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    Updated on Aug 28, 2018. Posted on Aug 27, 2018

    Ghosts, A Hanging & Henry VIII All Part Of Herstmonceux Castle's History

    The Bader International Study Centre is turning 25 years old in 2019. Queen's is celebrating by inviting former Castle Kids back to England for a reunion June 29–30, 2019. Before Queen’s took over, the Herstmonceux Castle's five-century history featured stories that belong in a Game of Thrones episode – robbery, a hanging, ghosts, and royalty. Don’t worry – its history is not all dark and scary. Let's look back at the past 500-plus years and learn about the castle’s connections to Harry Potter, Stephen Hawking, and The Chronicles of Narnia.

    1441: Construction begins

    BBC / Via news.bbc.co.uk

    Roger Fiennes, the treasurer of the household of King Henry VI of England, starts construction on the castle. The price tag? A bargain at £3,800.

    1541: King Henry VIII confiscates the castle

    English History / Via englishhistory.net

    Some serious Game of Thrones action happens. King Henry VIII confiscates the Herstmonceux estate after owner Sir Thomas Fiennes was hanged for murdering a gamekeeper and robbery of the king's deer.

    The castle was eventually returned to the Fiennes family years later during the reign of one of Henry's children.

    You might see Sir Thomas today. According to a story in the Queen's Gazette, his ghost haunts the grounds. (See the post below for more details about the castle's spooky history.)

    1777: Castle crumbles

    Bader International Study Centre

    After years of neglect, an architect says the castle is in such bad shape that it is not worth saving. Instead of rebuilding, the owners decide to sell the furniture, remove the wood paneling, and tear down the interior walls.

    Tenor GIF / Via tenor.com

    The castle becomes a home renovation nightmare. It remains in poor shape for several hundred years.

    1910 to 1946: Rebuilding phase

    Royal Greenwich Observatory / Via royalobservatorygreenwich.org

    Two new owners help Herstmonceux return to its former glory. In 1910, British Member of Parliament Claude Lowther buys the estate and starts major renovations to the southern half of the castle to make it a grand country home. After he passes away, British MP Sir Paul Latham purchases the castle and in 1933 continues the restoration process, including work on the gardens, grounds, and moat.

    1930 to present: Ghosts haunt the castle

    Queen's Gazette / Via queensu.ca

    There is photographic proof that Herstmonceux is haunted. Can you spot the uninvited guest at the wedding in the above photo? Who is sitting by the piano on the stairs in the photo below?

    Doug Littlejohn, a former tour operator at the castle, has been collecting ghost stories and says five ghosts roam the halls, including a boy known only as The Headless Drummer.

    Ghost sightings at the castle date as far back as 1930. Read this 2017 Queen's Gazette article about the ghosts of Herstmonceux.

    Queen's Gazette / Via queensu.ca

    1948: Royal Greenwich Observatory relocates

    Royal Greenwich Observatory / Via royalobservatorygreenwich.org

    To escape the light pollution of London, the Royal Greenwich Observatory begins the process of relocating to Herstmonceux Castle. The move began in 1948 and was fully completed in 1957. Herstmonceux remained a home to astronomers for decades until the observatory moved to Cambridge in 1989.

    1961: Stephen Hawking studies at Herstmonceux

    Here is a photo of one Oxford student, acclaimed physicist Stephen Hawking, in front of Herstmonceux Castle in 1961! 🌠 #queensu https://t.co/eCcsZpzLD9

    BISC

    The Royal Greenwich Observatory attracted many students, including a young Stephen Hawking (third from right, bottom row). The A Brief History of Time author and University of Cambridge professor went on to become one of the world's most famous physicists.

    Wikipedia / Via it.wikipedia.org

    1990: Herstmonceux becomes Narnia

    BBC / Via youtu.be

    It might be tough to tell from this fuzzy screen image, but before The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was adapted into a hit movie in 2005, the BBC turned the classic Narnia books into TV movies. Parts of The Silver Chair were filmed at the castle. You can watch the movie in its entirety on YouTube.

    1994: International Study Centre opens

    Queen's University / Via queensu.ca

    The castle was purchased and donated to Queen's by alumni Drs. Alfred and Isabel Bader. After renovations, the International Study Centre was opened in 1994 with an initial class of 47 students.

    In 2009, the name was changed to the Bader International Study Centre.

    2002: Herstmonceux becomes Hogwarts

    Warner Bros./Queen's

    Coca-Cola held a Harry Potter promotion and rented the castle to serve as Hogwarts for a day of Harry Potter-related activities for the sweepstakes winners.

    The wizardly history does not end there.

    In 2017 and 2018, the castle hosted Bothwell School of Witchcraft, a multi-day camp for witches and wizards.

    2019: BISC 25th Anniversary Reunion

    BISC / Via queensu.ca

    The castle has been a unique and amazing learning environment for thousands of students over the past two decades. That is worth celebrating!

    To all BISC alumni: tell your fellow Castle Kids and Bader Buddies that it is time to return to Herstmonceux on June 29–30, 2019, for a 25th-anniversary reunion.

    If you need more reunion detials, email alumni@bisc.queensu.ac.uk or visit the BISC Reunion Facebook page.

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