“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…”
This half term we have been learning about what life was like in the Victorian era. Our learning journey began with a trip to the Black Country Living Museum. During the day, we learned about everyday life: homes, food, shopping, employment, school and work.
Back in class we used this experience to investigate the impact of the Industrial Revolution. We researched the work of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and in D&T designed our own bridges.
The highlight of our topic was Our Victorian day in school, when we dressed up for the day. We presented our work to our parents and entertained them with songs from the Victorian music hall. They also got to sample our baking: Victoria sponges, scones, treacle tart and bread and butter pudding.
Mrs Williams. Miss Arnold and Mrs Clay were very strict Victorian teachers. We had to write using hooks and hangers and even if we were left handed, we had to use our right hands. Some of us were put standing in the corner for getting something wrong and Troy was caned for having dirty hands. Lots of our learning was by rote; we had to repeat things quite a lot of times.
At the end of the day we decided that life is much more interesting and creative in Holy Redeemer School in the present day.
Black County Museum Visit
Year 6 spent a very enjoyable day at the Black Country Living museum learning about life in the Victorian era.
They had two amazing Victorian guides, who were a fount of knowledge. They visited shops such as the general store and pharmacy and of course the confectionary shop, where many purchases were made.
They found out about the different gases found down the mine and were treated to a science lesson which demonstrated the effect of each gas and how to detect it.
They also saw some of the manufacturing jobs which would have been available at the time such as chain making and trap making.
They compared some of the houses to theirs and realised how lucky they are. Nobody was impressed with the washing facilities or the outside toilet. They had lots of fun trying to guess what some of the objects in the kitchen were used for.
Finally, they experienced a lesson in a school room. Unfortunately, Miss Arnold failed the hand inspection and received the cane for wearing nail varnish. After practising the three R’s most of us agreed that attending Holy Redeemer School in 2021 is a lot more fun.
Street Child by Berlie Doherty
We linked this book to our Victorian topic. It is a fictional account of the experiences of Jim Jarvis, a young orphan, who escapes the workhouse in 1860’s London and survives brutal treatment and desperate circumstances until he is taken in by Dr. Barnardo, founder of a school for the city’s ‘ragged’ children. It is based on the true story of an orphan who inspired Dr Barnardo to start his charity.
We were inspired to write our own descriptions of the Victorian workhouse. We also thought about how authors use suspense when Jim escapes. We used wonderful imagery to describe the London streets and the characters of Grimy Nick and Shrimps. This unit of work has helped us to write creatively and, in particular, to develop our vocabulary.
All this work will lead up to writing our own narrative set in Victorian London.
We hope you enjoy reading some samples of our work.
Descriptions of the Workhouse
Towering over the paupers and beggars, slumped outside in the bitter wind, the workhouse was a sombre sight. The building was fashioned with dreary cobbled stone and had guards of black, twisted railings.
I wanted to go with Ma but I was yanked away into a dingy, dark, cheerless room, where emaciated boys sat silently, gazing between their inmates, the bare wall or me, as I trudged wretchedly into the vile room.
Ma was in what they called the infirmary and I figured that being acquiescent was the best way to be reunited with Ma. I was scrubbed and cropped and, unfortunately, sluiced with icy water before having my hair tugged and jagged at with a blunt pair of scissors.
Bony, skeletal and emaciated, the destitute children licked their fingers assiduously. I wondered how long it would take for the workhouse to turn me into one of those ravenous, cadaverous paupers. We slept in long boxes, while an adult patrolled the confined corridors, lurking in the murky shadows like a demon. Some boys sobbed but stifled their cries as she approached, breathing out little puffs of smoke that were barely visible at all.
Life is cruel but when you are incarcerated in the workhouse, life is crueller.
Today, we were taken to an immense, stone building, barricaded by gnarled, twisted railings. Stony grey clouds darkened the sky and crows squawked on the slate rooftops, evil glinting in their eyes. The doors groaned to a halt, revealing a dingy, glacial corridor meandering like a maze. The matron’s teeth were as black and twisted as the railings outside. I was sluiced in icy water and escorted to a vast room which was crammed with ravenous, skeletal children, who appeared to be waiting to die.
