History - Historical highlights

5th April 2013 at 01:00
Follow the Tudor Trail at the Victoria and Albert Museum

What on earth is a "fuddling cup"? And what might a "lion azure" be? The answers (respectively, a multi-spouted trick drinking vessel and a lion motif in blue) are revealed to young visitors in a child-friendly, interactive space linked to the Tudor galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Before they get there, however, students can have fun on the Tudor Trail, which allows them to take a more detailed look at seven items out of the hundreds on display. Armed with a quiz-style leaflet, they try activities ranging from join-the-dots drawings to Tudor crosswords and, with the help of teachers or parents, answer a series of questions.

Among the artefacts is Henry VIII's elaborately decorated writing box emblazoned with images of the Roman gods Mars and Venus. Then there is a fantastically decorated cup, the size of a large soup bowl and shaped like a nautilus shell, the handle of which looks like a figure that is being forcefully ejected from the mouth of a monster.

The trail concludes with what must be one of the VA's largest and most famous objects: the Great Bed of Ware, as mentioned in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (1601-02). This vast, oak four-poster, which is more than 3m wide, was built for an inn in Ware as a curiosity and tourist attraction, and was advertised as accommodating 12 people. (It has been on loan to Ware Museum but will be back on show at the VA early next month.)

The trail cannot include everything but teachers are free to send students on detours. It would be a shame to visit these rooms and not see the Monson Locket (1597), which contains the uterine membrane of a child "born in the caul" (with a piece of the membrane covering his head). This was potentially lethal but the caul was thought to provide supernatural protection and was retained as a talisman. Then there is the creepy and fascinating Torre Abbey Jewel (1540-1550), a memento mori depicting a gold skeleton in an enamelled coffin.

Find out more at www.vam.ac.uk. Jerome Monahan is a freelance teacher and journalist who provides primary and secondary Inset and student enrichment workshops. Email jerome.monahan@dsl.pipex.com

WHAT ELSE?

Introduce your class to the Tudors with a double-sided topic map from bevevans22 - ideal for group activities and discussions.

bit.lyTudorMat

Students discover and design Tudor clothes in a lesson from Looney tunes.

bit.lyTudorClothes.

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