Norfolk castles and priory to be used for 'escape room' games
- Credit: Supplied by the Escape Games Company
The days of castle sieges, wandering knights and bustling nunneries are set to be brought back into vivid colour.
A firm called the Escape Games Company is planning to run outdoor 'escape room'-style games at dozens of English Heritage sites across the country, including three in Norfolk.
Baconsthorpe Castle, Castle Acre Castle and Thetford Priory will all host games where groups work together to solve puzzles and interact with actors in full costume.
Ian Cox, the firm's owner and founder, said: "These are places with amazing history, but what a lot of people see when they go there is a just a bunch of ruined walls. This is a way of encouraging people to come and try activities at some of these places they haven't seen before and learn a bit of that history."
Mr Cox said the puzzles could require participants to shoot a catapult or pour water into a vessel to reveal a key, which would lead onto the next clue and so on.
He said there had already been strong interest in the games, which were open to children and adults, and could be booked by groups such as Scout, schools, companies or groups of family and friends.
The Baconsthorpe Castle game will feature an actor playing Christopher Haydon, who inherited his father's estate in the 1560s. Players have to help him find a missing contract lest he lose a deal with a bunch of angry Dutch wool traders and face destitution.
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The Castle Acre game will see players train in the arts of medieval warfare, set during the 12th century war between Stephen and Matilda known as The Anarchy.
In the Thetford Priory game participants must solve the murder of the notorious Prior Stephen, who was found stabbed outside the priory's western door in 1248 after a quarrel with one of his monks.
Mr Cox added: “After months of lockdown and inordinate amounts of time spent in front of screens, we wanted to provide activities that support people’s physical and mental health. Our problem-solving games will bring the feel-good factor and plenty of active fun and excitement in amazing, heritage locations."
The games are set to start in spring.
Spotlight: Baconsthorpe Castle
Although this centuries-old site between Holt and Sheringham is now a crumbling ruin, it was once a grand, moated manor with a three-storey gatehouse. It was built by the Haydon family, who gained their initial wealth through the legal profession before turning to the wool industry, in which they prospered.
Sir Christopher Heydon once entertained 30 of his head shepherds at Christmas dinner, suggesting he had 20,000 to 30,000 sheep on his lands.
But by the mid-17th century the family had fallen into debt and much of Baconsthorpe Castle was demolished so its materials could be sold and used elsewhere.
Its outer gatehouse was turned into a private home known as Baconsthorpe Hall, which was occupied until one of the turrets collapsed in 1920.