof Mike Parker Pearson (Wed 16 May)
Join leading archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson for a lecture discussing how we are reaping the benefits of new technological advances to change our understanding of one of the wonders of the world. The lecture is FREE but places are limited.
This is just a taster. Explore our full programme of events this month
Hunt for clues with Dug and Hognob at Stonehenge 🔍
To celebrate the release of Aardman’s Early Man on DVD this month, there’s another opportunity to embark on an Early Man Quest in May.
Visit Stonehenge between 26 May and 3 June to explore Stonehenge in search of Dug, Hognob and the rest of the tribe. Follow the clues and complete the quest to uncover centuries of history in one day.
Hit the trail and hike through history 🏰
As the summer sun starts to show its face, May is a great time for walkers and hikers. Why not combine your next walk with a visit to one or more of our historic places? Our regional walking guides give you everything you need to plan a short walk or longer hike. Explore the ancient Stonehenge landscape, or visit three mighty coastal forts in one day when you walk between Dover, Walmer and Deal castles.
Let the little ones explore our history-themed play areas 👪
With the warmer days on their way, our unique play areas at historic places are exciting for younger visitors. There’s a model Swiss Cottage at Osborne, turrets and towers to scale at Bolsover Castle, and a play area at Eltham Palace inspired by the Courtaulds’ travels.
Once you’ve finished exploring a castle or wandering through the grounds of a stately home, head to the play area so that your little adventurers can burn off their extra energy.
Cook up a Victorian breakfast 🍳🐟
In her latest video, join Mrs Crocombe at Audley End House as she cooks up a Victorian kedgeree dish for Lord and Lady Braybrooke. This recipe is perfect for using up leftover fish and rice. It originated in India as khichri, a dish made using lentils, rice, onions and spices.
Why not try making it for yourself – a perfect weekend morning treat.
Somewhere to visit this month 💡
Brodsworth Hall and Gardens, South Yorkshire
Open every day 10am – 5pm (See full prices and opening times)
The beautiful Victorian country house of Brodsworth Hall was built in the 1860s along with its pleasure gardens. Conserved ‘as found’, it has seen remarkably few changes and offers an insight into Victorian aristocratic life. Explore the house and the stunning gardens, before stopping for tea in the tearoom. Younger visitors will enjoy the play area.
Find more inspiration for days out, events and things to do on our website.