This was my first visit. As the attraction is displayed on a brown sign on the highways, I was expecting something along the lines of an English Heritage attraction. This is a privately owned enterprise. The staff were very friendly and helpful. The entry fee was acceptable.
The overall reconstruction of the motte & bailey fort is good, and provides a good sense of life in such a fort in Norman times. There are plenty of hands-on reconstructions, such as helmets and chain mail to try on. There are plenty of diverse exhibits, including day-to-day life of the average peasant and of the upper classes. The reconstructions of a blacksmith's, candle maker, banqueting hall etc are good. The trebuchet reconstruction is excellent. I like the fact that there were so many animals walking around.
However, the intent of some of the exhibits is questionable. There is a particular emphasis on the gruesome aspects of unnatural death, with ghoulish mannequins present in the man-trap and hell-hole, and hanging from the gallows. I am not squeamish, but I didn't find these pleasant or informative, and others might find them objectionable. There is also an iron chastity belt on display, complete with spikes in the vulval area, which prompted some questioning from my young daughter. It appears that the attraction is trying to capitalise on garish sensationalism, rather than purely on educational value. In addition, most of the notice boards in the fort contain poor spelling and grammar. The dinosaur exhibit is the same - the name for the winged flying dinosaur is a Pterodactyl, not "Pteradactil". This is not being snobbish. I would expect an historic attraction such as this, which has such a wealth of educational value, to at least check its language before displaying it to the public.
The toy museum has an excellent collection, which contains historic artefacts from the World Wars as well as toys. Unfortunately, the toy museum is jumbled up, and the historic artefacts are intermingled with the toy displays, with no clear delineation between them. Its layout needs improving.
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