Friday, 29 November 2013

Treasures from Worcestershire's Past: ~1~ Netherton House image

Following on from the success of our Explore Your Archive feature, which ran throughout last week; today we are introducing a new feature: Treasures from Worcestershire's Past. For the next year we will be featuring a treasure from across the Archive and Archaeology Service each week - that's a total of 52 treasures to demonstrate what wonders can be found amongst our collections. For our first week we are bringing you an image of Netherton House:


If you were on the site of The Hive 200 years ago what would you have seen?

You never know what you might find in the archives, although sometimes you will draw a blank when searching. A few years ago we had some volunteers researching the history of the site of The Hive before we moved in, to help with the exhibition we were planning for the opening. On a map of 1741 we found a house just to the east of the site but weren't sure what it was. Searching through the archives we discovered it was Netherton House, a gentleman's house with garden, owned by the Smith family. We couldn't find any picture of the house in the archives. However our researchers extended their search elsewhere, and came across a picture of Netherton House, showing the grandness, as well as well dressed young men walking in the grounds or relaxing in the freshly cut hay. The Friends of Worcestershire Archives then helped us to purchase this picture, to help us tell the story of the site of our new home and the wider story of Worcester.




Maps show that The Butts was an open area outside of the city, and a number of people built summer houses in the fields. Today it is hard to image that it was almost a rural idyll as you look round and see and hear the hustle and bustle of the city centre. The house continued in the hands of the Smiths, and we found prenuptial agreements in the archives showing that the house remained the property of two nieces even after their marriages, preventing their husbands taking control. Further investigation showed that it later became a school for young men.

Photos are a fantastic resource in our collections, but engraving and pictures can take us back even further, showing what places were like before the dawn of photography. This is one of our treasures because it is lovely picture of the area we are now based, the excitement of discovering it, and also because it is the only representation we can find of a lost building of Worcester.

Manorial Documents Register Project Update November 2013


The Manorial Documents Register Project has just entered its second month.  At this stage, the focus is on developing definitive lists of the hundreds of manors in Worcestershire and Herefordshire. 

This is not as straightforward as it might seem.  Not every place that has or used to have the word 'manor' in the title actually fulfils the definition of a manor.  The key definition for the purposes of the Manorial Documents Register is 'a piece of landed property with tenants over whom the landlord exercised rights of jurisdiction in a private court'.[1]  This means that if records of a manorial court survive, or the history of the manor is extensively documented in other sources, a manor is considered as having been proved to exist.  Other landholdings, about which we are not so sure, will be considered unproven unless new evidence comes to light.

Sometimes, particularly in the 16th century following the dissolution of the monasteries, servants of the Crown and other families acquired land or part of an estate and referred to it as a manor, perhaps because they felt a manorial title would increase their status—even though legally no new manors should have been created after 1290!  For instance, Redditch was first referred to as a manor when it was granted to Edward Lord Windsor following the dissolution of Bordesley Abbey.[2] 

Manors could also have aliases, and these will need to be added to the Register so that people can search using these different names.  A good example is Ab Lench, which was also known as Abbot's Lench or Hob Lench.[3] 

Even more confusingly, sometimes there was more than one manor with the same name within the same parish.  The Roculf family held the manor of Church Lench under the Beauchamp family (the tenants in chief, who held the manor from the king), and so it was also sometimes known as Lench Roculf.  To complicate matters further, the Roculf family granted some land to the abbey of Halesowen, and this land seems to have become a manor in its own right, also called Church Lench.[4] 

Other manors were divided between heirs and changed names.  When the lord of Kidderminster died in 1241, the manor was divided between his daughters.  One portion became known as Kidderminster Biset, and another as Kidderminster Burnell.  During the 18th century, after many inheritances, conveyances and settlements, the manors were called Kidderminster Borough and Foreign, both held by Lord Foley if Kidderminster.[5] 

This stage of the project involves lots of research using secondary sources such as the Victoria County History, which is really helpful for untangling the often complicated histories of individual manors, and providing clues as to whether an estate was actually a manor.  The secondary sources will then be checked with reference to original records.

Soon, we will be looking for volunteers to help write some 'potted histories' of the manors on the list, so check back for updates.



[1] P.D.A. Harvey, Manorial Records, British Records Association Archives and the User No. 5, Revised ed. (London, 1999).

, p. 2.


[2] 'Parishes: Tardebigge', A History of the County of Worcestershire, volume 3 (1913), pp. 223-230.


