Experiencing Britain's Ruins: 'Revenants and Remains' at Five Northern English Religious Houses and Beyond

Lead Research Organisation: Manchester Metropolitan University
Department Name: English


This project aims to enhance the public 'experience' of Britain's ruins by applying research findings derived from PI Prof. Dale Townshend's AHRC Leadership Fellowship, 'Writing Britain's Ruins, 1700-1850: The Architectural Imagination' (AH/M00600X/1; 2015-16), to contemporary practices of heritage interpretation, ruin tourism and creative literary response. Over a 12-month period, PI Townshend and Co-Is Dr Michael Carter and Dr Dominique Bouchard, both of English Heritage (EH), will deliver, administer and ultimately evaluate 'Revenants and Remains', an innovative and exciting programme of free, public-facing digital and real-life activities focused upon, but also radiating outwards beyond, 5 key EH sites of monastic ruin in the north of England: Byland Abbey, North Yorkshire; Furness Abbey, Cumbria; Lanercost Priory, Cumbria; Rievaulx Abbey, North Yorkshire; and Roche Abbey, South Yorkshire. Responding directly to identified needs within the heritage sector at these sites, this multi-faceted programme for knowledge exchange (KE) and impact generation aims to rearticulate, recreate and embed aspects of the original literary-historical research (1700-1850) in present-day virtual and real-life contexts, showing the relevance of its findings to contemporary acts of ruin tourism so as directly to enrich the general public's knowledge, appreciation and experience of national history and architectural heritage.

The aims of the 'Revenants and Remains' programme are as follows:

1) To attract new local audiences of all ages to these 5 sites of ecclesiastical ruin through the popular and high-recruiting theme of ghosts ('revenants') and corporeal and architectural vestiges ('remains')

2) To engage the interest of these new public audiences in the rich, often controversial histories of these sites, primarily as they are told through the thematically cognate topics of death, burial, ruination, the afterlife and the supernatural

3) To enrich, enhance and change local and national visitors' knowledge, perception and experience of architectural heritage through a thematically coherent set of on-site interpretations

4) To extend the applicability and, thus, the potential impact of the 'Revenants and Remains' programme outwards beyond the 5 selected locales through the production and curation of more general KE-focused digital content, as well as through the hosting of a workshop for heritage professionals and stakeholders

So as to realise these aims, 'Revenants and Remains' comprises the following 5 objectives:

1) The organisation of on-site youth-engagement activities for 11-25-yr-olds

2) The organisation and running of guided tours for adult visitors to the 5 chosen sites themed around the topic of 'Revenants and Remains'

3) The organisation and running of creative writing workshops at each of the 5 selected sites

4) The curation of themed digital content of a more general nature

5) The running of a workshop on the theme of 'Gothic Tourism / Haunted Heritage' for British heritage professionals.

Thus creating and engaging new audiences for the original research, enriching the visitor's experience of Britain's ruins and ultimately contributing towards the sustainable management of the historic environment, the project aims to forge pathways to impact that were neither foreseen nor, indeed, possible during the course of 'Writing Britain's Ruins'.


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