Beer, Frying Pans and Canaries: Norfolk’s Strangers workshop

By the end of the 16th Century one third of the population of Norwich were Dutch or French speaking. These citizens were known as the Strangers and were based not only in Norwich but in other towns and villages across Norfolk. Last week we trialled our new Norfolk’s Strangers workshop with two year 4 classes at Wensum Junior School.

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Dressing as Thomas Peche

The workshop uses modern and contemporary maps to show that the strangers came from the low countries. Using these maps pupils can understand how short the distance between Norfolk and Holland would have seemed to the strangers when coming over by boat. Next, pupils are shown documents from Queen Elizabeth I inviting the strangers and their families to Norfolk to boost the weaving industry in Norwich and the fishing industry in Great Yarmouth.

Once the children have an understanding of why the strangers were in Norfolk we move on to how they found their new country. We look at letters written by strangers to their families describing Norwich, their journey over, and how welcoming the locals were. Many of the strangers talk about their trades and ask for their families to bring over some of their home comforts (something we come back to later in the workshop). Pupils are encouraged to imagine themselves in a strange new city and think about how they would be feeling.

Pupils read a letter by one of the Strangers about their experience in Norwich

We use inventories of the stranger’s possessions to look at the clothes that they would have worn. Many of the strangers integrated with the locals and dressed in the fashions of the day. However, a few inventories contained items such as a Dutch cloak, showing that some strangers brought their own styles over with them. During this activity the pupils get to dress as Thomas Peche and Lady Jane Butts, using items made specifically to replicate those listed in their inventories.

Finally, the pupils look at the legacy of the Strangers, by playing the indenture game to understand what the Strangers bought over to this county. They discover that items such as beer, the frying pan and canaries were all introduced the newcomers.

The pupils at Wensum Junior School had a great morning, and really helped us to bring some of the strangers to life. The workshop is now available to book for all schools across Norfolk. Please contact us to find out more details or make a booking.

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