[3] 'Parishes: Fladbury', A History of the County of Worcestershire, volume 3 (1913), pp. 352-364.


[4] 'Parishes: Church Lench', A History of the County of Worcestershire, volume 3 (1913), pp. 45-50.


[5] 'Kidderminster: Introduction, borough and manors', A History of the County of Worcestershire, volume 3 (1913), pp. 158-173.  The manors of Kidderminster Borough and Foreign did not coincide exactly with Kidderminster Biset and Burnell, nor with the parishes of Kidderminster Borough and Foreign.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Explore Your Archive: Tithe Maps



Tithe maps are a fantastic resource for people doing local history. Maps are always fascinating as they draw you in and are so visual. In this case the tithe maps are often the first details maps for certain places and goes alongside details for each field, making them especially valuable, and very popular with our customers. They were drawn up in the 1840s as part of the process to do away with the annual tithe which was paid. Each piece of land affected had to be named, described, and the owner and tenant listed. The map was produced alongside this to help identify and place each of these plots, and this is what the numbers for each field mean.

Manuscript maps, such as tithe maps, had to mapped, created and drawn by hand, and a team would go out to walk and measure each parish. There were often no previous maps to help them, and of course it was before the assistance of aerial or satellite photography. Therefore it was a massive amount of work and very expensive. When I use the maps I always think about the people who would be out in all weathers surveying the fields, or measuring them with chains (22 yards).

Tithe maps are available on CD in the self service area of Explore the Past on level 2 in The Hive. The apportionments are on microfilm nearby. Some have been digitised in conjunction with local societies, and are available atwww.worcestershiremaps.org.uk<http://www.worcestershiremaps.org.uk>

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Introducing... Our Digitisation Team

Continuing our 'Introducing...' feature to show you the wide variety of work undertaken by our service, today we bring you a piece from our Digitisation Team:




If you were to start a tour at the very top of the Hive, just beneath the golden parapets, and descend one level, then another, and another, and then just one more, you would finally reach a labyrinthine world of long corridors and mysterious workspaces, library storage areas, environmentally controlled strongrooms and specialist archival and archaeological offices, populated by a small swarm of workers mostly hidden away from those enjoying the public services above yet vital to the daily operation of the building.





















Deep inside this labyrinth, expertly sited near the Conservation room and the staff toilets, sits one such mysterious workspace known simply as Room 69, or The Darkroom. This room could easily be missed on your tour for there are no inner glass walls to peer through at the workings inside that would reveal its nature nor are there any outer windows. Indeed, natural daylight is banished from this space as such a natural luxury would only interfere with the delicate work being performed within its depths.

For Room 69 is a place where only semi-darkness and controlled artificial light are welcome and where a strange alchemy is practised daily in the transformation of base but precious physical archives into digital and filmic gold.  It matters not the original form of these archives. Whether paper or vellum, glass plate or film, magnetic audio tape or photographic print, all can be digitally reproduced and some even microfilmed. Yes, the ancient and almost forgotten art of loading film into a camera and photographing things with it is one still well practised within this particular room and, for many of the more traditional guardians of the archives especially, microfilm still provides the most reliable medium when surrogates are needed.


But, while microfilm is reliable, digital is dynamic and a digital surrogate is one that truly liberates the original from its often delicate and restrictive body not only to preserve but also to show, to be made accessible to a potentially world-wide audience of scholars and researchers of every hue.  In Room 69, this liberation is made possible by the use of two powerful and wondrous medium-format camera systems, equipped with top-notch lenses, film and high-end digital capture devices and supported by a vast array of subsidiary digitisation equipment including bespoke computers and specialist software all designed specifically for archival photography.

But such machines cannot perform alone and, although they may be pallid through lack of exposure to daylight, two troglodytes toil tirelessly within the windowless walls of Room 69 in the quest to preserve and to open up access to more and more archives through the means of filmic and digital photography.  


