History: Victorian Trip Sees Year 5 Venture Into The Dark…


During February, Bede’s Prep School’s industrious Year 5 pupils visited the historic city of Birmingham to explore its manufacturing heritage, period infrastructure and faded Victorian glamour.

The initial leg of our journey took us to Dudley Canal Trust where the children enjoyed two sessions.


The first explored what life was like on a canal barge during the industrial revolution, including the business of day-to-day life under what were extraordinarily cramped living conditions, and the second saw the children exploring the interactive Canal Museum.

With some brilliant features and evocative activities, the pupils had to be dragged off to take part in an exceptionally informative walk along the Dudley Canal History Trail.


During the walk we engaged in an excellent question and answer session with a kind and informative guide, after which we made ready for the highlight of the day.

We duly donned our hard hats, picked up our torches and boarded a canal boat ready to head down into the limestone mines where, as we journeyed deeper into the darkness, the children tried ‘legging’ – the method used by workers to guide their motor-less canal boats through the narrow tunnels.


At the midpoint of the journey, we were then treated to an amazing light and music show in the Singing Cavern, a bizarre and inspirational place which was once used by the miners and other workers to host concerts hundreds of feet underground. Not your average gig venue!

With our subterranean adventures completed for the day, we then travelled to the Climbing Centre in Birmingham where, after a safety briefing, the children then donned a new set of hard hats and ventured upwards for a change.


The following day saw our enthusiastic contingent travelling to the Victorian Town of Blists Hill in Ironbridge only to be met by a rather stern Victorian school teacher.

He marched us off to the school house where both teachers and children changed into period costumes ready for lessons in arithmetic and proper manners – including when and how to bow and curtsey!


After that enlightening session we then wandered into some period shops. With our money changed into pre-decimal farthings, halfpennies, pennies, threepenny bits and sixpences, all were happy that Head of Maths Mr Fasciolo Barnes was present to explain conversion to us all!

With calculations undertaken and precisely weighed and measured portions of confectionary procured, it was then off to the Snowdome for another evening of fun and games – this time on toboggans.


Our final day saw us visiting the Black Country Museum where we were once again kitted out with hard hats. Why? Because we were heading down into a coal mine of course!

Although the children were thoroughly briefed about what it would be like down in the dank darkness of the mine, nothing could really prepare them for the real life experience, particularly once we were all asked to turn our torches off…


Along the way the children learned about the horrors of working as a ‘Trapper’ – the youngest member of a mining crew who would sit in total darkness for up to twelve hours at a time, opening and closing wooden trap doors to allow fresh air into the mineshafts.

There is nothing quite like the inky black darkness of a coal mine, and all were rather glad to be brought back up to the surface where we visited various houses and establishments and spoke to authentically dressed characters to learn a little of what life had been like during the Victorian era.


With our odyssey nearly over, we clambered back onto the coach and made the long journey home and reflected, as we travelled, that we can all learn so much from visiting these places as the really enable history to come alive.

Thank you to Mrs Brundle, Mr Fasciolo-Barnes and Mr Gisby for their support and assistance across the trip, and well done Year 5 – hopefully the lessons you learned first-hand will be ones you never forget!


Learn more about the History department at Bede's Prep School >

Learn more about life in Year 5 at Bede's Prep School >