VISITORS to a Northumberland estate are being offered a taste of its hidden history.
It is part of an English Heritage programme across the North East to encourage people to take a fresh look at historic sites and their offbeat aspects.
This includes the cook’s face carved inside the log store at Belsay Castle.
The story has it that when the structure was being rebuilt in the 1870s Sir Arthur Middleton had employed stonemason to work on the property.
The mason took a fancy to the cook and to show his affection he carved her face in the stone.
At Belsay visitors are often puzzled by references to Polly, Mandy and Lucy engraved in the East Quarry garden.
These were pet dogs buried by the Middleton family, who owned the estate.
This month and February, a bust of the Emperor Hadrian will go on display in the new museum at Housesteads Roman Fort, with supplementary talks, tours and Roman object handling.
The sculpture is a plaster cast of the original marble bust of Hadrian which is housed in the British Museum. It was found languishing in the loft at Housesteads during the new museum refurbishment last year. It seems that, unbeknown to visitors and staff, Hadrian had been watching over the fort for a number of years, as the bust was found looking out of one of the roof windows.
Liz Page, historic properties director for the North at English Heritage, said: “People will be able to see and do things that they wouldn’t ordinarily have access to at peak times of the year.
“The programme has been designed to give people a new perspective on some of the region’s best-loved historical destinations, with surprises round every corner.
“Our sites are open every weekend and all the events, activities and new things to see and do are included within our standard admission price.”
There will be Saturday Roman Finds and Artefact Exploring workshops at Chesters Roman Fort on January 26 and March 2, 1 - 4pm and Corbridge Roman Town on January 19 and February 23, 1 - 4pm.
At Chesters there will be stone cleaning workshops on February 8, 10am-11.30am and noon-1.30pm.
Every weekend in January and February, visitors to Warkworth Castle can discover the history of the Duke’s Rooms, which contains reproduction furniture that the Dukes of Northumberland commissioned and inscribed with their personalised coat of arms and designs.
Lindisfarne Priory is preparing for its star attraction, the Viking Raider stone, to travel to Durham to form part of a special exhibition around the Lindisfarne Gospels, on loan from the British Library.
Visitors are invited to see the stone before it makes the journey.