History: Year 5 Enjoy ‘Victorian Childhood’ Workshop

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As anticipation built for this term’s Year 5 Victorian Workshop, an eager group of Bede’s Prep pupils were visibly unsure as to what to expect from the session’s title of Victorian Childhood.

The pupils nonetheless waited patiently in the Chapel on Monday 20 February, chatting away until a very stern-faced man, bearded and dressed as a Victorian teacher, walked in swishing a cane.

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The man, dressed as a School Master, told them to keep their eyes down and hands by their sides. His strict manner very quickly saw the children fall silent, after which he explained to them both that this was how Victorian children were expected to behave, and that for the duration of the workshop they would be acting as if they were children living in that austere era.

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Once led into the school theatre, the children were very quickly engaged in a variety of drama activities from taking part in Victorian ‘charity school’ lessons to behaving as ‘Purefinders’ – making bricks out of horse manure to sell – as well as acting as trappers in a coalmine, opening and shutting tunnel doors in pitch darkness.

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From learning about the role of Toshers, gangs of children who went down into the sewers, sorting through the excrement to find something to sell, to the daily work of phossy-jawed Match Girls and limber Chimney Sweeps, the children engaged completely with the drama of the stories they were involved in.

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Possibly most evocative was the session on beggar children, who were often deliberately blinded to make them more worthy of charity.

I now look forward to reading the fictional diaries the children are currently writing up and which will help to consolidate all that they learned.

 

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