Above: Soldiers taking a break from the action at Dover Castle’s WWII Weekend, one of our most popular events of the year taking place this month.
May is an action-packed month at our historic places, and it can be hard to keep on top of it all. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide to the top 5 things you won’t want to miss this month, from real live medieval jousting to beautiful historic gardens in bloom.
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 monk and scholar, The Venerable Bede, died on 26 May 735. Bede wrote about St Hilda of Whitby, who — according to legend — banished a plague of snakes from the headland there with divine help. Watch our video to learn more about the legend of Saint Hilda.
- The world’s first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black, was introduced on 1 May 1840. It was the invention of Sir Rowland Hill who proposed the system of pre-paid postage instead of senders paying their postman. The stamp featured a profile picture of Queen Victoria, a design repeated with later monarchs.
1. Step into history with events this month ⚔️
There’s lots happening at our historic places in May. So much in fact that we’ve put together a page all about May days out, to help you to get inspired this month.
Events you won’t want to miss…
- WWII Weekend at Dover Castle
One of our most popular events of the year returns in spectacular fashion for 2019. Join us to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D Day landings with new activities and a brand new, theatrical arena show.
Dover Castle, Kent, Sat 25 – Mon 27 May (booking recommended)
- Legendary Jousts and Tournaments
Our brave knights are taking on ultimate tests of strength and skill this month, as our season of contests and tournaments begins. See armoured knights clash at high speed in a real live joust, or cheer on Roman warriors as they battle in sporting combat at Clash of the Romans events.
Various dates in May – click to see more
- Dracula at Whitby Abbey
Enjoy the story of Dracula in the very ruins that inspired Bram Stoker’s famous horror. Every year, Time Will Tell Theatre bring the tale to life at one of our most popular events. Afterwards, enjoy birds of prey in flight in the 19th century falconry display.
Whitby Abbey, North Yorkshire, Sat 4 – Mon 6 May
2. Explore England’s mythical past 🐙
How well do you know your local legends? The tapestry of English history is threaded with myths, legends and folktales, from heroes slaying dragons to a wizard building Stonehenge.
We’ve teamed up with artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins and the digital makers at Gravitywell to create a beautiful interactive map of England’s legendary tales.
You might be surprised by what’s on your doorstep.
Explore the map for yourself and watch the film below to see how it was made.
3. Lose yourself in historical horticulture 🌼
From rolling parkland and stunning vistas to elegant parterres and working kitchen gardens, we look after some of the most magnificent gardens in the country. At this time of year, many are at their vibrant best.
So whether you’re looking for a day out or inspiration for your own garden, we’ve picked out some of our favourites, plus how-to guides, recipes and more.
4. Hit the trail in historic landscapes 👣
The weather is warming and as we move towards summer there are fewer wash-outs and more blue-sky days. So it’s a great time to get out in the open air and take a walk through history.
Try a short, gentle trail in the ancient Roman landscape of Hadrian’s Wall, or embark on a longer coastal hike along the famous white cliffs from Dover Castle to Walmer and Deal. You’ll find our full collection of walking guides here.
5. Make your own ice lolly (the Victorian way) 🍦
As the weather continues to warm this month, we’ll reach for cold treats to keep us cool. If you’re looking for an unusual alternative to a Calippo or 99 Flake, why not try Mrs Crocombe’s Marmalade Water Ice, the Victorians’ answer to an ice lolly? This dessert of frozen marmalade and water is refreshing and easy to make.
See our YouTube playlist for more of Mrs Crocombe’s Victorian recipes.
History through your lens 📷
This month, our photo comes from Laura (@dinky1711) who took two intrepid explorers to the Easter Adventure Quest at Audley End House and Gardens in Essex. They cracked the clues, followed the trail and found the dragons’ eggs! There are lots more events for families to enjoy throughout the year, so don’t miss out.
Remember to tag us in your photos of days out in history using #englishheritage. We might even ask to feature your photo here next month…
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