Plague and Revolting Peasants – a new topic for The History Van

A new topic for 2015/16, ‘Plague and Revolting Peasants’ is a hands-on look at living conditions, medical understanding, farming methods and demands on the poor people of your area in Medieval times.

The children will carry out their daily longbow practice, engrave swords and make chain mail; swear fealty to the lord of the manor and write their pledge using quill pens; muck out ‘oxen’, milk ‘sheep’, churn ‘butter’ and use yokes to collect water on the Manor Farm; build wattle walls for their houses and ‘keep house’ inside; prepare medicines and treatments to ward off illnesses and play games about death and disease; and if they stray, they will find themselves in the stocks, rotten vegetables and all!

And then they’ll Revolt!!

The History Van on the Trail of the Incas

This summer Jenny Bland is spending several weeks on an archaeology project in Peru with Projects Abroad, searching for the remains of the Inca Empire and creating heritage activities for local Peruvian children. Not only will she bring back loads of experience of archaeological digs but also a mass of material and objects for teaching about the Incas.

So if you want a new topic to cover the ‘non-European Civilisations’ part of the new History Curriculum, contact Jenny in the Autumn Term for details of the BRAND NEW ‘Incas’ topic. Email

17th Century London and Eyam – Plague and How to Avoid It!

‘That was epic!’ – the verdict of a Y5 boy at Northfield Primary School, Dronfield, at the end of a day of scrubbing the 17th century house to avoid plague, discovering the Plague Doctor, using costume and props to create plays about the plague in Eyam and putting out the Great Fire of London. A good way of using local history to engage with far-away London.

Anglo Saxon England – Peace at Last?

A new day for 2015, based on the Battle of Dore in 829

When King Ecgbert of Wessex came to Dore near Sheffield in 829 he united the whole of England for the first time.

Discover what the lives of local Anglo Saxon Freemen and Slaves were like at that time and get ready for the Battle of Dore between Wessex and Northumbria. A full day of fun, facts and finding out for the new curriculum.

Stone Age at Totley Primary School, Sheffield

Totley Primary School, Sheffield, wrote this super account of The History Van’s visit to the school for ‘Surviving the Stone Age’ with Y3:

History Van Brings the Stone Age to Y3 

October 13, 2014

We had an amazing day today thanks to Jenny and her History Van. In the morning we travelled back in time 12,000 years to a time when Britain was still gripped by the Ice Age. We learned how hard it was to survive without any of today’s technology and how everything people needed to live had to be hunted or gathered, using simple tools made out of flint.

We split into 5 Stone Age  families and experienced a range of different activities:  making stone-headed arrows from sticks and leather string; cleaning animal skins with sharpened flint; hammering animal gut to make it flexible enough to use for a bow; sorting through rocks to separate out the valuable ones and identifying Stone Age creatures using only their ancient bones. 

In the afternoon we moved forward 4000 years to the New Stone Age and sampled a range of more sophisticated activities. These included: milking and looking after a sheep; inventing games from pebbles and sticks; cooking meat around a fire; grinding wheat to make corn and combing wool and spinning it to make simple yarn.

To finish off a brilliant day, we all got together and sat around a stone circle we had made, while Jenny led a prayer to the Stone Age sun god and we told our buried ancestors about what we had been up to!

World War 1 sessions for schools, communities, museums and heritage sites

The History Van has been booked for a very wide range of events commemorating WWI, the Great War:

All the Infant and Junior pupils at Hope Primary School spent the day with Jenny discovering life in Hope Valley during the First World War

  • The start of the Women’s Institute (WI) during WWI was celebrated in Darley Dale with the help of The History Van
  • The Van helped Litton village to commemorate WWI on its Memorial Field
  • The Van joined other heritage and faith groups at Sheffield Cathedral looking at ‘When Sheffield Went to War’
  • A day at Crich National Tramway Museum saw The History Van introducing the public to aspects of life during WWI in Derbyshire

In the coming months the Van is working with sheltered housing groups and residential care homes to help the residents to commemorate WWI, plus more lots more villages – even a Thankful village who were fortunate not to lose any residents in WWI – and lots of schools.

Book your day or half day with The History Van to discover how the people of your area lived during the Great War – recreating life in 1914 through song, making activities, artefact handling, costume, and much more. There’s even a dog!



Egyptians ‘Best day ever!’ says Y3 pupil

After having The History Van’s Egyptian day last week, the teacher at Peak Forest Primary School, Derbyshire, said ‘I can’t believe how much we’ve got through today – how much they learnt and experienced!’.

Based on my colleague Tom Sharp’s Egyptian day that many local schools will have used in the past, The History Van is bringing a real ‘taste of the tomb’ to schools. See the Schools page and ‘Topics for Schools’ pdf for more detail or email