Published: 12:00, 03 June 2015
| Updated: 16:45, 24 September 2019
One of the greatest figures in British history died in a small seaside town in Kent and, with the eyes of the world on the 200th anniversary of his biggest achievement, it’s time for Walmer to shine.
It’s been 35 years since Walmer Castle, near Deal, has seen significant investment and a £675,000 cash injection into refurbishment and an exciting new exhibition celebrating its links to the 1st Duke of Wellington have been well worth the wait.
In this 200th anniversary year of the Battle of Waterloo, the victorious duke’s post-Waterloo story is the focus of three rooms within the refurbished area which opens this weekend, including the bedroom in which he died in 1852.
Historic Prime Minister William Pitt (the Younger) is the focus of two further exhibition rooms, which look at the time he spent at Walmer as he organised defences against a planned invasion by the French, led by Napoleon Bonaparte.
“In a quiet residential area on the Kent coast, Walmer Castle has a surprisingly prominent place in the story of our nation. Wellington and Pitt were legends in their lifetimes and they influenced later figures such as Winston Churchill, whose iconic status is more familiar to us today,” said English Heritage senior historian Paul Pattison.
Walmer Castle’s role as official residence of the Lords Warden of the Cinque Ports gave it a place at the heart of the British establishment, linking it closely with important people, including Arthur Wellesley, the real name of the 1st Duke of Wellington. He was Lord Warden between 1829 and 1852. He loved the castle and died there in 1852.
Now, for the first time since 1934, the duke’s bedroom has been re-imagined. Using a painting created shortly after his death by Thomas Shotter Boys, English Heritage curators have commissioned detailed replicas of the carpet and wallpaper.
Along with the duke’s actual armchair and the campaign bed, the result is a faithful depiction of the place where the hero of Waterloo died on September 14, 1852.
He was found to be unwell on that morning and was helped from his military campaign bed, the same one he used throughout his historic military career and seated in his chair where he passed away.
His death, aged 83, was due to the after-effects of a stroke culminating in a series of seizures. After lying in state in London, he was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral.
The new displays at Walmer Castle will explore his career, the story of his death, the state funeral and the ‘celebrity’ status he attained during and after his life.
“We have concentrated on the life and legacy of the duke,” said castle manager Kate Olpin.
“The first room shows the life, with the iconic Wellington boots taking pride of place in the centre of the room.
"They were the duke’s own boots used during the Battle of Waterloo. For kids, there is a pair of replica Wellingtons they will be able to step into.”
Historian Paul Pattison adds: “In undertaking this major re-presentation, we hope to engage our visitors in the intriguing stories of Walmer Castle, reveal its role in national historic events and help to restore its significance for many years to come.”
The re-imagined Walmer Castle opens on Friday, June 5. It is then open daily from 10am to 6pm. Entry costs £9.70 for adults, £8.70 for concessions, £5.80 for children and £25.20 for a family ticket for two adults and up to three children.
More details at www.english-heritage.org.uk or call 01304 364288
ALSO AT WALMER CASTLE THIS SUMMER
Saturday, June 6 and Sunday, June 7 from 10am to 5pm
Take a step through the garden gate as the borders come to life for the summer. With something promised for families, kids and keen gardeners alike, the weekend explores the wonders of the Great British garden. Take part in talks and tours from the castle garden experts or find something different from the plant traders’ stalls.
Saturday, June 27 and Sunday, June 28 from 10am to 5pm
As the castle commemorates 200 years since the victory at the Battle of Waterloo, see soldiers on parade and at rest in their encampments. Hear gruesome tales from the battlefield with the army surgeon and enjoy music, games, storytelling and toy-making of the Regency period. The arrival of the New Waterloo Dispatch carriage will be celebrated on Sunday, June 28, as it recreates the route it took to spread the news of victory.
Sunday, July 19 from 9.30am to 4.30pm
BBC1’s Antiques Roadshow team will be at Walmer Castle holding a valuation day. Specialists will be on hand to offer free advice and valuations to visitors who are invited to raid their attics and bring along their family heirlooms, household treasures and car boot bargains for inspection.
More by this authorJo Roberts
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