A nose for Tudor history

9th June 2006 at 01:00
Last month, my Year 4 class took part in a primary history activity day at Tutbury Castle in Staffordshire, funded by the Historical Association as part of a topic on the Tudors. When we arrived we were greeted by several people, including "Henry VII..." and "Robert Dudley", and the children were split into four groups to take in a series of historical experiences.

These included a session with "Brother Jerome" - a monk who talked about the dissolution of the monasteries and answered questions - and a torturer, who introduced them to the workings of the rack and other instruments. The children went very quiet when he slammed the door of the damp, dark dungeon, and even quieter when he threatened to have their tongues out when they spoke.

The pupils also watched an archery demonstration and handled different sorts of arrows, including ones designed to pierce armour and dislodge birds from trees. They tried on chain mail, passed around weapons and were told about Elizabethan furniture and cooking.

The highlight of the two-hour session, however, was when they were beckoned into the Queen's chamber to meet Queen Elizabeth I, aka Lesley Smith, the castle's curator, who was dressed in full costume with her face whitened.

Like the other historical people the pupils met, she remained in character throughout the session - talking about the Armada, her childhood, imprisonment in the Tower, eliciting answers about her life and responding to questions, such as "How did you feel when Anne Boleyn was executed?" and "What was the Tower like?"

The experience was like spying on the past or being an eyewitness. It really caught the children's imaginations.

l www.tutburycastle.com

The project was a Young Historian event organised as part of the centenary celebrations of the Historical Association www.history.org.uk

Rebecca Smith

Year 4 teacher, John of Rolleston Primary School, Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire

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