This April marks an exciting new chapter for Kelmarsh Hall as we open the doors to over a dozen new spaces, previously unseen by visitors, which formed the servants quarters, cellars and laundry rooms 'below stairs'. Thanks to the £1.3 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant, and funding from the Daventry District Council grant scheme, the 'Tunnelling through the Past' project has seen the successful conservation of the servant’s quarters, old laundry and former stable yard. This new area brings an ‘upstairs, downstairs’ experience to Kelmarsh Hall, allowing visitors to explore both the basement and fine rooms. A key feature is the laundry tunnel, connecting the external laundry block to the basement of the hall, allowing the staff to go about their work without being seen by their employers or their guests.
The unique project utilises modern technologies to provide visitors with an interactive approach to the objects and settings. Augmented reality and tablet devices bring the rooms to life, with period characters appearing to tell their stories of what life was like to work and live below stairs at Kelmarsh. A new app has also been developed, which visitors can download before their visit, including maps, interactive games and a timeline of those who lived at Kelmarsh Hall. This can be downloaded from the App Store by searching 'Kelmarsh Hall' and is avaliable at stations in the hall.
Visitors receive a full sensory experience, adding life to the rooms, with sounds of maids chattering, smells of fresh bread baking in the bake house, and lye soap in the old laundry. Visitors can also get involved with servant’s work, such as brushing the riding boots and polishing the silver in the butler’s pantry. The ‘below stairs’ experience has something for everyone, making for a perfect family day out.
The new project has also transformed the former coach house into the Learning and Activity Centre, a dedicated learning facility. This allows for new and exciting programmes for school visits, learning events and activities for all ages. This summer, a number of activities shall be held within the coach house learning suite, including evening lectures, pop-up talks, a craft café, storytelling and living history days.
Kelmarsh Hall opens for 2018 from 1st April to the 31st October, with the hall opening for visitors on Sundays, Tuesday, Wednesdays and bank Holiday Mondays. Visiting the servants quarters and laundry is included in a hall and garden admission ticket.