Colne Valley Railway – teacher consultation


Colne Valley Railway has received initial funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a project to redevelop the railway and significantly improve the visitor experience and facilities.  They would now like to ask for the views of local primary and secondary teachers who may be able to use the Railway as a learning resource.

Combining improved visitor facilities, conservation work, new exhibitions and interpretation spaces, and an engaging programme of activities, the redevelopment project will attract wider and more diverse audiences to the historic site.  The teacher consultation is an opportunity to have your say and shape the project so it reflects the needs of local teachers.

The link to the online survey is:

To thank you for your time, at the end of the survey you have the opportunity to enter yourself in a prize draw to win a Spa Experience for Two. The winner will be notified by 27/11/15. Terms and condition apply. See for more details.

Can you please ensure that you reply by October 30th 2015.

Spark of interest – The First World War


Learning from History Manager at Essex Record Office, Valina Bowman-Burns shares details about a special event for Secondary Schools studying the First World War on Monday 9th November 2015.

The aim of ‘Spark of Interest – the First World War’ is to reinvigorate an interest amongst students in the First World War, using different themes and angles to approach the topic or expand on what they already know. The day comprises of short, well researched talks by different speakers. All talks will include primary sources. The day will cost £10 per person.

To book e-mail: or telephone: 03330132500

9.00-9.30 Arrive

Last poppyStudents can browse the temporary exhibition by The Last Poppy Project, which tells the story of individuals, families and communities during the First World War using local sources. Early birds can hear about the origins of the poppy as a symbol of the First World War and subsequent conflicts.

9.30-10.30 Richard Knight – Introduction to the First World War

At one hour this will be the longest talk of the day and equip students with an introduction or reminder of the events of the First World War, with a particular focus on the army and trench warfare. The talk is illustrated by a wealth of real and accurate replica artefacts from the era.

10.30-10.45 Break

Whitmore10.45 -11.15 Allyson Lewis – Colonel Whitmore

Carefully documenting his life Colonel Whitmore collected newspaper cuttings and took photographs.  This wealthy and influential man strongly encouraged other members of his community to join the fight in the First World War in the beginning. He saw action himself – was shot twice and suffered shellshock. Through his story students can see the successes and regrets of this interesting, compassionate gentleman.



11.15-11.45 Grahame Harris – Aliens in Essex

The story of Essex residents perceived as ‘the enemy’ during the First World War.

11.45-12.15 Valina Bowman-Burns – War in the Air


Technology took leaps forward in the First World War and the newly invented aeroplane, previously the plaything of the rich and reckless, evolved into the reconnaissance, fighter and bomber that changed how wars were fought.

12.15-12.45 Lunch


12.45-1.15 Martin Astell – First World War RecordedZeppelin

Using the sound archive students will hear the recorded memories of people who lived through the First World War, including stories of zeppelin crashes and the first air raids.

1.15-1.45 Lawrence Barker – “INVASION! Though possible is somewhat improbable”

The words of a First World War poster alert the residents of coastal regions of Essex to their proximity to the Western Front. Students will be shown lesser known sources – the planning and preparations that were put in case of invasion.

An update from Gurkha Stories



Back in April we brought you news of the Gurkha Stories oral history project taking place in Colchester.  The project collected oral histories from Gurkha veterans and will be teaming up with Hazelmere Junior School to share these.  This part of the work is nearing completion, but a teaching resource will be launched in the next few weeks to help teachers explore the stories of the Gurkha soldiers themselves.

Secrets of the Gurkha Suitcase is an online school resource kit designed to help KS2 children understand a little of the background of Gurkha soldiers based on our oral history interviews with the Gurkha veterans.

They will learn about Nepal, where it is, what it is like to live there and its relationship to Britain.  They will discover through the postcards (and recordings) of Shiva and Umesh what it was like to grow up in a very poor part of the world, where most children worked in the fields and tended animals and very few went to school. They will hear about the games and sports Shiva and Umesh played, and the religious festivals in their village. They will meet (and make) a Galla Wala (Gurkha recruiter) who will interview the village teenagers to see if they are suitable for the British Army. Finally they will look at and draw the things left behind in the Gurkha suitcase and consider why they are so precious to Umesh.

The resource will be available from the new project website .

‘An adventure beyond words’: a visit to the Essex Record Office


The Essex Record Office is the county archive for historic Essex, and looks after documents, maps, images and sound and video recordings which together tell the story of nearly 1,000 years of our county’s past.

