A different type of Heritage

Between Christmas and New Year I had a few days off that me and my family spent it in Cardiff, visiting various Heritage sites, including a few sites of a different type of heritage tourism.

Me and my Aunt at the Dr Who Experience

Me and my Aunt at the Dr Who Experience

Our first afternoon we embarked on the first part of our alternative Heritage tourism trail, we went to visit some location in Cardiff Bay used for filming Dr Who and Torchwood! Me and my aunt are massive Whovians and since we organised the holiday with the main aim of going to the Dr Who Experience, now located in the Bay, we dragged the rest of the family with us to indulge our geekyness!

Me by the Water Tower

Me by the Water Tower

Walking around the day it was easily recognisable from many different Who episodes, and especially from Torchwood, whose base was located beneath the water tower so the spent a lot of time filming the near-by locations. But even if you weren’t familiar with the series there are many other signs around that will clue you in to the fact that the area is known for something other than the views and restaurants. The least subtle of which being Ianto’s shrine, located next to the ‘trade entrance’ to Torchwood. The character was killed off (heartbreakingly) in the last but one series of the show, broadcast in 2009 and it is a testament to the power of the show that the shrine now has an official plaque and still stands today. We found a map of the filming location on a fan made site here: http://www.doctorwholocations.net/ but there are also paid walking and bus tours available to book onto.

Ianto's Shrine

Ianto’s Shrine

There are hundreds of locations in and around Cardiff that the BBC have used in their programs. One of the evenings of our holiday we went for dinner in Eddie’s Diner, an American style diner used in ‘The Impossible Astronaut ’ episode of Dr Who. When we went in talking to the people who worked there it seemed they were used to people visiting their diner thanks to the program, I bet it has been a brilliant boost for their business!

Eddie's Diner

Eddie’s Diner

Alongside the retro American memorabilia featuring Marylyn and Elvis were a couple of photos showing the diner in use on the program, subtly blending in. The big give-away that you weren’t just in a novelty American diner was when opening the door through to the toilets you find this:

Weeooo Ooooo

Weeooo Ooooo

The Dr Who Experience re-located from London to Cardiff permanently in early 2012 and adds another huge highlight to those on the Dr Who trail in the City. The Experience was amazing! I definitely recommend it to any Whovian. The press around the experience was huge for something of this genre, building on the ever-increasing popularity of Dr Who and similar Sci-Fi shows. Dr Who has always been something of an attraction to its fans, with an exhibition of props similar to what is now at the end of the experience being located in Llangollen for many years, and many other temporary exhibits. I remember visiting it as a child long after Who was cancelled, and before there were talks of it ever returning. After Who returned, before the Experience opened, there was an exhibition at Land’s End I visited a couple of years ago. Since its return Dr Who has only increased in popularity, and that popularity is something that heritage sites associated with the show should be using!

Inside the Dr Who Experience

Inside the Dr Who Experience

With any TV show as popular as Dr Who there are going to be money spinning opportunities to go along side it, and I would argue that these are a new form of Heritage. The Trust has already seen this as a new marketing strategy, promoting properties by what period dramas they have been used in (and countless Who episodes too!). They still advertise that The Duchess was filmed at Kedleston Hall, and held an exhibition of props and costume there shortly after the film’s release. This is heritage for a different audience, and something that people are beginning to realise has a lot of potential!

The BBC Studios in Cardiff Bay

The BBC Studios in Cardiff Bay

Whilst watching TV over Christmas I noticed the new TV adverts the BBC are running; showing all those fantastic programs and promoting that they are filmed in Wales!! Now I think it needs some co-operation between local councils, the BBC and those places used as locations, to really push this different form of heritage, to get a succinct offer and promote all elements, working together to benefit from the increase in this different type of heritage tourism.

It needs more than a mention on a web page, and should be being pulled together by those who will benefit, not just dedicated fan sites. There is money to be made from this, and I think it’s a really exciting opportunity for a different collaboration on a much larger scale. This could be just what the Heritage Industry needs, a new branch to bring increased income when the other branches are struggling in the current climate! The Heritage industry needs to be reaching out to all possible audiences , and attract new people who wouldn’t find themselves visiting more traditional heritage sites, to thrive at the moment. As I have seen from the popularity of Downton Abbey and what that has done for the industry ( and what people expect from visiting properties now) the power of TV is amazing for boosting interest and peaking interest in different loactions.

I found the Tardis!

I found the Tardis!

Well that’s the way I see it anyway, maybe I’m just talking total rubbish because it is something that could bring two things I love together, but creating these types of connections is something I will bear in mind for my future in the industry.

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Christmas and Cardiff!

I have had a real departure from how I spent Christmas last year, when as a Student I got three weeks off. This year I was working Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Every and Day. So I was very lucky that my family agreed to come and spent Christmas with me at Powis, and my friends also agreed to come down for New Year! I am so lucky to have family and friends that are willing to work around my work! We had a lovely lazy Christmas Day, involving too much eating and a nice stroll around the Gardens and Estate after lunch!

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Me and Jake with the Gingerbread man in the garden

Our family took a mini-break to Cardiff in between Christmas and New Year and once again I’ve had a bit of a Busman’s holiday! That phrase always seemed to have negative connotations to me before I started working in the Heritage industry. It can be seen to be boring spending your free time doing what you do daily anyway, however a day out to me has often meant visiting a historic property, and I love discovering new places!! Holidays have until very recently always been to location with plenty of heritage sites and museums to visit during out trip, so why would that change now I was working in the industry.

