Things to Do

Top 5 Things To Do in February

This February, we’ve got plenty of ideas to help you to step into history.

Learn about historical cosmetics and recreate a royal beauty regime or prepare something special for the one you love on Valentine’s Day. Read on to discover fascinating people, must-see properties and captivating videos.

The Month In History

  • The great English landscape gardener, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, passed away on 6 February 1783. Brown is remembered for designing over 250 idyllic landscapes, including parts of the grounds at Wrest Park in Bedfordshire and Audley End House in Essex.
  • Charles Dickens was born on 7 February 1812 in Portsmouth. The author is inextricably linked with London and wrote many of his early works — including Oliver Twist — at his home on Doughty Street in Bloomsbury, where a London blue plaque now commemorates him.
  • The bacteriologist Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin on 14 February 1929, one of the greatest medical discoveries of all time.
  • On 16 February 1923, Archaeologist Howard Carter unsealed the burial chamber of the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings.
  • Charles Darwin, author of On the Origin of Species, was born on 12 February 1809. Darwin spent 40 years living in Down House where he wrote his theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. Today, visitors can follow in the great scientist’s footsteps, as well as explore the rooms and award-winning gardens where Darwin lived and worked.
  • Samuel Pepys, known for his naval administration and his celebrated diary, was born on the 23 February 1633. The diary spanned the period of 1660–69 and is most notable for his coverage of the Great Fire of London.

1. Step back in time this half term

Fire up your family’s imagination by delving into England’s history, whatever the weather. Visit our sites for a fun-filled family half term and get fit for history with our exciting outdoor explorer quests.

Roam the historic grounds and gardens to find games and activities inspired by knights, Roman soldiers and ancient Olympians. Find out quirky facts, tackle playful puzzles and see if you’ve got what it takes to get moving like people from the past. There are many participating sites throughout the country to be discovered, including Whitby Abbey, Dover Castle and Wrest Park.

The days are starting to get lighter, the weather’s getting a little warmer - it’s time to get out and start exploring. With so many sites opening up for Spring, check out our ‘Spotlight on the Places We Love’ guide for inspiration and help for planning your visit.

Plan your visit

2. Explore the mighty Hadrian’s Wall

This year marks 1,900 years since work started on the building of Hadrian’s Wall.

There are many aspects to Hadrian's Wall, and the different sites along its length play a different role in telling its long and fascinating history. Absorb the amazing landscape at Housesteads Roman Fort, and discover the 34,000 strong collection of artefacts at Corbridge Roman Town. At Birdoswald Roman Fort, find out more about our efforts to uncover the secrets of this former frontier of the Roman empire.

You can also test your knowledge of Emperor Hadrian with our quiz, or discover how Roman soldiers stationed along Hadrian’s Wall weathered the harsh cold and snow of Northumberland.

If you’re planning a visit, be sure to check out our online guide detailing the things to see and do along Hadrian's Wall.

Find out more

3. Learn about Historical Cosmetics

Explore what make-up can tell us about the people and places of our past, and learn how to create your own historical look at home.

Fashion historian Amber Butchart and makeup artist Rebecca Butterwoth explain how makeup has mirrored the evolution of England’s rich social and political history, whilst recreating iconic looks through the ages, from Roman times to the 1940s. They explore the beauty regimes of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, offering a direct comparison of how cosmetics transformed during those times and what their subjects thought of their ‘looks’.

Check out the podcast episode exploring the history of makeup if you’d like to find out which was their favourite episode to shoot and how they overcame the difficulties of re-creating some historical recipes and sourcing rare ingredients.

Watch on YouTube

4. Visit somewhere special (with someone special) on valentine’s day

This February treat yourself or the one you love to something special and visit some of our most picturesque scenery and stunning romantic ruins, such as Rievaulx AbbeyKenilworth Castle or Furness Abbey. Check out our travel guide of romantic destinations to enjoy Valentine’s Day in a beautiful historical setting, and have a romantic date from history you’ll remember.

In the season of love, when many of us treat our loved ones to a gift of flowers, find out more about the hidden language and meanings of flowers, and discover which was Queen Victoria’s favourite flower. Check out our top tips for writing a love letter and find out more about love letters from history, with tips from the love letters of famous historical figures. If you fancy an unusual valentine’s day gift rather than a flowers, our shop offers everything from jewellery, artisan soaps and hand cream to replica swords and gin.

Valentine's Day Ideas

5. Get animated about history

Learn more about history in a fun and engaging way with our animated History in a Nutshell series.

Find out about the quirkiness of medieval medicine! Medieval healers may have had what we’d consider some rather stunning misconceptions and an over reliance on blood -sucking leeches and studying urine. But they did recognise the importance of general healthy living, sleep, exercise and diet, and relied on herbal remedies with some truth to them, such as liquorice for colds and ginger for stomach-aches.

Discover more about the impact the Romans left upon Britain. They were talented builders, revolutionising the construction of many defensive forts and dwellings in towns such as York, London, Bath and Chester, offering new experience such as hotels, baths and even takeaways in these new hubs for businesses and leisure. Learn about the Romans’ new farming methods, the foods they brought with them, changes in medicine and art materials, as well as roads, of course.

With fascinating videos on everything from witches to the Industrial Revolution, find out more with History in a Nutshell.

Watch on YouTube
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