Heritage Schools Case Study: What Was Life Like In Anglo-Saxon Bristol?
Summary: Children discover how their local area could have been settled by the Anglo-Saxons and what archaeology can tell us about the past.
Where: Victoria Park Primary, Bristol
Who: Mixed Year 3 and 4 cohort of 150 children
- Children understand what archaeology can tell us about the Anglo-Saxons
- Children understand what an archaeologist does
- Children learn about daily life and buildings in Anglo-Saxon times
- Children know who the Anglo-Saxons were and when and where they lived
- Children identify features on a local map that might influence the position of an Anglo-Saxon settlement
Our enquiry began with a starter of an ‘indoor excavation’ created and led by the archaeologist Julian Richards. The children gradually uncovered layers of an artificial archaeological dig until an Anglo-Saxon house was revealed. The children discussed how artefacts from different time periods tell us about people’s lives in the past.
Next the children undertook a settlement activity in a local park. This involved looking at maps and the local landscape and determining the best place for Anglo-Saxons to settle in the area, taking into account issues such as food, water, shelter, protection and trade routes.
The children then made model replicas of what Anglo-Saxon Bedminster may have looked like. These models were displayed at the local library over the summer holiday.
The enquiry also included an Anglo-Saxon day in which the children undertook a series of workshops exploring daily life in Anglo-Saxon times and an Anglo-Saxon food tasting.
The literacy text for the enquiry was Beowulf and the children made Anglo-Saxon mead and biscuits which were eaten around a campfire and Beowulf told for the first time.
What we did
- Activity in local park to identify local features which would influence Anglo-Saxon settlement
- A model of Anglo-Saxon Bedminster for display at a local library over the summer holidays
- Creative writing using Beowulf as a stimulus
- Children Anglo-Saxon food and drink and dressing up day
- Arranging indoor excavation for five classes with an archaeologist
- Arranging for a parent who is an archaeologist to be interviewed by children
- Contacting residents of a 16th century house close to the school on the site of an Anglo-Saxon farm and arranging to visit
'I found this enquiry really interesting because I didn’t know anything about the Anglo-Saxons before. Now I would like to be an archaeologist when I’m older and find my own Sutton Hoo.' Jack (Year 4)
- The school hall was full of parents who were invited to view each child’s model building which we arranged to demonstrate what Anglo-Saxon Bedminster may have looked like.
- Links made with local residents who live in oldest property in locality thought to date back to Anglo-Saxon times. Visits to the house for the children to assess whether the original part of the building could be an Anglo-Saxon hall.
Resources and web links
- Anglo-Saxon images on Historic England Education website
- Anglo-Saxon resources from the BBC
- Video clips from BBC history programme Meet the Ancestors
Next steps/extension activities
- Explore the idea of children as curators in partnership with Bristol Museums Galleries and Archives
- An outcome for a future Anglo-Saxons enquiry might be to curate an exhibition at the MShed museum in central Bristol