Exploring the National Portrait Gallery at Christmas
Pity the poor gift recipient. We all know that deciding what to buy your loved one can be tough, but do you really want to give a farm’s worth of livestock and a party load of people?
That’s just what the present giver did in The 12 Days of Christmas.
This traditional English Christmas carol, first published in England in 1780, tells the story of a series of gifts from “my true love”. There have been a number of different versions of the lyrics over the centuries but all feature an ever growing list of animals birds and people.
The 12 Days of Christmas Treasure Hunt
Instead of giving gifts, a group of treasure hunters searched for answers to clues about them. Exploring the National Portrait Gallery, their quest took them from Tudor paintings to 21st century art.
The ancient Egyptians used scares to keep body snatchers and tomb raiders away from the contents of their pyramids. They employed moving walls and self-opening doors, traps and mazes, as well as snakes and insects to provoke fear. Mazes and labyrinths, often filled with monsters, can also be found in Greek and Roman folklore.
Theatrical scares were started in ancient Greek theatre, with productions including things such as trapdoors, ghostly images and fake blood. By the middles ages, travelling players performed mostly Biblical stories, including the scarier parts which were intended to frighten audiences into being good Christians.
The middle ages was also when the idea of Halloween, as we know it today, began.
When the Europeans converted to Christianity, they carried over the idea of an autumn holiday from their Celtic and pagan religions. This included bobbing for apples, carving pumpkins or turnips, dressing in costume and trick -or-treating.
Communicating with the dead……
As theatres developed, so did the development of special effects for the Ghosts, demons and monsters that often appeared in plays. But these spectral sightings were make believe. By the 1800’s additional forms of ghostly entertainment were available, with Mediums, fortune tellers and spiritualists communicating with the dead.
Or did they?.....Harry Houdini and others debunked several famous spiritualists as frauds.
In the early 20th century freakshows and dark rides became part of the travelling carnival’s attractions. Then permanent sites for amusement parks sprang up. These included haunted houses and mazes.
Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion did not open until 1969. It’s facade was based on the Winchester Mystery House. Inside the house visitors ride “doom buggies” through the haunted mansion.
Now haunted hoses are not restricted to amusement parks. Halloween enthusiasts known as “home haunters” create attractions at their homes. There are also haunted hayrides, mazes and scavenger hunts.
Witchy goings on with Treasure Hunts in London
at the British Museum
Begin by meeting the Witches and reading the Halloween story.
Trickier than it seems as some of the words are missing.
Can you fill in the blanks?
Solve the clues and you will discover they all relate to objects that can be found within the British Museum.
Now it’s time to set off exploring. Will you be able to find the objects?
They can all be discovered within the collections treasures.
Think you’ve found the right cauldron?
You’ll have to unravel the crypt-ic clues and answer the question about it to check.
Tricky? A little, but all the solutions can be found by searching the cabinets and reading the descriptions.
We found the Mummies! Halloween Treasure Hunt at the British Museum
The British museum is vast, but the witches will give you a list of rooms to search so you can find your way around. And if you need a little more help, they will be there to assist you, offering hints and advice.
And after you’ve finished exploring the museum and solving the tricks, it’s time for the treats.....Head to an elegant nearby venue for a delicious cream tea treat and prize giving.
Haunted House Trail
Halloween-themed haunted houses first emerged during the Great Depression as ways to distract young tricksters. Groups of families would deck out their basements with home made scary decorations. Then they would hold “house-to-house” parties, where the children would travel from basement to basement, experiencing different scary scenes.
Trails Of Terror
A 1937 party pamphlet is quoted in Lisa Morton’s book “Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween” which describes how parents designed “trails of terror” to spook the children.
"An outside entrance leads to a rendezvous with ghosts and witches in the cellar or attic. Hang old fur, strips of raw liver on walls, where one feels his way to dark steps….Weird moans and howls come from dark corners, damp sponges and hair nets hung from the ceiling touch his face….Doorways are blockaded so that guests must crawl through a long dark tunnel….At the end he hears a plaintive ‘meow’ and sees a black cardboard cat outlined in luminous paint…”
Not a big attraction in the UK (yet), there are over 1,200 professional haunted houses, 3,000 charity-run spookshows and 300 theme parks that operate horror-themed events in the United States.
Get your thinking caps and comfy shoes on and explore Lambeth parks from Kennington to Waterloo. Visit eight parks and gardens, three of which have been awarded the prestigious Green Flag Award. As well as some large parks, find smaller areas that are like an oasis within the dense urban setting. Discover nature. Not just trees, flowers and plants, but animals and insects along the way.
Oh, and did I mention that the clues for this hunt will be Haiku’s?
The Wallace Collection is an unusual London museum as it is housed in an historic London town house. This national museum houses unsurpassed displays of French 18th-century painting, furniture and porcelain with superb Old Master paintings and a world class armoury in its 25 galleries.
Romance was in the air, and in the gallery, as teams set off to hunt for clues. They solved clues and puzzles, while answering questions about love and marriage, couples and engagements.
The Tate Britain’s collection of British art ranges from 1500 to the present day. It includes works from Constable to Turner, Blake to Hockney, Bacon to Waterhouse to Gainsborough.
