At The Castle

by martinhesp

In today’s Western Morning News there’s an article I wrote about a new interpretation system that delivers stories at National Trust owned Dunster Castle.

During my morning at the castle I met and interviewed a charming man called Julian Luttrell whose family owned the castle for over 600 years. As the trust is now attempting to give visitors a more comprehensive picture of the people who once lived and worked in the place, they’d asked Mr Luttrell to come and cast a critical eye over their interpretation efforts.


Julian Luttrell meets Edna – a 79 year old who’d worked at Dunster Castle as a maid 65 years ago

He gave the whole thing a general thumbs-up – but what fascinated me was the way in which visitors on the day seemed rather in awe of the old aristocrat. There were pictures of him getting married and so on – and one lady asked: “Is that you in the photograph?”

When he affirmed the fact, the entire room full of visitors seemed amazed – as if a real life celebrity had stepped into their midst. 

People who say the old class system is dead and buried ought to have been there – because throughout the morning of my visit I noticed this sort of reverence at play time and again.

I don’t write anything into it – I don’t think this observation has any importance – but I am fascinated that people are still filled with reverence when it comes to the old upstairs-downstairs world. 

Maybe this has a lot to do with all those TV programmes like Downton Abbey. Nevertheless, it  remains a feature of British life – and it is just occasionally interesting to witness it in action.

For me the other day it somehow seemed to say more than any interpretation systems. It was like a small window, opened suddenly onto a social landscape that most of us tend to assume is history.

But like so much I see on my travels, history lies just under the very thin veneer that we call the present and the modern.