Autumn is here and we’ve enjoyed an action-packed summer here at English Heritage. But as we move into the new season, the fun and discovery continues. Our popular Halloween events get underway towards the end of the month, with frights and horrors waiting at historic houses, castles and abbeys from Cumbria to Cornwall. Plus, don’t miss the epic Battle of Hastings re-enactment on the very battlefield where events unfolded in 1066.
Keep reading for your ticket to a month of history…
Did you know? 🤔
- Modern Halloween originally evolved from the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in) celebrated in the United Kingdom and northern France on 1 November. This time of year was associated with death, and the belief that the transition from summer to winter was the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead. It was said that the spirits of the dead would return to the world on the night of 31 October.
- Jack o’lanterns were originally made from turnips, not pumpkins. They are said to originate from a man called Jack cursed to spend all of time roaming the earth with only a burning coal (inside a carved out turnip) to light the way, as his punishment for trying to trick the devil. Why not try carving your own turnip lantern?
- 31 October was also known as ‘Nut-Crack Night’ in parts of England. Nuts bearing the names of unmarried men and women were tossed into a fire, their behaviour telling the fortune of a marriage. Quiet burning was a good sign, but if the nuts cracked and leapt apart in the flames the courtship would be less smooth.
1. Prepare to be spooked 🎃
Our historic castles, houses, palaces and abbeys will once again be home to ghoulish goings-on this Halloween. As night falls, there are terrifying trails, spooky storytelling and creepy crafts for all the family. Then, in the later hours, grownups are invited to put their nerve to the test and discover the darker side of history…
- Fright Night, Bolsover Castle (Derbyshire), Fri 26 – Wed 31 October
- Torch Light Tours, Carlisle Castle (Cumbria), Mon 29 October – Fri 2 November
- Murder Mystery, Dover Castle (Kent), Thu 25 – Sat 27 October
- Tricks and Tonics, Pendennis Castle (Cornwall), Mon 22 – Fri 26 October
- Pumpkin Carving, Down House (Kent), Mon 22 – Sun 28 October
2. Carve a Halloween turnip 🎃
Today, the pumpkin is the fruit of choice for scary doorstep decorations at Halloween. But did you know that this is an American tradition? For centuries, turnips and other root vegetables were more common in England. Watch our new video for tips on how to carve your own Halloween turnip this year.
3. Witness the Battle of Hastings re-enactment 🏹
Join us on the weekend of Sat 13 – Sun 14 October for the spectacular annual Battle of Hastings re-enactment. More than 600 costumed soldiers will clash on the very battlefield where the real battle took place. Enjoy a full festival atmosphere with activities and ‘living history’ displays to keep you awestruck all weekend.
4. Explore our beautiful autumnal gardens
As the air begins to cool this month, our gardens are transitioning into vibrant palettes of oranges, yellows and browns.
Explore leafy woodlands, decorative flower beds and seasonal kitchen produce in our historic gardens, at sites from Victorian mansions to medieval priories.
5. Be ready for any weather
With the summer firmly behind us, our historic places are coming to life with autumn colours. But the new season also brings the risk of rain.
Fortunately we’ve got you covered, with our list of family days out to enjoy even on a rainy day. Whether you delve into scientific history at Down House (the home of Charles Darwin), see the Duke of Wellington’s original Wellington Boots at Apsley House, or learn about Neolithic life at Stonehenge, there’s something for everyone.
History through your lens last month 📷
Many of you sent us your photos from days out and events in September. One of our favourites was this gorgeous shot of Whitby Abbey silhouetted against the summer evening sky, taken by Andy Duggin.
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