A Castle and a Queen: a forgotten history brought to life

Staffordshire will celebrate a forgotten figure of history this year as it marks 1,100 years since the death of the most influential and powerful woman in Anglo-Saxon England.

The eldest daughter of Alfred the Great, Aethelflaed (pronounced Eth-al-fled) ruled the Kingdom of Mercia for seven years before she took her last breath in Tamworth, the ancient capital of the ancient kingdom of Mercia, on June 12, 918.

Known as the ‘Lady of the Mercians’, the anniversary of her death will be marked with a host of events in the Staffordshire market town, including the unveiling of a new six-metre statue, a family festival and summer guided walks – as well as the revival of an award-winning ‘Aethelflaed’ local beer.

Much of the focus of the celebrations will centre on Tamworth Castle Grounds, historically situated within the Saxon burh, the settlement that was re-fortified by Aethelflaed in 913, and where she spent much of her time in later life. Tamworth is also where Aethelflaed raised her nephew Aethelstan, who is widely regarded as being the first king of all England.

While this ‘warrior queen’ may not be a household name, she leaves a legacy as one of the most powerful female rulers of her time and Tamworth Castle will soon be offering visitors a new interactive and family friendly gallery exploring the town’s rich heritage.

Work has started on creating an innovative and engaging permanent exhibition exploring and celebrating Tamworth’s important Anglo-Saxon history, showcasing pieces of the Staffordshire Hoard and artefacts from Tamworth Castle’s collection. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the new gallery is expected to open late 2019 or early 2020.

Meanwhile, 2018 will see major events to commemorate the death of the ‘Lady of the Mercians’.

Among the highlights will be the Aethelflaed Family Festival in the Castle Grounds on Saturday, July 14, featuring an Anglo-Saxon encampment and fun themed family activities. The theme will continue in the Castle with living history characters, archaeological activities, storytelling, and a shield wall community project.  The day will also see the culmination of a huge and ambitious community arts project, involving hundreds of Tamworth residents, when 1,400 individual yard square tiles will be brought together on the lower lawn of Tamworth Castle Grounds to create a stunning Mercian Mosaic for one day only.

Other key events include the unveiling of the new statue of the Anglo-Saxon legend by artist and sculptor Luke Perry, now installed outside Tamworth Railway Station, and a guided walk focussing on Anglo-Saxon heritage.

This year will also see the return of award-winning Aethelflaed Ale, from George Greenaway of Tamworth Brewing Co in Market Street.

Full more details about Tamworth Castle, visit www.tamworthcastle.co.uk

For tourist information on the county, visit http://www.enjoystaffordshire.com.