The Shakespeare Week celebrations at Knebworth House were a great success! Read more about the children’s visits…
Knebworth Housewas once the home of Rowland Lytton, a man separated only a few years in age from William Shakespeare. This year, the Knebworth staff built on this connection in order to tailor their existing schools programme, the Tudor Treasure Trail, to Shakespeare Week. Several schools visited throughout the week for a full day of learning about Shakespeare’s world in Knebworth House and gardens. One group had been celebrating Shakespeare Week at school, and the children were so excited that they arrived at the house in Tudor costume! They were treated like royalty (after all, Queen Elizabeth I herself once visited Knebworth House), with the doors swept open to the sounds of Tudor music and cries of “good morrow!” from the costumed staff as the students entered. For the rest of the day they explored the house and grounds, learning about the time in which both William Shakespeare and Rowland Lytton lived.
The first activity on the agenda was building a Tudor timeline. Important dates from the lives of the Tudor monarchs, Rowland Lytton, and William Shakespeare were represented by the pupils wearing labelled tabards. Students were able to place themselves in order and gain a better understanding of the relation between historic events and people in the timeline of history. Throughout the morning, students were then able to see many of the people represented in the timeline in Knebworth’s collection of portraits.
From here, the students were broken into two groups for a series of activities around the house, including a visit to the room in which Queen Elizabeth stayed on her visit to Knebworth, a discussion about Tudor armour, a Tudor dance workshop, and a chance to practice writing in Tudor style. The children learned a great deal, all of which was carefully connected to both Rowland Lytton and William Shakespeare. For example, after seeing Tudor armour and feeling how heavy a real helmet was, the students were able to understand why Richard II, stranded in his heavy armour, might want to trade his “kingdom for a horse”!
Throughout the morning, pupils were rewarded for insightful questions, answers, or participation, with Tudor coins. The participants for a knighting ceremony were then chosen from the winning team. The children were thrilled to take part in the ceremony, which ended off a fun and informative morning.
In the afternoon, the group moved into the extensive Knebworth gardens to follow the Tudor Treasure Trail. This trail focused on Tudor food, with the children exploring the grounds while learning about ingredients that would have been gathered from the estate. At the end of the afternoon, the students received a royal order to prepare a feast for the visiting Queen Elizabeth. Using their new knowledge of Tudor food, the class cheerfully ran off to their bus to plan the Queen’s menu on their way back to school.
Knebworth’s Tudor Treasure Trail allowed these children to continue their Shakespeare Week celebrations outside of school, in a place in which Shakespeare’s queen once walked. The children were clearly inspired by the beautiful setting, fun activities, and fascinating information. Their experience is perhaps best summarized by one student, who wrote that the day “was a great learning experience” and drew herself looking on in awe at one of Knebworth’s Tudor portraits.
Read more about Shakespeare Week