Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Year 7 Great Linford Trip

Last Friday, 29th June, Year 7 went to the City Discovery Centre (CDC) and Great Linford village

At the Discovery Centre they were introduced by the education officer Kim Davies to the history and geography of the village and the City of Milton Keynes. 

Among other interesting facts we learnt from our talk at the CDC was that Milton Keynes already had a population of 60,000 in the towns and villages before the new town. Many visitors from China come to the City Discovery Centre to learn from Milton Keynes experience in building their new towns and cities. Great to think that Milton Keynes is having an influence on the world's second biggest economy!

We were then were given privileged access by an archaeologist from Buckinghamshire County Museum to the ancient past of Milton Keynes and Great Linford.

The pupils got to handle all of the following objects which had been excavated in Milton Keynes:
a 200,000 year old handaxe, a Neolithic arrow stone arrow head, Bronze Age axeheads, an amazing Bronze Age Sword, a Roman horseshoe found near Watling Street (it was literally a shoe for a horse!), fragments of a huge medieval pot from Great Linford, a medieval shoe from Great Linford, a pilgrim badge found in Great Linford that some lucky pilgrim had brought back from Santiago de Compostela in Spain, a medieval flute made out of animal bone from Great Linford and also a skull shaped dagger pommel from the Sixteenth Century found in the village. 

The archaeologist Brett Thorn was excellent, explaining for example why Bronze Age swords could only be a certain length (bronze would cool very fast as it poured into the mold, hence no long mold!).

A well earned lunch followed in the grounds of the City Discovery Centre. Fortune was still with us and there was no rain.

We were then picked up by minibus and dropped about a quarter of a mile away from Great Linford. We then began to follow a 1900 map walking up the disused railway line (part of the Milton Keynes Redway cycle track system) to the surviving platforms of Great Linford Station. Before walking along the line and at the station Year 7 were shown photographs of 'Newport Nobbie' (the nickname for the line from Newport Pagnell to Wolverton) so that they had the sense they were following a ghost line. The map was coming to life!

Once at Great Linford we walked across the canal bridge over the Grand Union Canal and  using the 1901 Census (from only a year after the map) found canal boat families moored in Great Linford in April 1901 from Staffordshire and other far away places. 

We then crossed into the Park and learned about the building of the Church, the Almshouses and Old School, Manor House, Rectory, Windmill Farm, The Nags Head (looking at it purely as a building!), Old Smithy (complete with Its old Sun Fire Insurance badges to make sure the Fire Brigade would come) and the 'new' School House from the 1870s. The pupils again had access to the 1901 census, the idea being to put the people into the buildings they were looking at in front of their eyes and on the 1900 map. Some pictures of the buildings can be found on the Webber Geography blogspot. and the pupils' own pictures of their chosen buildings (from which they also took a bearing and orientated themselves using OS maps) are to follow.

While at Great Linford we also found out that each one of the local poor living in the Almshouses in 1710 was only given each year the equivalent of what a craftsman in the building trade earned in 55 days (there is a wonderful website which allows you to make these kind of calculations) and a little about the astrological doctor and vicar of Great Linford, Richard Napier (1559-1634) who lived in the Rectory and supposedly spoke to angels!

Then a tired Year 7 group and their teachers were picked up from Great Linford by minibus and returned to the School. 

Both Mr Hutchinson my colleague from Geography and I were pleased that the work had fitted in so well with key parts of Year 7 Geography (Settlement) and Year 7 History (Romans and Medieval, from next year we will also be looking at prehistory with some focus on archaeology). We had also provided the students with an opportunity to discover and experience History and Geography in the field and in a way that enriched their understanding of both subjects.

Please do not forget that Milton Keynes is a city made up in part of historic towns and villages. It is also one of the best archaeologically investigated parts of the UK so there is much to explore .

Our heartfelt thanks goes to Kim Davies from the City Discovery Centre and Brett Thorn from the Buckinghamshire Museum for their massive contribution to the success of this trip.

A Year 7 holding a Neolithic (New Stone Age) Arrowhead from the Milton Keynes area

Mr Nash and some of the Year 7s outside the Seventeenth Century almshouses at Great Linford