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Shopping in the Past

Last weekend I traveled south to the famous ‘re-enactors fair’, as is my wont about once a year. There I was on the look out for new, old things – if you see what I mean? Among the items I purchased were the following three rather contrasting items …

It is hard to say which is my favourite out of these three. The leather flask, shaped like a bottle, is just gorgeous. It is lined with pitch and was the sort of thing used throughout the period all my characters hail from, and so it should prove very useful for keeping my throat moist, as well as an interesting artifact to look at.

The chain shot is something I have been after for some time. My pirate captain Burwash has oft’ spoke of such shot – the sort used to break a potential prize’s spars (masts and yards) and rigging – but up until now he has only been able to show round shot and double head. Now the children can see another variety of artillery shot too.

The little flea glass is a lovely thing, made of wood and horn. It is intended for my character Sir William Petty when I start doing Scientific Revolution sessions with him (which will very much suit the new national curriculum). I am currently tracking down a variety of instruments and apparatus he can demonstrate – from Napier’s Bones to a camera obscura, from Van Leeuwenhoek’s early microscope to a glass prism, to name but a few of the things I would like to get.

I’ll put up news stories here as I obtain or make more things.


Up to Date News from the Past

Sir William Petty has received some lovely letters from children he met during a recent visit to a Doncaster school. Here is a colourful one from Aimee:


You can see from the artistic talent displayed above why Aimee was given the important job of designing a new St Paul’s cathedral. As Sir William would say, she has the ‘steady hand of a limnist’.

Here is one from Alicia, who obviously refused to be made miserable by an demonstration which showed how the fire spread so easily through the streets of London, instead happily laughing as the houses were consumed …


In contrast, the letter from Poppy tells how she enjoyed putting the fire out (actually a boy called David who, as you can see from Poppy’s illustration, was bravely playing the part of a burning house) …


Poppy has drawn a very fine portrait of Sir William on her letter, with his green coat, periwig and lace-lined neck-cloth.

At another school I visited very recently, the children were so involved in the story, and so keen to draw, that during their ‘indoors playtime’ (and we’ve had a few of those in Yorkshire lately) they also wanted to draw. When Sir William returned from the teacher’s little coffee house he was handed several unprompted drawings and messages the children had fashioned up on their own initiative. 

Here the story of the Great Fire is explained very succinctly indeed by a Key Stage One child …

We had already learned about the sparks (shown very clearly in this drawing) carrying the fire across the city, but were only really at the start of the story when the child drew this.

Sometimes I like to work out which particular part of the story these illustrations (which I receive often) show. For example, the following clearly shows the fire just as it started, with a worried looking gentleman pointing it out to others …

Whereas in the drawing below the fire has definitely spread to Thomas Farriner’s neighbour’s house. The gentleman shown here is so distraught his wig has fallen off, and if the redness of his face is anything to go by, the heat of the fire has certainly  ‘cooked his noddle’!

So, just a few of the letters and works of art Sir William has received. I hope you enjoyed them as much as me.

Click on the following link to find out more about Sir William Petty and the Great Fire of London.

Next time, some portraits of Captain Eynos the Elizabethan Sea Rover, sketched by older children.

News-sheets, Chapbooks and Broadsides

I was perusing the web for something the other day when suddenly I saw an image of myself visiting a school. A quick search found a number of other web pages about my visits. Not only did they bring back good memories, I thought I should put links to some of them here. And now I have!

Captain Burwash visits a Kirklees school in January this year … http://www.marsdeniandnschool.co.uk/kgfl/primary/marsdeninfpri/site/pages/ourclasses/classd

And here the captain visits a Sheffield school last November … http://www.carterknowle.sheffield.sch.uk/blog/?pid=43&nid=3&storyid=47

As well as a Doncaster school in the same month  … http://www.gliacademy.org.uk/news/pirate_day

Sir William Petty also visited a good number of schools last November, including one in North Yorkshire … http://www.stmaryscofe-beverley.org.uk/school-life/visitors-to-school/sir-william-petty-y2

And in the previous November the big wig from London posed for a picture with the children in an East Riding school, which was put into the local newssheet … http://www.driffieldtoday.co.uk/news/education/youngsters-take-a-step-back-in-time-1-3998228

I love this collage from a pirate visit to Helmsley I made a couple of years ago … http://www.helmsley.n-yorks.sch.uk/images/Captain%20Burwash.jpg

And another page from a visit to a Barnsley school in the same year … http://year2.worsbroughcblogs.net/2011/11/23/pirate-meets-landlubbers/

I shall have to keep my eye out in future to see if I appear anywhere else. Apparently Sir William Petty is to feature this very Friday in the Barnsley Chronicle. If he does, then I can’t wait to show my two little boys the picture.

If you want to know more about Captain Burwash, click here. Or click on the following link to find out more about Sir William Petty and the Great Fire of London.

A Deadly Duel Between Two Scurvy Scallywags

Captain Burwash visited a lot of schools this week, but on Friday things took a decidedly dramatic turn! As the good captain was waxing lyrical about his adventures upon the high seas he thought he heard one brave (foolhardy?) lad say his nose was big. Being a proud sort of fellow, the captain looked the lad over and told the lad that his feet were big.

Of course, the class teacher could not allow such an argument to continue, lest it turned into a right rumbullion amongst all in the room. Thus it was that a pistol duel was fought – in the modern manner of Caribbean pirates – between the brave captain and said lad.

Here you can see the very moment the two desperate contenders stood back to back, about to take their paces, and so determine once and for all who was in the right.

Happily, they both survived and decided to let the matter settle.

Captain Burwash resumed his tales of privateers and ‘skullduggerers’, fielding a veritable torrent of questions, from what he ate aboard his ship to how heavy his musket was, from how he became a pirate to what his favourite colour was(!).

Here you can see him explaining all about his trusty cutlass, and you can also see that he enjoyed many a feast of puddings at Christmas, including a very delicious Twelfth Night cake, gaining weight he no doubt (hopefully) will lose upon his next cruise …

(If you want to know more about Captain Burwash, click here.)

Pirate Captain Burwash and the Bairns

My Captain Burwash character has now worked with children from the age of 4 to 11, sometimes with whole schools or key stages, often with only one or two classes. Children of all ages really do love learning about pirates!

Here you can see Burwash as he recently visited the nursery and reception children in a Manchester school. Some of the little ones were so tiny that he had to resort to employing his ‘perspective glass’ to spot them!

The captain would be the first to admit that talking all day is thirsty work. The only trouble, however, is that the teachers he works with all seem to be a sober crowd, and so it is that although optimistically he carries a pewter pot with him wheresoever he goes, he only ever seems to fill it with water.

This picture shows the moment he suddenly thought he could smell rum behind him. He has such an imagination! Luckily so do the children.

(If you want to know more about Captain Burwash, click here.)