Click on the links for parts 1, 2 and 3.
After a delicious dinner at Bobby's, we headed back towards Belgrave Hall for 'Night at the Museum' in bright sunshine. Belgrave Hall is situated down what appears to be a quiet country lane, largely untouched by the passage of time, which is extraordinary considering its location in - albeit on the outskirts - of a city. We mustered in the drive outside for a few photos, but were quickly beckoned inside by the period-dressed guides and attendants.
Inside, the house had been dressed to emulate it's previous incarnation as a nineteenth century family home. The curtains and shutters had been closed, and lamps lit, which created a fantastic, cosy ambiance (which went some way towards assuaging my fears of the paranormal - Belgrave Hall is, indeed, famous for its ghostly apparitions!). A roaring coal fire in the entry hall enhanced the overall effect.
It was clear that Belgrave Hall is as much loved by those that now work there, as its former inhabitants, some of whom may still walk its corridors and rooms: An aspect that the guides were keen - not surprisingly given the building's notoriety - to play up. Stories of a grey lady on the stairs made the hairs on the back of our necks stand up!
Disappointingly, the ghost tour of the environs of the house, was packed full of historical inaccuracies. Slightly suspect stories of executions and punishment (for example, the guide informed the assembled that the gibbet - which is, in fact, a replica - that we had previously seen that afternoon at The Guildhall - had been used as a device by which to humiliate and punish miscreants (as opposed to its more usual use as a means of displaying the bodies of executed criminals)) got several of us a tad riled, as did stories of a morgue attributed to a garage barely more than fifty years old. Though it was entertaining - and free - unlike the usual ghost tours at Belgrave Hall all the same. Best - and most unbelievable - of all was the tale of a vampire buried in the neighbouring churchyard. This assumption was made because he - or his relatives - had chosen to mark his grave with a Germanic iron cross, instead of the more usual headstone. Poor man, he was probably just trying to assert his individuality!
Next up was a slideshow presentation of history of the house, located in the old dairy across a cobbled courtyard (originally part of the stable block). While we were waiting Ceri came across YET ANOTHER MOP-WRINGER!!! Oh joy - it was quite a day for unexpected, but welcome surprises, I can tell you. ;)
Despite initial expectations the talk was very entertaining, even a little mouse came in to join us. We learnt all about the first settlements on the site, the construction of the house and the families and individuals who had resided within. As well as some of the myth and folklore which has grown up around tales of ghostly goings on. By this point Ceri was determined to see a ghost before we left. I'm not sure the rest of us were so keen! But first, a quick cuppa (free refreshments!) and a break. The others surprised me with birthday pressies (they'd be surreptitiously purchasing them all day, while I remained completely oblivious!).
Last up was the garden tour. By now the sun had set and the pathways were atmospherically illuminated and as the dew fell and temperature dropped we were lead through the small, but impeccably kept gardens. We were accompanied on the tour, by a member of staff costumed to resemble a former resident - who's name escapes me - reading from letters mentioning the garden. Looking back at the house Ceri thought she spotted something in a pane of the top floor window. A face! A woman's face. While Anna Ch and I confirmed the sighting, we saw a man's face. A ghostly imprint on the glass. A trick of the light, surely...? Of course, the staff also mischievously created their own paranormal activity to fool and delight the visitors. ;)
After a spot of dress up...
...we decided to call an end to our twelve hour day of museums. It had been an exhausting, but really fun day and we decided we must do it again soon.
Photos by Amy Barnes, Ceri Jones and Anna Woodham.
The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.