Dinner was gruel: lumpy and slimy. I noticed small creatures wriggling in the depths of the bowl. The thought made me tremble. I was drained.
Life is so unfair! Today has been yet another painful day.
I was woken up by a frosty, bitter wind that whistled throughout the murky room. I could hear the other boys crying and sniffling. If I had managed to get a job, I could have saved Ma and we would now be living in a comfortable home with Emily and Lizzie. All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and die.
As I ate the meagre breakfast provided, my ravenous stomach started to rumble like an earthquake inside me. The colossal room was silent apart from the scraping of cutlery and the slurping of gruel. The food (as usual) was thick and lumpy. I could feel my heart beating in despair as the bell rang for work to commence.
My life is a mess. It is my second day at the workhouse and I feel like I am in hell. I cried myself to sleep last night thinking about Ma. Not only was I miserable but I was also extremely uncomfortable, sleeping in a wooden box on a shelf. At least I had a blanket, even if it was threadbare and filthy.
My fingers are red and blistered due to the work I have to do: pulling oakum apart. Freedom and my family back is what I long for but I know I will never have. What I want most is to escape from this cheerless prison.
Breakfast, s usual, was at 4:30am and consisted of lumpy, soggy gruel. Small bugs and mysterious creatures floated in the bottom of the bowls and bright green bubbles rose to the top and popped, splattering gruel all over our faces.
We used charcoal, with Mrs Breakwell, to draw our images of Victorian settings, after we had written them in English.
Early in the morning the streets were thronged with a vast concourse of people: rich and poor; idle and industrious; bobbies patrolling on horseback, scouting for vagabonds and pickpockets. Impatiently, sleepy wagoners rode upon heavy, lumbering carts. The buildings were faintly tinged with the light of the rising sun. At the end of the dark, dingy alleyway, the destitute queue sprawled across the grimy pavements: rough and sleepy looking, clutching on to their meagre belongings. Poor costermongers jingled their bells on carts pulled by consumptive donkeys.
Although the sun had not yet fully risen, the streets were thronged with destitute paupers, selling fish from trays which hung around their necks. Fish entrails and pungent sea water covered the brick pavement. Between the houses a costermonger’s cart rattled and jingled in the glacial breeze; it was drawn by a consumptive donkey that hobbled along the slippery road. Homeless beggars leaned against the dilapidated wall of a public house. Bright, white horses plodded along the streets, darting past the milk carts and the street children.
Principal buildings towered over the heads of the gay, well-dressed, wealthy women and men as they hopped into the black carriages, setting off for a day out in the countryside. Menacing bobbies rode on horseback as they attempted to catch the emaciated criminals. Inside the misty alleyways, the lost strays groaned with hunger, eager to acquire a tiny scrap of food.
As the morning sun slowly awakened the town, people filled the streets with chatter and noise. Amongst the thronged crowd, market traders sold their fresh delicacies daily: fish, meat, pastries and much more.
Across the street hackney coachmen polished the ornamental parts of their carriages, while horses trotted in all directions.
Criminals and reprobates were engaged in their usual sneaky crimes of pickpocketing. Bobbies on their tough horses patrolled the streets on high alert for any criminal action.
Between shops, in dark, dingy alleyways, paupers of all ages could be found sitting against the mouldy, musky wall, waiting for scraps of food.
Early in the morning the spires of the churches and the roofs of the principal buildings were faintly tinged with the light of the rising sun. Bobbies patrolled the dirty, dingy streets, scouting around for pickpockets and thieves. Market sellers enticed people to buy their produce as cabs, laden with trunks and band boxes rattled briskly up and down the streets on their way to coach offices or wharves. Stray dogs begged for food on the door step of the workhouse Depressed urchins tried to get rid of their colourful bunches of flowers.
