Posts Tagged ‘murder mystery evening’

Agatha Christie’s “The Unexpected Guest” written in 1958 still enthralls and captivates

On a foggy night, Michael Starkwedder enters the home of the Warwicks through a window in the study. There lies the dead body of Richard Warwick, and Warwick’s wife, Laura, holding a gun that supposedly killed him…………..Despite the murder being obvious, and overwhelming evidence pointing towards Laura having committed it, Starkwedder does not believe she killed him, and she soon tells the unexpected guest she’s innocent…….and the audience is captivated.

So starts the thrilling plot of Agatha Christie’s play in the equally delightful surrounding of Gawsworth Hall

I remember the first time I ever visited Gawsworth in the heart of Cheshire, walking down the lane past the water fronted medieval church, it seemed to me that nothing so captured the essence of an English country home quite like that beautiful  black and white timbered building. In its picture perfect setting  across from the lake, the vista of Gawsworth’s Tudor splendor absolutely represents all that is quintessentially English. But beyond a feast for the eyes, there is a feeling, an atmosphere to this ancient place that quite simply put is magical. It provides the perfect setting and ambiance for open air theatre.

As we step inside, the melodic bells of the hall clock chime 4.00 o’clock, echoing through the low half timbered manor house of this beautiful Tudor English home.

The aroma of summer sweet peas mixes with the very distinctive smell of polish and smokiness of wood that has burnt in the grates there for 100s of years. Their tiny chapel was granted its first licence in 1365. The drawing room with it’s Elizabethan windows shaped just like the bow of an old ship. Legend has it that Mary Fitton, wayward maid of Gawsworth, was the dark lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets. In it’s more recent history, Raymond Richards bought the hall in 1960. Born locally, he moved to Southport where he was a succesful Tea Merchant.

I continue to marvel at the ingenious ways of transporting tables and chairs, candelabra’s and marques for a Picnic Tea.

This is Britain after all with its marvellously unpredictable weather but luck is on our side, and we are rewarded with a warm, balmy evening, who could wish to be anywhere else in the world. There’s a tradition to the event, an etiquette. The ticket includes a visit to the house, but first things first, place your cushions to mark your seats in the auditorium.  A picnic tea in the fresh air feels gentle, old fashioned but utterly charming. You are instantly transported back to another era, with Picnic basket filled to the brim with all good things.

Idea’s for a Gawsworth Hall Picnic Tea Menu


Smoked Trout Pate

Crisp salad home grown radish, carrot and cucumber batons

Scotch Eggs

A choice of Carrot or Walnut Cake

A selection of cheeses with Scottish oat cakes

Strawberry’s with Fresh cream

Large leaf English Breakfast Tea – as we wanted something with character, full bodied and warming.

There is a very civilised break half way through the plot – Just time enough time for another cup of Tea

The sun is setting, the plot at its most enthralling. Now is the time you wish you remembered your picnic blanket! Candle light’s twinkle, too early to be competing with the stars, but happily illuminating the scene. The comfort of a warming brew is a welcome treat in the cooling air. Time has slowed, as I breath in the air. Tea With Mary Kate adores the traditional Tudor setting of open air theatre, surrounded by the palpable feeling of Gawsworth’s ancient past. It creates a magical ambiance that is memorable and rather special. These are the moments that you remember and cherish year’s later.

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A quite indifferent day turns into a beautiful but chilly May evening. Wisps of steam are visible in the distance, rising from the picturesque station at Llangollen, the very distinctive smell of coal in the air.

Instantly transported back in time whilst being whisked through the glorious Welsh countryside, the journey on board the amazing Llangollen steam train is an enchanting experience. But tonight, expectation and excitement is riding high, with further thrills promised as as the plot of the Baker Street murder mystery is revealed.

Luckily for us, there is just enough time on route for a visit to the lovely Cottage Tea rooms.

Sitting next to the huge black range that would have been the heart of these cosy old cottages, our tea pot arrives. To my absolute joy, it is leaf tea, and contently, we sip away as delicious Welsh Brew is the blend. Absolute bliss!

