The building of a new visitor centre, as part of the Heritage Tourism Project, provided Cadw with an exciting opportunity to re-interpret the castle. From the very beginning of the project it was clear that a fascinating building such as Denbigh Castle deserved to be appreciated and better understood by a wider audience.
The aim of the interpretation was to ensure a visit to Denbigh would be an inspirational experience for all ages. To engage the many families and schools that visit Denbigh, the interpretation would need to be imaginative, innovative and interactive. Another aim was to present Denbigh in a wider environmental context. The castle has played an important role in the many stories that have shaped Wales and these stories continue beyond its walls. This joined up approach is at the heart of the Pan-Wales approach to interpretation, encouraging and inspiring visitors to explore other historic sites and landscapes and to make links between sites and stories in the future.
At Denbigh, we used the archaeological finds as a starting point to the development of the interpretation. Three objects discovered at the castle and town walls inspired the creation of three characters. Shards of broken pottery inspired the creation of Tom the kitchen boy, an iron key inspired Huw the Guard and by pure serendipity, a falconry bell discovered during the archaeological excavation prior to the building of the new visitor centre was linked to a character based on Eleanor de Clare, cousin of Henry de Lacy.
The characters welcome our visitors and encourage the exploration of Denbigh through the panels and trails. The characters are not only a useful device to connect with our younger audience, they’re also all grounded in historical fact. Their clothes are based on contemporary manuscripts and their experiences are based on the lives of people who would have occupied Denbigh over seven hundred years ago. By making these connections between the people, the building and the artefacts, we explain why this castle was built, how was it used and what everyday life was like.
We’ve introduced a range of media to interpret the site; these include bright, modern panels and displays, wall projections, interpretive furniture, a trail and a handling collection. These different types of media ensure the stories of Denbigh are accessible to a wide audience.