Live History Re-creates a 19th Century School!

As you know, if you follow this blog, our business “Live History” of which “Louisa’s Walk” is our flagship, has a number of other products which bring the past to life. We can be commissioned to find, research, script and perform the stories of the past to re-create any aspect of Tasmania’s history. Sometimes we do this employing other actors and, at other times it’s just the two of us, as on “Louisa’s Walk”.

Recently, we were contacted by the Kingston Primary School and asked to help them celebrate their 150th anniversary. They had the great idea of asking us to re-create a 19th century classroom in the old school building just down the road from the current campus. Built in the early 20th century and used up until the 1970’s, the old buildings are now used for Adult Education classes and there are many residents of Kingston and surrounds who went there as children, or who taught there as teachers, who remember it well.

The plan was for us to research and script, a fifteen minute, typical class session, in the 19th century classroom. Our approach to theatre on ” Louisa’s Walk ” is minimalist; in a building we could have a few more props! However, it just wasn’t possible to source enough old school desks and general old school paraphernalia and, even if we could, it is all too valuable now to be easily accessible. We made do with what we had and, by purchasing some coloured cloth to hide the plastic tables and with a few knick- knacks brought from home, we were able to create a very pleasing effect. The old-fashioned room itself, with its fireplace and small paned windows, supplied plenty of ambience. We even had a rosy red apple for the teacher!

Thanks to the Channel Historic Museum, Kingston school had been loaned an authentic school bell and also some copy books which they had photocopied, one for each child. The Headmaster, “Mr Oldfield” was played by Chris – who, together with his wife, started the first Kingston school at Browns River in the mid-19th century. God bless the internet which provided us with a copy of a reproduction early Australian explorer’s map. A quick trip down to Paul at “Noble Ink” in Kingston (our guru whenever we want anything reproduced) who enlarged and printed it out for us on quality paper, and we had a map. “Mr Oldfield” pays a visit to the class telling them that the historic 1860, Burke and Wills expedition has just started and he needs a map to show the children the intended route.

On the blackboard, pre-set the previous day, we had the “Memory Verse” for the day (from the Bible), the date “November 19th 1860” and some examples of copperplate writing (I had to dig into my memory bank to reproduce this and I’m not at all sure it was very authentic!

Our day started with “The Lord’s Prayer” and our “Memory Verse”. We then went into copy-book work and our times tables. Then, the visit from “Mr Oldfield” after which he suggested that, as the children were so well behaved, they should be rewarded by being allowed to sing him a song. “The Class” just happens to be in rehearsal for the end of year concert and their song “Ten Green Bottles” complete with a wall with ten green bottles all ready to go (made by our “groundsman”). A child who had excelled in their copy-book work was chosen to come and flick the bottles off the wall as they “accidentally fall”. This proved a real success. Alas, Ten Green Bottles has to be interrupted by a fire drill and, it’s farewell children.

In all we took 8 classes – whilst one class was in with us, a retired teacher, Elaine Fazackerly, was out in the playground introducing the children to some 19th century games: hopscotch, marbles and knuckles.

The morning was a huge success and “Live History” has a new product, ready and waiting, to bring to schools who want to introduce children to school life in the 19th century.

Mr Oldfield and Miss Thorne

Mr Oldfield at The Old school

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