Case Study: Blists Hill Victorian Town

Date Posted: 10/09/2013

A group of children dressed up in Victorian clothese at Blists Hill.

Pictured: The class from Newcastle-under-Lyme Junior School enjoyed getting into the spirit of things by dressing up in Victorian garb at Blists Hill.

School: Newcastle-under-Lyme Junior School, Bankside, Newcastle-under-Lyme
Number of pupils: 45
KS: 2

Shopping with pounds, shillings and pence was one of the real-life experiences enjoyed by a group of Year 5 pupils from Newcastle-under-Lyme Junior School when they stepped back in time at Blists Hill Victorian Town, one of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums at Telford in Shropshire.

Blists Hill is one of the ten award-winning museums spread along the valley of the river Severn, which is spanned by the world’s first iron bridge, in the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.

The pupils were among the 70,000 pupils who visit the World Heritage Site each year and they were escorted by deputy head Michael Erian and Year 5 class teacher Serena Quinn, who organised the visit.

“I had been there a few years previously and we picked Blists Hill as the pupils were studying the Victorians as a history topic,” explained Michael. “Although there are other places closer to the school we chose Blists Hill as it is fully interactive and offers pupils a really authentic experience.”

Bliss Hill is a recreated Victorian town, with historic buildings that have been rebuilt on site, and visiting schools experience life as it was over 100 years ago through sights, sounds, smells and tastes.

Getting into Victorian costume

The school chose the Victorian School Session, which can be taught by an Ironbridge educator or self-taught by a teacher from the visiting school.

Newcastle-under-Lyme Junior School opted for the former and when the group arrived they were met and taken to change into costume.

The experience includes costumes for all children and two adults, and for Ironbridge-led sessions pupils take part in a drill lesson in the school yard to learn about the discipline routine they would have been subjected to in Victorian times.

A young girl dressed up at Blists Hill.

Back in the classroom they have a Maths, Literacy and object based lesson.

“It was a full-day trip and we divided into two groups with one group going to the classroom and the other exploring the town and then swapped after lunch,” said Michael who was kitted out in a bowler hat for the morning.

“The teacher was in role and very strict, having previously spoken to us to gauge how strict she should be! My pupils were very enthusiastic and they completely entered into the spirit of it and responded brilliantly.

“They had to sit bolt upright on benches with no backs and when they were listening to the teacher the boys had to sit with their hands behind their backs and the girls with their hands in their laps.”

During the lesson the pupils wrote on slates and any left-handed pupils had to try and use their right hands, as they would have had to in Victorian times.

Spending old money in the Victorian sweet shop

“The second session was less structured and the pupils were allowed to visit the buildings of their choice in the Victorian town,” said Michael.

“Earlier in the day they had changed money into pounds, shillings and pence and were taught about old money. Then it was a case of working out if they had enough left to spend in the pinnacle of the day, a visit to the sweet shop!”

Summing up, Michael said the day was a huge success and gave the pupils a unique hands-on insight into their topic.

“What makes it so different is that you are not visiting a Victorian exhibition housed in a 21st century building but you are experiencing the real thing,” he said.

“It was easy for the pupils to see exactly what it would have been like in those days and it helped our studies back in the classroom when we could refer back to what they did. Pupils in the group had been on other trips, including one to an outdoor activity centre, but several said this was the best school trip ever.”

For further school trip information contact:

01952-433970
www.ironbridge.org.uk

School Travel Organiser's Guide