What might your local area have been like in Victorian times? And how would you find out? I am going to look at the different ways you can discover the history of your local area. I am going to begin by looking at a school. Here behind me is a Victorian school and I am going to start by looking at the building to see what it can tell me. I know it is a Victorian building because I found a plaque which tells me when it was built. This stone was laid by the right Honourable Lord Carrington on the 13th day of October 1873. To find out more I want to have a closer look at the building itself. First of all I am just going to look; this is the first step of LACE: Look, Ask, Conclude and Expand. I will write things down as I go along. Girls and infants, that’s interesting. Now what does that make you think? Public Elementary Schools, now what could that possibly mean? I really like the stonework above the doorway. I am going to start sketching it. Another interesting thing I can see is this tower, now you don’t see that on every school. I am going to make sure I get a record of it. These are tall windows. If I wanted to record just how tall these windows were, I would get a friend to take a picture of me standing in front of them. What I would like to do is make a plan, so I need to know how big the building is and to do that I am going to pace it out. As well as looking at the outside of the building, I am interested to see what clues I can find inside. I am halfway up the tower that I saw from the outside and I have discovered that it is in fact a bell tower. And listen the bell still works. I wonder what it was used for. I decided to ask some of the pupils from the school if they could tell me about the kinds of things they had noticed.
Boy 1: This has brick walls and astonishing windows.
Girl 1: They are really beautiful.
Rebecca: They are lovely aren’t they? And have you seen windows like this in other old buildings?
Girl 1: I have definitely seen them in churches.
Girl 2: They look like stained glass windows. In the winter it is quite drafty because the roof isn’t very low so the air can go around.
Rebecca: What is it like to be a pupil in this classroom?
Girl 2: When you first come in here you feel a bit intimidated.
Girl 1: The ceiling is very high and it makes you feel quite small. These are more steady bricks and hard whereas over here, this is more smooth and makes a different noise. This one is older seeing as this one is more modern.
Rebecca: Why do you think that is?
Girl 1: Well, I think maybe this was all one big room and it got cut in half to build two separate rooms.
Rebecca: Do you think it would have made a difference to how you were taught and what your experience in the classroom would have been like having a classroom that big?
Girl 1: Well, I think maybe if that was the front of the classroom and that was the back it would have been hard for the people nearer the back to listen and hear and learn more things than at the front.
Talking with the children has helped me think about what it might have been like to be a pupil here back in Victorian times. I wonder if there is anything else in the school that might help me. Every Victorian school kept log books. Sometimes like here they have been stored in the school but in most cases you will have to track them down. I am going to look at them to see what I can find out. Here is an entry from the 19th of May. Mrs Hirons visited the school in the morning and expressed herself please with the neatness of the first and second class copy books. I wonder what copy books are? The sewing is again very satisfactory and the order is so perfect that there ought to be no doubt about the ultimate success of the school. So it looks as though sewing was an important part of the curriculum. 23rd of December 1875: The attendance has been very poor this week girls being wanted at home to assist in the Christmas preparations. So, the girls are wanted at home to prepare for Christmas, looks like those were their Christmas holidays. There seems to be a separate book for boys and girls. Let’s have a look at the boy’s book. February 20th: cautioned the boys about damaging the grass around the walnut tree in the playground. Alright, now here is a summary of everything they had to do and there is quite a lot so I am going to record it. This helps me get an idea of what it was actually like to study here. It mentions things like singing, drawing and drill. I wonder what that must have been like. Another thing I have been given is the register for this time. Now, it has not only got the names and where they lived it even got what their parents did. Ah, here we go; July the 26th 1875. Mary Horseman, she lived in new land meadow and her father John Horseman was a carpenter. Annie Rolls who lived in Oxford road, her father was James Rolls and he was a chair maker. Emma Berry and her father Edward Berry who was a paper maker. Already I am beginning to get an idea of what it might have been like to go to the school. The classrooms felt big, it might have been drafty and difficult to heat. The classrooms might have been bigger than they are today. Like me, you too can find things out by looking at Victorian buildings near you.