Staffordshire’s Tamworth Castle is set to finally unveil a new state-of-the-art gallery celebrating the town’s Anglo-Saxon history – including a forgotten ‘warrior queen’.
The final touches are now almost complete on the Anglo-Saxon, interactive tribute, including the creation of a mead hall, an immersive combat film experience and a unique touch-table strategy game.
Originally expected to open in summer 2020, plans were hit by lockdowns and restrictions, but despite the challenges, the top floor of the castle has now been transformed to create the £768,000 ‘Battle and Tribute’ exhibition.
Now tourism chiefs are looking forward to officially opening the new gallery to visitors safely when Covid-19 restrictions allow.
Once the ancient seat of Mercian Kings, Tamworth Castle’s story will be brought to life like never before as part of ‘Battle and Tribute’, offering visitors an interactive and family friendly way of exploring the town’s rich heritage.
It will display even more pieces of the Staffordshire Hoard – the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork yet found – alongside other artefacts.
And part of the gallery will be dedicated to a largely forgotten heroine of history, Aethelflaed, daughter of Alfred the Great, who might nevertheless be well-known by a dedicated group of viewers hooked on the hit Netflix series The Last Kingdom.
This ‘warrior queen’ – also known as the ‘Lady of the Mercians’ – may not be a household name, but she leaves a legacy as one of the most powerful figures of her time whose successful rule is said to have been key to the founding of England.
The life and times of the fictional queen have been given a new lease of life thanks to the success of the Netflix series, based on The Saxon Stories series of books by Bernard Cornwell.
But it is the real life Aethelflaed who will be among the ‘stars’ of the new gallery at the Castle, where Aethelflaed (pronounced Eth-al-fled) ruled the Kingdom of Mercia and where she died in June 918.
Once it opens, the new Battle and Tribute Gallery – supported by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant – will feature hands-on interactive exhibits and cutting-edge audio-visual technology.
Among the highlights will be the mead hall, complete with fire and gift stool – where the king would have sat when giving out gifts of loyalty to his warriors – and a large ‘snakes and ladders’ interactive activity for families to play. Visitors will climb a ladder, or slide down a snake, depending on whether they win or lose in battle – and may even be granted marriage to a Saxon princess.
And after a series of community shield-making workshops, there are now more than 400 hand-painted shields ready to display as part of a Shield Wall when the new exhibition opens, creating a dramatic display around the perimeter of the Castle.
Meanwhile, another major project at the castle is set to shed new light on the historic building. A new external lighting scheme, designed to showcase the attraction and raise its profile on a regional and national stage, will see the existing lights replaced with a more modern, versatile and energy efficient solution, which will make the most of the castle’s stunning architectural features.
The new lighting – set to illuminate the castle to dramatic effect, as well as offer the potential for themed, animated lighting – is expected to be installed in time for the launch of the new Battle and Tribute’ Gallery later this year.
For the latest updates on the Gallery opening, visit www.tamworthcastle.co.uk
For tourist information on the county, visit http://www.enjoystaffordshire.com.