Building History, a Viking Longboat comes to life in Warwick

Case Study

Warwick Castle, Warwick

Making History Come to Life at Warwick Castle

With our friends at THEME3 we had the opportunity to work on one of the most exciting projects we have ever had the honour of being involved in to date. A project that we had to keep secret for quite some time, but one that we were itching to tell you about. That’s right, we built and installed a Viking longboat for Warwick Castle‘s brand new Horrible Histories Maze!

In February of 2016 we exhibited at the National Farm Attractions Network conference in Liverpool, and it was at this event that we were approached by David Harding at THEME3 with an amazing proposition. THEME3 design and build for the themed attraction industry, from large scale attractions to themed restaurants, cafes and hotels.

In collaboration with Merlin Entertainment, who own the likes of Legoland, Alton Towers and Madame Tussauds, they wanted us to help them with building an 8 metre-long, sunken Viking longboat. We of course said yes to this proposition; however, the challenge was to design, build and install it on site in the short time frame of 4-5 weeks, as well as making it fully removable. We were eager to take up the challenge, and although we knew it was going to be hard work and lots of man hours, the inner child came out in us all and we were overjoyed with the prospect of creating something so magical!

After a visit from the guys at THEME3 to our York office, we worked tirelessly over the weekend to come up with a strategic design, before getting the signed off proposal the following Monday. We decided that we would have to build the boat in four separate parts that were all made up of a solid steel and timber framework so that it could be easily taken apart and moved from the site when needed. We also had to ensure that the boat itself was historically accurate and that it looked the part, as Warwick Castle is of such historic importance, this was a project we had to get right first time.

After the Viking ship was hand sketched by Steve Danby, our managing director and man of great artistic skill, this was then drawn up in CAD by the design team and rendered visuals were provided for the client.

Specifications were then sent down to the workshop so that they were able to start building a prototype model from MDF, before plans were then provided to the steel fabricator to begin manufacturing the frame for the piece. The steel framework itself was built up in three sections in our workshop so that it could be easily transported to Warwick to be built there on site.

After the timber was built around the frame, we then began to age the ship using paint, which was then completed on site once the ship was installed into the ground.

Once the sections of this magnificent Viking longboat were completed to perfection, we then loaded them onto our trucks to be transported to Warwick Castle, where our teams assembled and finished building the focal point of the maze. We were also very lucky to have lots of extra helping hands on-site from THEME3’s team.

The Viking longboat features a fully-functional mast, dragon’s head, hand-painted shields which adorn the sides, as well as a huge horn and Viking skull treasure chest. What makes this piece extra special is that there is a machine hidden underneath the vessel which sends smoke out through the dragon’s mouth. This creates the surprise element of a fire-breathing mythical beast for children who enter the maze.

As well as the towering Viking longboat, we were also asked to create other elements for the Horrible Histories maze, which included four large entrance doors to each of the zones within the maze featuring Horrible Histories characters, an exit climber stack, a World War 1 trench tunnel, emergency exit doors, a sign holder for silly laws, a stamp training dummy for lancing on horse, wooden stocks, a sword and helmet holder, six bespoke underground whispering tubes that allow children to speak to each other from across the maze, and a pair of witches scales.

After Steve and the team worked relentlessly for three days straight, they were able to get the areas completed and ready for opening day.

Although this was a huge challenge for us, we pulled this project out of the bag in true Playscheme style, from conception to finished result. We even managed to get it completed a week earlier than scheduled, which we were incredibly proud of! THEME3 and their client Warwick Castle were thoroughly pleased with the final pieces in situ.

In a fantastic concept to portray the history of Warwick Castle, the Horrible Histories maze has been billed as one of the UK’s most exciting new attractions of 2016, and we are so proud to have been a part of it. Adapting the well-loved children’s books by Terry Deary, the maze is a fun approach to telling the story of Warwick Castle and its inhabitants throughout the years. With various zones from ‘The Frightful First World War’ and the ‘Slimy Stuarts’, to the ‘Vicious Vikings which incorporates our beautiful sunken ship; the maze gives children the opportunity to learn in an entertaining and exhilarating way.