Friday, 28 August 2015

Time Travelling with Royal Grammar School Springfield

Last term we were contacted by a teacher from the Royal Grammar School (RGS) Springfield. Their Year 5 pupils were studying the history of Worcester as that term's topic, using the idea of a Time Travel Agency needing information for a new brochure. The teacher asked us whether we could help, and the answer was of course yes. We have a wide range of information about the county, dating from recent years and reaching right back through to the stone age, with documents, photos, artefacts and information about local archaeological discoveries. We arranged to run four sessions with them to give them a chance to explore all we have on offer.

Community project Officer Rob Hedge demonstrates prehistoric flint

The children explored a range of themes from prehistoric settlements, landscapes and technologies; to the Roman world of the military and its empire of towns and cities; to the early medieval lives of villages and the cultures expressed through burial ritual, and finally to the high medieval periods of the Plantagenet and Tudor dynasties.

Pupils look through 16th century book detailing Queen Elizabeth I's visit to Worcester

All four sessions employed hands-on, practical and visual resources, using artefacts, flint knapping, maps and reconstruction paintings to illustrate local and national archaeological sites. The children were very enthusiastic and we feel that this is partly because of the use of local evidence to investigate the KS2 curriculum-related themes of historical understanding: chronology, continuity & change, enquiry & perspective.

We received great feedback from the RGS teachers: "Thank you so much for all the fantastic sessions you led for us. What a huge variety of content you covered and a wide range of artefacts you shared with us".

An RGS Springfield pupil

If your school would like us to provide one or more sessions of a similar nature, dating from any historical period, please get in touch. Whether it is for archaeological exploration or the investigation of primary historical sources within our archive collections here at Explore the Past at The Hive, we will be happy to help.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Home Front Legacy Day School, 5th September at The Hive

Home Front Legacy is a national project supporting community groups researching local places associated with the Great War for recording the remains of surviving sites, structures and buildings around Britain. On Saturday,  5th September we are hosting a regional training session for the West Midlands.

The Home Front Legacy website provides tools, guidance and resources for you to carry out archaeological recording and submit your data to your local Historic Environment Record and National Monuments Records to add to our knowledge and inform future protection for sites.

Using the Home Front Legacy Recording toolkit and the resources on the Home Front Legacy website, everyone can help to research and record their local sites and structures and help to safeguard First World War survivals here in Britain. Exploring these remains brings you into closer contact with what our families lived through, and the ways in which the Great War shaped their lives and the places we live today.

You don't need to be an archaeologist or have experience of fieldwork to take part. You may have an interest in the Home Front, and be researching your family or local area, or involved in a First World War Centenary project.

The Council for British Archaeology invites local community group members, national and local projects and partners to this free day school to find out how to use the Recording toolkit and online app for your project. We would like to thank Council for British Archaeology, Historic England and Worcestershire World War 100 for funding this event.

This day school will:
  • Get you actively involved with the Home Front Legacy 1914-18 project
  • Share the toolkit and resources to use within your own projects, or to start one up
  • Enable you to start discovering your local First World War surviving sites, structures and buildings using online resources
  • Help you connect with your local Historic Environment Record
  • Give you the skills and confidence to share your learning with your community group
  • Provide the forum to share your projects and to meet potential partners

The day school will take place on Saturday, 5th September at The Hive, Worcester. Places are free and can be booked online now. 

Evaluating the My Worcester Pop-Up Museum

The pop up museum was a roaring success and the trainees had a lovely time chatting to the public about their placements and the project. Here, Sarah Ganderton our own Skills for the Future trainee assesses what was most popular about the pop-up museum over the weekend.

Our sandpits were a big hit with visitors of all ages

Over 200 people came to the pop up museum over the weekend, many of whom knew one or more of the placements represented by the Skills for the Future trainees. But many had not heard of all the placements, or thought the Museum of Royal Worcester was at the Worcester Museum and Art Gallery or that The Infirmary and the George Marshall Medical Museum were one and the same. Hopefully through this project we have successfully shared with the people of Worcester just how many great heritage venues the city has, and encouraged them to seek out the museums for themselves.

The Mayor of Worcester meets the Skills for the Future trainees at the Pop-Up Museum

Even before the pop-up opened to the public is was proving popular.  A special opening event allowed us to welcome the volunteers and visitors back to see the panels we had created based on their chosen artefacts and the comments they made.  This was also a chance to invite dignitaries such as a visitor from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Worcester's Mayor, the project's Steering Group and the Director of the Worcester Festival.

