Picturing the Past

Michael Riley shared with us wonderful historical illustrations and many ideas about how to use these as historical interpretations in our classrooms. His Powerpoint and handout are here: Picturing the pastPicturing the Past handout


Talking History with SLT

Christine Counsell gave a really helpful session on ‘Talking History with SLT’ at the SHP conference this year. Here is a summary note. Any lack of sense is the fault of the note-taker! Hopefully it will be useful for prompting thoughts and ideas about how to explain our subject to SLT colleagues.

CC on Talking History with SLT

‘Doing History’ – display and ex book versions

Here are links to a classroom display and exercise book version of ‘Doing History’. It is designed to explain to pupils what we do in history. Thanks to Hugh Richards for initiating and driving this work in consultation with many people. Doing History, Exercise book edition    Doing History 2017 display

Teaching the Domesday Survey

Ruth Lingard and Helen Snelson from Yorkclio have been working with Professor Stephen Baxter from the University of Oxford to develop resources for teaching about the Domesday Survey. The attached resources are adaptable for Key Stage 3 or GCSE and the whole lot can be done in one lesson. The story of Domesday is so exciting and some of this can be missed by students. These trialled and peer-reviewed activities should solve that problem!

Resources for learning about the Domesday Survey and the challenge facing the scribes: How revealing of Norman skill is the Domesday Survey  The first part of the story of the Domesday Survey   Eight wapentakes  Ten landholders

Resources for learning about what Domesday Book reveals about the Conquest: What can Domesday reveal re Conquest  PPT people and places on map  What can Domesday reveal places   Sheets on which to collate findings

If you want to catch up on the latest research about the Domesday Survey – here are some notes: Domesday Book


Are you studying Hardwick Hall as part of the AQA GCSE course 2016-18?

Here are free resources for anyone studying Hardwick Hall as part of the Elizabethan depth study for AQA GCSE.

The pack is a mash up and more of the AQA resources. It is designed to introduce the historic environment study, has some preparation ideas and is then a workbook to use on site. Teaching pack

Here is a VR tour of the Hall for use by anyone who can’t get there, and also useful for revision. VR tour of Hardwick Hall

Are you studying Durham Cathedral as part of the AQA Norman England Unit?

Last week we were lucky enough to be joined by research Assistant Dr. John Jenkins from York University for an hour session on the Normans and Durham Cathedral. Here is a brief transcript of what he told us.  Please share with any colleagues studying Durham Cathedral for their Historic Environment.

  1. UniversityDurham is unique in that it combines the role of Church and warrior bishop. The Earls of Northumbria had not been successful in ruling over the people. Tostig had been replaced by Harold, Copsi had been given the role by William but lasted only 5 weeks in the job until he was burnt out of his church and beheaded. He was killed by Oswulf, grandson of Uchtred, who installed himself as Earl. Oswulf was killed in the autumn by bandits after less than six months as Earl. The role then passed to Gospatric who later joined a rebellion with Edgar Atheling and the Danes. As a result of this rebellion William stripped him of his title and placed Waltheof in the role. In 1075 Waltheof is caught up in another rebellion against William, and, despite confessing he is executed by William.

Clearly the Earldom of Northumbria was causing major problems for any English King.


John explained you need to understand that the people of Northumbria felt they owed their allegiance to a higher authority than a King. They were the ‘people of St. Cuthbert’. St Cuthbert had been a monk at Lindisfarne and Melrose in the 7th Century and had been given the status of Saint. His remains had been moved across the North of England in reaction to various Viking invasions but by the 10th Century he was firmly established at Durham Cathedral. The people of Northumbria identified themselves as ‘waliwerfolc’ – essentially People of the Saint. This means that St. Cuthbert was their protector. In the Harrying of the North, Simeon reports that the Normans turn back at Northallerton because Cuthbert has sent down a mist.

Durham was not any use in the strategic sense. Instead the Normans build Newcastle as this is a much more useful strategic position.  However Durham has significance as a religious site. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, William visits Durham and goes to the shrine of St. Cuthbert. Here he confirms all the liberties and lands of the cathedral and gives gold and vestments.

Simeon gives an alternative story in which William doubts whether Cuthbert is really in the tomb and tries to open the coffin. At the moment he does he is stricken with fever and rides away in terror. He then sends gold.

John points out that it really doesn’t matter which was true, it was an idea that was believed by the people of Northumbria. William had realised that in order to control this region he had to respect their Saint.

The Normans decide to launch a new style of Earl/Bishop for a variety of reasons

  1. Bishops have no children as they are celibate so they can be easily removed without hereditary issues
  2. To make the job attractive there needed to be significant reward
  3. The Earls needed to use the powers of St Cuthbert to be able to govern
  4. The Earls needed considerable power – could offer rewards of monastic life to the sons of families who obeyed their laws.