After the hunt everyone enjoyed a drink in the Rex Whistler Restaurant at Tate Britain. Described as ‘The Most Amusing Room in Europe’ the Rex Whistler Restaurant was opened in 1927. It has been the site of political and social intrigue over the decades, as well as gaining a reputation for having one of the capital’s finest wine cellars.
Sitting on the edge of Epping Forest, on the London/Essex border, is the London suburb of Chingford. It is host to an array of urban and countryside heritage.
Originally the whole parish of Chingford lay within the ancient Forest of Essex. The Domesday figures for swine-pastures show that Chingford was well-wooded in the 11th century, although the parish had a considerable amount of arable land, which was increased by subsequent forest clearance. Chingford’s woodland is still similar in size to its area of woodland in the 1640’s.
Epping Forest and Chingford Plain became popular with day-trippers in Victorian times. As London’s largest open space, Epping Forest is a registered charity managed by the City of London. Spend some time in “The View” learning the story and history of the forest. Then visit the listed buildings on the edge of Epping Forest, including the Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge.
The town of Chingford began as a scattered farming community. Comprising of three forest hamlets, the inhabitants of Chingford had the ancient right to pasture cattle, branded with their mark, a crowned ‘G’, within the forest.
There has been a parish church in Chingford since Norman times. The present Old Church building dates from the late 13th century. However the church building had to be abandoned in the 1840’s as it was in such a bad state of repair. The Reverend Robert Boothby Heathcote decided to build, at his own expense, a new church on Chingford Green. The new Church on the Green, designed by Lewis Vulliamy, was built in 1844 and established the prominence of the Chingford Green hamlet .
During Victorian times nearby Walthamstow and Leyton experienced a surge in urbanisation, but Chingford remained an agricultural parish until the arrival of the Great Eastern Railway.
The Chingford Green conservation area includes a variety of interesting buildings showing Chingford’s development over two hundred years from a small rural community to a suburb of modern London.
Naughty Or Nice - Exploring Piccadilly
Starting at the Royal Academy, teams were formed in the Annenberg Courtyard overlooked by a statue of Joshua Reynolds. He was one of the Royal Academy’s founders and was their first president, holding the position from 1768 until his death in 1792.
Known for his portraits, some of Reynold’s subjects were women whose behaviour could be considered a little Naughty. Women, such as his close friend Kitty Fisher, who was a high-class prostitute. Although it was rumoured she was his mistress this was never proved. Which leads us into the subject of the treasure hunt….
Naughty Or Nice
Piccadilly contains a lot of famous and infamous history and this treasure hunt enables you to discover some naughty as well as nice heritage.
After hunt reception
Instead of our usual after hunt cream tea, this time we had a Prosecco reception at the Jewel Bar just off Piccadilly Circus. This is a grade II listed building was built in 1909. It is of historic interest as it is an early 20th century commercial building combining the designs of two notable architects – Edward Keynes Purchase and Reginald Blomfield. Blomfield, who designed the ground floor façade was the chief architect employed to remodel John Nash’s Regent Street designs during the 1910s and 20s.
What Alice Found
Lewis Carroll wrote the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, called Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There in 1871. It is set a few months after the first book. This time Alice climbs through a mirror to enter a fantasy world.
The book includes Alice’s meeting with The Red Queen. While Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland incorporated cards, Through the Looking-Glass concerns Alice’s journey across a chess board. Throughout her expedition Alice is confronted by things that are not as they seem. In the world on the other side of the mirror’s reflection there are many mirror themes, including opposites, time running backwards, and so on.
Things are not always what they seem
A group of treasurehunters took a trip to Wonderland at The National Gallery with Treasure Hunts In London. Joining the Red Queen and Alice they began their adventure through the looking glass by exploring the labyrinth of rooms and exhibitions. They soon discovered that appearances could be deceptive and nothing was what it seems. Luckily no-one got lost down the rabbit hole…
The V&A Museum
This is named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and was founded in 1852 . It is the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects. Teams set off to explore the museum and find art with a Scottish connection.
The prizes for winning included some British Shortbread. While shortbread-like biscuits have been made all over Britain for centuries, it is usually associated with Scotland. The first printed recipe appears to be by Mrs McLintock in 1736.
Hunting Animals At Tate Britain
A family friendly hunt exploring the collection at Tate Britain
We visited the UNESCO World Heritage City of Bruges. On the way to our hotel, we passed one of the large art installations currently situated on the canals.
Large art installations – What’s that all about?
Triennial Bruges is held once every three years with an artistic route that spreads across the city centre. Contemporary artists and architects from around the world are asked to contribute. in 2018 the theme was today’s liquid society. It centered around the constant change in cities, how society handles such change, social issues and global warming.
Walking Bruges art trail
So we spent the next couple of days on a treasure hunt searching for the 15 works of art. We started by picking up a map then set off on foot to explore the city. Near the statue of Jan Van Eyck we found the Bruges Whale. Officially it is called the Skyscraper . Made from 5 tonnes of plastic waste pulled out of the ocean, it is a 4-storey whale that serves as a physical reminder why need need to stop polluting our oceans.The route showed us a lot more of the city than we expected as we searched for the art work.