Next week we will begin to look at a new topic: Victorian Britain. We will be exploring what life was like for ordinary people in the reign of Queen Victoria, and to do this we will be concentrating mainly upon the mining communities of the North East. Before we can engage with this topic in any detail, however, we must first be able to answer the two most obvious questions: who was Queen Victoria and why has an entire period of British history been named after her? You should do some research. You might like to try and find out when Victoria became Queen, and how many years she reigned. You could research the name of her husband and the names of her many children, as well as any other interesting facts about the Queen’s life. It would also be useful if you could find out about some of the things that happened during her long reign: you could think about Britain’s place in the world and about any changes that were taking place in Britain at that time. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this topic, so may I wish you the best of luck with your research!
Week 2 May 1st
What changes took place during the Victorian period?
This week, we have been exploring the great changes that took place in Britain during the reign of Queen Victoria. We have separated these changes into specific categories: social change, changes in the way people lived; economic change, changes in the way people worked; political change, changes in how the people were governed; and technological change, changes which saw the invention of new machines, new modes of travel and new ways of doing things. What you now need to think about is just what all these changes would have meant for ordinary people. You should imagine yourself as a child worker at the beginning of the Victorian period: what would life be like for you at that time? You should then imagine yourself as a child at the end of Queen Victoria’s reign: what would have changed? How would life be different? To show the changes that had taken place, you could draw a poster with the ‘old ways’ of living and working on one side and the ‘changes’ on the other, and ask your classmates to spot-the-difference. You could write a news report to compare the life of a child from 1901 with that of a child from 1837. What would the first child have, which the second child could only dream about? I’m sure you will have many ideas of your own as to how to approach this homework question. So have fun and be creative!
Week 3 May 8th
Why was coal such an important resource in Victorian Britain?
This week, we have been exploring many of the changes that took place in Britain during the reign of Queen Victoria. Most of the changes we have looked at would never have happened had Britain not become a rich and prosperous country, making goods that could be bought and sold the world over. Coal was vitally important to Britain’s new industries in this period: it was the ‘fuel’ that powered the new factories, the new machinery and railways; without it, the pace of economic change would have been very different. Your task is therefore to find out as much as you can about coal – what was it, where did it come from and what were its uses? You should try to find out where coal was mined in Britain at that time. You could draw a map to show the areas where coal mining was carried on, and label each region according to how many millions of tonnes of coal were mined there. You could also enquire as to the various uses of coal, who owned the coal mines and who mined them – and any information you can find will be of great help to the work we shall be doing in the next few lessons. I’m sure you will have many ideas of your own as to how to approach this homework, so have fun and enjoy your research!
Week 4 May 15th
Who was Thomas Hepburn and what did he try to achieve?
This week we have been exploring the relationship that existed between the coal miners and their employers in early Victorian Britain. You will know that the two groups were not exactly on friendly terms, and you will have a good idea as to the reason why. We have also begun to look at the life of the miners’ leader, Thomas Hepburn, and we have read about his efforts to improve conditions for his fellow miners. He was a local hero in his lifetime, but sadly his memory is now almost forgotten. What you need to think about, then, is how we can best remember him and the things he stood for: working together, being united, and challenging any wrongdoing. You could imagine yourself as a sculptor, as someone who has been asked to design and create a statue or a monument to the memory of Thomas Hepburn. The statue could be erected in Heworth, where Hepburn is buried; you could draw a picture of it and include any other useful information about Hepburn’s career – anything which you feel the people of today really ought to know about this famous local leader. If you wish, you could even try to build a miniature version of your statue: you could make it from cardboard or play-dough, and model the face of Hepburn from his picture, which can easily be found on the internet. I’m sure you will have many ideas of your own as to how to approach this homework, so have fun and make ‘old Tommy’ proud!
Week 5 May 22nd
What have you learned about the way people lived and worked in Victorian Britain?
This week we have rounded off our study of Victorian Britain with a much-awaited trip to Beamish Museum. We had a fantastic day. We enjoyed the old-fashioned lesson in the schoolroom; we explored the miners’ cottages with great interest; and later, after lunch, we had a chance to spend some of our money in the town, looking closely at all the different shops and at the different things they sold. By now, you will know quite a lot about what life was like in Victorian times. You will understand that while the Victorian age was a period of great change and many improvements, it was also a time when most ordinary people had to struggle long and hard to stand up for their rights, to obtain better wages, better working conditions and fairer treatment at the hands of their employers. For this homework, I would like you to think about everything we have looked at in recent weeks. I would like you to think of three problems which ordinary people had to face in the way they lived and in the way they worked at the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign, and say whether or not these things were still a problem at the end of it. You can present your work in any format – but the intention is for us to be able to see just what kind of changes had been made over time, and where there was still some room for improvement, a kind of ‘spot-the-difference’ between 1837 and 1901.
Homework star this half term was / were …………….. for ……..