Savages. Despite our favourite family saying being (in the most pompous voice we can muster) “We aren’t savages” we were. Well our ancestors certainly were. And despite all the history and majesty of Warwick Castle that is the one over-riding feeling I come away with. Horrible Histories is not wrong. A moat filled with sewage, a gaol underground that had an oubliette (French for forgotten; a pit where prisoners literally were until they starved to death), a tower where bears were caged for bear baiting Warwick Castle had it all, which means kids will love it. The display of armour and a staged weekend party in many of the rooms are all fascinating but what will really pique the interest of younger visitors is the gruesome history this castle has on display.
A Castle that is over 1000 years old and has gone through many changes in that time, but still manages to exude a sense of what has gone on before. As you enter the great hall you instantly find yourself taking a sharp intake of breath. The current great hall was built in the 17th century as the place that the Earl of Warwick welcomed his guests but sadly a fire destroyed it so what we now see is the restored version, built in 1871. And whilst many people were entranced by the armour display or the Kenilworth buffet (not as I assumed something dragged in from an all you can eat restaurant down the road) that was carved from a single tree in 1851, I was drawn to the windows. Overlooking the River Avon it was easy to imagine what a sight that was “back in the day”. They show the various Houses that have owned the castle since the time of William the Conqueror.
Known as The Mound, the above gives the most incredible view of the surrounding countryside and is well worth the climb (though obviously it isnt suitable for pushchairs). It has been there since 1068!
Warwick Castle is the perfect family day out, there is so much to do for everybody, from the Horrible Histories maze, to the tour of the dungeon, birds of prey show, archery and if you have a Merlin Pass, well you get in for free. But if you do need to buy tickets click here: Warwick Castle for some great deals. You can also find out about staying over, which we did and I’m sharing all about that later in the week. There are also plenty of benches around a central green so if you don’t want to buy food there (which was all reasonably priced, unlike some places) you are more than welcome to enjoy a picnic.
But back to windows. Lots of them:
The Castle also gives a wonderful insight into the lives of servants, how they would move around unseen in passages hidden behind ornate panels, or how what you think is just another small room, is actually their bathroom. I had to do a double take as I watched this bath being run
And this beauty. Known as “Guy’s porridge pot” it was used to make stews for the garrison of soldiers, and is around 500 years old! The tales it could tell.
As with all things for me though the real story was told away from the pomp and ceremony of the dignitaries that were entertained there. It was down “below stairs” where the story is told of how people prepared for battle. How cannons were assembled, horses readied and garments made to show whose side the soldiers were on. And also were herbs were gathered and made into pouches to keep the soldiers healthy
Warwick is well worth a visit when you are next passing. Make sure you follow the advice to use Junction 15 of the M40, and not do what we did and follow a sign from Junction 13. That takes you into the centre of Warwick and a car park that is always going to be full. Junction 15 takes you to the main entrance!
And I will leave you with this as it seems a fitting end since I started by telling you how savage we were:
This beautiful tapestry, faded now as it was made in 1604. But do you know how they stopped the colours running when they were made? Urine. Men were paid vast sums of money to drink lots of beer in order to then produce enough urine to pee all over the tapestries.