Trip Report – June2018 – Hartlebury Castle

Our friends and near neighbours in the Belbroughton History Society arranged our first trip this year and some of us were very pleased to join them on a visit to Hartlebury Castle on Sunday 17th June.

The castle was originally a fortified manor of the mid 13th Century built on manorial lands given to the Bishop of Worcester. It became a residence of the Bishops of Worcester and only ceased to be so as recently as 2008. The announcement that the site was to be sold in 2010 prompted local action and after many trials and tribulations in March 2015 the Hartlebury Castle Preservation Trust was finally able to purchase the 43 acre site and it is now open as a visitor attraction offering walks of the grounds, access to the state rooms and the County Museum. For those of us who have been before it was   astonishing to see the transformation the money from the Heritage Lottery Fund Grant has enabled to take place . For those who had never been before  it was a revelation to discover this gem on our doorstep. For all of us it was the most enormous testament to the skill and dedication of volunteers for this project which is now very dependent on those who offer of their time and expertise: there are knowledgeable volunteers stewarding, cataloguing and caring for the amazing Hurd Library Collection, battling to bring the grounds back from the overgrown state and opening up the garden and woodland trails and repairing and reproducing some exquisite textiles.

Following  a lecture on the subject, given at Belbroughton in 2016 it was a particular pleasure to be able to visit the famous Hurd Library, hear about its origins, view some of the books marvelling at the knowledge that these were volumes used, for example, by Dryden who then sold to Alexander Pope and thereafter it became part of Hurd’s collection. It is often footnotes by noted people which attract scholars from far and wide. The room was built especially to house this collection and is an utter delight.

There are some innovative ideas used too in showing off the state rooms, with the talking portraits giving much amusement. It is clear that great efforts are being made to make the castle of interest to all manner of visitors from academics, curious locals to families with young children and all of it underpinned by dedicated volunteers.

Report by Margaret Hathaway

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