One of these is young, happy to be seen publicising the service and brimming with ideas on how the brave new digital world of social media and the internet can be used to open up archives to all. The other is older, steeped in old-school photography and enthused by the super quality and limitless potential of digitisation, but who shuns publicity to such an extent that there are some who doubt his very existence.
Yet exist he does, he is known as John, and his younger colleague, Jonathan. With years of experience, an understanding of and an empathy with precious archival materials, and more skills than you can shake a stick at,  this team of two have acquired a reputation for providing a highly-skilled and professional  archival photography service to individuals and organisations alike. So, do you need the services of Room 69?
The Digitisation Team is available to undertake work from external customers, both large and small. If you would like more details, a discussion or a quote please contact the Digitisation Team  at jfrance@worcestershire.gov.uk

Explore Your Archive: Berrow's Worcester Journal






For approximately 25 years from 1909 Berrow's Worcester Journal produced a pictorial supplement to accompany the weekly newspaper. Photos in the newspapers themselves were quite rare at this time because of the reproduction difficulties and the supplements enabled Berrows to produce relatively good quality images to accompany the news.  These photographs record local people and events, political and social gatherings, including marriages and anniversaries, plays and concerts, church events as well as livestock sales, company socials and presentations.





The supplements give an insight into the life and times of Worcester and the surrounding area during the first few years of the 20th Century. Newspapers offer so much detail about our ancestors' lives through reports of trials, coroner's courts, obituaries, situations vacant, birth, marriages and deaths. The supplements with their higher quality images add 'flesh to the bones' as we are able to see the images as well as read about some of the social activities that our ancestors enjoyed such as football and whist drives.
During World War One the supplements included photographs of the soldiers who were fighting at the Front, had lost their lives in the conflict, were missing in action or had received honours. In the later years of the war they also included photos of the munitions workers as well as nurses and wounded soldiers at the local military hospitals.

Copies of the Berrows Pictorial Supplement (1914-1918) are available on CD in the self-service area at the Hive and an index covering the years 1914-1915 isavailable on our website.


Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Explore Your Archive: A letter sent from RMS Titanic


Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service holds archives that can shed light on national and international events.  This letter was written on board RMS Titanic by Frank Millett, an American painter, sculpter and writer and sent to Alfred Parsons, a painter and illustrator, who lived in Broadway, Worcestershire. In the letter Millett describes the ship..

 'As for the rooms they are larger than the ordinary hotel room and much more luxurious with wooden bedsteads, dressing tables, hot and cold water, etc., etc., electric fans, electric heater and all. The suites with their damask hangings and mahogany oak furniture are really very sumptuous and tasteful... You can have no idea of the spaciousness of this ship and the extent and size of the decks.'

 and the passengers..

 'Queer lot of people on the ship.'

 A snippet of the Titanic letter held in Worcestershire Archives

The Titanic struck an iceberg and sank on her maiden voyage in April 1912, Frank Millett lost his life in the tragedy. This document is held at reference number x705:1235 BA 11302.


Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Explore Your Archive: Worcestershire's Oldest Document?


As we continue to celebrate the Explore Your Archive campaign week we bring you today's treasure from the Archive Service, which is what we believe may be the oldest surviving document from Worcestershire.  It is part of the archives of the Lechmere family of Hanley Castle and has been dated to about 1100.'

The document is a legal deed made by Ralph de Mortimer by which he confirms a gift of land at Wribbenhall to the monks of Worcester cathedral, which had been made to them by a certain Tustin, Ralph's tenant.





This document demonstrates how simple these early deeds were, whereas now we associate a deed with a long and complicated document. This deed just states that Ralph has confirmed the gift to the church for the good of his soul and those of his family (he hopes for a reward in Heaven for his gift!) and, crucially, lists all the people who have witnessed his act. It is by analysing these names (as well as by analysing the handwriting) that we can come up with an approximate date, because, as is usual at this time, the deed itself is undated. The deed also contains two crosses made by the grantor to show his agreement, as this was a time before most people could write.

It always surprises people how small this document is – just 6 by 3 inches. It is written in a clear miniscule hand on parchment, and still bears a white wax seal, which has, however, been badly worn. The seal is attached in an unusual way, being attached to a parchment tag inserted through slits right in the middle of the document rather than at the bottom, as is more usual. At this early period procedures were not yet firmly set and there was more room for variation.


This document demonstrates clearly just how much effort had to go into the smallest written document. The skin of a sheep had to be prepared to create the parchment, the scribe had to mix his own ink and cut his own quill from a feather – there were no shops where pen, ink and paper could be bought.

Only rich and powerful people controlled the resources needed to produce such a document, and of course Ralph de Mortimer was such a rich and powerful lord. He was lord of Wigmore and at the time of Domesday (only about fourteen years before this deed was written) was the king's tenant-in-chief, holding land not only in Worcestershire but also Shropshire and Herefordshire.


Worcestershire Archives is devoted to preserving the written heritage of the County, and this document represents the very early stages of keeping written records. This document can be found at reference number 705:134 BA1531/72.


