Back in November we reviewed the children’s activities inside stately home Forty Hall, for a local magazine. You can read the full article here but I also wanted to cover the review on my blog to reach others. Despite visiting Forty Hall often (mainly the outdoor and farm areas you can read more about our adventures here – Apple Day at Forty Hall Farm and Hillyfields to Forty Hall Walk – with a little toddler Seren and before I was pregnant with Imogen!) – I had no idea how much there was for the little ones to do inside the hall.
The activities are free too and we know how hard it is to entertain the kids at low cost during the winter months!
Forty Hall, in Enfield, North London, is a Grade I listed Jacobean house built by the former Lord Mayor of London, Sir Nicholas Rainton in 1632. In the Hall’s grounds once stood Elsying Palace, a Tudor era palace where Henry VIII and his children visited. In fact, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Edward were staying here when they learned about their father’s death and, for Prince Edward, about his own accession to the throne.
The house is now owned by Enfield Council and reopened to the public in 2012 following a major restoration project. The house has been sympathetically restored and some rooms are dressed in period style whilst others are used as exhibition and learning spaces. The Hall aims to bring to life the 17th century stories of Sir Nicholas Rainton and Forty Hall and there are a whole host of interactive exhibitions for children to engage with.
To help families get the most out of their visit, the hall provides ‘Forty Small’ Trail Bags, Hidden Trail Chests, a range of hands on exhibitions and a Family Room too.
There are two versions of the Trail Bags, one for Key Stage 1 (ages 5-7) and one for Key Stage 2 (ages 8-11). Each bag each contains a set of binoculars and a small book with photos of things to find in various rooms. The KS2 book also includes historical facts about the items. We used the KS1 bags and even though Imogen is only 2, she definitely could get involved to an extent too – it’s a bit like a treasure hunt really!
We started off in the Great Hall eager to find some of the trail items and were delighted to also find the first Hidden Trail Chest! There are 4 beautifully carved Jacobean style chests in different rooms in the hall with each containing props, activities, handling items and resources relevant to the house.
The chest in the Great Hall was filled with books and jigsaws too – you could easily spend an hour going through the contents. Seren loved the books and Imogen was delighted with the small magnifying glass and used it to look at the decorative detail around the fireplace.
In the Kitchen we found another Hidden Trail Chest and – even more exciting for us – hands-on activities such as a recipe to make a 17th century Grand Salad with play food and pretend drinks to stir, butter to churn and the kitchen fire to light.
Kitchen duties finished, we followed our trail packs upstairs and quickly found two more Hidden Trail Chests. The first chest was full of hats to try on and Seren loved pretending to be the Mayor.
The second chest had tactile bags with different fabrics, buttons and zips to play with – a wonderful sensory activity for babies and toddlers as well as older children.
Whilst Seren was doing this, Imogen realised she could basically go round in a circular loop of the 1st floor Chambers – great fun for her! We found some more items on our trail in the Bed Chamber.
And spent some time in the Family Room, it has comfortable seats for the grown-ups and games, books and dress-up for the kids (and big kids).
On the 2nd floor we found a small dress-up section inspired by the royal Tudor children who stayed at Elsying Palace, and their horse-riding and falconry hobbies.
By this point the children were keen to run around outside in the late afternoon sunshine so we headed back downstairs, popping into the parlour before handing back our Trail Bags.
We spent 90 minutes inside the house and there are plenty of things we didn’t get to properly investigate in the Hidden Trail Chests so more then enough to keep us busy next time!
The Trail Bags and Hidden Trail Chests are aimed at children aged 4-11 years old (though we found our 2 year old could easily get involved too). Admission to Forty Hall is free (donations are welcome) and there is no charge for the Children’s Trail or for using the boxes but you are asked to leave a deposit of £5 per trail pack.
Keep on eye on Forty Hall’s website for special children’s events that often run during school holidays.
Forty Hall & Estate
Tel – 020 8363 8196