Terrific Tudor-themed days out for the Easter holidays

With Easter round the corner, loads of fantastic visitor sites across the country are starting to re-open, including many Tudor gems. Why not get out there with the kids and have some fun while (shock, horror) learning a bit of history too? If you read my latest book, you’ll know I’m a bit of a history geek and am a fan, in particular, of the Tudors. So, here are some of my favourite Tudor sites in England to inspire your Easter holiday trip ideas.

North and Midlands

Little Moreton Hall, Cheshire

Little Moreton Hall

Image credit: Christine-Ann Martin (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

I loved this place as a kid because it’s so higgledy-piggledy looking. Little Moreton Hall is a quintessentially Tudor building, with its wonky walls and black-and-white timbers on the outside. As with a lot of these old buildings, the fun for kids lies in spotting the little details as you walk around. You’ll find wolves and dragons carved into the wood and little messages left by the people who built the house, marking their work. It also has a fully restored Tudor-style garden where you can wander while the kids let off steam running around.

Ludlow Castle, Shropshire

Ludlow was a medieval castle defending the English border with Wales which then became an important royal residence in Tudor times. It was here that one of the most important events in British history took place, though few at the time would have guessed how important. Here, Prince Arthur, the older brother of King Henry the Eighth, fell ill while on honeymoon and died. Had this not happened, it is likely that the reformation of the English Church would not have happened. As it was, Henry, Duke of York then, became heir to the throne and married Arthur’s widow, Catherine of Aragon. Though now a ruin, the castle is still in good condition and gives you a good idea of what it would have been like in those days. It is also a fantastic place to run around pretending you are a knight (if the fancy takes you). The market town of Ludlow is itself a lovely place with a number of Tudor buildings to be seen, including the Feathers Hotel.

The South East

Penshurst Place, Kent

Penshurst Place

Image credit: GriffP (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most famous stately homes in England and used in the TV series Wolf Hall and the film ’The Other Boleyn Girl', Penshurst Place is a must-see. The very grand ‘Baron’s Hall’ inspired the great hall in my most recent book ‘Tudor Trouble’. What’s really fun for kids here is all the armour that lines the ‘Baron’s Hall and the ‘Nether Gallery’. The large grounds are a perfect place to burn off energy before going in the house and the Toy Museum a perfect carrot to encourage less enthusiastic day trippers.

The Mary Rose, Portsmouth

It’s not just about stately homes. In Portsmouth you can see the remains of one of Henry the Eighth’s own ships which sank during an attempted invasion by the French. The Mary Rose is fascinating as it has frozen the Tudor world in time for us. You can see the hull of the boat itself and also loads of the ship’s cargo which gives a unique insight into life almost 500 years ago. You can even see Tudor musical instruments and medical implements.


Hampton Court Palace, South-west London

The ‘top dog’ of Tudor mansions, Hampton Court was home to Henry the Eighth after he confiscated it from his former adviser Cardinal Wolsey. The Palace sprawls with various wings added over the centuries, but at its heart it remains a Tudor palace. You can even see the ‘real’ tennis court in which Henry the Eighth played. ‘Real’ tennis looks like serious fun - I’ll have to give it a go one day. During the Easter holidays this year, they’ll be running a number of Tudor-themed ‘plays’ (Tudor Encounters) where actors will re-enact events from the palace’s past. They often re-enact jousting tournaments too - a favourite pastime of Henry the Eighth and his court.

The Tower of London

The Tower of London from the River Thames

Image credit: Bob Collowân (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

The Tower of London is not simply Tudor and is always worth a visit for the amazing breadth of history it covers. That said, its Tudor links are very strong, from the royal residential buildings, completed under Henry the Eighth to the many grisly things that went on here. You can see the site on Tower Green where Henry had his second wife, Anne Boleyn, executed. You can also visit the White Tower, where, at the same time as Anne was being executed, many of those seen as opponents to Henry's religious reforms were held and tortured. The armoury is also full of Tudor items including Henry the Eighth’s own armour. The Tower of London is a very full day out - you probably won’t see it all.

