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Review: Spend the day at Christchurch Mansion this autumn half term for some local history, make-believe and art-inspired fun

14:02 28 October 2014

The kitchen at Christchurch Mansion - the roasting hog is a memorable part of most children

The kitchen at Christchurch Mansion - the roasting hog is a memorable part of most children's visit

On a wet and dreary day it is hard to think of ways to entertain the family without breaking into the ‘rainy day’ fund.

The giant tea set is popular with younger guestsThe giant tea set is popular with younger guests

But right on our doorstep is Christchurch Mansion, the jewel in the crown of the borough’s rich heritage.

This Tudor mansion is open to the public six days a week (closed Mondays) and entry is free - making it the perfect day out for you and the children this half term.

Emma Roodhouse, art curator, showed us around and even a whistle-stop tour took 45 minutes - with children in tow you can expect to be here for a good couple of hours.

Our first stop was the art gallery - currently home to Obscure Secure exhibition, focusing on 20th century women artists while also bringing in work from three contemporary female artists.

Childrens books and toys to keep younger siblings amused in the Wolsey galleryChildrens books and toys to keep younger siblings amused in the Wolsey gallery

The museum team have cleverly set up a drawing area at the centre of the gallery, so while you admire the art work, your children can create their own - just remember to bring along their pencils.

A collection of books, toys and playmats will help entertain very small children while your little Picassos create their masterpiece.

Throughout October, the mansion is hosting The Big Draw challenge, and some of the work handed in by young artists will feature in a special half-term pop-up exhibition.

Elsewhere in the mansion is the Victorian toys and games display, a fascinating insight into how our forebearers kept their off spring entertained.

Inside Ipswich Mansion with Emma Roodhouse 
Obscure Secure exhibition of East Anglian female painters in the Wolsey galleryInside Ipswich Mansion with Emma Roodhouse Obscure Secure exhibition of East Anglian female painters in the Wolsey gallery

What’s more, your children will be able to see similarities with some of their own toys, inlcuding the ever-popular dolls’ house.

A giant cloth tea set has been set up for children to play with, a unique attraction that Emma said was popular with younger visitors.

“My own little boy plays with it for ages, they love picking up all the cups and pretending to pour tea.

“It was handmade for us by a woman who makes some of our costumes.”

Inside Ipswich Mansion with Emma Roodhouse 
Obscure Secure exhibition of East Anglian female painters in the Wolsey galleryInside Ipswich Mansion with Emma Roodhouse Obscure Secure exhibition of East Anglian female painters in the Wolsey gallery

Another attraction is the Stepping Out exhibition. “We have shoes, bags and hats dotted around the mansion,” said Emma. “It is quite entertaining for the children to try and spot them all as they are walking around.”

The mansion has been open to the public as a museum since 1896 when it was given to Ipswich by Felix Cobbold.

Set within the grounds of Christchurch Park, there is only disabled parking at the mansion but you can catch a bus into town, and enjoy a picnic in the park if the weather allows, or treat yourself to a hot chocolate from the cafe - giving you a whole day out for just a few pounds.

“We have over 60,000 visitors a year, a mix of residents and visitors from further afield,” explained Emma.

Inside Ipswich Mansion with Emma Roodhouse 
Obscure Secure exhibition of East Anglian female painters in the Wolsey galleryInside Ipswich Mansion with Emma Roodhouse Obscure Secure exhibition of East Anglian female painters in the Wolsey gallery

And if your children need a little extra stimulation, why not ry the willow lanterns workshops staff are running on Tuesday, October 28 and Wednesday, October 29.

Using willow and otehr craft materials, children can make their very own lanterns to take home with them.

There are five sessions each day, and the cost is £3 per child - booking required. Visit www.ipswich.gov.uk/museumsor call 01473 433691.

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