We received great feedback at the event

Visitors enjoyed reading the panels we had painstakingly put together over the months before the exhibition and the handling objects were popular with many of the visitors. One gentleman said 'its nice to be able to touch things.' Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service provided a tile and a glass bottle for this section.  The youngsters from Pershore particularly liked the medieval tile from Pershore Abbey and a few people even said they had a similar Malvern Water bottle at home.

A mini museum created at the event

But most of all our visitors enjoyed the free activities. A select handful came to the storytelling on Saturday, many enjoyed the print making on Friday and many more went away proudly carrying the mini museum they had made. But the archaeology activity Digging up the Past was perhaps the most popular activity of all. Although it was only expected to run on Thursday it was set up again on Friday and Saturday due to popular demand. Children of all ages enjoyed dusting away the sand to reveal roman pottery treasures, and a few adults were even spotted having a go when they thought no one was looking. 

More feedback from the Pop-Up Museum

All in all the pop up was a success and the exhausting preparations and sleepless nights were worth it for all the happy people who came to see us in the empty shop in reindeer court and the comments they left on the pear tree. Would we do it again? Let's recover from this project first… but it was definitely worth it.

Details of the map book from the Vernon family of Hanbury Hall - now available to explore on the Touch History table on Level 2 at The Hive.

The Vernon Map Book, and other artefacts chosen by Worcester Belles WI at Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service are still on display on level 2 of The Hive until the end of August.  There are also digital images of the map book on the Touch History table as the Vernon Map Book so that you can see the original maps in even more detail.  While you’re here you can see the book Where the Wild Things Are too, chosen from the University of Worcester Research Collection for the pop-up museum display.

by Sarah Ganderton

Friday, 21 August 2015

The Worcestershire Yeomanry and Chocolate Hill, 21 August 1915

The Worcestershire Yeomanry took part in one of the final major British offensives of the Gallipoli campaign on 21 August 1915.  They were at Suvla  Bay, initially in reserve, but were then called upon to advance across a dry salt lake to Chocolate Hill and then to push on to take part in an attack on Scimitar Hill.  Marching across fairly open country they and their fellow yeomen were easy targets and there were many casualties. The attack was ultimately unsuccessful and Worcestershire Yeomanry were recalled to their original positions.  They spent a further three months on the Gallipoli peninsula with spells on the front line and in reserve before being withdrawn back to Egypt.

Jack Lyttelton

Into active service

One of the soldiers who took part in the actions on 21 August 1915 was Jack Lyttelton, eldest son of the then 8th Viscount Cobham of Hagley Hall.  Jack had been with the Worcestershire Yeomanry since before the outbreak of the First World War and had previous experience as a soldier with the Rifle Brigade in the Boer War.  Jack wrote home regularly to his family and in particular to his wife Violet.  His surviving letters in the Lyttelton collection provide a very personal account of the actions in which he was involved at Gallipoli.

After initial training at home the Worcestershire Yeomanry were sent to Egypt in April 1915.  They did not see active service immediately, but did assist in unloading the wounded and dead from the ships returning from Gallipoli.  Jack did not mention this task in his letters home (it is recorded in the regimental history), perhaps to shield his family from the darker side of his situation as his letters to his family were usually very positive and upbeat.  Finally in August  the Worcestershire Yeomanry were ordered on active service to fight dismounted as infantry.  On board the Ascania and bound for Gallipoli, Jack immediately wrote a letter to Violet and tried to reassure her that everything would be alright.  He attempted to keep things light, sending her a picture of him playing polo and telling her how they'd won the Inter-regimental polo cup.

Letter to Violet from Jack Lyttelton onboard the Ascania,14 August 1915

Photo of Jack playing polo enclosed with the letter

After the fighting on 21 August Jack quickly penned a letter to his wife so that, if and when news of the offensive reached Britain, she would know he had survived it.  He did not go into much detail at this point, though he hinted that the Division had been 'knocked about rather severely' and he praised the men for having 'stood a real dusting under shrapnel'. 

