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The Victorian Experience for Year 5

03 May 2019

When girls in Year 5 set off for the Black Country Museum the sun was shining and expectations were high for investigating and consolidating classroom knowledge. 

Each class had a Victorian child to follow: Lillian Hodgekiss and Samuel Webb. Samuel was 10 years old. He was living in No. 11 Brook Street - the rear back-to-back - with his parents, three sisters and two brothers. Two older sisters had already left home. His father was a miner and his mother, who used to work in the mine, looked after the house and children. Life was hard. Most of his father’s wages were spent on food, rent, coal for the fire, and sundries such as soap, candles, matches, clothing and tobacco. The family’s staple diet was bread and dripping with potatoes and onions and meat or offal when they could afford it. Samuel was attending school, but school was only compulsory between the ages of 5 and 10, so he would have to leave soon and work for a living. Class 5F visited Samuel’s house and played with some Victorian street games. They were amazed by the tiny surroundings and number of people living in close quarters. They certainly appreciated their bedrooms back at home!

Lillian was 8 years old. She was living in the former Toll House with her mother, two brothers and older sister. They had only just moved into the house following the death of her father - forcing them to look for somewhere cheaper to rent. Lillian’s older brother, William, was working as a railway porter and was the main wage earner for the family. The house had no gas and they got their water from the brook running through their garden. To supplement their diet they grew their own vegetables and brewed herbal remedies that they sold to passers-by. Lillian’s mother also made all their clothes and earnt a few extra pennies by chopping wood and making it into bundles for sale. Class 5D were grateful for the bathroom facilities in their own houses! We were told about the hard work Lillian had to do at the colliery. She was a pit bank wench loading and weighing heavy bags of coal, unsurprisingly there were no volunteers when the girls were informed about the rats eating from their lunch boxes!

Mrs Griffiths, the school mistress, introduced the girls to writing on a slate following the shape of pot handles and hooks, with varying degrees of success. 

Back at school Year 5 were able to experience what school would have been like for these children as they took part in Victorian Day, dressing as Victorians and being taught by very Victorian schoolmistresses. They all agreed that school today is much more enjoyable.
 

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