Children at an Eastbourne school have taken a step back in time.
Year 5 pupils from Bede’s Prep School were not sure what to expect as they waited patiently in the School Chapel. A very stern faced man, bearded, dressed as a Victorian teacher walked in swishing a cane telling them to keep their eyes down and hands by their sides, his strict manner or maybe it was the swishing cane, very quickly had them silent. He explained to them this is how Victorian children were expected to behave and that from now on they would be acting, as he got them to silently walk to the theatre.
The children were very quickly engaged in a variety of drama activities from beggars, taking part in lessons and ‘Purefinders’ – making bricks out of horse manure to sell to rich people for their gardens.
They also learnt about ‘Toshers’ who were gangs of children who went down into the sewers, sorting through the excrement to find something to sell. ‘Beggar’s’ - children who were blinded on purpose to make them more appealing when begging. ‘Trapper’s in a coalmine’ - children as young as four, whose job it was to open and shut the doors in the tunnel, a job done in the dark as a candle was too expensive. ‘Match girls’ whose job it was, to create matches by dipping the sticks into phosphorous. A chemical so toxic it literally ate away there jaw leaving them with half a face, known as ‘fossi jaw’. Chimney sweeps- boys chosen for their small stature, to wriggle up, sometimes still warm chimneys and clean them.
The pupils were all utterly engaged, with the drama of the stories they were involved in, and the diaries they are currently writing up in class will help consolidate all they have learned from this brilliant session.