Northamptonshire historic hall celebrates grand opening of new ‘below stairs’ experience

Kelmarsh Hall has opened up the cellar for visitors with a Heritage Lottery grant. Tiffany Brownell - Learning Activity Officer at Kelmarsh Hall
Kelmarsh Hall has opened up the cellar for visitors with a Heritage Lottery grant. Tiffany Brownell - Learning Activity Officer at Kelmarsh Hall

This April marks a new chapter for Kelmarsh Hall as they open the doors to a previously unseen below stairs area.

Following a generous £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.

The project uses modern technologies to provide visitors with an interactive approach to the objects and settings. Bosses say 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.

Visitors also 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 new project has also transformed the former coach house into a dedicated learning facility. This allows for new 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.

The grand opening is launching from the 1st – 4th April, open from 11am - 5pm each day.

Kelmarsh Hall shall then remain open until the 31st October, with the Hall, gardens and basement open on Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday, and gardens only on Thursdays.