The Rotherham Celebration has also been reported on news site of the Yorkshire and Humber Region WEA webpages. See link below:
Celebration Event: Picnic at Steelhenge
We ended our fantastic learning journey together with a Solstice Picnic at Steelhenge. It couldn’t have been more fitting. Friends and colleagues joined us, and we shared with them all that we had learned and experienced. The learners received their certificates, and had their photo taken by the Rotherham Advertiser. The Rotherham group are keen to continue their learning, and they will be starting on another WEA course in the Autumn.
Field Session 6: National Coal Mining Museum
This session was to be a visit that was very pertinent to the learners, and their lives. Many were from mining families, one learner, Jez, was an ex-miner. I knew from the off-set that I would be the learner that day, and they would take up the role of tutor. And they did with great passion and knowledge, especially Jez, who was happy to share his mining-days with the group. Jez was even the star pupil on the underground tour, much to the surprise of the tour leader. For many the last two trips of the course were the most noteworthy.
Field Session 5: Bolsover Castle and Creswell Crags
We had a class vote regarding local sites that the learners had always wanted to go, but had never had the opportunity to, and Bolsover Castle and Creswell Crags were the front-runners. It was ambitious to attempt to visit both sites in one day, but we managed it – just!
Interestingly the learners were expecting a Medieval Castle, and were surprised when they found Bolsover Castle to be a seventeenth century residence. This did not stop their enjoyment in exploring what the site had to offer.
After a few wrong-turns in the minibus, we made it to Creswell Crags. We were unable to take a cave tour, but were happy just to walk the route around the gorge, talking about life in Palaeolithic times. We had already covered much about the archaeology of the Palaeolithic in the classroom, and the learners felt it beneficial to experience the site in order to but their learning into some context.
Impromptu Classroom Session: debugging Famous Sites
Early June brought with it a deluge of rain, and for the first Friday since April, we had to cancel our field trip and retreat indoors.
The group asked to learn some more about ‘famous’ heritage sites in and around Britain. We covered Stonehenge, and its various interpretations from the tradition to the fanciful.
We also looked at the site of Hadrian’s Wall. We were fortunate that Paul from Stonham Home Group had cycled the whole of the wall the previous year, and was happy to share his experiences of the range of sites and remains his journey afforded him.
Field Session 4: Rotherham General Cemetery, Boston Castle and Canklow Woods
Rotherham’s general cemetery is a hidden gem. Opened in 1841, the cemetery was built to replace the town’s cemetery surrounding the Minster, which was overflowing with corpses.
We were fortunate to visit the General Cemetery in late spring, when all the shrubs and trees were in blossom. We were surprised to find we were the only people in the cemetery, although it still remains open for burial, it seems to be a forgotten and quiet corner of Rotherham.
The learners noted the number of servicemen buried in the cemetery, and also spotted many of Rotherham’s industrials magnates buried there too.
We walked a short way up to Boston Castle (which unfortunately was closed to public visitors as it was a Friday). Boston Castle was built to serve as a shooting lodge by Thomas Howard, the 3rd Earl of Effingham. It occupies a commanding view over Rotherham. The learners were keen to point out significance landmarks visible on the horizon, including places where they had worked and lived.
We then came across the re-located doorway to the famous Jesus College, nestled in a quarry crag in the grounds of Boston Park. The intricate carvings still evident of the door surround led learners to speculate what the original College building may have looked like.
We then entered Canklow Woods. Some of the learners were sceptical about finding archaeological features, having spent most of their lives walking around the woodland and not finding much!
They were surprised by how rich the heritage was within the woodland, and soon became experts at identifying the earthworks left by Medieval agricultural terracing. They also learn a thing or two about ecological heritage, including the key components of identifying a woodland as being ancient. We were also treated to a fabulous display of bluebells.
Field Session 1: Waterloo Kiln.
A small group of Rotherham learners visited Waterloo Kiln, Swinton in week 1 of their Digability field sessions. It was rewarding to reveal the archaeology of this familiar site to the learners. They discovered the lone standing kiln hovel, built in 1815, was once part of a large pottery site, which was comprised of features such as a flint mill, china warehouses, workers cottages and other kilns.. We shared around pictures of the site during its life and demolition – including images showing the ruins of the flint mill, and the use of the hovel as a small house. The learners identified building stone from the original pottery site, now reused in surrounding garden walls. On studying the remains of the pottery gate house, the learners were excited to still find the original gate fittings intact: commenting that it is small discoveries such as that, which brings the history to life for them.
