Staff at the 700-year-old childhood home of Anne Boleyn have pleaded for members of the public to stop verbally and physically abusing them.
Hever Castle in Kent attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year. A tweet on the official Twitter page said: “We are unfortunately experiencing a high volume of abusive behaviour towards our staff.
“We understand that we're living in different times with new procedures & queuing systems to take into account. But this does not excuse verbal & physical abuse to our staff/fellow visitors.
“Abuse will not be tolerated and our team will ask you to leave the grounds.”
Dating back to the 13th century, Hever Castle was once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII and Mother of Elizabeth I.
It formed the unlikely backdrop to a sequence of tumultuous events that changed the course of Britain’s history, monarchy and religion.
However, since reopening after lockdown staff have been subjected to verbal and physical abuse as they attempt to run the tourist attraction under strict new safety measures due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In response to the tweet, Alnwick Castle, the 11th century featured as Hogwarts school in the Harry Potter films, sympathised and said staff there had experienced similar abuse.
“Hi Hever. We are with you and support you,” the historic location wrote in a tweet.
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“We have unfortunately been experiencing similar behaviour towards our staff so very much understand, and hope all are okay down there.”
Alnwick Castle sees more than 800,000 visitors each year and has been used as a location for films including Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as well as television shows such as Downton Abbey.
The news that staff were being subjected to abuse angered many of both castles’ followers on Twitter.
Lucy Ward wrote: “So sorry to hear this. I visited Alnwick with a friend who had been shielding for several months because of a medical condition and was understandably cautious - we felt there was an exemplary balance between Covid precautions and freedom for visitors. All the staff were great.”
And Andrea Davis of Belmont house and gardens, also in Kent, wrote: “So sorry to hear this, all of us here at Belmont House send best wishes and solidarity to you all.......people must please try to remember these measures are in place to protect them as visitors and those of us who work in these beautiful places, not to ruin their experiences.”
Faye Kelly, head of visitor services at Hever Castle, told Yahoo News UK: “Sadly staff members on the phones, at the ticket huts, in the shop and in the castle are being spoken to in an increasingly aggressive manner.
“The language being used against them is regularly unacceptable and body language, tone and volume is becoming hostile.
“We are operating with a reduced capacity in the grounds but we have over 150 acres open and there is plenty of space for everyone. However, our regular high traffic areas – playgrounds, water maze, castle - remain popular.
“As we adapt to this new way of working, it has been necessary to remain flexible in our approach to timed sessions and queuing systems. We are constantly learning and as a team, we are testing, evaluating and implementing new processes to benefit the visitor experience. We just request that visitors are patient.”
He told Yahoo News UK: “Thankfully this is not something we have experienced at National Trust places.
“We are very grateful to all our members, visitors and supporters for their patience and understanding as we adhere to government guidelines around social distancing measures, face coverings and one way systems.”
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