It’s certainly beginning to feel very festive, as I sit here in bed, with red Scandi-pattern bedsheets and twinkling fairy lights wrapped around the bed’s headboard. But our lanterns pale into insignificance when you think of the 20,000 LEDS used to illuminate Sudeley Castle as part if its ‘Spectacle of Light’.
Having taken my A Levels in Stratford upon Avon, I’m quite partial to a spot of Tudor history and Sudeley Castle, near Winchcombe, was the backdrop to many important moments in the Henry VIII saga. The castle was a royal residence, visited by Henry VIII and Anne Boylen in their loved up early day and it is where the King plotted the dissolution of the monasteries with Thomas Cromwell.
Perhaps more famously it was also home to Henry VIII’s sixth and final wife, Katherine Parr, when she remarried Thomas Seymour, brother to Henry VIII’s third wife Jane. The pair moved to Sudeley with their ward, Lady Jane Grey (who would later be queen for just nine days after Henry VIII son, Edward, died at just 15.) At just 36, Katherine gave birth to her daughter, Mary, but died just seven days later, she is buried in the chapel of St Mary at Sudeley.
It’s important to understand the historical significance of Sudeley – which became home to four Tudor queens in total – Anne Boylen, Katherine Parr, Lady Jane Grey and Elizabeth I – as it makes the illuminations even more special. This is the first year that Sudeley Castle has been open during the winter season and the trail includes ancient trees, water features, ruins and the Queen’s Gardens, so named after four queens that walked the original Tudor parterre.
Unlike some other illuminations, like at Blenheim, each installation emphasized a different part of the grounds, rather than being a separate art installation and the epic soundtrack wafted through the trail. The runs were lit up a fiery red and it reminded me of that passage in Jane Eyre when Bertha, the mad wife, who’s been locked in the attic of Thornfield House, chucks herself from the roof of the burning building. Very gothic indeed.
Lady Ashcombe, who now lives at Sudeley, described the experience:
“We are terribly excited about hosting this spectacle. We would normally be closed in the winter but decided it would be a magical experience for visitors to be able to enjoy Sudeley by night. No-one has really seen the house and grounds lit up in this way.”
There’s lots of opportunities to enjoy a snack mid-trail, although when we went, quite a lot of options sell out fast. We did manage to snag two jumbo hotdogs which did the trick. The Spectacle of Light runs from 1 st to 23 rd December and will have specific entry time slots starting from 5pm onwards each evening. General booking is now open with limited capacity. Tickets must be bought in advance either through the Cheltenham Everyman Theatre box office or the website here: http://spectacleoflight.co.uk/
Thanks to Sudeley castle for organizing our tickets, but opinions purely our own (and that of my parents)!