The City Beautiful 100

Mrs History were delighted to be the project co-ordinators on The City Beautiful for Birmingham Civic Society.

Funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund the project was a year long programme of activity celebrating 100 years of Birmingham Civic Society.  Not only did we enjoy sharing the significant history of the Society, we were struck by the great work the Society is doing today in protecting our heritage, encouraging active citizenship across the generations, promoting new public art and planting trees to continue the greening the city. It is truly a force for good and anyone who lives or works in the city can become a member.

Amongst one of our many highlights was working with filmmaker IDM Media to create this short film telling the story of the making of a Blue Plaques.

 

 

 

 

It was thrilling to commission a new poem too and we loved collaborating with awesome Birmingham poet Casey Bailey. The poem was written to perform at a Blue Plaque unveiling and to mark 100 years of  Birmingham Civic Society.

Very much looking forward to the next 100!

 

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Devil’s Toenails

We’re often asked by children where we get our objects from (or our ‘cool stuff’ – which is always nice to hear!).  Plenty of the objects are things we have been collecting for many years, some are bought, others are kindly lent or donated to us.  The pieces we are particularly proud of are the ones that have a strong association with the local history of the West Midlands and surrounding areas.

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Gryphaea fossil

This fabulous Gryphaea fossil, found on a building site, was given to us recently.  More commonly known as Devil’s toenails, this extinct species of Jurassic oyster once lived on the sea bed, but was found in a place now miles away from the coast.

Objects like this immediately provide a connection between the children we meet and their locality and can fire the imagination of a past time, right there on their doorstep.

For further information about our Dinosaur or Local History sessions get in touch via the contact forms or Contact Us page.

Birmingham Heritage Week 2018

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It was a pleasure to attend the launch of Birmingham Heritage Week and to catch up with folk who care so much about the heritage of the city.

Birmingham Heritage Week is an annual festival bringing a whole host of heritage related activity to everyone.  Heritage Week is co-ordinated excellently by Birmingham Museums Trust, funded by generous sponsors and delivered by a huge range of partners and volunteers. Every year, new stories of our heritage are being shared.

When not sharing our past with schools and communities Mrs History loves nothing more than learning about new things! This year some of our highlights will be a talk by Darren Share on the History of Birmingham Parks at Aston Hall on Saturday 15th, a street art graffiti Walk with the brilliant Tracey Thorne and a tour of mid C20th architecture in the city called Shopping in the Sixties.

We’d love to catch the tour under Spaghetti Junction, one of the most iconic landmarks in the city, and to get a peak of The Bournville Quaker Meeting House.

The launch itself was held at The Roundhouse, a new joint venture between The National Trust and The Canals and River Trust. They aim to breathe new life into one of Birmingham’s old working buildings.  At the heart of the canal network, The Roundhouse was originally a stables for horses working on the canals and later was a storage depot for all sorts of items such as The Shakespeare Memorial Library! There are exciting plans for the site including its role as a hub from which visitors can explore our city by bike or by boat!! Who needs a sea front to set sail?! Certainly not Birmingham!

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The Roundhouse The National Trust

Birmingham Heritage Week 6-16 September 2018 and is open to everyone www.birminghamheritageweek.co.uk

A local lady on International Women’s Day

Researching the local history of places around the West Midlands often reveals interesting people from the past – significant not just to that area but to a much wider history.  To celebrate International Women’s Day Mrs History has chosen Cristina, daughter of Edward the Exile as our local lady. Cristina owned the manor of Ulverley at the time of the Domesday Book, 1086. Ulverley was one of two settlements in the area that became the town of Solihull.  

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Cristina (c1040-1100)

She was the daughter of Edward the Exile and sister of Edgar AEtheling (the proclaimed, but uncrowned King of England in 1066). Cristina (born in Hungary) was exiled to Scotland but returned to England sometime before 1086. She lived at a nunnery in Romsey Abbey near Southampton and around this time gave evidence in the case of whether Henry I could marry her niece Edith (later Matilda).  

As one of the last members of the Saxon royal family Cristina is a significant person in history. In a time of Norman supremacy in England, Cristina appears to retain some power and influence. The marriage of her niece to Henry I of England ensured the Anglo-Saxon line continued in the times following the Norman conquest. 

To find out more about how people from history have enriched your school’s local area, contact Mrs History at mrshistory.org.uk.

 

Wedding Traditions

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Queen Victoria in her wedding gown by Franz Xaver Winterhalter. Painted in 1847 as a present for Prince Albert

For anyone getting married this spring, the excitement levels will certainly be increasing steadily about now! On the 10th February 1840 Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.  The couple had met at her 17th birthday party where Victoria fell head over heels for the handsome German.  She proposed to him in 1839.

Up until this point in history women had generally worn their best dress on their wedding day, rather than one bought specially for the occasion, as the cost of doing so would have been too much for many people.  Dark colours (which hid stains) or blue dresses, representing piety, were typical.

