Saturday, 20 June 2015

Television review: Secrets of the castle

After a series of 'adventures', the living-history team of the BBC: historian Ruth Goodman and archeologists Peter Ginn and Tom Pinfold have arrived in the Middle Ages. At Guédelon in France they uncover the long-forgotten art of building a castle and of the everyday live of the Medieval people involved.

If you've read my blog for a while (that is, before I started on Blogger, sorry...) you know that I'm a huge fan of the living-history series from the BBC. It all started in 2005, with Tales from the Green Valley, in which a group of enthusiastic historians and archeologists actually recreated the life on a farm in the 17th century. I was enchanted; this was an amazing way to learn about history and most of all, about forgotten, everyday history! After that, a part of the team went on to produce the hugely succesful 'Farm' series: Victorian Farm, Edwardian Farm, Wartime Farm and Tudor Monastery Farm. I loved them all! So I was really pleased to hear that another series was being made, this time in the Middle Ages, a time period I'm really interested in, with my swordfighting hobby. 

Secrets of the castle is a little bit different from the previous series as farming does not take the centre stage. Also, the team partakes in an already running living-history project. This is, in fact, the biggest living-history (or experimental archeology) project in the world; in Guédelon in France, an international group of archeologists are building a castle from scratch using only Medieval techniques. The project is believed to take about 25 years! Ruth, Peter and Tom work along with the Guédelon staff for a season and learn many almost forgotten crafts and techniques.

As with all the previous series, Secrets of the castle is super interesting and easy to watch. You will learn about history in such an engaging and relaxed manner. I learned a lot about castles and the next time I visit one I will definitely look differently at it and keep an eye out for special features discussed in this series! And I really want to visit Guédelon now, it's such an amazing project. The team is super enthusiastic and involved, and mostly Ruth. Really, I adore Ruth Goodman, she is a historical superstar! The three team members have an easy banter going on and there are quite a few laugh-out-loud moments, especially involving Peter. 

Even so, when comparing this series with the previous, I did miss the farming aspect a bit, especially the team working with animals. Also, I felt like the subjects covered in this series were a little less varied. A lot of time was spent on the building process and less on the everyday live of the workers, such as housing, clothes and food, which I really thought was a strength of the previous series.

All in all though, Secrets of the castle was still a great watch and for everyone interested in history and maybe not in the mood for a more dry documentary, I can highly recommend this series (and all the previous ones!)


  1. This sounds really interesting! I hadn't heard of the previous series either; I'll have to look them up.

    1. It's a pity they're not better known, I think many history lovers all over the world would enjoy them. Most of the series are full on YouTube in good quality, so if you don't mind watching on there you're settled!

    2. Perfect! I can watch them on my phone during my breaks at work. :)