Spring has most definitely sprung. Our castles, abbeys and houses are opening up for the summer season and our gardens are bursting into bloom. Now is the perfect time to spend a day out where history happened. Here are our highlights and top picks for April.
Did you know?
- April has been a month in the Roman calendar since at least 700BC, but no one is quite sure how it got its name. One theory is that it comes from the Latin aperire, which means ‘to open’, just like many blossoms and buds do around this time of year. Another theory is that it’s named after the Greek goddess Aphrodite.
- April features in the opening lines of two of English literature’s most famous works. TS Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ begins with ‘April is the cruellest month’, and George Orwell’s 1984 opens with ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’
- Various organisations have awareness months in April – take your pick from pets, stress, mathematics, IBS and jazz.
Easter – 16 April
Go on an adventure this Easter at our historic places across the country. Meet characters from the past who’ll help you on your quest to crack the clues and track down the chocolaty treasure.
Find out more about our Easter events and activities.
St George’s Day – 23 April
Join us as we celebrate St George, the dragon-bashing legend who has been England’s patron saint for nearly 700 years. The St George’s Festival at Wrest Park is the biggest St George’s day celebration in the country, but you can also join us at the castles of Kenilworth, Beeston, Bolsover and Warkworth on the weekend of the 22 and 23. St George will also be popping up to do battle at Dover over the Easter weekend.
Find out more about St George and our St George’s Day events.
April Fool’s Day – 1 April
The origins of April Fool’s Day are shrouded in mystery. The most famous theory is that it dates back to the 16th century, when the Gregorian calendar was adopted and New Year’s Day fell on 1 January rather than 1 April – those who continued to celebrate in April were the ‘fools’. Others think it has its roots in Roman times, and to an end-of-winter festival called Hilaria.
We’ll never know the truth – but if you want to channel some of that springtime spirit and get the most out of the month, be sure to join us at our sites across the country.
Arts and Culture Events
Brocken Spectre 12-15 April, Rievaulx Abbey
The natural phenomenon of the Brocken Spectre is incredibly rare, but you can see it at Rievaulx over the Easter weekend. Artist Charles Monkhouse is preparing a feast for the senses as you explore the abbey ruins in the twilight. Read more about the event.
Refrain by Verity Standen, 7-9 April, Richmond Castle
Sixteen conscientious objectors were imprisoned at Richmond Castle during the First World War. Composer and artist Verity Standen has created a new immersive choral piece to commemorate their experience.
Other picks for April
Witley Court Fountain
After a seven month restoration project, the spectacular Perseus and Andromeda fountain at Witley Court will be firing again every day from 1 April to the end of October.
The Great Rebellion – 30 April-1 May
The Sealed Knot bring the Civil War back to life at Kenilworth Castle. Roundheads and Cavaliers will set up camp in the castle as they prepare for battle.
During spring our gardens transform into a riot of colour as daffodils, bluebells and tulips begin to flower. Find a garden to visit.
Somewhere to visit this month
On this day in history
3 April 1043 –Edward the Confessor was crowned King of England at Winchester. After his death, Harold Godwinson and William of Normandy fought for the throne of England at the Battle of Hastings.
6 April 1580 – The largest earthquake recorded in England hit the Dover Strait. Part of the cliff collapsed, along with some of the wall of Dover Castle.
10 April 1633 – Bananas go on sale to the public for the first time in Britain at the Holborn shop of Thomas Johnson.
12 April 1748 – The death of painter, architect and garden designer William Kent, who was one of the originators of the English landscape garden. He designed the gardens at Chiswick House in west London and Stowe in Buckinghamshire.
19 April 1882 – The death of the naturalist Charles Darwin, who developed the scientific theory of evolution. He spent most of his married life at Down House in Kent.
20 April 1912 – The death of Bram Stoker, whose novel Dracula was inspired by a visit to Whitby and the haunting ruins of its abbey.
23 April 1684 – Clifford’s Tower in York was gutted by fire during a ceremonial gun salute.
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