Richmond Park, South-west London

Richmond Park is the old deer park of Elizabeth the First’s favourite residence, Richmond Palace. It is also where she died. As you potter around Elizabeth’s extensive grounds you may bump into the descendants of some of her deer. For great views back over London, head to King Henry’s Mound, so called because it was reputed to be the site where Henry stood to see a rocket fired from the Tower to signal that Anne had been executed. While the story is now seen to be pretty doubtful, the spot is definitely a great place to survey the city, ancient and modern (including as far as St. Paul’s Cathedral). You can still see the old gatehouse of Elizabeth’s palace on Richmond Green.

Hopefully that’s got you thinking about some fun trips for Easter. What will you do? Let me know what you’re planning in the comments below. Have I missed a cracking Tudor site out? Also, let me know in the comments below.

If you want to find out more about me and my books and get your free ebook, just click here.

How to get your reluctant readers into books

Any kid can enjoy reading…you just have to find what’s right for them.

Image credit: Ben Smith via unsplash.com

So many parents I meet despair at how little their children read. They’ve tried all kinds of things, but the draw of the tablet, games console or TV or anything that just isn’t reading is just too great. Yet we know what a critical skill reading is and many studies tell us that people who enjoy reading are much more likely to have well-paid jobs than those that don’t. Practical and financial considerations aside, getting lost in a good book is one of life's great pleasures and a considerable boost to mental wellbeing. But how do you get them to read?

Don't get hung up on ‘quality’

I’ve heard so many times over the years mums and dads lamenting that they can only get their boys to read football books. What’s wrong with that? Assuming the book is written in correct English, this is something to promote. Don’t make your kids feel that certain books are beneath them and they have to read certain other books. For any of you who studied literature at school, how many of the books you read did you genuinely enjoy? Almost certainly you built up a mental barrier to enjoyment because they were compulsory and ‘worthy’. ‘Quality’ is and always has been a subjective thing. If the book is written in correct English and it gets your kid’s attention, it’s a good book.

Make reading an ‘act-ivity’

The best books prompt something inside you, whether it’s a wish for the book never to end, inspiration to try something out, or just a desire to tell others about it. Talk to your kids about the book they are reading. Ask them what they like about it and what could be better about it. Even better, get them to write their own story based on the characters in their book (even if it’s a factual football book!).

Start with the customer

You know your kids better than anyone else in the world, so you’re at an advantage here. Today’s businesses always talking about putting the customer first. This isn’t some airy-fairy stuff trying to make you feel warm and fuzzy about them (though it might do that as a by-product). This is all about increasing your likelihood of buying from them. Start thinking of your kid in this way (when it comes to books!) and you’ll start to find more appealing books for them. What are their interests? Do they have any special skills, like playing a musical instrument or something else? Do they have any medical issues or anything else they feel holds them back? Find books with characters that have these interests, skills or even issues. Once you’ve got them into these books, you can then start to suggest other books that are related (think of those emails you get from Amazon - 'People who bought this also bought...').

Schedule it!

Family life these days seems to be getting more and more hectic and often the luxury of sitting and reading, even for a few minutes, gets trumped by more pressing things. But, just as you schedule in the time your kids go to school and the time they go to their clubs or the doctor, you need to schedule in their reading time and treat it like it’s as immovable as these other appointments. This way, your kids will start to respect reading as just as important as the other things they need to do in their week. It may also help to keep a record of the minutes they spend reading in the week, following the principle ‘what gets measured gets done’. For boys in particular this can be helpful as it brings in the element of competition (whether it’s beating their time for the previous week or its beating a sibling!). I hope you find these tips helpful. Do you have any others for parents struggling to get their kids reading? Let me know in the comments below. If you want to find out more about me and my books, click here. You can also get your free ‘Pete’s Time-travelling Underpants' ebook by signing up to my mailing list here.

