HISTORY buff Henry Howland got the surprise of his life when he took a birthday trip to Eastnor Castle.

The 60-year-old hotel manager from Ullingswick thought he was just going for a trip around the 19th century fairytale castle but wife Tricia had prepared an ambush!

Henry who has a special interest in armour found himself dressed in one of the 50 suits at the Ledbury castle, which has one of the largest private collections in the country.

"I wanted to do something different to celebrate his special day," explained Tricia, aged 61.

"Henry is very interested in armour so what better than to give him the chance to find out what it is really like inside?"

She arranged the special treat with James Hervey-Bathurst, owner of Eastnor Castle.

Most of the castle's collection of French and German armour was put together by Charles, the 3rd Earl of Somers.

In the 1870s he bought half the famous Meyrick Collection of medieval armour from Goodrich Court, near Ross-on-Wye.

For Henry his birthday suit with a difference further added to his enthusiasm for history to the extent that he is set to start a degree course in the subject.