Letter to Violet from Jack in the aftermath of battle, 22 August 1915

Time for reflection
Shortly afterwards Jack became second in command of the Regiment.  As part of the reorganisation of his Division following their losses and the desire to have a reserve of officers, he was sent to Lemnos.  The posting offered Jack some time for reflection on events in Gallipoli and he wrote several letters home during this period about the actions in which he had been engaged.  This included a detailed one to Violet dated 23 September 1915.  In it he recapped events over the last few weeks, described life before going into action, the polo tournament and their embarkation for Gallipoli.

Part of Jack's long letter to Violet detailing the change to infantry and initial arrival on Gallipoli

He then went on to describe the Regiment's march to Chocolate Hill, how they were caught under shrapnel fire and the battle itself.  The Yeomanry's march was made famous by the commander of the Gallipoli forces, Sir Ian Hamilton, who called it ‘a sight calculated to send a thrill of pride through anyone with a drop of English blood in their veins’.  Fellow Worcestershire yeoman Victor Godrich also recorded the event, but his description was perhaps much more down to earth.  He recollected  'Shrapnel fell like hail, rifle fire like rain, made gaps in our ranks.  It was not a pleasant feeling to see a man dropping ahead of you knowing that you would soon be amongst it.  The two miles or so that we marched seemed the longest that I have ever travelled.'

Part of Jack's long letter to Violet describing their move off into battle 

Jack finished the letter off by talking about more personal things such as sending him photos, how he mistook a framed photo in his pack for a bar of chocolate and reassuring his wife that he was well and safe.  His final verdict on the campaign so far was that he doubted 'whether the difficulties were properly appreciated when we started in on it, but that's a thoroughly English way of butting in'.

 Part of Jack's long letter to Violet describing his posting to Lemnos  and his attempts to keep her informed of his movements

For other Worcestershire Yeomanry First World War accounts see:
  • C[Cobham], Yeomanry Cavalry of Worcestershire, 1914-1922 (1926)
  • V Godrich, Mountains of Moab, The Diary of a Yeoman 1908-1919 (2011)
  • Arthur Valentine Holyoake, The Road to Yozgad My war 1914-19  (2013)
  • Oscar Teichman, Diary of a Yeomanry MO (1921)

For more about The Worcestershire Yeomanry see:

By M. Tohill

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Pop in to the Pop-up Museum

After months of planning, researching and worrying, the Skills for the Future Trainees are pleased to announce the pop-up museum is finally ready to open.  Sarah, the trainee based at Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service will be on hand alongside the other 6 trainees to welcome you to the museum, and here she tells you a little more about the temporary museum in Reindeer court. 

The Pop-Up Museum leaflet

'It has been an exciting week as all the preparations of the last few months have come together.  We collected the key on Monday and took delivery of furniture.  This was the bit I was most involved with, so once the furniture had arrived and I had cleaned the cobwebs off it, I left the others to transform it, and what a wonderful job they did.  The trainees decorated the empty shop space, designed panels, and set up for the activities that will run from Thursday to Saturday in the pop-up museum.  By Monday afternoon this empty shop looked like a real mini museum and it is beautiful.

The Pop-Up Museum all set up

'I can't wait to get into the shop tomorrow. The first day's activities include 'Digging Up The Past' where children (and the young at heart) can brush away sand to reveal treasures.  These will include the sort of archaeological finds we recently discovered at Lich Street. There is also the opportunity to make mini museums from shoe boxes, handle objects from different museums, and chat to the trainees. 

'Every day that the pop-up museum is open there is an opportunity to see the panels designed by the trainees.  These reveal treasured artefacts chosen from each project placement by our volunteers or visitors.  The whole display is a lovely way to bring together all the placements in one place and to show the public what great historical things there are to see in Worcester. 

The Pop-Up Museum window

'For the adventurous there is the opportunity to become a 'History Hunter' and follow a trail around the city looking for clues for entry in a prize draw, and for those who prefer a sedentary activity, join us for 'Stories Under The Pear Tree' on Saturday only 11am – 12 noon with local storyteller Cat Weatherill.'

The pop-up museum opens to the public tomorrow, so why not pop in and check out all the hard work.  It will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday 11am-3pm with FREE activities and events. For further details, find the pop-up museum in the Worcester Festival brochure or follow it on Twitter.

The exhibition on level 2 at The Hive


The artefacts chosen at Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service and the University of Worcester Research Collection are on display in the cases on Level 2 of The Hive.