Tudor workshop

We were introduced to our Tudor day and looked at the British history time line; volunteers wore hats to represent the different time periods. We learnt how a Pike Drill would have taken place, following the process of ‘order pike’, placing the pike on the floor next to our right foot, ‘charge pike’ and ‘charge for horse’ pike block. Experienced people were positioned at the front and at the back and the inexperienced were stationed in the middle!

The Tudor classroom beckoned where we looked at velum - cow parchment paper which the Tudors would have written on, learning that it would have been supported in a wooden frame, strung with string. A pumice stone was used to rub away the hairs on the parchment to prepare the surface for writing on. Gum Arabic, tanning and ferrous sulphate were mixed together to make ink, adding oak gall which had been ground to a powder in a mortar and pestle. We learnt that galls are brown shaped balls that grow on oak trees. We learnt that they are produced when wasps lay eggs on a branch and the oak tree reacts with a swelling. This fills with tanning, the purpose being to poison the wasp. The wasps make a hole, leave the gall and leave the tanning behind. We were shown an aestel which was used to mark the area of the parchment being worked on as conditions indoors were dark and dingy. We were surprised to learn that Tudor rulers were cylindrical, and rolled across the table when they were used to draw straight lines! Everyone wrote their name in Tudor script, resting on a sloped desk and using a quill which was dipped into a container of ink.

Following a session on crime and punishment, we established that we are lucky to be living in the twenty first century, considering that criminals were whipped and branded, executed, boiled alive and burned alive. It was even a crime not to maintain your fence in Tudor times!

Our next session taught us that five hundred years ago, a special badge or coat of arms was used to show who you were. Pictures on a flag or a shield could be used to represent your family and to indicate where you came from. Using pictures and shapes in this way is called heraldry. ... Having a coat of arms showed that you and your family were important. We have started to produce our own shields, with designs that represent our families. Our session on exploration taught us about the different navigation equipment including a gimbaled compass and the captain’s log. We learnt that the speed of a vessel was measured in knots and illustrated this using the captain’s log – the number of knots that passed from the reel in 30 seconds indicated the travelling speed in knots. The ringing of a bell was used to indicate time and we were instructed how to calculate what time of day it was. We spoke about Tudor explorers including Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh and learnt that a pirate was someone who stole from any country and a privateer stole from countries they were at war with.

We all looked amazing in our outfits and had a fabulous day taking on the role of a Tudor.