Michael’s Civil service

Michael Constantine
Michael Constantine
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He learnt his historic trade at Brodsworth Hall and now he’s taking on Britain’s bloodiest conflict.

Michael Constantine – who began his curating career at the Doncaster stately home and worked his way up to be head custodian and English Heritage’s number two in the north – is to take charge of the new £5.4m National Civil War centre in Newark.

The sieges, skulduggery and violence – in virtual reality at least – along with political intrigue and religious rivalry of the British Civil Wars will be showcased in a modern 21st century setting that is expected to attract 60,000 visitors a year.

The 43-year-old who now lives in Sprotbrough, Doncaster, with his wife and two daughters also had a pretty sweet diversion along the way.

But first the history lesson.

“The civil war really matters historically because this country was the first to excecute a king because we thought he had overstepped the mark.

“The King, Charles I, raised his standard, went to war against his own people and lost, was put on trial and executed.

“The Parliamentarians later invited Charles II back but the way the king was allowed to behave and the monarch’s relationship with power was changed for ever .”

At a time when we are preparing to comemmorate the 100th anniversary of WWI, it is as well to remember that the English Civil War was far from civil most of the time. Around four per cent of the country’s population were killed in the Civil War and around one per cent in the First World War.

“It gives an idea of the scale of loss. I started at Byland Abbey after doing a degree in Geography and Geology St Pauls and St Mary’s in Cheltenham,“ said Michael.

“Then I went To Audley End in Essex for a couple of years because I knew there would soon be something coming up at Brodsworth in 1995. Brodsworth was a great place to work and learn and gave me the experience I needed.”

Michael also spent time in York in two very different jobs. First he took what many would consider a dream – he was head of York’s Chocolate Story attraction and helped set up their £2million centre in just a couple of months and get the place up and running before leaving for a REALLY big job.

He was put in charge of York Minster’s visitors department – around 300,000 people a year pass through its mighty doors – and when he got there the first thing he did was to ask attendants to smile!

“When I started there they were all sat behind their desks and their counters and people were walking in there and not knowing what to do.

“No-one wants to be embarrassed because they don’t know whether they have to pay or not, it’s bad for the Minster and bad for income. So the first thing I did was to get people out from behind their counters with a smile on their faces and greeting people.

“Then the new National Civil War Centre in Newark approached me and I think it’s a job where I can put to use all the experience and all I have gained over the past 20 years in terms of dealing with museum objects, public relations and marketing, customer services and running a shop.

“If I can bring all that together in one place I think I can make a positive impact for the centre, the town and the region.

“I have learned the hard lessons elsewhere.

“Newark is such a jewel of a place and I think when the new centre opens people will be able to come and understand what the Civil War was about and why it was important and why it still is today.”

The centre is expected to open next autumn.