a lute player strums his instrumentThanks to a generous donation we have partnered with Guildford Shakespeare Company to create a very special opportunity for our local primary school: The Festival of Revels!

Inspired by Elizabeth I's week-long visit to WHP in 1559 (she would visit three more times over her reign), year 6 from The Raleigh School worked with Guildford Shakespeare Company to re-imagine the 1559 'Festival of Revels' with a special promenade performance throughout the house and grounds of West Horsley Place. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for 60 children. 


Guildford Shakespeare ran workshops and rehearsals at school for four days ahead of the final performance at West Horsley Place on day 5. Year 6 pupils worked with GSC to devise their own dramatic scenes that would be performed in different spaces at the manor house, recreating the spirit of the masques and revels that took place in 1559. Using the theme of kings and queens as their starting point, the children devised scenes inspired by Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll and West Horsley Places's history. 

The Morning Room transformed into WonderlandThey also spent time making masks, making costumes and cooking Tudor-style treats. 

The Performance

Having honed their dramatic scenes at school, the final day of the project took place at West Horsley Place. The 60 year 6 children spent the day here. They started with a tour of the historic manor house, learning many stories from its past. For the remainder of the morning they rehearsed their scenes in their performance spaces in the house, getting used to their new environs. 

In the afternoon 120 pupils from years 4 and 5 visited the house to be the dress rehearsal audience. 

Finally, after a well-earned break and lots of play time in the gardens, year 6 returned in the evening to give the final performance to their parents and family. The occasion was to mark the end of their final year at The Raleigh. 

Macbeths banqueting hallParents were guided through the manor house finding a series of dramatic scenes performed by their children along the way. In the Stone Hall they found fearsome warriors inspired by Shakespeare's Henry V. They next followed the White Rabbit into the Morning Room, where the King & Queen of Hearts were ready to put Alice on trial in the world of Alice in Wonderland. Up a narrow creaking staircase they continued straight into the banqueting hall of King Macbeth and his guests. From thence, the parents found themselves in the enchanted forest of A Midsummer Night's Dream in the Drawing Room. Finally the story of real-life West Horsley Place footman, Guy Fawkes and King James was re-enacted in the Library. 

The Surprise

At the end of the performance parents and performers gathered in the walled gardens for a grand finale in song. However, unbeknownst to the children, a very special guest was about to make an appearance. Elizabeth I herself!

Elizabeth I entrance to the walled gardensThe young Queen entered the gardens, much pleased by the re-creation of her Festival of Revels. She asked the children to sing for her- a wonderful end to a very special project. 

Our Partner

Our sincerest thanks to our wonderful partner for this project: Guildford Shakespeare Company. Education & Outreach Manager Rob Cann empowered the children to create something really wonderful. 

What the Children Thought

“I loved to learn about the house and all of the people who have owned it, for example King Henry VIII. It has made me a much more confident speaker and I like drama much more.”

“It has inspired me to be an actor and I hope that year 5 have this life-changing activity.”

“It was a once in a lifetime experience”

“This was so brilliant. It has shown me what I can do when I put my mind to it.”

Performance images: Steve Porter