At Llangollen’s glorious vintage station the warmth of the enchanting real coal fire in their tea room is an inviting distraction from the cold.

The date is 8th May 2010 and as our glorious steam engine pulls us gently out of Llangollen station, history echoes at the amazing coincidence – it’s exactly 145 years to the very day a steam train first travelled down the track. The spectacular countryside is framed in the old carriage windows. The steam hisses, rather cleverly warming the carriages. The engine whistle sounds, such an evocative noise…

But we’re here to solve the Baker Street Murder Mystery. The Victorian characters appear, the plot unfolds.

Sherlock Holmes is under arrest for murder. His only chance for clearing his name is for his loyal friend Ron H Wotsit (a lovely humorous take on Watson!) Wotsit must find out who has committed the crime! Engaging and totally entertaining, the talented actors from Interact (Wales) transport us to another Victorian era, and it does not take too much imagination, surrounded by the noise of the wonderfully authentic steam engine.  As the plot thickens, we journey on. After a quick stretch of the legs at Corwen station, the train turns around to head back.

It is getting dark as we speed back to Llangollen. All too soon our nostalgic journey, replete with Victorian murder mystery, is almost at an end.

There is no doubt for me though, the real star of the show is the glorious steam train, and the wonderful station at Llangollen. Tea with Mary Kate adores the nostalgia of the Llangollen steam train, its vintage station transporting you on a journey to cherish. The next murder mystery “Murder onboard the Abbey Express” is on 17th July – Tea with Mary Kate’s advice – don’t miss it!

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Tea with Mary Kate finds seemingly ordinary events, and seeks to show how special, how connecting each of these shared experiences can be. For those familiar with the film “A Quiet Man”, there are several scenes at the train station. The arrival of Sean Thornton and more memorably, when Mary Kate looks to flee to Dublin. I adore that scene when Sean slams shut all of the doors to look for Mary Kate, eventually finding her hiding in Third class.

Sean arrives at the station

Llangollen evokes the feeling of stepping back in time to the golden era of steam train travel

Standing on the platform of Llangollen steam railway station instantly transports you back to another era in time. The station is how you would imagine it to be, with its original luggage, and the crew and station master suitable attired, the station instantly manages to evoke the golden age of steam. The Llangollen train’s are magnificent, the steam is hissing, the carriages resplendent. It reminds you this was a time when steam travel was how everyone travelled in Britain.

There is a passion and enthusiasm for these grand old steam engines

Rather cleverly, has been turned into a successful business for restoration. We got a sneak peak at the restoration yard, as one of our party had vital information on a train they’d just acquired – and we were met by a dedicated group bursting with the knowledge of the past. It was a delight to see this being brought to bear with a younger equally enthusiastic generations of drivers and stokers (you definitely need someone with energy to keep that fire going for the engine!)

All aboard!

The journey you take is magical, with the gentle movement of the train, the noise and sight of the steam trailing back over the roof, next to the River Dee for much of the journey, and through some of the most beautiful & scenic countryside of North Wales. And there’s more good news – plans are afoot to expand the 7 1/2 miles of track even further, with a Corwen extension, including a new station, which is very exciting. And of course, there are a lovely tea rooms on the platform.

The murder mystery events are such fun

Other events that take place are murder mystery evenings. Depending on the theme, virtually everyone who attends is in fancy dress, it’s a wonderful sight to see, and a fabulous evening out, not too mention really reasonably priced. A pair arrived as a camel to our Arabian themed murder mystery! The evening starts with food served Platform 1 where the plot unfolds. Actors play out further scenes on the train & all you need to do is guess who, it is great fun! The next event is Saturday May 8th – The Baker Street Murders, where you’re invited to turn yourself into Sherlock Holmes for the evening to solve the mystery. The trains run most weekends and the journey is really wonderful, as well as a great idea for a mother’s day treat, so if you’re near North Wales, do go soon!

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