The ERO offers both outreach sessions for schools and visits to the ERO with a behind-the-scenes tour. One group of children who visited recently (from Broomfield Primary School) enjoyed themselves so much that they have written a guest post for the ERO blog describing their trip.


Broomfield Primary School children find the locations of their houses on a map of the village from 1846

Broomfield Primary School children find the locations of their houses on a map of the village from 1846

They clearly learned a great deal on their visit, from how we use documents to find out about the past, to what an historic portrait can tell us about a person, to how history and science combine in the conservation lab.

The students said that ‘On our journey through time we filled our brains with lots of information and fun facts’, and that they were amazed to see documents ‘that gave us a link to things from hundreds of years ago’.


You can read the students’ full report here, and you can find out more about ERO education offer here. If you would like to discuss booking a session for your class, please get in touch on

Gurkha Stories

Satya Bahadur Pun

Satya Bahadur Pun

Gurkha Stories is an oral history project with a simple philosophy: to create an archive that captures a flavour of the life stories of twenty retired Gurkha veterans who have settled in the town of Colchester, Essex.   It is a work in progress culminating in an interactive digital exhibition at Colchester Castle in the summer of 2015 and a book with the veterans’ story highlights.


With stories spanning from the 1930s to as recently as 2010, our veterans tell stories of their childhoods in the remote farming villages in the mountains of eastern and western Nepal. They reflect on life in the British Army when they were posted across the globe in peacetime or active combat.  And they talk about what life dealt them after retiring from army life.

By kind permission of the Gurkha Museum

By kind permission of the Gurkha Museum

A website is being developed for Spring 2015 which will showcase a ‘taster’ of some of these stories which will appear in the main book.

We have also invited Colchester’s air cadets from the 308 Air Training Corp and the National Citizen Service youth group in Colchester to make a short film about the Gurkhas.  The group has been researching about the Gurkhas as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Scheme.

Gurkha Stories has plans to share the veterans’ stories with Colchester’s local primary schools.   We will be producing some educational resource packs using the Gurkhas’ oral histories.  We would love to hear your ideas about how best we can do this?  If you’re based in Colchester or nearby please do contact us for a chat.

G1320 Gurkha stories logo v3


“Time Travellers was a fantastic time travelling experience that I don’t think I will ever forget”


tt1Are you interested in running a history club at school?  History coordinator Becky Robertson offers some useful insight and ideas to help get you started.

Becky explains where the idea for Hazelmere Junior School’s Time Travellers Club came from:

The club came about almost by accident!  I had just been given the history coordinator job and thought I would start by celebrating Colchester Castle and its reopening.  I contacted the museum service to ask if they would help us with a prize or a guest judge for a competition. I ended up in touch with Caroline who said that the museum wanted to run a competition too, so she came to see me in school and we talked about connecting with the school to review the castle.



It was obvious from the start that a history club was going to be popular and it was decided that the only fair way to work out who could join was to ask the children to apply.  There were over 90 applications!  Once the club was up and running children worked with staff from Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service, had visits from an archaeologist, a curator, the museum’s Disability Access Group PORTAL, radio station Dream 100 and a reporter from the Gazette.  They were even lucky enough to visit the castle before it re-opened to the public in 2014 as a year six pupil describes:


Going to the castle was the best though when we got to be special VIP visitors. I can’t believe that we got to go in before everybody else.

Some children wrote an article that was printed in the Gazette and also set up mini-museums in school.  The club has gone on to lead assemblies and services at school, this year arranging the whole of the Remembrance Day service themselves including singing Flanders Fields as a choir.

Becky feels that that the club has made a difference to everyone’s engagement with museums and history.  Parents were enthusiastic to find out more about what the children had been doing and took them to the castle to find out, so that whereas in the first year only a handful of children had previously visited the castle, when the club started again this year over half the school had visited outside of school time.  There is a real buzz around the club with several children coming into school on the first day in September asking when the club was starting again:

“Time Travellers was the best club I have ever been in, I really hope that I get in again next year. It would make me so happy I think I would burst.”



It has also given children ideas about their future careers – “after meeting Katie I would really like to be an archaeologist” said one year 6 child – and there have also been opportunities to develop and practice some new skills working with club visitors – “I loved it when we met Dom from Dream 100 and learnt how to interview people”.


