The British Schools Museum in Hitchin, Hertfordshire is a Registered Museum of elementary education. We are housed in fine Victorian and Edwardian school buildings. The first school was founded on this site in 1810 by a local solicitor William Wilshere. Our great Lancasterian schoolroom was added in 1837; it stands today as the ONLY remaining one in the world built to the specifications of Joseph Lancaster. Other buildings date from 1853, 1857 and 1905.
What's that got to do with World War 2?
Well, we survived as a school because of an influx of evacuees during the war - or we might have been demolished then. We do a lot of Victorian teaching, of course, but for this 60th anniversary of the end of the war we successfully ran two week-long trials (May and November 2005) of a 'wartime evacuee' teaching programme.
For this teaching, school classes arrived at Hitchin Museum for hands-on practicals. They were then marched across town (singing 'Run Rabbit, Run Rabbit, Run, Run, Run') to the British Schools Museum for lunch and an evacuee lesson.
After the May week of teaching, two schools returned to two Victory Parties where they met real veterans of the war and sampled wartime food, and played 'pass the parcel', tried an egg and spoon race - with the adults joining in of course!.
We ran a 'Life on the Home Front' exhibition running from April to November 2005 - people have been contributing their photographs and memorabilia to it, and from there they often contributed a wartime story to the archive.
We held 'weekend special' events to commemorate D-Day in May 2004 and VE Day in June 2005.
There were talks by researcher Stuart Antrobus entitled "We'll Meet Again" in November 2004 (wartime music) and "Cinderellas of the Soil" in September 2005 (The Women's Land Army).
We worked closely with other organisations in the Hitchin Partnership, including Hitchin Museum, Hitchin Library, Codicote Local History Group, The Signals Museum at RAF Henlow, and the North Hertfordshire 50+ Community Development Officer.
We were grateful to the Big Lottery Fund's Home Front Recall programme for two grants. The grant to the British Schools Museum funded conversion of a cellar to an air-raid shelter (with a real Anderson Shelter installed) as a permanent resource in our wartime teaching programme. A grant to Hitchin Museum funded much of the work with school classes and the Victory tea parties, and reminiscence sessions and other activities at their site.
You can find out more about us at www.hitchinbritishschools.org.uk