White wedding gowns were almost un heard of owing to the high cost of white material.  Queen Victoria’s sumptuous silk white dress (made to incorporate a piece of treasured Honition lace) set a trend that continues to the present day.

A Mrs History Victorians session is an ideal way of discovering continuity and change and the wealth of traditions stemming from the reign of Queen Victoria.

 

 

Fossil Puzzles

If anyone has spent the Christmas holidays piecing together a model or kit you may have some sympathy for Victorian palaeontologist Mary Anning.

Fossil collector Mary learned much from her father about how the beaches around Lyme Regis might reveal the fossilised remains of prehistoric creatures. Mr Anning died when Mary was 11 and the family became almost destitute.  Mary worked hard to teach herself the science behind her finds and became a leading figure in the field.

Her first large scale discovery at 12 years old was a 17 foot long ichthyosaur skeleton.  At 24 Mary found and reconstructed a plesiosaur (marine reptile) confidently using her self taught knowledge to piece together the bones of the fossilised creature.

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Plesiosaurus dolichodeirus from Conyweare’s 1824 paper that described an almost complete plesiosaur skeleton found by Mary Anning in 1823

So when you visit Dippy the Diplodocus when it reaches Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (@BM_AG) in 2018 take some time to marvel at the skill it takes to piece together a fossil jigsaw.

Victorians, Mary Anning and Dinosaur history sessions are all available with Mrs History.  Contact us at www.mrshistory.org.uk

 

Party Season Ancient Style – Beads and Bling

The Christmas party season is well and truly here – glitter, beads, bows and make up, but how did people adorned themselves in ancient times?

The tradition of stringing beads and other objects together to form jewellery has been around since the earliest humans.  Shells, teeth, claws and other natural objects were worn by Stone Age people for decoration and possibly status.

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The Ancient Egyptians used faience (a ceramic with ground quartz) to make numerous objects including the brightly coloured beads found in their intricate necklaces.  This one was found in the tomb of a high ranking 12th Dynasty official called Wah.

 

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Roman Millefiori bead

 

The introduction of glass blowing in 1BC led to the mass production of glass beads in and around the Mediterranean.  Millefiori (‘thousand flowers’) glass beads were made by the Romans to create stunning pieces of jewellery that would have certainly been the bling accessories of their age.

 

Mrs History delivers workshops on many ancient cultures, with costume, jewellery and make up a key part of the sessions.  Contact us for availability.

 

Creative Commons photos courtesy of flickr.com/photos/unforth,  Fungus b

Pre-historic cupboards

 

There is something very satisfying about tidily putting things away as Mrs History has been doing with our new storage cupboards recently.

The occupants of the eight stone built neolithic houses at Skara Brae, Orkney had stone-built pieces of furniture, including storage boxes, cupboards and dressers.  One of the houses has small cubicles, possibly for the storage of tools such as axes and other flint items – an early shed perhaps!

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Furniture at Skara Brae

Photo by Wknight94  via Wikimedia Commons

Five thousand years on our houses may have changed a bit but the basic principles of what we furnish them with have stayed much the same.


Mrs History Stone Age to Iron Age sessions are an ideal way for children to understand historical concepts such as continuity and change, similarity, difference and connections.  Contact us for more details.

 

 

 

 

Vercingetorix Surrenders

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Vercingetorix throws down his arms at the feet of Julius Caesar, Lionel Royer (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Today, Vercingetorix is regarded as France’s first national hero.  The Celtic leader of Gaul brought together a number of Iron Age tribes to defend the land against the powerful Roman Army under the leadership of Julius Caesar.  Following a number of separate battles and skirmishes the two mighty leaders faced each other at the fortified settlement of Alesia.  The Romans had prepared deep fortified trenches and then settled in to await the Celts inside Alesia to run out of provisions.  On the 3rd of October 52BC, the Celts surrendered.  Vercingetorix put on his best armour and rode out to the Romans where he sat at Caesar’s feet ready to face his fate in Rome.  He died there around 46BC.

To discover more about a Mrs History session that explores the Iron Age, Celts and the Roman Empire contact us at www.mrshistory.org.uk.

 

 

September in glass

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Painted glass window at Strawberry Hill House

This wonderful illustration of the month of September was spotted on a recent visit to Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill House in Twickenham.  Walpole described this wonderfully eccentric building, with its incredible interiors as,

a small capricious house…built to please my own taste

A visit to Birmingham Cathedral reveals some breathtaking examples of stained glass a bit closer to home.  The Edward Burne-Jones windows will be the main focus for Heritage Open Day at the Cathedral on Friday 9 September and Mrs History will be there to help visitors create their own window hanging to bring some autumn colour into the home.

For further details: http://www.birminghamcathedral.com/events/view/431/heritage-open-day/