Background to Choosing this Project (1996)

Background to Choosing this Project – A report submitted as part of my final major project (1996).

With regards to my Client based project, the decision really had already been made in my second year. We were given a project entitled ‘Construction’ and for that I chose the construction of castles, with the castle in question being Dunster Castle in Somerset.

I had sent out several letters to various castles and heritage sites, Mont St Michel included, as this was also of great interest to me. I had a variety of responses, the letter from Mr Bev Woodger, a volunteer guide and historian at Dunster Castle, was by far the most enthusiastic. He asked me if I would care to visit the castle and explain in more detail what the project involved and what the outcome would be. I did visit and Mr Woodger very kindly gave me the whole of his afternoon, showing me around the castle and pointing out the most important areas of interest. The castle was closed to the public, at the time, so I was able to go to places that the general public weren’t normally allowed.

On conclusion of that visit I decided that it would be an extremely interesting place to animate the history of, and how it was built, and wrote to Mr Woodger confirming that and thanking him for his time. He came back with further offers of help and more information regarding the families that lived there, previous to it being owned by the National Trust.

Unfortunately, being only a seven week project, I did not have the time to finish it and promised myself that I would go back to it later. This being the case when considering my two final year projects, I immediately thought of Dunster, I spoke to  Mr Woodger again, apologising for not having completed it the first time, and asked if the Warden there would be interested in an animation of how the castle evolved, and the changes made to it over its lifetime, as opposed to its construction.

This came back very positive, as was the help from Mr Woodger. So it was decided that Dunster Castle, the history and changes from Anglo Saxon to present day, would be my Client-based project.

I put an order through the Inter-Library Loan, a request for H.C.Maxwell-Lyte’s books, the ‘History of Dunster’ and ‘Dunster and its Lords’, as recommended by Mr Woodger. But unfortunately they didn’t come through until just before Christmas. That meant that it would have to be the Spring Term project, and the Issue based project the autumn term.

My intention was to animate the whole sequence of changes to Dunster from 1066 until present day, but on researching the areas involved in that time, I realised it would be a very lengthy animation, so I decided to cut the animated sequence down to the first beginnings of Dunster Castle, e.g. 1066 to 1266.

I visited the castle again in the autumn and then again in February of this year, meeting Mr Woodger each time; taking photographs of the area as well as of the castle itself, visiting Exmoor Information Centre and the National Trust Centre at Dunster Castle. I managed to get a lot of information from these places and, also by staying at the Luttrell Arms Hotel, from the local people that worked there.

Dunster Castle is truly a wonderful, fairy tale type castle, and the history of the castle is just as amazing. I am very pleased I decided to approach Dunster, their enthusiasm and help, especially from Mr Woodger, has been wonderful, the feeling of working on something that will almost definitely be used by the Castle for school children, and whoever else cares to inquire into Dunster’s history, is very satisfying. The pressure to achieve something worthwhile viewing is quite strong, and I only hope I do not let those involved, such as Mr Woodger,  down.

The reasons why I decided to base the project in terms of an educational aid for the school children, is partly because I have a child of my own who is very interested in history, and also as a child I used to love our outings out to historical places of interest and often wonder what the places looked like with all the historical events happening such as battles.

With this animation, children will be able to see a 3D Dunster right through its ages. The way the house looks now, it could be quite difficult for a child to imagine how it might have looked, for example, when the Normans invaded England. But by watching this video, the children can see how it looked, and be taught the social history of those times as well. I would also like to think it would be of great help to the guides, such as Mr Woodger, who have the task of informing / educating these children  when they visit Dunster.