 

Monday, 18 November 2013

Worcestershire Archives invites you to delve into their treasure trove: Shakespeare's Marriage Bond


As part of the Explore Your Archive campaign, which began on Saturday 16 November, Worcestershire Archive Service is encouraging people to take the time to visit The Hive to find out more about the wonders that can be found amongst our collections.  
The Explore Your Archive campaign is encouraging people to discover the stories, the facts, the places and the people that are at the heart of our communities. Archives across the UK and Ireland are taking part to raise awareness of the value of archives to society and of the rich variety of content that is held, preserved and made available to users.  

We have pulled together five of the treasures from our collections, to highlight the range of records that can be found. Each day this week we will bring you a new treasure to explore. To find out more about the campaign and how you can start your own adventure visit www.exploreyourarchive.co.uk
For today's treasure we bring you Shakespeare's marriage bond:

In 1582 a marriage certificate as we know it today did not exist. The normal wedding procedure involved the calling of banns, however, William Shakespeare was under the age of 21 and Anne Hathway was pregnant so they applied for a licence which would enable them to marry straightaway.  As Stratford-upon-Avon was in the Diocese of Worcester, Shakespeare would have had to travel to Worcester to obtain a licence from the Bishop. The fee was paid, and the issue of the licence was recorded in the Bishop's register.  As Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service is the designated Record Office for the Diocese of Worcester, the bond and register are held in our archives.

The Bond, dated 28th November 1582, states that 'William Shagspere and Anne Hathway of Stratford maiden' may lawfully solemnise matrimony after asking of the banns. Should the validity of the marriage be questioned then the sum of £40 posted by the sureties, who were farmers from Shottery in the parish of Stratford, friends of the bride's father, would be forfeit.
One of the mysteries associated with Shakespeare's marriage is where it took place.  For many of the possible parishes the registers have not survived and where registers do exist no entry has been found. One theory is that they married in St Martin's Church which  married many couples by licence. The register for this period does exist, but the page for the year of 1582 has been carefully cut out, leaving only a tiny sliver of parchment. How long it has been missing no one is sure, but it has added to the mystery surrounding William Shakespeare's marriage.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Our new Christmas shop stock has arrived at The Hive


 A selection of the items available to purchase at The Hive
Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service is once again offering visitors to The Hive the chance to pick up unique items for those looking for that extra special gift this Christmas. After proving a popular destination for people seeking something a little different, we have once again stocked up on a wide variety of heritage themed jewellery, pottery, books, DVDs and CDs. We specialise in items that have been lovingly produced by suppliers with a particular focus on replicas of original historical objects. Whether you are buying for a history buff or a jewellery lover; or just fancy something a bit different, there is something for everyone. Pop along to Level 2 at The Hive to see what's on offer and don't forget to check the selection of publications available in our online store at www.worcestershire.gov.uk/waas. 

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Explore Your Archive: Meet the Conservator on 21st November


Come and find out about what a conservator does and what techniques are used to clean, repair and protect our precious manuscripts to ensure they will be safe for many more hundreds of years.

On Thursday 21st November Worcestershire Archive & Archaeology Service's Conservator will be explaining what she does and demonstrating some of the techniques she uses. We have over 12 miles of shelves of archives, covering the past 900 years.




Rhonda Niven, Conservator, Worcestershire Archive & Archaeology Service, said, "Most of my work as conservator happens behind the scenes, but we know people are fascinated with the process, so this is a great opportunity to find out he we look after the documents."

This is part of Explore Your Archive, an awareness campaign about the amazing resources we have in archives across the country.




Places are free but should be booked in advance. Ring 01905 766352 or email explorethepast@worcestershire.gov.uk or visit the Explore the Past desk on level 2 in The Hive

Engaging the next generation at Dines Green Primary School 'Aspirations Week'

On Monday 11th November Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service visited Dines Green Primary School as part of their 'Aspirations Week'.

'Aspirations Week' encourages the children to think about their hopes and dreams for the future and gives them the opportunity to meet people who work in a variety of different professions, including Emily the Archaeologist.




The Year 3 and Year 5 pupils were extremely enthusiastic and were armed with some interesting and well thought out questions including 'what is the most exciting thing you have found' (an early medieval well) and 'have you ever got stuck in the mud' (yes, many times!) The children learnt all about the different jobs archaeologists undertake including excavation, landscape survey, illustration and finds analysis. They also discovered more about the archaeology of Worcestershire and have gone away with a better understanding of all of the fascinating archaeology on their very doorstep.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Gunpowder, treason and plot and the Lytteltons

Remember, Remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot:
I know of no reason
Why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

There are various versions of this traditional folk verse.  This short excerpt dated c1870 is taken from the poem of the week website Habing, B (2006, November 3) The Fifth of November- English Folk Verse.  The website gives the full version.

