Focus on: Happening History

Date Posted: 19/09/2014

Happening History provides displays and workshops on medieval life, 18th century crime and life on the British Home Front during World War One and Two. We found out more. 

Happening History was originally formed in 2004 as ‘Discovering Medieval’ by husband and wife team, Paul and Karen Hamilton-Viall. 

They wanted to create fun and interactive displays for schools where children could see, touch and smell the past - and become interactive with it. The Hamilton-Vialls have a passion for history and wanted to prove to others how interesting history can be.

Children can meet a knight and try on armour, meet live leeches, make butter the way their ancestors would have done, undergo a trial, or try out a real 1940s bomb shelter.  

Here are some examples of workshops and displays that you can book with Happening History.

KS5: War of the Roses and Henry VII

A display focusing on armour, weapons and surgery of the late 15th century of the type which would have been used during the War of the Roses. Aimed at students studying the War of the Roses or Henry VII in more detail.

In this section, the Happening History guides will talk students through the development of armour since the beginning of the medieval period. 

One pupil is dressed in armour and the other students will have the chance to handle pieces of replica armour.

The class will also look at some of the various different weapons of the 15th century, including types of sword such as the long sword, the falchion, the pole axe and the longbow and demonstrate how they were used with great skill to kill. 

The pole axe was the knights’ weapon of choice, capable of nearly cleaving a man in two; with an axe, hammer and spear it was a formidable weapon which could be used in many different ways.

If time permits students may handle some of the swords (all blunt-edged practice swords).

In the surgery section of the KS5 workshop display, the guides will demonstrate how an amputation was undertaken, treatment of toothache with the pliers or a hot needle (for treating tooth worm), trepanning (cutting a hole in the skull), bloodletting (with live leeches), arrow extraction and much more. 

Children will also be shown the damage a medieval weapon could do to a human body through photographs of some of their victims.

KS3: WW2 Crime & Life on the Home Front

A hands on and interactive workshop which gives students a chance to learn about crime during World War Two and life on the Home Front.

Students are divided into five groups: ARP Wardens, fire guards, military, housewives and emergency services such as police and ambulance.

Each pupil is given a character identity card and a connected item such as housewives pinny, side cap & jacket or tin helmet.

The students assume the role of that character through the workshop and are put on trial for various wartime crimes

Most of the crimes and punishments are based on real crimes but there are a few red herrings in there. The students have to work together in their groups to try to decide if the crimes are real or not. 

Happening History at Bodiam Castle

Happening History has worked at Bodiam Castle in east Sussex for nine years now and is currently there for four weeks each year.

Schools can catch the company at Bodiam this autumn/winter term from 29th September to 3rd October and 6th to 10th October.

Younger children will look at clothes, dressing two children up as a lord and lady, and in the armour section they will learn about and try on a small harness of armour.

The KS3 students will also have a marriage between the ‘lord’ and ‘lady’ with another student dressed as a priest.

Students are then given a choice of learning about armour and weapons or surgery and medicine.  

If you would like to book a visit to see Happening History at Bodiam, contact the castle directly. 

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