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Briefs for Teachers and Activities

Briefs about the Teachers and Planned Activities in the Schools and Castle Hedingham 

I. About Jane Bower

Jane Bower, arts advisory teacher and creative practitioner, has 35 years experience as a primary teacher. She works as an advisor in Art, Drama, Dance and Creative Writing to primary schools throughout the UK and is an associate lecturer in Art, Drama, Dance/Performance and History at Cambridge University’s Faculty of Education. She has led courses in schools in the United Arab Emirates and India, is the author of several books for teachers and writes regularly for educational magazines. She works in schools with children or staff, leading practical workshops and professional development sessions in her specialist subjects or taking commissions for murals, ceramics or textile work as an artist-in-residence. Jane devises and leads practical history workshop days for children in schools, and for nine years taught for History Off the Page. She has written a series of history work packs for KS2 on six themes. Jane achieved professional status as an actress in 1999 and among other ventures tours with her one-woman presentations on remarkable people of the past. (

Jane Bower's Magna Carta day – Draft plan for the initial day in schools

The aims of the day are to:

  • Introduce children to the atmosphere, restrictions, lifestyle and emotions surrounding the time of the Magna Carta
  • Introduce and develop skills to explore the above through the medium of drama
  • Build on the knowledge, understanding and confidence gained though the drama by the following:
    1. Creating a response to the drama experience using practical art skills
    2. Express this knowledge and understanding by telling aspects of the story of the Magna Carta through the medium of dance


• Children will be introduced to the whole experience of castle life in 1215 gradually through the senses – sights (pictures), sounds (recordings), smells and textures (through their artwork) – taste will follow at the banquet. The approach through drama and the techniques we will use are explained clearly to the children.

• It is 1215 and the Head Cook/ Housekeeper of a local castle (Jane B) is going about her normal duties, and seeing that the castle staff (the children) are doing the same. As usual the fish pond needs clearing of debris, the moat needs attention, the keep’s stonework needs repointing and the vegetable plot needs hoeing and weeding. The horses need their stabling changing and the kitchen fire needs a constant supply of wood. The bedding needs washing from the chambers above, the fish need gutting and the bread needs making. Children experience their tasks through drama and begin to become familiar with the tools and limitations of the time – fire-making, lack of fridges, fetching water from well etc.

• Having experienced various roles, children now decide on exactly what their position is in the castle – what is their personal skill, their responsibility? How did they get this job? Are they related to other workers?

• Out of role, it is explained to the children that people in their category, who often worked under a harsh regime, had many grievances which they felt they had no way of getting heard. Invite children to discuss what grievances they might have.

• Cook now introduces the fact that on top of all this, Lord de Vere has ordered a feast. He says he will be celebrating with a number of other Lords and Barons this very day. As food cannot easily be preserved, it must all be made fresh. Children help take decisions as to preparation – extra candles, planning of menu, cleaning of Great Hall, oiling the drawbridge, preapring the stables, filling the potholes on the driveway (potholes were so called because the holes were formed by the digging of clay for pots) the preparation of a 'stew' (a bath) for de Vere - getting hot water up to the dormitory floor, hanging sheets for privacy, strewing herbs in the bath, laying out his clothes etc. As they work, encourage complaints about their position in society.

• Cook now reveals that she is in an awkward position. She is a good woman and although she sometimes moans about her employer, Lord de Vere, she respects him, is loyal to him and grateful to have a position in the castle, where her husband (Alan R) is Chief Steward. She is also loyal to the castle’s large staff and cares for their welfare. It is because of the latter that she feels she needs to speak. Both she and her husband have heard a good deal of interesting information in the last few months when they have been summoned to serve food and drink to their master at his many meetings with other Lords and Barons. They know the men are planning the creation of an important document which they say will give them power over King John and make life better for everybody. She shares this information with the staff.

• Out of role, children are encouraged to think what this document will mean for them, if anything. Decide on the personal standpoint of their character.

• Return to role for discussion between workers – is this document (Magna Carta) a good thing?


• Art activities can revolve around wool – (dyeing with plant materials, weaving, felting) or clay (creating detailed and decorated items such as candlesticks, containers or coat of arms). This will give them experience of materials in common use at the time and tuition/expertise they may not be able to receive at school.

• Dance – children will learn how to express aspects of the story through movement and mime enhanced with music, in a way that will communicate their experience to onlookers. This can be built into a performance piece which can be used at the exhibition days.

II. About Alan Revill

Alan Revill, is a widely experienced primary teacher and consultant. He offers stimulating, creative and practical workshops on art, history, geography, science and environmental work. Having trained at Carlisle Art College and St Martin’s College of Education, Lancaster, he holds a teaching certificate, a Diploma in Art and Design and an advanced CRB check (001346441981, 5.12.11). He taught KS1 and KS2 at Swaffham Bulbeck Primary School, Cambridgeshire, for eight years, and then became Teacher-in-Charge of Upware Field Studies Centre, Cambridgeshire, which was visited daily by primary pupils and teachers. He developed the Centre, environment and work there for 20 years. He ran Inset courses for teachers, including work in the Arts, with Science, Geography and Environmental links. His work achieved a Charter Mark (Government Award for Excellence) for the Centre. Through the Upware Centre, he taught primary children for a week in the Gambia. For the last fifteen years he has worked with History Off The Page, a consortium of primary teachers who travel throughout England and in Europe, providing practical Arts, History and Science days to KS1 and KS2 children. Please see for details of the company, of which he is a director. Alan has provided Art training for students and teachers at Bishop Grosseteste College, Lincoln, and Art and Environmental Science teaching at the Faculty of Education, Cambridge University. He also regularly taught students from the Faculty at the Upware Centre. Alan’s publications include several articles for Child Education and five creative activity workpacks published by Granada Education which address science through art, drama and dance. He has led highly successful training courses in the UAE and India, and teaches history and science days twice a year in The Hague.

