Seeing the History of England


Newbie here so please be kind!

I live in Aus and Mrs GG and I will be bringing our teenaged kids (17 & 18) over for a family holiday in December and January. We will be based in SE England and will have a hire car. I am English, wife and kids are Aussies.

The kids want to see English History while we are there so I thought I'd take them to see 8 things to mark different periods of history:

- Romans
- Anglo Saxons
- Vikings
- Normans
- Tudors
- Civil War & Restoration
- Enlightenment
-  Industrial Revolution

We will be visiting Yorkshire, Staffordshire, Cambridgeshire and Devon as part of the visit anyway so anything en route would be helpful. Any money saving tips for this part of the trip would be gratefully accepted too. We already have flights and car hire sorted.



  • jackieblack
    jackieblack Posts: 10,291
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    On your way to Cambridgeshire you could detour through Essex and Suffolk.

    Colchester was the first Roman capital of Britain and Colchester Castle is the largest Norman keep in Europe and was built on the site of a Roman temple. You can take guided tours into the Roman vaults and parts of the Roman city walls are still standing in the town. You can also visit the excavated Roman Circus site where chariot races took place.

    About an hour north east of Colchester is Sutton Hoo, burial site of an Anglo Saxon king, the burial mound was excavated in the late 1930s

    In Yorkshire, Jorvik Viking Centre, in York

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  • If you are in the S.E. I recommend the Sussex Town of Lewes it pretty much has it all and is a delightful town. Hastings and Battle are nearby too. Enjoy your visit.

    Lewes, England 2023: Best Places to Visit - Tripadvisor
  • The Shropshire town of Ironbridge has several museums relating to the Industrial Revolution and might be enroute to Staffordshire 
  • daveyjp
    daveyjp Posts: 12,386
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    Ironically you can do all of those without leaving Yorkshire!

    York is a must for Roman and to a lesser extent Viking (Jorvik Centre is the main attraction).
    Civil wars were fought across northern Britain including Stamford Bridge, just outside York.
    Tudors, Mulberry Hall and Shambles 
    Bishops House in Sheffield
    Bradford has lots of civil war history,  Bolling Hall Museum 
    Industrial Heritage,  Various industrial museums, National Railway Museum in York, National Coalmining Museum near Wakefield, Kelham Island in Sheffield, Saltaire near Bradford
    Reformation, plenty of old monastaries.  Kirkstall Abbey near Leeds, Fountains Abbey, Rievaulx Abbey

    Ironbridge Gorge Museums in Shropshire are excellent.  Staffordshire also has plenty of industrial heritage through the pottery industry.

    The only significant issue to consider is the UK winter.  Some attractions may not be open and the weather can put a halt to anything outside.

  • Neil49
    Neil49 Posts: 3,023
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    edited 27 September 2023 at 2:08PM
    Entry into National Trust properties can be eye wateringly expensive but if you are a member of a similar organisation in Australia you can get free entry. 

    Here's a link to the INTO website which includes a number of National Trust sites in Oz.

    Family membership usually states 2 adults and offsprings of 17 years maximum.

    For Industrial Revolution sites, the National Trust site of Quarry Bank Mill (close to Manchester Airport) is well worth a visit. A family ticket for the day at this property costs £50 so a few visits to NT properties can soon mount up. Also be aware that many will be closed for the winter.

    If you are travelling from the SE to/from Devon then the city of Bath is worth a diversion as the Roman Baths etc are exceptional. You may want to use the Park and Ride facility rather than drive into the city centre - we used the train. 
  • LightFlare
    LightFlare Posts: 389
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    edited 27 September 2023 at 8:50PM
    Depending on where in Staffordshire you will be - Chester isnt that far away

    In Yorkshire -- Hadrians Wall is a must

    Dover -- Dover Castle

    It might be worth looking at getting English Heritage memberships as that could work out much cheaper if you are visiting multiple sites. It's ~£70 but some sites can easily set you back £15+

    Agree with the point made above -- check whats open in Dec/Jan as a lot of places may be closed or on limited opening schedules for winter
  • twopenny
    twopenny Posts: 5,308
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    A lot of properties close over the winter period. November to March. Check beforehand when or if they are open. It's on the websites
    Many smaller tea rooms and such close for winter.
    You've been told that the country closes for Christmas Day and you need to have a meal booked. The 26th is also difficult for food as we're all either at home or stuffed full and recovering. Short hours Christmas Eve and New Years day.
    Make sure you have a full tank of petrol before Christmas Eve especially if you are travelling.

    However there is tons of sites to fit the list that are just standing about and free to walk around

    Without knowing your route to Devon I can't make suggestions so here's a general site with Exeter being one of the main ones
    A search for Romans in Devon gives lots of results.

    If you come via Bristol there is the SS Great Britain to walk around.
    Also evidence of the bombing in WW2 of a church in the centre left ruined but around is St Nicholas Market with medieval walls.
    Also a Georgian House with a sunken pool in the basement where a cold bath was taken every morning.
    There's a lot in the city. And thinking of that you can probably find most of what you are looking for in many English cities, especially the smaller ones.

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  • Brambling
    Brambling Posts: 4,984
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    If you are in the south east i recommend Fishbourne Roman Palace near Chichester 

    FISHBOURNE ROMAN PALACE & GARDENS (Chichester) - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (
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  • martindow
    martindow Posts: 10,175
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    In Yorkshire -- Hadrians Wall is a must

    Don't tell Durham and Northumberland residents that they're in Scotland now!

  • Hadrian's wall is a must for visiting the (almost) northernmost extent of the Roman Empire. This is open walking country. although the fort of Vindolanda is interesting. ...and not Yorkshire......

    Beamish museum is fascinating with rebuilt houses etc showing things from 1820s onwards with working trams, farm,...... Looks like open 
    Beamish Museum Winter opening times
    27th December 2023 – 7th January 2024: Open daily, 10am-4pm
    entrance fee: adults £25!

    have a look at a map- where you see very straight roads (not motorways)  cross country you are looking at Roman roads. Fosse way, Watling Street......
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