Pete’s History Picks, 6th – 12th March

Hi everyone! Pete Tollywash, the best time-travelling schoolboy in Guildford, here with another selection of top events from this week in history.

March 6th, 1836

The Mexican army finally overcomes the Texans at the Battle of the Alamo

Apparently it looked something like this(?)

Image attribution: Robert Jenkins Onderdonk, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

My dad’s got this song called ‘Remember the Alamo’ sung by this old guy named Johnny Cash. Apparently this Alamo thing is a big deal to a lot of Americans, in particular Texans. Auntie Cheryl tells me that Texas was part of Mexico in those days, but a lot of the locals, including settlers from the US, were unhappy with the Mexican government and launched a rebellion, the Texas Revolution, in October 1835. The Mexicans weren’t too impressed with this - well you wouldn’t be if you were them. They were further annoyed by being defeated by the Texans in December 1835 at the siege of Béxar (I can see why). The Texans then took up position at an old Mexican fort - The Alamo - and prepared for a further Mexican attack. The Mexicans arrived on 23rd February 1836 and besieged the Texans who held out for 13 days. The 2,000-odd Mexicans finally defeated the 200-odd Texans with an assault on this day in 1836. The defeat encouraged the Texans to keep fighting (weirdos) and they defeated the Mexicans at the Battle of San Jacinto in April. They then declared the Republic of Texas.

March 7th, 1530

Henry VIII’s divorce request is denied by the Pope

As you may be aware, I met this Henry the Eighth bloke on my most recent time-travelling adventure - proper fatso. I met his second wife, Anne Boleyn, too. Henry had had quite a lot of trouble getting a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, so that he could marry Anne. The Pope wasn’t having any of it and apparently that was a big problem in those days. But Henry, being Henry, decided if the Pope wasn’t going to give him what he wanted, he wouldn’t listen to him (I wish that would work with Mum). So, Henry told the Pope to get lost and said that from now on he, and not the Pope, would be supreme head of England's church.

March 10th, 1876

First telephone call made by Alexander Graham Bell to Thomas Watson

Alexander Graham Bell - what is with these guys from history and beards?

Image attribution: Moffett Studio, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Is this Alexander Graham Bell guy the reason old people say ‘I’ll give you a bell’ when they mean they’ll call you? Why would you bother calling anyone anyway when you can message them through your Xbox? But apparently in 1876 they hadn’t got round to inventing the Xbox yet, so they had to make do with inventing the telephone. It took Bell years to perfect his telephone and when he finally got it to work, what did he do on this day in history? He rang this Thomas Watson guy, who was a couple of rooms away to say, "Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.” Thank goodness we’re all using our phones for more useful stuff now.

March 12th, 538

Witiges, king of the Ostrogoths, ends his siege of Rome, leaving the city in the hands of the victorious Roman general, Belisarius

These Ostrogoth guys again. I first came across these guys when Auntie Cheryl told me about them when I was researching for a previous week’s article. Apparently they were pretty scary guys from what’s now Germany and nothing like the goth kids who hang around the newsagent up the road at night. This Witiges guy (not a particularly scary name) was King of Italy when this Belisarius invaded. He was sent by the Byzantine Emperor in Constantinople (now Istanbul) who claimed he was the Roman Emperor and rightful ruler of Italy (confused?). Belisarius soon took Rome, so Witiges came down to the old Roman capital from Ravenna, the new Ostrogothic capital of Italy. His siege didn’t last long and on this day, Witiges retreated to Ravenna. This day marks the annexation of Italy by the Byzantine Empire or the recreation of the Roman Empire (if you believe what the Byzantine Emperor, Justinian, says).

So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed this week’s edition. If you want to find out more about my own historical adventures, Barford’s offering a free ebook (what a generous guy). Just sign up to his email list and he’ll send it over to you.