Alan Revill Brief for the CIC Hedingham Castle day – Alan Revill, Jane Bower

The day at the castle will continue and build on the work done on Jane’s day in school, developing the drama and the associated Mantle of the Expert skills already introduced to the children. Particular emphasis will be placed on practical skills and tasks of the time, using the imagination, learning by doing, adding to the knowledge bank with relevant further information, and the importance of cause and effect in the Magna Carta story and history in general, all leading to a wider knowledge and understanding of this seminal date in English history.

The Magna Carta may not have been totally successful in its aims, but it did reign in an unpopular monarch and provide first-footings for later attempts of government away from ‘the divine right of kings’, giving a document that could be referred to and a plateau to build up from.

The children will be in role as the castle folk, who, in the main, would be the downcast, without much of a voice, heavily taxed, overworked and under, at times, an autocratic/despotic regime. Even their language was different.

To the workers in the keep and the Great Hall come runners (again, children in role) carrying messages of importance to them – both good and bad. Dare they follow the same path that the Barons and Lords are taking with the King, to their own Lord of the manor, de Vere? (Gradually build up a realisation in the children that local issues are mirroring national ones.)

De Vere is away discussing finalisations to the Great Charter. He has left instructions to the castle workers to continue with their work, making all the items constantly needed. Practical work stations will include:

  • Chandlers (candle-making)
  • Clay lamp makers
  • Breadmakers
  • Apothecaries and herbalists
  • Ink makers and scriveners
  • Illuminated letter painters
  • Dyers (using plant materials grown in the castle grounds)

The workers have been told to prepare for a feast for de Vere’s return on this very day. They have all the food ready in the Banqueting Hall and the entertainment prepared. However, a messenger tells them that de Vere will be delayed for up to two days with the business of the Magna Carta. There is no way to preserve the food, so the downtrodden workers, deeply annoyed that their labours over the feast have been in vain, decide (led by the Head Cook and the Chief Steward, i.e. Jane and Alan) to go ahead and have the feast themselves.

The feast will consist of food prepared beforehand by Peter (with help from others) and the children will have learned skills in groups during their preparation day with their teacher in school:

  • Servitors – the art of serving the food and drink in the manner of the time
  • Soldiers - archery and weapon demonstrations
  • Musicians – instrumental music and singing
  • Dancers – a dance typical of the time
  • Tumblers and jesters – entertainment
  • Mummers – a short mystery play

The feast can be either just beginning, or nearing its end, when a white-faced messenger appears saying that de Vere has been spotted approaching the castle. Expecting the worst, the castle folk prepare for his ire. However, de Vere (Peter) enters and after a tense moment when they think he is going to explode, tells them that he brings excellent news - the King has placed his seal on the Great Charter, our lives will change for the better and the feasting may continue.

Full use will be made of the castle facilities and the vocabulary associated with the castle. For example, there is a fish pond at Hedingham, which could serve as one of the kidelli (fish weirs) mentioned in the Magna Carta. Emphasis will be placed on the few clauses of the MC which directly affected the working people, such as those referring to the fish weirs and forests.

Time will be given at the end of the day to gather the children together and give them the opportunity to say what they have learned, ask any further questions and, in the light of their experience, say why they think the Magna Carta is so important that its 800th anniversary is being celebrated not only in England but elsewhere. What effect has it had on how we think today, how our government and monarch work and how we treat ‘the ordinary people’? Point out that it is a good example of ‘if at first you don’t succeed’… The Magna Carta paved the way for new and more humanitarian thinking, opened up issues of fairness and equal rights, from which we still benefit today and on which we are still working.

III. About Andrew Wrenn

Andrew Wrenn, the project’s Education Consultant, was formerly General Adviser – Humanities for Cambridgeshire County Council. He provided support and guidance to county schools on History teaching at primary and secondary level from 1997 onwards. Prior to this he served as a history teacher in secondary schools in Hereford, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. Andrew is a trustee of the Historical Association and a member of its Secondary Education Committee. He steered the Historical Association’s Key Stage 2 – 3 Transition Project, and was co-editor of the Historical Association’s Report on Teaching Emotive and Controversial History 3-19. Andrew is an author of textbooks, resources and articles for various publishers including Harper-Collins, Cambridge University Press, English Heritage, the BBC, Pearson, the British Library, the National Theatre and Routledge. He is also an experienced trainer of teachers at local, national and international level and is a visiting lecturer to the University of Cambridge Secondary History PGCE course. In addition to his advisory role, Andrew will contribute to the legacy because of his experience in other previous legacy projects, especially the “History Transition” project, and our previous HLF funded projects on Pompeii and Herculaneum and the Vikings.

Andrew Wrenn's Brief

Writing guidance with exemplar educational material for teachers of Primary History at Key Stage Two and Secondary History at Key Stage Three on Magna Carta, dealing with its legacy and comparing its global impact on different countries at different times since 1215. This will particularly model how to create a transition unit straddling the Key Stages focusing on the historical concepts of interpretation and significance.  This resource will be placed on the Historical Association website where it can be used as a free access resource for the thousands of teachers (both primary and secondary) who make up a large percentage of the association`s membership and potentially the thousands of children they teach nationally. The resource will ensure that the Project has a legacy and audience which long outlasts its lifetime. The materials will also contribute to the development of the Holiday History Camp.

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