Georgian gentility

5th September 1997 at 01:00
The National Trust for Scotland's Georgian House provides an illuminating glimpse into the lives of 18th-century middle-class Edinburgh.

The educational benefits of a visit to the house, in Edinburgh's New Town, struck home to NTS education co-ordinator Jenny Stubbs as she showed children round a bedroom. What, she asked, might people have put in the pocket on the embroidered drapes of the four-poster bed? "Sweeties," said one child. "A mobile phone," said another.

Ms Stubbs, who is based at the house, dispelled some illusions by pointing out that the pocket was more likely to hold a pocket watch.

Another child, standing by a fireplace, asked why there was a "bucket of black stones" at his feet. Another, pulling open the drawer on a tea table to expose loose tea, asked who had to open all the tea bags.

The NTS wants to encourage many more children to discover the Georgian era. So it has launched an education programme to support a cross-curricular investigation of Georgian Edinburgh for the 5-14 curriculum in Scotland. It is particularly aimed at Primary 6 and 7 and Secondary 1 and 2.

Although the scheme is planned to start nationally next spring, aspects of it will be piloted in Edinburgh schools from mid-October.

The aim is for pupils to receive advance information on, say, period dance, having the opportunity to perform one in the drawing room with shutters closed and candles lit. Staff may be in upstairs or downstairs costume and children could also arrive in costume.

Role-play in the kitchen might mean discussing their long hours and multitude of tasks, while pretending to scrub the floor or chip sugar off the sugar load.

The NTS is proposing a day-long programme that would also involve a visit to the Royal Bank of Scotland's town mansion, Dundas House in St Andrews Square, where children can inspect architectural features and archives. A third component would be a self-guided walking tour.

Rachel Woods, NTS education development officer, hopes teachers will consider the Georgian era as a topic for the Scottish environmental studies programme and that companies will consider sponsorship of her scheme. "We aim to bring the period alive," she says. "We hope it will attract schools from all over Scotland."

For information contact the Georgian House property manager on 0131 225 2160.

Royal Bank of Scotland archive department: 0131 556 8555

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