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Audley End House and Gardens: English Heritage has reintroduced ‘Ministry of Works’ style signs to encourage people to use their senses to connect with history





Iconic Ministry of Works style signs have been reintroduced at English Heritage properties to encourage visitors to engage with history using their senses.

Audley End House and Gardens near Saffron Walden is one of those where the familiar green signs will pop up.

English Heritage wants people to connect more deeply with the past by using the five senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell – to evoke the same experiences as people generations ago.

The Ministry of Works style signs remind visitors of views that have remained unchanged for centuries
The Ministry of Works style signs remind visitors of views that have remained unchanged for centuries

To provide inspiration, the charity has reintroduced the much-loved ‘Ministry of Works’ signs. Often censorious in the past, the new signs are a playful update on the original – cautioning visitors not to miss out on sensory experiences, such as removing their shoes and standing where history happened or appreciating memorable views that have remained unchanged for centuries.

In addition to the signs, which will be found in the grounds of numerous English Heritage sites across the country, including at Audley End, the charity has created a visual guide outlining the ‘50 Ways to Explore using your Senses’ on its website.

It includes suggestions such as feeling the chill of ancient stones, tasting heritage produce grown in historic kitchen gardens, taking on new perspectives from the vantage points of historic figures and sniffing out the on-site animals. Collated by English Heritage historians, the list is designed to transport visitors back in time to enjoy the same experiences as those who have gone before.

The Ministry of Works style signs are on display at Audley End House and Gardens to encourage people to use their senses to connect to the past
The Ministry of Works style signs are on display at Audley End House and Gardens to encourage people to use their senses to connect to the past

Louise Crawley, landscape advisor and historian at English Heritage, said: “Throughout the centuries, the properties in our care have been homes, workplaces and places of worship to many thousands of people. This summer, we’re inviting visitors to escape from their own lives for a moment and, by using their senses to engage with their surroundings, walk in the footsteps of England’s vast array of historic figures – seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching the very same things that they did.

“Listen to the crunch of gravel underfoot at Down House, which Charles Darwin would have heard on his daily thinking walks. Feel the wind pounding your face on Hadrian’s Wall, as Roman sentries would have done on duty two thousand years ago. Or scan the view across the Mere from Elizabeth I’s rooms at Kenilworth Castle, imagining it filled with water as it was when she looked out upon it.

“In the past, much pleasure would have been derived from simple sensations such as smell, touch and sound. In today’s world, where we’re constantly overstimulated and expected to be at the end of a phone 24/7, it can be difficult to stop and connect with our environment.

“We hope that our visitors will be inspired to take the time to focus on the sensations around them and, in doing so, form a deeper understanding of the lives of those who went before.”

Visitors to Audley End are encouraged to smell the flowers and be transported back in time.
Visitors to Audley End are encouraged to smell the flowers and be transported back in time.

The senses Ministry of Works signs will remain on display until the end of July.

The Ministry of Works style signs are on display at Audley End House and Gardens to encourage people to use their senses to connect to the past
The Ministry of Works style signs are on display at Audley End House and Gardens to encourage people to use their senses to connect to the past
The Ministry of Works style signs are on display at Audley End House and Gardens to encourage people to use their senses to connect to the past
The Ministry of Works style signs are on display at Audley End House and Gardens to encourage people to use their senses to connect to the past

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