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What can we learn about food in the past from a photograph of a seaside picnic?

This is a photograph of people picnicing on Kennack Sands beach in Cornwall. It was taken between 1900 and 1920.

A photograph of people picnicking on a beach in Cornwall.  It was taken between 1900 and 1920.
A photograph of people picnicking on a beach in Cornwall. It was taken between 1900 and 1920. © Reproduced by permission of Historic England Archive. Ref: BB98/02415

Teaching idea

Ask pupils to imagine that they are going to the seaside and have to take a picnic. Ask them to think about the type of the food that they would take on their picnic, such as sandwiches, crisps, biscuits, fruit, cans of pop etc. Once they have discussed this ask them to draw their picnic.

Then use the photograph to prompt a discussion about what the people in the photograph might have been eating. Would their picnic be the same as one today? Compare it to a picnic today, thinking about similarities and differences (using the worksheet provided above).

Then using the Teachers' Notes (above) look at the childrens' pictures and see what foods they would have been able to eat when this photograph was taken!

You might like to plan your own 1900 picnic!

Learning aims and outcomes

  • Compare seaside holidays in the past with ones today
  • Identify similarities and differences
  • Infer information from a picture or photograph
  • Ask appropriate questions about seaside holidays in the past

Prior knowledge

  • An understanding that life in the past might have been different from life today

Extended learning and useful links

  • Pupils could be asked to imagine a conversation between themselves and one of the children in the photograph. They could write a list of 3 questions they would like to ask them
  • The activity could be used with slightly older pupils and linked to work on healthy eating as part of their science work for Unit 2A, health and growth
  • Use the photographs in our Images by Theme - Seaside collection to look at other seaside activities
  • BBC Food Timeline
  • Food Timeline
  • Victorian Life - Food & Drink

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