William St Calais is the first of these new Bishop Earls

The Cathedral at Durham is rebuilt alongside the existing Anglo- Saxon one (called the White Church). Cuthbert’s remains are transferred in 1104. They also build a new monastery.

The new cathedral would have been built by a team of Norman stone masons and used the newest fashion for ceiling vaulting. The zig zag motive represents continuity with the old Anglo-Saxon style of decoration. (The Normans decorated much more figuratively). It was exactly the same length as St Peters in Rome. It would have been painted red, blue and green inside and probably white outside.

12 monks looked after Cuthbert and some could trace their lineage back to the 7th century Lindisfarne. (Monks at this point were not celibate)

William St Calais comes from a monastery in Normandy and he models Durham on this experience. William brings in Benedictine monks who are stricter and observe the rules of celibacy. In this way he takes over control over Cuthbert’s staff. Future monks have to observe celibacy.

Before 1083 women could also pray at the shrine of St. Cuthbert. William brings in strict rules based on his former monastery’s practise of denying women access to the shrine. Women end up pressing offerings into the walls or having to give them to the monks in an attempt to get close to the saint. Teachers could link this to wider changes in the diminishing status of women in the Norman period?

Durham Castle – it was small and never really used in battle. Not much of the original castle remains now. It was built in 1070 as the Bishop’s Palace and like all castles was largely symbolic. It would have been a simple motte and bailey and a curtain wall. John pointed out that the AQA pack showed photos of the later parts of the cathedral and castle. You will need to get students to cross out lots of the visible outline to give a true impression of how the castle  and cathedral would have looked in Medieval times.





WW1 military hospitals in York

Here is a useful resource about World War One military hospitals in York.  It’s been put together by Fulford and Fishergate Local History Group. The Mount School was used on the same terms as Bootham and I think they might be updating this, but it gives some useful pics and maps for students about how York linked to the casualty system. Might be useful for KS3 or KS4.



Norman York Minster

Here are a selection of photos taken of the Norman parts of York Minster that may be useful resources for classwork. Descriptions of what they are are underneath.  If you need information about York Minster and church history across any period do contact Alex O’Donnell from the Minster learning team via alexod@yorkminster.org. The team will be happy to help with staff knowledge updating and/or work with students from Key Stage 1 through to A Level. They have a lot of information on the Minster in the Tudor Reformation period that may be very useful for some of us.

The Doomstone: this would have originally been on the front of one, or possibly both, of the Norman York Minsters. It would have given a clear message to worshippers about what awaited them if they did not lead a godly life and that they needed the church. There would also have been a depiction of heaven, but this is lost. It would have been brightly painted. If you look carefully you can see devils and the mouth of hell as a cauldron. There are also toads emerging from nostrils!

The remains of a statue of the Virgin and Child is early Norman. It may have been defaced at the Reformation, or in order to use it as core stucture material.

There are two lovely examples of Norman pillars. One of them has no top and so you can clearly see how the pillars, while beautifully faced, were packed with rubble.

The weathered figures are probably apostles and they would have been on the outside of the Norman cathedral(s).

Why two pictures of brick walls?  Well, the first is built of millstone grit. It’s re-cycled Roman stone. The Minster was, and is, built of local Tadcaster limestone, whereas the Romans used gritstone for their forum, which was on the site of the Minster. Gritstone is tougher than limestone and the Norman builders took full advantage of all the Roman remains in the area to use the gritstone to build strong foundation walls. Clever folk those Normans! The second wall picture shows herring-bone pattern. It is typical of Anglo-Saxon building and reminds us that Norman masters had Anglo-Saxon workmen building their cathedrals and churches.

The top of the column is richly carved and still has some remains of red paint on it. It is not unlike a rough classical column and the Norman architecture style is known as Romanesque in the rest of Europe.

The stained glass is Norman, which makes it some of the oldest that survives. It would have been part of a window in the Norman cathedral(s).

The small piece of stone (in the plastic box!) is actually very valuable. It is a fragment that shows how Normans painted their churches white and then painted on red false mortar lines. This is a rare surviving fragment of what would have been a very common scene in Norman England. Possibly the white painting made buildings stand out as very rich and important.

The Minster Learning Centre staff can explain how the Norman cathedrals developed with their handy model!



What can the Domesday Book reveal about the Norman Conquest?

Here are a set of resources and an activity plan about the Domesday Book.  The resources are information from Domesday about 15 places and 3 people.  The activity plan suggests how these can be used with a GCSE class.  It can be adapted for Year 7.  There is also a set of notes for teachers about the Domesday survey in case you are teaching it but did not study it during your degree.  With thanks to Pathfinder ITT mentors for their ideas and to Professor Stephen Baxter for his expertise.  Here are:

The places and people: what-can-domesday-reveal-places

The activity plan and resources: what-can-domesday-reveal-re-conquest    ppt-people-and-places-on-map

The notes for teachers: domesday-book