A fascinating place to visit and now a very well run museum. The house itself is very impressive with it’s timbre frame and your £3.75 concessions ticket (Full price £4.75) also gives you access to the garden and King John’s Palace, which is in the grounds and is one of the finest surviving example of Norman architecture in the country.
There is a highly amusing and entertaining introduction which is well worth attending, although it may require a few minutes wait before you can go into it. I would recommend too the self-guided tour for which you are given a ‘phone’. At various points in the building and grounds there are numbers which you dial into the ‘phone’ and listen to the story behind the item or area.
A lot of thought has gone into making the experience entertaining for all ages with treasure hunts and dressing up for the children and sophisticated teaching aids suitable for all ages. My favourite was a screen that turns 360 degrees and by touching different areas of the screen you can see what the room would have looked like in different periods of the house’s history. You get a unique glimpse into the lives of the numerous and varied former inhabitants of the house and an insight into the history of the Old Town area of Southampton.
There are specific tours for the attic and the cellar for which a guide is provided at no extra charge. The young, enthusiastic, guide that took our tours was very well informed and excellent at his job. There is access to most of the house for those with limited mobility but the attic and the cellar are only accessible via steep stairs and so will be unsuitable for some.
The garden is small but beautifully laid out as it would have been in Tudor times and there is a lot of information on the way that the Tudors would have used plants. A busy cafe is also in the grounds with tables set out overlooking the formal garden.
It is surprising to learn that King John’s Palace, built in the 1180s, was built on the quayside where ships would have been loaded and unloaded. The water is now hundreds or possibly even thousands of yards away due (I think) to land reclamation. Also the building has never been a palace for King John, or anyone else. It was mistakenly thought by historians that King John stayed there in the early 1300s and they gave it this grand title, which stuck. The building is just a shell now but still interesting to see.
We thought that it would take us about an hour to go over the house and grounds but we misjudged this completely and after a very entertaining 3 hours left only because the museum was closing. Be warned. It is open only between 10 am and 3 pm and I, for one, wish that we had arrived as it opened as I felt that we needed more time to do it justice. It deserves another visit at some time in the future.