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Explore Hylands Estate with a brand-new multimedia tour

Hylands virtual tour device

A brand-new complimentary Hylands Estate multimedia tour shares the rich history of Hylands House and its extensive gardens.

The jewel in Chelmsford’s crown

Hylands House was first built almost 300 years ago, and its gardens have been a major attraction for most of the Estate’s history. Over time, each new owner made their own mark on the house and its grounds, extending and remodelling the landscape according to the tastes and fashions of the day. Initially there were 100 acres of parkland. By the mid-1800s it covered some 4,300 acres!

Hylands House frontage
Today, Hylands Estate covers 574 acres of historic parkland, all open for the public to freely explore. It is known as the jewel in Chelmsford’s crown.

Today, Hylands Estate covers 574 acres of historic parkland, all open for the public to freely explore. It is known as the jewel in Chelmsford’s crown.

Sharing the history of the beloved Estate

Now, a new multimedia tour, designed by ATS Heritage, will take visitors through the history of the Estate, telling the story of how it came to be as it is today. ATS Heritage have more than 25,000 active devices across the UK, including at Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and Bletchley Park.

The Hylands History and Gardens Multimedia Tour follows past owners of the Estate, from Sir John Comyns, who established Hylands’ first formal gardens, to the last private owner, Christine Hanbury, whose memorial garden remains a touching legacy. The content reveals how the landscape we see today was shaped and remodelled by past owners, historic figures and even a celebrated architect.

Map of Hylands Estate
The map route of the Hylands History and Gardens Multimedia Tour.

It navigates an extensive trip around the Estate’s most prominent landmarks, including the Pleasure Gardens, Flint Cottage, and the One World Garden, which Prince William (now The Prince of Wales) opened in 2007.

Hylands Pleasure gardens (Credit: Daniel Jones)
Photograph by Daniel Jones http://www.danieljonesphotography.co.uk.

The tour is filled with fascinating snippets of information to give visitors a comprehensive overview of Hylands’ past and its role today. What does wisteria represent? Who lived at Flint Cottage? And what pets are buried deep within the Estate’s green borders? These questions and others are answered as visitors walk around the Estate’s beautiful spaces.

Hear the experiences of historic Estate workers

The tour also provides insight into the lives of those who lived and worked on the Estate over the centuries. It draws on newspaper archives and historic film footage and photographs to reveal the social history of Hylands. Visitors can listen to the experiences of a scullery maid, a governess and a gardener as they describe what it was like to live and work at Hylands over 100 years ago.

It also touches on the many rich and varied creatures that call the parkland home today. From ducks and great crested newts to bats and golden hoverflies, the wellbeing of Hylands’ many species is an important part of the management of the Estate today.

Canada goose
Photograph by Aaron Crowe.

Councillor Rose Moore, Cabinet Member for Greener and Safer Chelmsford, says the new multimedia tour further opens up Hylands’ rich and varied history to locals and tourists alike:

“I’m delighted to see the history of Hylands Estate being shared in this way. Hylands is for the people of Chelmsford and beyond to fully enjoy. What better way to enable people to do this than with this new tour? It offers a fascinating insight into the gardens, their history, owners, and residents.”

Councillor Rose Moore, Cabinet Member for Greener and Safer Chelmsford.

Hylands House Manager, Lorraine Thorne says the guide adds new value to Hylands Estate’s existing visitor offer:

“With our existing Open Estate Days offering a chance to better get to know Hylands House, we’ve been missing a way to truly share the Estate’s stunning and extensive grounds with our visitors. Now, this new multimedia tour offers us a chance to do exactly that, showing us why Hylands Estate really is the jewel in Chelmsford’s crown.”

Lorraine Thorne, Hylands House Manager.

Narrated by local author and curator

The guide is part-narrated by Nick Wickenden, archaeologist and former Manager of Chelmsford Museum. Nick authored the comprehensive official guide: Hylands ‘A Remarkably Elegant… Mansion House’, which explores in more detail the history of the house itself and its incredible journey of restoration.

You can purchase the guide on the Hylands Estate website, at The Stables Information Point, or at Chelmsford Museum.

Interactive elements for young visitors to enjoy

The tour is for younger visitors to enjoy as much as adults, with various interactive features included in the guide. Young history enthusiasts can reveal the Estate’s past life through picture rubbing activities, while nature lovers can listen to bat and owl calls. Other activities include returning horses to their stables and identifying fruits and vegetables.

How to enjoy the tour

The tour is free to explore seven days a week.  You can enjoy it via Hylands Estate’s official handheld devices, which can be borrowed from The Stables Information Point with a £10 deposit per device via a bank card. The deposit will be refunded back to your card on return of the devices borrowed. Alternatively, use your smartphone to listen to the tour by scanning the first post stop in The Stables area. Don’t forget to bring your earphones if doing the tour from a smartphone.

Handheld devices are available from 10am to 3pm Monday to Friday and from 9am to 4pm Saturday to Sunday. If using a personal device, the tour is available within normal park opening hours, which are regularly updated on the Hylands Estate website.

Virtual tour stop 2

Funding from the Cultural Recovery Fund

The Hylands History and Gardens Multimedia Tour is funded by the Culture Recovery Fund. The fund aims to support heritage sites and other cultural venues in recovering from the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.

If you enjoy the tour, please consider a donation to The Friends of Hylands House. The Friends were established in 1995 and they play a crucial role in raising money to help preserve and improve the house and grounds. Your contribution will help pay for preservations and improvements that will benefit generations of visitors to come. You can make a donation in The Stables bookshop.

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Cherelle Nightingill
Cherelle Nightingill

Cherelle writes about Chelmsford Theatre, Hylands Estate, Chelmsford Museum, the Mayor of Chelmsford and culture and events in the city.