Most people know something of the story of the group of men who planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament in November 1605 and whose plot was foiled by King James I's forces.  What may not be quite so well known is the connection with Hagley Park and the Lyttelton family.

Several of the plotters escaped immediate capture in the aftermath of events at the Houses of Parliament 4-5 November 1605 and fled London.  Some were subsequently killed in a shoot-out at Holbeach House in Staffordshire and some survivors were captured and tried for treason on 27 January 1606, convicted and sentenced to death.  The main executions took place at Westminster on 30 and 31 January 1606. 

And the connection with the Lytteltons?  There are variations and interpretations of the events of 1605 and 1606 but it appears that two Lyttelton family members of the time, Humphrey and Stephen Littleton, (some say they were cousins, others uncle and nephew) were part of the wider group of conspirators/recusants who were to organise themselves into a company to reinforce a regiment to go to fight in Flanders.  Humphrey was not immediately sought after the discovery of the Plot because he was not directly involved in the events in London or at Holbeach House.  He did, however, give aid to two of the plotters, his relative Stephen Littleton who lived at Holbeach House and Robert Wintour, who had escaped from the Holbeach House fight, by helping them hide out for a while and acting as a go-between for them and a Jesuit priest, Father Oldcorne.  Eventually the two fugitives came to hide out at Hagley House, some say at Humphrey's invitation, while Meriel Littleton, the then owner, was away.  A cook, whom Humpphrey had taken into his confidence, reported the situation to the authorities.  Humphrey denied that he was harbouring the fugitives but they were caught fleeing.  Humphrey himself fled, but was captured at Prestwood, Staffordshire.  Humphrey was tried at Worcester convicted for harbouring Robert Wintour and Stephen Littleton and sentenced to death.  His execution was stayed while his information about the names and hiding places of Jesuit priests was followed up and he was later executed at Redhill, Worcester with four others on 7 April 1606. 

In amongst the papers of the Lyttelton family is the death warrant of Humphrey Lyttelton, 1606.


Death warrant of Humphrey Littleton 1606

The warrant to the Sherriff of Worcester mentions that there has been a stay of execution for 'Humphry Littleton', but that no reason has been found to continue this further so the execution should proceed.  It is signed by Sir John Popham, Lord Chief Justice, who presided over the Gunpowder Plot trials and several of James I's ministers of the time.

An introduction to the Lyttelton project and the Manorial Documents Register project

Two new projects have recently been launched in Worcestershire Archive Service thanks to the securing of external funding. Maggie Tohill will be leading the project on the Lyttelton collection and Bethany Hamblen will be leading the Manorial Documents Register project. Here they both introduce you to their respective projects:


An introduction to the Lyttelton collection

 'The Lytteltons of Hagley: history makers and empire builders' is a twelve month National Cataloguing Grants project to catalogue the archives of one of the significant landowning families from the north of Worcestershire.  The Lyttelton collection came into public ownership in 2010 as part of the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme whereby the nation accepts valuable assets such as archives against tax liabilities and in 2012 Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service became the collection's permanent home.

The collection comprises some 100 boxes of records ranging from the 17th- 20th centuries covering both the family and the estate.  There are four distinct elements.

1. The Lytteltons have had a long association with Worcestershire and have been based in Hagley since 1564.  The family held land in the north of Worcestershire, but also had interests in Canada, Africa and New Zealand, so the estate records include material both from the Hagley Estate and material from these more global interests.

2. There are letter books and accounts from the eighteenth century, chiefly relating to politics.  This includes exchanges of letters with significant political figures and families of the time such as the Pitts, the Temples and the Grenvilles and also literary figures such as Samuel Johnson, Alexander Pope and Voltaire.  There is also material relating to the Seven Years War (1756-1763) and the Lytteltons' involvement in South Carolina and Jamaica.

3. The family papers, mostly letters and diaries from the 17th to the 20th centuries, chart the family's history through successive generations.  The family was very well-connected, having been active in local and national politics and in the royal court, so the collection includes correspondence with notable people such Victoria, the Princess Royal, Queen Alexandra, as William Gladstone, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling and Francis Brett Young.