Field Session 2: Roche Abbey.
A group 9 strong visited Roche Abbey on a sunny May day. All of the learners had visited Roche before, many had been coming since they were young, but they appreciated exploring and understanding the remains on the site in more detail. They discussed the possible reasons for founding an Abbey in this sheltered valley near Maltby. We talked about the legacy of human occupation on the site, spanning back to the Mesolithic times – we even found the Roche Rock Shelter that they had learned about 10 weeks ago, during their first archaeology class. We noted the differing use of materials on site, and even commented on the significance of the name of the neighbouring settlement of Stone.
Field Session 3: Conisbrough Castle and St. Peter’s Church
A small group of learners visited Conisbrough Castle on a breezy and showery Friday in May. Interestingly, only one of the learners had visited the site previously. Jez admitted having worked in an office overlooking the castle for years, but having never visited it. It was challenging to break down the concept of what a castle was to people in the past, and the group were surprised to discover Conisbrough had multiple functions, including serving as a court and jail. We studied the extent of the stone castle remains, including climbing to the top of the Keep, then we walked around the outer earthen defences. Later we popped into the look at St. Peter’s church, which occupies the neighbouring hill-top. Seeing the mice carved into the pews by the famous Mouseman of Kilburn was the highlight of the trip for Jez.
Rotherham: Year 2
Term 1: Course Outline.
- Week 1: A timeline of Rotherham’s Sites
- Week 2: Identifying archaeological artefacts
- Week 3: Early Beginnings: Flint tools and Rock Shelters
- Week 4: Field Trip to Scholes Coppice
- Week 5: Historical Rotherham: Maps, Place-names and Domesday
- Week 6: A Tour around Rotherham Centre
- Week 7: Field Trip to Boston Castle and Rotherham General Cemetery
- Week 8: Our Lives in Objects.
We started our learning journey, by producing and sharing ‘pen portraits’ which revealed how much the students already knew about the topic of Archaeology. The breadth and depth of knowledge in the room was astonishing, though all students expressed an interest in finding out more about their local heritage. This led us nicely onto a Rotherham Timeline activity. The students were presented with over 30 sites of archaeological / historical importance in Rotherham, and were asked to see whether they could build a timeline. ‘I never knew Rotherham was that interesting’, one student commented, after reviewing the rather extensive and full timeline. Andy, another student left the session vowing to research some sites in his local area, and bring back some information to class the following week. True to his word he did. He had visited Ulley Church, and had photographed a piece of window tracery, which was now housed in the church’s interior, intrigued to know what it was, and how it had found its way to being cemented into the floor of the current church.
We moved on to look at artefacts in week two. I brought in a selection of artefacts and students learned how to identify them, and record them. Items which puzzled them a little included musket balls, a Roman ear-wax remover and an obsidian arrowhead. More familiar items such as pottery, animal bone and belt buckles proved easier to identify. The students were even able to establish where on an animal the bones came from, and were able to distinguish between rim, body and base pot sherds. The students showed a particular fascination with the flint tools, and this interest secured the topic for the following weeks session.
We studied Rotherham’s early past in week 3. We firstly looked at places and discoveries from around Rotherham, which dated to the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic, including Anston Stones Wood and Roche Rock Shelter. We then studied a range of replica flints, and built up a picture of Rotherham’s early past. Students learned how to tell the difference between a scraper, arrowhead and handaxe. They also learned about how flint tools were made – themselves managing to identify knapping scars left on the tools. The students expressed an interest in visiting Creswell Crags, a nearby World Heritage Site. Plans have been made to visit there in May 2013.
Week 4 was our first field trip. We visited Scholes Coppice: a woodland on the outskirts of Rotherham which contains an Iron Age Hillfort known as Caeser’s Camp. We used the field trip to explore many aspects of the heritage of this area, including visiting Keppel’s Column, and the Bell Pits of Bray Plantation.
Students learned about the process of coppicing, and spent much of the walk through the woodlands searching for traces of ancient coppicing. When we arrived at Caeser’s Camp we found ourselves deep in the dense woodland. We debated the function of this site, and students argued that the poor visibility made for poor defensibility: I found this logic difficult to argue against! I was surprised that out of 12 students (all of whom had grown up in Rotherham) none of them had visited Scholes Coppice. Only one student, Len had previously visited Keppel’s Column, he recalled a time when the top of the tower was accessible to the general public, but admitted he had never taken the opportunity to go to the top himself.