A hi-tech heritage trail inspired by pandemic restrictions has been developed at Ushaw Historic House, Chapels and Gardens by Animmersion UK.

The Middlesbrough-based digital visualisation specialist has created an augmented reality app to showcase key artefacts at the attraction at Ushaw, County Durham.

The app features ten locations where 3-D images and videos of historic objects emerge by scanning a QR code or by users triggering the app. Voiceovers also explain the featured exhibits.

The idea of a state-of-the-art heritage trail was sparked by the Covid pandemic when Ushaw‘s buildings had to close and only its gardens remained open to the public.

The free app, which works on both iPhones and Android mobile phones, has now gone live.

Andrew Heard, Ushaw Historic House, Chapels & Gardens’ visitor programmes manager, said: “We chose Animmersion UK because its experts have an outstanding reputation in creating high quality, engaging, and immersive applications.

“The work they have produced is absolutely fantastic. We have worked very closely with the team and to see the way they have brought the trail to life is remarkable. Their ingenuity and innovation are second-to-none.

“It is a wonderful asset for Ushaw and really enhances the experience for our visitors.”

Andrew Liddell, a director at Animmersion UK, said: “Our expertise in Augmented Reality, and our talented team of 3D animators have enabled us to bring some of the treasures of Ushaw back to life, ready to be enjoyed by audiences of all ages”.

Mr Heard added: “We wanted to make our historic exhibits more accessible and in doing so create greater interest to a wider audience.

“The objective is to give an entertaining introduction to the range of collections we have. We hope our digital heritage trail will pique people’s interest and tempt them to learn and see more within the house and its chapels,”

The ten locations comprise:

  • Bounds Field where users ‘slide’ between new and old with the historic image featuring teams playing a game of cat, similar to rounders, which was unique to Ushaw
  • The Library where an ancient atlas ‘flies out’ through the wall and opens at one of its pages
  • The exterior of the main house where users can compare today’s views to an 1812 painting
  • St. Cuthbert’s Chapel, where an eagle lectern, designed by Augustus Pugin, the architect, designer, artist and critic who is famous for his pioneering role in Gothic Revival architecture, flies out and circles around
  • A wooden rabbit carving in the gardens will trigger the emergence of Ushaw’s  crest of arms, featuring a rabbit.
  •  South West corner pond, which no longer contains water, and where a picture will appear of students ice skating in the 1920s
  • An orrery, which demonstrates the movement of planets in the solar system, recognises the science teaching that took place at Ushaw
  • An ornate church vestment.
  • A sundial by a plinth where one used to stand. It will revolve round and point people in the direction of the next heritage trail location.
  • Douai silverware will appear in the centre of the rose garden, which dates to when those who built Ushaw lived in France.

Ushaw’s founders spent 300 years living in Northern France, in a town called Douai, until they were forced out by the French Revolution.

They fled to England and eventually set up home at Ushaw Moor, where they built the main house, chapels and gardens and created a Catholic seminary – a school for priests – with the first stone laid in 1804. It is known for its Georgian and Victorian Gothic architecture and listed nineteenth-century chapels.