Upstairs, downstairs, inside out

Immerse yourself in the stories of Belsay Hall, from the legend of the Wild Man to the vision of Sir Arthur Middleton.

Belsay Awakes is a £6million project delivered over three years (2020-23) aiming to transform a visitor’s experience at Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens. The project involves crucial conservation and redesign work, in addition to creating a new Wildman themed woodland play area, a new café, outdoor classroom, indoor education base, and fun trails around the grounds. Our students undertake this project to connect with Belsay and its history, and to see it through new eyes as it ‘Awakes’.


In this writing project, students will explore the stories of Belsay Hall, to understand and imagine what life would have been like for young people on either side of the green baize door that separates the public Hall from the private servants’ quarters.


Supported by: Belsay Hall, Castle & GardensEnglish Heritage & The National Lottery Heritage Fund
Mentored by: Katherine Wildman (Writing)
Project Contributors: Steve Chambers, Novelist and Radio DramatistSarah Davy, Writer and FacilitatorSusan Mulholland, Playwright and CopywriterTony Glover, Novelist


Project Outline:

As Belsay Awakes, we want to understand what it might have been like for the young people who lived and worked in the Hall – and for you to bring their imagined experiences to life. What would a working day look like? A day at leisure? What nooks of the Hall and grounds would the children of the family use to entertain themselves? Might the servants sneak out there too? And what might they all love – or find hard – about living in such a place?
For this project, students will research the fascinating history of Belsay Hall and Gardens, and what life was like during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

They will learn about character development, descriptive writing, and narrative flow, in order to craft a piece of creative writing that allows us to see into the inner world of the young people at Belsay Hall.


Much is already written about the protagonists of the time – the adults who made history. In this Belsay Awakes Writing project, we want our students to bring life to the untold stories of Belsay’s young people – whether real or imagined.


The Brief:

Inspired by the 700-year-old history of Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens, students will create a piece of creative writing to reveal the inner world of the young people at Belsay Hall. Perfect for those who want to become writers, or simply those who enjoy bringing characters to life, researching, and storytelling, this project aims to give the young people of the past a historical voice.


Project Results: Please view the final results of the students’ work from Cardinal Hume Catholic School and Jesmond Park Academy:

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Thank you & well done!

All we have left to say is thank you and well done, not only to the students but to the schools and teachers involved in the Belsay Awakes project at Cardinal Hume Catholic SchoolKings Priory SchoolRoyal Grammar School NewcastleJesmond Park Academy and Boldon School, to the parents who helped along the way, Belsay Hall, Castle & Gardens of course, who have supported and contributed to these projects and the TICE team that plugged away at the project week after week.

To the students – we hope you have enjoyed this project, we hope in years to come that you can proudly present a cultural heritage project you did, achieved, quite frankly smashed. Well done and congratulations from everyone here at TICE.

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