Hereford Cathedral Escape Rooms
This year, Hereford Cathedral launched a new visitor offer: an Escape Room. Since the launch in April, all sessions have been fully booked and feedback is overwhelmingly positive.
The Escape Room was developed as part of the Eastern Cloisters Project, which was supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and other donors. This project renovated the buildings of the College of Vicars Choral, built in 1475, which enabled the public spaces to be improved and made more accessible including via a range of activities. The Escape Room is a legacy activity of the project, with the story and puzzles devised by the Project Officer, and many items and clues made by local craftspeople and staff. Although the project ended in 2020 the launch of the Escape Room was inevitably delayed by the pandemic restrictions on mixing of households and social distancing, and it was not until earlier this year that we could run trial sessions with local groups as test-runs before the launch.
The game is based in 1890 – a tale of embezzlement of money from the Vicars Choral funds, with participants accused of the crime and given one hour to work out who was actually guilty. The Vicars Choral were the men who lived and worked in the Cloisters, singing the daily services in the cathedral. Research during the project into the lives of the various men who had lived in the cloisters over almost 500 years did uncover an incident of the misappropriation of funds, so the storyline of the Escape Room is loosely based on historic events and the characters in the story are all named after real Vicars Choral.
We are thrilled by the success of the game: available sessions book up very quickly – although we have been restricted in the number of sessions that we could offer as it relied on both myself and the Events Officer being available: one to act as welcomer and the other to act as costumed guard. We now have one trained volunteer and two others in training to act as costumed guards which relieves the pressure a little and should allow us to offer more sessions in future.
We have found that a wide range of participants book the sessions: some have specifically sought out Escape Rooms on an internet search, others are on holiday locally and are looking for activities, others are groups of friends or colleagues, as well as family groups of all ages (we recommend that the game is suitable for age 11 upwards). We deliberately made the game as accessible as possible, with the majority of items at a height that could be reached whilst seated in a wheelchair or mobility scooter, and whilst the cloisters walkways do have slightly uneven (ancient!) flooring, it is all on one level, and with a mix of styles of clues it can suit groups with mixed skills.
Feedback has been great – here’s a comment from one visitor:
As the Hereford Cathedral was my very first escape room experience, I had no idea what to expect. The staff were so welcoming and quickly directed us to dive into the clues and resources in order to piece together the puzzle of information and artifacts. I was fascinated that we were investigating real people who lived and worked in the Cathedral over a hundred years ago. It was quite a brain teaser of a challenge and luckily, we managed to work out the story more or less within the hour!
Even those who have attended other Escape Rooms have compared us favourably.
As a member of staff it is one of my favourite work-day activities – watching people work their way through the puzzles and clues is frustrating and entertaining and delightful in equal measure!
The game lasts 1 hour and is for up to 6 people. It currently costs £45 per session.
For booking details see listings on the Hereford Cathedral website news page.