Becky has shared her four top tips for setting up a club:

1. Don’t be afraid to approach the museum service for help: Museums are full of really enthusiastic historians who are often willing to give up some time to share the enthusiasm with children.  We recently went to the ‘Horrible Histories Barmy Britain Tour’ in Chelmsford – not only did the actors of the show put on a special after performance session with the children for free because they had heard of the club, the Chelmsford Regiment Museum also agreed to give the Time Travellers a free handling session with the curator.
2. Make use of the rest of the school staff and your Governors:  Our school really supported the Time Travellers.  The ICT club helped to create The Time Machine section on our school website and helped the Time Travellers by showing them how to update it.  The Governors were also really helpful.  The history governor came to EVERY club session which was great for an extra pair of hands, and they were then also more keen to boost the club with some funding this year.
3. Consider a mixed age range: We found that having a mixed age range was great. The children from years 3 through to 6 worked really well together.  We also had a particularly quiet year 3 join who by the end of the year was chatting away with the rest of the group and was so fantastic in the performance that we put on at the end of the year that her parents (and her class teacher) were stunned!
4. BIG it up to the rest of the school: make the club sound so amazing and so exciting that the children really believe that they are part of something really special. I found the children worked so hard and their growing confidence and self esteem really showed. We have a display board dedicated to Time Travellers, a section of the website The Time Machine which is maintained by the children and we put on an end of year show about the time in history we are covering.

The Time Travellers Club continues with Becky hoping to link up with other schools to cooperate and share resources.

2015: A year of historic anniversaries


Schools Minister Nick Gibbs has reminded us that there are many opportunities in teaching history this year.

 “2015 is a year of historic anniversaries – 800 years since the signing of the Magna Carta, 600 years since the Battle of Agincourt and the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo”

So, how can we make the most of some of these significant dates in Essex?

You could go to see the Salamanca Eagle at the Essex Regiment Museum.  This bronze eagle was the standard for the French Imperial Army and would have been presented to the French Regiment by Napoleon himself.  It was captured in 1812 by soldiers of 2nd Battalion of 44th Essex Regiment.  These soldiers went on to fight at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 when the Napoleonic army was defeated by the Duke of Wellington.

You could also find out how Britain had been preparing for possible invasions from France since 1804 with the construction of Martello Towers.  These defensive towers were dotted along the coastline from Sussex to Suffolk, with 29 in East Anglia including at St Osyth, Clacton and Walton. You can visit the tower at Jaywick and find out more about the history of Martello Towers, threats from the Napoleonic fleet and life as a soldier.  A teaching resource and story of Jaywick Martello Tower is also available.

Further ideas and resources, including KS3 lesson plans are available from Waterloo200.

To go further back in time, to 1215, you could explore the link between an Essex baron and the modern European Convention of Human Rights through one of the most celebrated documents in British history, Magna Carta.  This was an agreement between King John and a group of powerful barons across the country that guaranteed rights and protections.  One of the barons was Castle Hedingham resident Robert de Vere. Magna Carta signified that everyone, including the king, was subject to the rule of law.  There are learning resources available on MagnaCarta800th that include lesson plans and curriculum links.

First World War centenary commemorations continue in 2015 and October marks 100 years since the death of British nurse Edith Cavell, killed by firing squad in Belgium.  Cavell had connections with Essex before the war working as a governess at the vicarage in Steeple Bumpstead.  She is mentioned on the national curriculum as a significant individual and there are many teaching resources available including a timeline on E2BN mentioning her time in Essex.

The impact of the Great War of 1914-1918 on my Essex community


Ian Mason of the Essex branch of the Historical Association has details of an exciting competition open to primary and secondary schools across the county.

Ian explains:

As part of our efforts to recognise the significance of the Great War of 1914-1918 for the people of Essex, Essex Branch of the Historical Association proposes to run an ‘annual’ competition in each school year: 2014-15; 2015-16: 2016-17; 2017-18.  Entries may be completed as part of a school’s usual history work and are not meant to add any extra burden. Rather, we would champion the good work that goes on, but is all too often unsung beyond the school’s walls.

The competition is open to students of Key Stage 1; Key Stage 2; and Key Stages 3 & 4, and 5.  Each year the following top prizes will be awarded:

1.    OHAne prize of £150 to be spent on history resources for your school
2.    One prize of £100 to be spent on history resources for your school
3.    One prize of £50 to be spent on history resources for your school

All entries commended by the judges will receive:
(i)    a certificate of worthiness from Essex HA;
(ii)    a signed copy of The Impact of Catastrophe: the People of Essex and the First World War 1914-1920 by Paul Rusiecki, (for teacher reference and for the children’s library), and a copy of Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse (for the children’s library);
(iii)    inclusion in an online gallery of written work as well as images, films that will display together submissions from all of the different age groups.

