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On being a tour guide

In the video, you saw the tour guide Christopher Tinmouth describing his job. He writes here about his experiences as a tour guide.

Read his testimonial and then answer the questions below. Please share your answers by posting a comment.

I have been a guide at Lancaster Castle since April 2015 … Most visitors are drawn to Lancaster Castle, in my experience, both for being a particularly prominent medieval landmark within the County of Lancashire and for its association with the Lancashire/Pendle Witch Trial of August 1612. In truth, though, a huge range of interests are borne out on guided tours, as a great diversity of ages and cultures are brought to bear on public tours, as well as on more specialised tours. From the evidence of specialised tours which are frequently arranged, requested subjects include crime & punishment in English history, the use of castles in English history, the Lancashire/Pendle Witches, the 16th-17th century Catholic prisoners and Quaker prisoners held in the Castle. Many do not even know they are interested in a given subject until they encounter it on a guided tour (not many come to know about the history of debtors’ prisons but are otherwise enthralled when they hear about it on our tours, for example)… I present its history in as academically honest and publicly engaging manner as possible, with the aim to inform as well as, to an extent, entertain, for a general audience who want a ‘good day out’ while hopefully learning something new during their visit. …

I get asked a whole variety of questions from a variety of visitors, but many concern what HMP Lancaster was like and what use could be put to the prison buildings. Visitors are often drawn to the shields in the Shire Hall and ask about the heraldry behind the shields, especially those of the sovereigns of England. In the Old Cells I am asked about what it would have been like for prisoners in the Old Cells, including their bedding, their meals and length of imprisonment. Generally speaking, though, most questions are about certain features of the Castle building more than its history, as the history kind of speaks for itself through the building itself, which is one of the most satisfying parts of my job. …

Lancaster Castle faces many great opportunities as a tourist attraction since the closure of HMP Lancaster in 2011. The courtyard areas have been opened up for the first time to the people of Lancaster and beyond to enjoy as a communal space that can be utilised for a whole range of diverse purposes, from market stalls and musical concerts to historical re-enactments from many different periods and artistic projects. Whole areas of the former prison are now open for consideration of their future use and the potential of Lancaster Castle as being a popular tourist attraction and more is recognised by the Duchy of Lancaster. The Castle acts as a positive stimulus to the local economy and draws visitors to Lancaster from all over the world, enhancing the cultural diversity of the city, and contributes significantly to the development of the heritage sector within Lancaster itself. The Castle is one of the kingpins in the claim to Lancaster being a historic city, augmenting the reputation of the town and the county in general. Its reputation draws artists and film makers from a diversity of backgrounds, as well as arguably forming a crucial part of the appeal of students to live and study in Lancaster. The future has never looked brighter for Lancaster Castle as a tourist attraction and I am confident that it can continue to be the pride of Lancaster for generations yet to come. It has always been, and will continue to be, the greatest privilege of my working life to have worked in the Castle of Her Majesty, Duke of Lancaster.

  • What would draw you to visit Lancaster Castle? Which aspects of Lancaster Castle’s history interest you most? Why? Has anything piqued your interest over the course of this course?
  • If the Castle is never again to serve as a prison, what future for it do you think would be most appropriate?
  • If you could ask a tour guide at the Castle any question relating to any period of the Castle’s history, what would it be?

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This article is from the free online course:

Lancaster Castle and Northern English History: The View from the Stronghold

Lancaster University