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The golden age of the Tudors

TUDOR CARLISLE. Tullie House Museum Resource Pack. pound;3.95. Age range 8-11.

Carlisle during the reign of Queen Elizabeth has inspired a collaborative project, writes Jessie Anderson

If the Tudors had thought about it, they would probably have coined the phrase "England never had it so good." The Tudors reigned from 1485 until Queen Elizabeth's death in 1603, a period that included the Reformation, when England broke with Rome and the Church of England was established. It was an age of great literature, of poets and playwrights such as Shakespeare and Marlowe. It was a time, too, of the discovery of new sea routes and new lands, of sea-faring odysseys by Drake and Raleigh.

Above all, it was a time of peace following years of fighting (the Wars of the Roses) and unprecedented prosperity - at least for the upper classes. For them, life was good. They ate well, had better homes and were well entertained. The lower classes continued to live in houses with turf roofs and mud floors and a new land discovered by Columbus or the latest Shakespeare play would have had little impact on their daily grind.

This new resource pack, entitled Tudor Carlisle, looks at the various aspects of life during that golden age. It has been produced by the education staff of Carlisle's Tullie House Museum in collaboration with Carlisle Cathedral, the local records office and the tourist information centre. This is the first time that such a partnership has operated and its success means that further joint projects are likely. The 58-page pack is designed for 8 to 11-year-old pupils and for the same ages in Scottish schools who are studying Renaissance, Reformation and Discovery.

Although the research has been based on Carlisle, the pack can be readily adapted for other areas. It can also be used independently or in conjunction with a visit to some of the sites mentioned.

Carlisle was typical of many small towns and cities of this period and the descriptions of living conditions are likely to relate to any of them. There's a section outlining links with other areas of the curriculum such as maths, reading, writing, geography, art, dance, music and science. A time line shows important events associated with the church and the monarchy, and there's clear, concise information about individual monarchs and their relationship with the church.

There's a thoroughly-researched entry on food, cooking, mealtimes and table manners, with a simple Tudor recipe for Knot Biscuits or Jumbles which youngsters will enjoy trying.

The information on houses, homes and architecture is related specifically to Carlisle, but should provide a useful guide to research in other areas. The dastardly deeds of the Border Reivers are applicable to both the English and Scottish sides of the border, in that lawless area known as the debatable lands. But they will provide a satisfyingly bloodthirsty basis for comparison with other more law-abiding parts of the country. The fear in which the Scots were held in the border city is evident in the rules for governing Carlisle. For instance, any citizen allowing a Scot to live in his house could be fined 6s 7d (about 32p).

The pack has a wealth of primary source material, including maps, reproductions and transcripts of documents which should be a useful guide for sourcing similar material in other parts of the country. It's stimulating and informative and could prove invaluable to key stage 2 teachers and set them and their classes on voyages of discovery.

Patricia MacDonnell, a local headteacher is an admirer. She feels the pack is valuable in looking at primary sources and how they can be used in the curriculum, and also as a guide for cross-curricular activities. She is hoping to use it as a basis for in-service training in Cumbria.

"As a teacher you must be prepared to interpret the evidence for yourself and equip children with the skills to do the same," says the pack's introduction. "Museums are not storehouses of fact, but of interpretation. Real objects and documents have many stories to tell; the fun is deciding for yourself what they are telling you."

* Tullie House, an award-winning museum and art gallery, receives 11,000 schoolchildren annually and has 135 schools in its scheme which entitles them to free (or reduced-price) visits, loans, teacher consultations, and other advantages.

* The pack is available from the museum shop, Castle Street, Carlisle CA3 8TP. Tel: 01228 534781

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