Exploring ancestry or the specific history of a place, like ‘Who Do You think You Are?’ or ‘The House Through Time’, are popular hobbies right now. Groups with a historical and genealogical slant will definitely want to dive into behind the scenes tours at County Record Offices and Museum collection stores.
You can find out about what has been preserved and how documents are conserved at Essex Record Office in central Chelmsford, for instance. A guided tour around the building shows how archive collections are cared for and includes a tour of the Searchroom, a visit to the store room and the conservation department, and a small display of maps chosen especially for you, as Jason might say.
In Worcestershire, Hartlebury Castle, once home to the Bishops of Worcester, offers private tours and behind the scenes visits to groups.
Last year, new areas of the castle – including the Bishops Palace – were opened up where your group can find out about the lives of the castle residents, see the Medieval Great Hall and Georgian Saloon and visit the north wing, which is home to Worcestershire’s County Museum. There’s all sorts in here, including toys, costumes and horse drawn vehicles including gypsy caravans.
Don’t forget to visit The Hurd Library – a unique example of a working library still on its original shelves, in the room built for it. It was founded in 1782 by Richard Hurd, Bishop of Worcester and holds over 5,000 volumes. The Library is only open on Tuesdays, but groups can pre-book a private tour to include talks from curators.
Worcestershire’s Collections Centre is a five-minute drive from the castle and this is where thousands of objects relating to the county including archaeology, costume, furniture, art and social history are stored and cared for. Groups can book a behind the scenes tour of this building too! And the collections team will show you round.
These kinds of specialist trips are getting more and more popular, and with good reason. You can often get to see all sorts of historic items and documents that you wouldn’t have access to if you visited on your own.