I guess it just shows how lucky I am to work in this industry, and working for the Trust has made me ever more eager to visit other sites! It has increase my bucket list no end and I now see every visit as an opportunity not just to see somewhere beautiful and learn it’s history, but also to look at how other properties and companies do the same thing we do. I find myself looking just as much at the ‘do not touch’ signs, cleanliness of the place, interpretation and environmental monitoring as I do the beautiful textiles, gorgeous rooms and fine furniture and grand gardens that have always held my interest! Some of the things on my agenda for that trip was to re-visit Cardiff Castle and visit St Fagans, which I had heard so many good things about! It would not really occurred to me to go on holiday somewhere and not have at least one historic item on the agenda!

The Tower

The Tower

I was really excited about going to Cardiff Castle, the interiors were designed by the same man who did my favourite castle Castle Coch, and we had been privileged enough to camp in the grounds of the castle many years ago when our re-enactment group did a show with the Cardiff Garrison. Walking back in I couldn’t believe how lucky we had been to stay there those few years ago!!

Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle

One element I did not expect but really enjoyed was the bomb shelter built under the enclosing wall of the castle. You entered through a door on the path up to the wall walk and simply walked down a mostly unfurnished tunnel. However it was the sound effects that made the experience for me, there were the noises of sirens and bombs dropping, and the anti-aircraft guns going. Over the top of this the wireless was also playing ‘We’ll Meet Again’ and Chamberlain’s Speech announcing the nation was at war. There were some metal bunk beds lining the tunnel and two areas cut into the side, on an Air Raid Wardens post and the other a canteen. There were stocked full of props like can and portable stoves and plates, but other than that the tunnel was bare! It was a very atmospheric experience and made shivers run down my spine!

The Wall Walk above the tunnel

The Wall Walk above the tunnel

The Keep at Cardiff Castle

The Keep at Cardiff Castle

Then we went up the Keep in the centre, me and Jake went right to the top and you could just about see Castle Coch off in the distance, which made me smile. However seeing the view of the castle from the keep did make me sad, and cause some debate between me and my aunt. Looking out from the Keep you can see the beautifully decorated tower of the main castle, and right behind that, a big pile of metal sticks that make up the Millennium Stadium. Now my aunt is a huge rugby fan and has been to see games at the stadium several time so she was not very pleased with what I had to say about the structure 😛 Fair enough they want somewhere to play, but did they have to build it right behind the castle? I felt it was spoiling every photo I took of this amazing historic property, it clashed so badly, and I’m afraid I don’t see any beauty in the painted metal stadium, especially not when compared to the castle! But I guess that’s just my opinion.

The Castle, and the Stadium behind

The Castle, and the Stadium behind

The interior of the main castle was just as I remembered it, absolutely stunning! The rooms were so richly decorated it really takes your breath away! It is a fabulous show of wealth and craftsmanship! It is so over the top when you think that this was also someone’s home, but amazing none the less! But as they say a picture speaks a thousand words so here are a few I took in the castle.

The ceiling of the Great Hall

The ceiling of the Great Hall

The ceiling of the Arab Room

The ceiling of the Arab Room

Detail of the Arab Room

Detail of the Arab Room

St Fagans is an open air museum just outside Cardiff, I have been to a couple of different open air museums, and have a special spot for them in my heart so was looking forwards to this, especially since it had received high praise from everyone at work. In true Welsh style it was drizzling most of the day and the buildings were well spread out around the grounds, so we got our exercise! The buildings, like most open air museums, had been collected from around Wales so that they could be preserved. They ranged from Iron Age Round houses to a row of terraced houses which were particularly interesting. My favourite building was the Tudor Merchants House.

The Toll House in St Fagans

The Toll House in St Fagans

Another part that I thought was fab was the street of terraced houses, each house being decorated differently, with the first being from the 1850’s and the last being the 1980’s (and looking worryingly like the kitchen here at Park House). This was a great way to show the progression of technology and fashion, and lifestyle changes, over the period. It got me thinking especially about how different my Grandma’s childhood was to my own and then again mine and my mother’s, and how much things have changed within my own life! I can’t wait to see what the future is like and to shock my own children with tales of record players, tapes and a time before mobile phones! All the terraced houses had period Christmas dec’s up as well which was a really nice touch.

Picture from: http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/stfagans/historic-buildings/

The Terraced Cottages

Near the terraces were several shops, one actually selling chocolate and pick and mix sweets out a big glass jars! The shop next to it was a faux shop, and the man behind the counter was explaining the changes in currency to some other visitors. The shop was very nice, and gave me some good ideas on how to make the old kitchen cupboards look as if there stocked full quite easily, and cheaply! See what I mean, always gathering ideas, I couldn’t stop if I tried!

One of our volunteers told me I must keep an eye out for the church which has fairly recently been moved to St Fagans (St Telio’s Church). Whilst moving and re-building the church its old wall paintings were re-discovered and the church has now been presented with the wall paintings restored. They certainly made an impact when you entered the church! However I can’t say they were my cup of tea. The paintings in this church depicted Jesus on the cross surrounded by every-kind of sharp weapon you could imagine from the period, another depicting a man poking his own eye out, and several of knights fighting to the death. These were not so much your standard praise be to God images but one that were designed – literally – to put the fear of God into you! And I can imagine they were fairly effective!! I was glad to have seen it but I still think I prefer the more decorative style of church painting!

Picture from: http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/blog/?month=2008-12&cat=424

St Telio’s Church

Unfortunately the exhibition on Welsh costume had been taken down when we got there so we couldn’t see that which I had been looking forward to, but the rest of the visit was good fun and made us all think and discuss, which is always a good thing for a museum to do!

All in all it was a lovely little break; and I will tell you about the other half of our trip soon. I hope everyone else had a lovely festive season and is having a good 2013 so far!