24th May 2021
"The history of York is the history of England"
Our latest guest blog post is from York Civic Trust, about their education packs, which include material relating to our area.
York Civic Trust aims to educate the next generation about York’s history and heritage. Its four beautifully illustrated packs target primary age children, but are of interest and relevance to anyone who enjoys discovering York’s varied past. Using historic photos, original documents and real life stories, each pack (produced in conjunction with York Explore) recounts a national historic event, viewed through a local lens. The reader is taken into York’s Victorian workhouse, shown why Votes For Women mattered and given a sense of what it was like to live through two world wars.
In Life in York’s Victorian workhouse we read about Jordan Richard, of Clementhorpe, a father of four children. His job was to separate and straighten fibres of flax ready for spinning, until he was 'partially disabled from (a) broken body' and forced to apply to York Poor Law guardians, for money to put food on the table for his wife and family. His sad story was just one that emerged when archivists at York Explore began cataloguing the city’s extensive poor law records.
The suffragette movement was a slow burn in York, until Emmeline Pankhurst spoke in the city in April 1911. The Votes For Women pack tells how her meeting was publicised by women chalking the time, venue and date on the pavement, an activity which gave rise to a very irate letter to the editor of the Yorkshire Herald, complaining about the 'very great eyesore' that their advertising left on the pavement. Some things don’t change!
Annie Pearson, a member of Mrs Pankhurst’s audience, was a well-to-do mother of four, living in a large house in Heworth. Fired up by what she heard, she determined to do her bit for the cause. Abandoning her comfortable life (complete with cook and nanny), she joined the movement, took a train to London to protest and was arrested for obstructing the police and sent to Holloway Prison. Votes For Women shows her police summons (on which she has written “What a fib!” in response to the charge of obstructing police) and the postcard she sent to her husband from prison, to let him know of her whereabouts. The account of her arrest was reported in the Yorkshire Herald of February 7, 1913 and is reproduced in the pack.
The final two packs focus on the first and second world wars, again using photos, documents and first hand accounts, detailing the experiences of those who lived through those terrible events. Once more, the emphasis is on the experiences of local people, perhaps the grandparents or great-grandparents of children using the packs. The stories are moving, sometimes tragic, but always interesting and a reminder of the everyday heroes of York who lived through national horrors.
It is often said that the story of York is the story of England and these packs show just how true that is. With creative activities to engage their young readers, the packs can be viewed or downloaded free of charge from the York Civic Trust website. Although aimed at under elevens, they will be of interest to a wider audience too.
The packs - Life in York’s Victorian Workhouse, Votes or Women, Life in the First World War and Life in the Second World War - can be accessed here.