Escape from the Workhouse
Warily, Bella scurried to the edge of the gate, uneasily peering over her shoulder as she went. She paused. Cautiously glancing behind, the immense house leered at her, blaming her, scrutinizing her. Hardly breathing, she stood just inside the gate. Creak! A door opened and a hunched figure shuffled out moaning. In panic, she crouched down into a shadow and slipped away under the cover of darkness. Cautiously, she crept further from the workhouse until the gloomy, deserted labyrinth of alleyways swallowed her whole. It wasn’t until she was certain that she had travelled a good distance from the workhouse that she collapsed, frightened and terrified.
Without hesitating, Sid ran and darted under a carriage. This was the moment he had longed for during the past three years. Waiting for the guard to sprint past him, Sid glanced behind. He could hear the air whistling, screaming at him to turn back. He took his chance and scuttled into the dark alleyway. Sid, who could feel his heart bulging out of his chest, dodged, jumped and sprinted until he could move no further. He felt safe now.
At that moment the world stopped. Sid stared along the street until his eyes stopped on the angry face of Albert, the security guard… He darted for the river. He jumped. He felt the icy water on his skin. The urchin swam faster than ever, swallowing mouthfuls of disease ridden water as he went. Hearing the splashing of the guard behind him, Sid ran again, heavy with water. Hesitantly, he squeezed himself through a wire fence and into his grandmother’s garden. The door of the house opened as he slithered into the shadows, his heart racing. “You got the tea then?” yelled the old lady.
Beware! Nicholas Poppy, also known as Grimy Nick, is on the loose. This notorious prisoner has escaped from London jail and is said to be stealing children for bags of money, forcing them to strip the ground of coal all day without stopping. People say he may reward his boys with a meagre drop or two of cabbage stew but that’s only if they are extremely lucky.
He wears an immense coat, a dark shade of crimson. His bushy beard is full of silver wiry streaks, running through it like bolts of lightning. A river of scars cascade across his glacial face. His eyes are polished stones bulging out of an emaciated, skeletal face, glaring at those who pass too close.
Beware! Nicholas Smith, also known as Grimy Nick, has recently escaped from Withermoor prison. This barbaric crook is accused of kidnapping and beating his apprentices to death.
With his menacing snarl, he snatches urchins and coerces them to work. He was last seen lurking in the shadows of boat carcasses. He is also known to frequent the most notorious public house: The Waterman’s Arms.
His grey, thatchy hair sticks up in tufts like a crow’s nest. His wrinkled, leathery skin is covered in repulsive scars.
‘A loveable rogue but a sly pickpocket’ is what the ragged urchins say about the missing, conniving, clever and cunning street child, Shrimps. ‘Charming’ is what his conned customers say (unaware that sly, sneaky Shrimps has broken their bootlaces) as he sells them new bootlaces.
His tattered clothes hang off a skeletal frame Untamed, wild hair, the colour of an auburn fox, sticks up in tufts through the holes in his cap. His skin is scarred from a lifetime in the barbaric alleys.
Shrimps is often found with accomplice, Jim Jarvis squatting in grimy warehouses or, if he has made some money, in a shared shelter. He might be seen prowling the dark, dim avenues pickpocketing or scanning the streets with bright, blue eyes which glow with a curious mixture of determination, sorrow and laughter.
He often has a clump of bootlaces which he doles out to his regulars, as he quickly snatches fresh rolls and plump pork pies from unsuspecting market traders. This destitute child has many exceptional talents: agility and flexibility, quick thinking and the ability to exude an air of happiness even in the darkest times.
In our lessons with Miss Arnold, we learned about the jobs children had to do during the Victorian era and we imagined what life would be like if we worked down a mine, in a mill or as a bird scarer.
We also learned about Isambard Kingdom Brunel. We looked at the Clifton suspension bridge and the Maidenhead Railway bridge. We then designed our own bridges in Design and Technology.
In our literacy lessons this term we have been using “The Lost Words” to develop our vocabulary.
In Geography we are looking at the amazing world we live in and in science we are learning about classification and habitats. In art Mrs Breakwell is helping us to become more observant and we have practised detailed drawing and printing with ink.
Here you will see some examples of our art work inspired by our reading of the book by Jackie Morris and Robert MacFarlane.