Last winter Bolsover Castle was the focus of a significant £1.3m project to restore, re-imagine and re-interpret the site as the home of one of the 17th century’s most flamboyant characters; the playwright, author, courtier, and horseman William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle. Perched high above the Derbyshire countryside the castle was built on the ruins of a Norman fortress as a sophisticated retreat for William and his family; rich and talented aristocrats whose main home was at nearby Welbeck Abbey. Today it gives us a rare glimpse of their dazzling world.
Bolsover has three main parts: The little Castle, an architectural masterpiece both inside and out, used by William as a retreat and for intimate entertaining, putting on performances, poetry readings and fine dining. It contains some of the finest surviving wall paintings of the period: The Terrace Range, a magnificent set of state apartments to receive large parties including royalty, now a ruined shell; and the Riding School Range, the focus of William’s life-long passion for horses. Here he trained his horses in the aristocratic pursuit of manège, a forerunner of modern dressage.
After their success at a number of other UK sites ATS Heritage was selected as prime contractor to create a multimedia guide and app, to replace the existing audioguide. The guide now plays a crucial role in the multi-layered interpretation of Bolsover Castle and is integral to the visitor experience with iTouch guides available free of charge on site, or downloaded as an app pre-visit.
ATS’s brief was to “break down barriers to participation” and “to be as inclusive as possible”. In response ATS created a family and an adult tour and carefully targeted them at English Heritage’s predicted visitor profile. The family tour is rich with interactive games and animations and uses an on-screen character based on William Cavendish’s daughter Jane. The story is set during the visit by King Charles I and his Queen Henrietta Maria to Bolsover in 1634. Jane is witness to the visit and sets challenges for younger visitors and their families throughout.
The adult tour has to meet the needs of both Culture Seekers and Experience Seekers. Browse options were developed for the former, allowing them to access the interiors, paintings and buildings through the eyes of English Heritage’s own experts. Some of these browse options challenge accepted thinking with new interpretations. For Experience Seekers a set of Royal Visit browse options were created to take visitors back in time to the Bolsover of 1634 and recreate the preparations for the King and Queen’s arrival. These recreations are theatrical and extremely evocative.
Both tours take full advantage of cutting edge multimedia techniques to solve some of the interpretative challenges of the site. In particular the now ruined Terrace Range is hard to understand. ATS used the research conducted throughout the project to recreate the range’s interiors and exterior by building 3D digital models and combining them with high definition aerial imagery filmed from a drone helicopter.
The multimedia has been greatly received by the visitors as it helps them understand and enjoy the architectural and decorative elements of Bolsover Castle.
“We have been very pleased with their professionalism, grasp of the project’s aims and their commitment to help us achieve them.” Ioannis Ioannidis, Interpretation Manager, English Heritage.Back to top