A class of nine pupils from Blanche Nevile School for the Deaf were given the opportunity to visit the Charles Dickens Museum, to support them as they studied his life and works in class. The trip was made possible thanks to an Educational Visit Grant from the Jack Petchey Foundation.
The trip consisted of a book binding workshop and a tour of the museum, which gave the pupils a brilliant understanding of Victorian life, and the world in which Dickens lived.
The children were very excited to be in Dickens’ real house and have the chance to see his personal belongings. They were also very impressed at seeing the actual desk on which he wrote ‘Oliver Twist’, which they had been studying at the time. It was the first time that they had seen so many Victorian household items, including bedroom toilets (a chair with a hole and a chamber pot underneath), kitchen equipment and sticks for cleaning clothes. It gave them a real insight into how hard life must have been for a poor boy like Oliver Twist, who didn’t have servants like Dickens did. Mohamed in Year 8 commented, “I can’t believe Charles Dickens went to the toilet in a bowl in his bedroom! Yuck! I feel sorry for the servant who had to clean that in the morning!”
During the bookbinding workshop, the students learnt about traditional bookbinding that would have been used on Dickens’ original editions and had the chance to make their own notebooks using these methods. It was a particularly wonderful experience for the children with special needs because the workshop was very hands on and engaging. One Year 7 student said “I liked making the notebooks in the old-fashioned way and using the big stamps for decoration.”
The students were truly inspired by the trip and gained a real insight into what life was like in Victorian London. Aodhan in Year 7 said “I felt like I was inside history! It was really fun and I was shocked that Charles Dickens had a pet hedgehog! He was called Billy Spikes and they kept him because he ate spiders and insects out of the kitchen.” Another pupil, Zak said, “I felt like I was stepping back in time!”
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