ANYONE who thinks they know Gainsborough Old Hall should think again.
This weekend will see the grand unveiling of new rooms previously closed off to the general public.
The centuries-old hall has been closed since last December for its latest £255,000 transformation.
There has been a hall on the Parnell Street site since Viking times and the current building dates back some 600 years to medieval and Tudor times.
As well as being able to wander around more of the hall, visitors will also get the chance to dig deeper into its history thanks to the latest hand-held technology.
Site co-ordinator Victoria Mason Hines is enthusiastic about the new Personal Digital Assistants, or PDAs, which are now included in the price of an admission ticket.
“We used to have audio guides, but they only lasted about 45 minutes. With these PDAs people can spend three hours here, having some lunch or a cup of coffee, and then going back round.”
“We noticed over the Easter weekend that people were spending longer here.”
The PDAs provide photos, video re-enactments and games to bring the different rooms to life. There is an adult version narrated by historian Jonathan Foyle and a children’s version which includes an appearance by Victoria as the Grey Lady ghost who is said to haunt the appropriately named ghost corridor.
“The story is that she was the daughter of the third Lord Thomas who fell in love with a soldier from Newark, but he was considered too low class for her to marry so she locked herself in the tower bedroom, refused to eat, and died.”
The Old Hall re-opened on Good Friday but has saved its official relaunch until this weekend, when St George’s Day will be celebrated. There will be a chance to travel back to medieval times and meet Lord Burgh’s attendants. The hall was once owned by five generations of the Burgh family and it was they who hosted Henry VIII’s visit in 1541.
New rooms on show for the first time are the west range, which used to be the shop, the green room and the steward’s quarters.
There is also a new coffee shop and gift shop which have been placed at the new main entrance, making it easier for members of the public to access them without having to cross through the Old Hall.
“The toilets are also nearer to the main entrance now, so all the visitor facilities are in one area,” said Victoria.
One of the historic treasures which can be viewed in the shop is a recently uncovered wall painting dating back to around 1610.
It features banners of Latin text, red flowers, fruits, a bird and foliage, all of which were covered over with whitewash. It took a month to restore and an artist has been commissioned to paint a watercolour of what it would have looked like originally.
Victoria said: “We think this was the garden room or garden parlour and the foliage and flowers on the painting would seem to support that.”
It is also possible now to get married at the Old Hall.
A new website is under construction at www.gainsborougholdhall.com.
You can see a slideshow of the new rooms at www.gainsboroughstandard.co.uk.