4. The collection also includes the autograph manuscript of Thomas Habington's History of Worcestershire written between 1606 and 1647, one of the first county histories.

Work is currently underway to sort and arrange the collection prior to cataloguing.  The project archivist, Maggie Tohill, said "Much of the collection is in a random order at the moment so one of my first tasks has been to simply look through every box to see what is there.  From that initial survey I am now working out in what order to arrange the material so that it is easy for researchers to find what they want and get the best use out of the collection. It is a fascinating collection and I am looking forward to sharing any interesting discoveries I make as I work through the archives."






Introduction to Manorial Documents Register Project for Blog

 The manor was an institution that touched the lives of people of many walks of life from before the Norman Conquest all the way up to the twentieth century.  Many archives in the UK hold thousands of documents arising from the administration of manors and manorial courts, and Worcestershire Archives is no exception.    

These documents, including court rolls, accounts and surveys, survive from the thirteenth to twentieth centuries, and may be used for a wide variety of purposes, only a few of which are mentioned here.  Local and family historians will find the names of manorial inhabitants, often with details of occupations and family relations.  The records can shed light on economic and demographic development, including markets, changing land values and the ability and willingness of some tenants to pay the various rents and fines they owed to the lord.  They reveal a great deal about social and community relations, particularly disputes.   They can tell us about the history of petty crime and public order, such as gaming in ale houses or brawling, and the punishments meted out.  They also help us decipher the historic environment, particularly the way the land was farmed, the exploitation of natural resources such as minerals, and the presence of mills and fishponds, ditches fences and roads.

Because of the way landholding developed over the centuries, manorial documents relating to any one county are held not only in the county archives, but in repositories across England, Wales and elsewhere.  For example, records for some Worcestershire manors may be found in Kent, Gloucestershire, Oxford colleges, The National Archives (TNA), and private collections.

The Manorial Documents Register (MDR), the official register of manorial documents for England and Wales, contains information about the nature and location of surviving manorial documents, and is therefore very useful for tracking down these widely scattered records. 

TNA runs a long-term project to update and computerise the MDR for each county, and Worcestershire Archives has just begun working jointly with Herefordshire Archives to complete the sections for the two counties.  The registers are currently held in card index format at TNA and are only available to those visiting Kew or writing in with an enquiry, but by the end of this project will be available to search on the MDR online database: www.nationalarchives.org.uk/mdr.

The project will generate opportunities for voluntary work, including data inputting, prĂ©cising secondary sources for the historical background of individual manors, and checking long runs of documents to ensure that the dates recorded in our catalogues are accurate. 

Please watch this space as the project develops for more information on volunteer opportunities, as well as for information about manorial history, highlights from the documents and upcoming events.


Keep checking back on the blog as for the duration of their projects both Maggie and Bethany will be giving monthly updates to report on their progress and talk about any highlights they have come across in the collections.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Stories, fire and muddy hands – Iron Age Storytelling


Children recently entered the world of the Iron Age in an exciting event we recently organised which combined traditional British stories with hands on history and archaeology to bring the past to life. It was organised as part of the University of Worcester's Beeline Storytelling Festival and we invited schools from the local area whose children were all familiar with British Camp and other local hillforts. To get them in the mood we held it at Malvern Outdoor Elements, who have a small reproduction roundhouse for them to explore, as well as using the rest of the wooded location.
 Starting off round a fire in front of the roundhouse, author Daniel Mordon told riddles and traditional stories which took them back 2000 years in their imaginations, before taking the children on a walk down to a wetland area, using the landscape to help him tell more tales and bring the stories to life. Images by our archaeological illustrators helped to enhance their imaginations by placing the stories in specific landscapes.





The children also got their hand dirty, in some cases very dirty, by having a go at building sections of a roundhouse with archaeologist Rob Hedge on hand to show them how they would have been built. This was all done based on excavations which have taken place in the county of Iron Age settlements by our archaeologists. The children built walls of wattle using willow, before creating daub with clay, mud, straw and sand, but no animal dung on this occasion! All the material came from the WYAC allotment (see earlier blog article), and it was great to be able to join up the different aspects of experimental archaeology in this way. 





We then explored the reproduction roundhouse to see what the finished house might have looked like. They were impressed at how cosy it seemed, and judging by their excellent effort they might have made decent house builders with some supervision.






It was a fantastic day, and the children (and the teachers) loved the chance to get out of the classroom to experience stories and archaeology through sounds, smells and touch, finding out what Iron Age life would have been like.