Wymondham High pupils swap books with swords as history becomes real at Wymondham Abbey

The history department at Wymondham High School really knows how to teach history.

Year seven pupils at the school were yesterday told to put down the textbooks and pick up the bow and arrow, sword or falconer's lure, as they were introduced to life in the medieval year 1448 at Wymondham Abbey.

The children were taught archery and falconry and given the chance to wield some mighty medieval weapons, hear stories and music of the era, learn about gruesome medieval medicine, cooking, and see their teachers behave out of, or rather in, character.

History teachers Duncan Rowe, 44, and Barney Pearce, 28, were doing good turns as baron Ralph de Cromwell, who was treasurer to Henry VI and a major landowner in Wymondham in 1448, and prior Stephen London, who that year petitioned the king to turn Wymondham Priory into an abbey.

Mr Rowe said: 'The abbey appears on the badge on our school uniform, but I don't know if any of our students have been here before today.

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'This is a fabulous way to learn history, they are massively enthused. It takes them out of their comfort zone and gets them asking questions, they are much more awake and receptive.

'We enjoy it as well, it's good fun.'

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The day saw historical education company Black Night Historical pull out all the stops, with experts in authentic period dress putting on different personas.

Founder Tim Pycroft, who lead the archery, said: 'I find it an incredibly good way of teaching and learning history, I wish something similar had been around when I was young.

'If you can get children interested in history through something else like cooking, art, sport or even falconry, then they might be inspired, there are a lot of triggers.'

The pupils were immersed in 1448 as that was the year that the priory become the abbey, and saw the initial tensions that would lead to the War of the Roses.

The youngsters were asked to decide if they were for or against the priory's change - a move which was controversial - and which side they would fight on in, before being split in two and lined up against each other to demonstrate the consequences of civil war.

Sixth former Georgina Ogilvie came along to watch on the Tuesday - her seventeenth birthday - during a break from studies. She remembers how she was inspired by the event when she was in year 7, and now studies history at A-level.

'I remember being really pleased with it and I vividly remember the day, I think it's really involving,' she said

'I think if anything the pupils respect the teachers more for dressing up.'

The school will be throwing the project open to the adults tonight, including a hog roast celebration.

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