The Hidden History of the Staircase

BBC Radio 4

Join Rachel Hurdley as she climbs the staircase to discover a story of steps, status, segregation and grand entrances.

Staircases go back thousands of years to the stepped temples of the ancient world. In this country they developed from simple ladders to the spiral staircases of medieval castles and the imposing stairways of Tudor mansions.

Staircases may seem to be just a way of getting from one floor to another but, over the centuries, they’ve taken on a range of hidden meanings and symbolism.

Rachel travels to Newark Castle to find the truth behind a medieval myth, discovers how the many flights of stairs at Tudor Hardwick Hall were used to impress visitors and visits Kedleston Hall to find out how Georgian landowners used staircases to reinforce their social position.

Along the way, we learn about the Victorian hierarchy that governed who went down the stairs first. And grab the popcorn as we consider the role of the staircase in cinematic history.

Sonia Solicari, Director of The Museum of the Home
Jonathan Glancey, Architectural Writer and Historian
Imogen Tedbury, Curator of Art, Royal Museums Greenwich speaking at the Queen’s House.
James Wright, Buildings Archaeologist speaking at Newark Castle
Denise Edwards, General Manager of Hardwick Hall
Richard Swinscoe, Assistant Curator, National Trust speaking at Kedleston Hall
Deborah Sugg Ryan, Professor of Design History at Portsmouth University
Karen Krizanovich, Film Journalist

Presenter: Rachel Hurdley
Producer: Louise Adamson
Executive Producer: Samir Shah

A Juniper Connect production for BBC Radio 4