Our three judges are experienced teachers in Essex schools: one in primary classrooms another in the secondary phase with over twenty years as an examiner of GCSE history and the third is also a representative of the Western Front Association, (Essex Branch). Their task will be in the first place to identify the best entries from each key stage and then to debate which exceptional offerings should be rewarded with a top prize. Our judges will be overseen by historian-members of Essex Branch of the HA.

Our judgement will be exercised in three main areas: (i) the skilful selection and marshalling of historical evidence; (ii) the appropriate use of imagination in story-telling and illustrative material; and (iii) in effective writing and presentation. The judges’ view will be final.

Essex Record Office in Chelmsford will be pleased to host the prize-giving and mount a physical display of schools’ work, (but if you are able to provide a digital summary of your school’s work, its progress and outcomes, then an online display of many entries will be possible). A tour of ERO for winners is offered with a look at original sources from World War 1.  Where convenient schools may take advantage of ERO school workshops, (but this is not a requirement of winning).  Please note that though the organisers of this competition are delighted to have the support of Essex Record Office, ERO itself is not responsible for the competition’s organisation.

Students can approach researching and telling about the impact of war at any community level, e.g.
The local War Memorial;
An Essex Family and World War I;
An Essex Street in World War 1;
An Essex School in World War 1, (using the rich resources many schools have in the form of their log books);
An Essex Community Group such as Church, sports club, or other association;
An Essex village, town or city in World War 1.

Competition entries can include a variety of forms:
A song;
A play;
A day in the life of…;
A town or village trail;
The celebration of an anniversary;
An historical re-enactment;
Older people talking;
A paper-based essay;
A project book;
A website or blog;
A podcast;
A series of digital photos or movie record on CD or DVD disk.

But whatever the medium chosen for the work, judges would prefer to have physical submissions in an easily manageable form that at their largest will fit into a standard plastic storage box: 75x40x40 cms.

You are asked to contact Ian Mason or Essex Branch of the HA with a hint that you are intending to take part and finally that you have completed and wish to deliver. Competition entries to be delivered by 15 August of 2015; 2016; 2017; 2018 to Essex Record Office after a telephone call to 033301 32500 alerting of their arrival.

For any further details please contact Ian Mason.



Free WOW factor at Coalhouse Fort and Park


Would you like to give your learning topics the ‘Wow’ factor?  Hazel, Education Officer at Coalhouse Fort in Tilbury, has news of an exciting – and free – opportunity to show you how.


An open afternoon on Thursday 22nd January 2015 at Coalhouse Fort is a chance to experience what is on offer to help enhance children’s learning in the new Curriculum.



During the afternoon teachers will…

Be given a tour of the Fort and Park which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, Site of Special Scientific Interest and a RAMSAR wetland site.

See a presentation about what Coalhouse Fort and Park can offer to enhance learning in the history, science, geography and literacy curriculums for both primary and secondary programmes.

Have a discussion about which topics are being covered in schools and how we can help cover this at Coalhouse Fort and give your topic a ‘Wow Factor’.

Discuss resources and medium term plans that will help link a school trip to work carried out in the classroom.

This is a free afternoon. Light lunch, snacks and refreshments will be available on the day.

To book your place, please contact email Hazel Sacco, Coalhouse Fort Education Officer.




Your Forest needs YOU to come to our First World War Family Learning Event!


EppingCome to Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge/The View, Rangers Road, Chingford E4 7HL on Wednesday 29th October 2014, 12noon-3pm to take part in interesting, enjoyable activities which will help you to discover what life was like in and around Epping Forest 100 years ago.

To mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, we will have a display, a quiz, and a series of activities which will help visitors to discover what life was like in and around Epping Forest during that time. Participants will be able to make periscopes (which were used in the training trenches dug here) and to find out about the science of these. They will also be able to make paper poppies. Learn about the medical treatment offered in nearby hospitals and convalescent facilities which were set-up to assist injured soldiers returning from the Front. Have a go at bandaging!

Members of our Family Learning Events passport scheme will be able to get their passports stamped at this event to work towards earning their bronze, silver and gold Forest Learner badges.

This is a free, drop-in event suitable for all. As Epping Forest is managed as a charity, we ask participants to make donations to cover our expenses. For further information, please contact or visit The View (10am-5pm daily) Tel 0207 332 191.