I am a qualified history teacher with eight years of experience working in-role as Benjamin Clarke at Clarke Hall Educational Museum (Wakefield), as well as visiting schools as a wide variety of characters both during that time and in the ten years since. That’s eighteen years of educating children in the role of historical characters! I have a fascination for the 16th and 17th centuries, and have an MA in History from Glasgow University.
I have worked with a wide range of audiences beyond schools too, from US military personnel on Marston Moor to groups of ‘older adults’ at Sandal castle; from the general public visiting Skipton Castle and the Leeds Royal Armouries to children’s holiday activity groups and summer literacy school classes. I’ve been a roleplayer since my early teens and a re-enactor since the age of 18, first with the English Civil War Society and then with Seventeenth Century Life and Times and the Sealed Knot. As a reenactor, I have taken on many roles over the years: from Sir Roger Le Strange stirring up armed royalists in Norfolk to an out of work stage actor running a gang of pick-pockets and cut-purses; from a privateer captain smuggling wool in Kent to a family member of umpteen gentry households distributed across the length and breadth of the kingdom. I have fought on uncountable smoky battlefields and commanded the garrison at many a castle (though I never seem able to keep a hold of them).
Some children’s comments
“He was really, really funny. He’s good at acting, knows a lot of information and I’d like him to come in again. I learnt lots from him.” [Year 6 boy, Whitecliffe Primary School]
“Captain Burwash, you were awesome, so were your weapons.” [Year 5 boy, Whitecliffe Primary School]
“We had a lovely time with you that was the best day ever. Hope we see you again.” [Year 5 girl, Alverthorpe St Paul's J&I School]
“Your final story was amazing, I couldn’t believe it! Literally. No man (plus horse) could go from Kent to York (over two hundred miles) in less than a day. Not even Nutmeg! I would like to say thank you again for a phenomenal day. I really enjoyed it! Hope you come again … “ [Year 5 boy, Alverthorpe St Paul's J&I School]
Commendations from my time at Clarke Hall Educational Museum, Wakefield
“The success of the programme hangs principally on the outstanding talent, dedication and energy of the exceptional – one – freelance teacher who leads the five hour session every day of the week … The whole day was masterfully managed … The Clarke Hall teacher uses language appropriate to his role and the children and accompanying adults reply in kind. This sustains the stepping-back-in-time experience. This aspect of the day alone sustained the children’s interest for the five hour visit .. The creative and dynamic museum educator at Clarke Hall museum gives every child and adult visitor to this fine 17th Century house an unforgettably powerful experience of domestic life through Living history.” [Judge’s comments for the Sandford Award for Heritage Education, Heritage Education Trust]
“Each class returning from Clarke Hall has done so full of excitement and enthusiasm. This has been due to your hard work and skill at creating such a unique learning experience for adults and children alike.” [Duncan Smith, Head of Year 4, Airedale Junior School]
“One of my “special needs” children (behaviour as well as academic) declared it to be “the best day of his life”!” [Carolyn Ashley, Teacher, Kippax Ash Tree Primary School]