Eldest Son and his class (sixth grade) took a field trip today to Agecroft Hall and ‘The Citie of Henricus‘ as part of their study of English settlement of the New World. I got to tag along. It was interesting.
First stop: Agecroft Hall. A Tudor manor, originally located in Lancashire, England, Agecroft was purchased in 1925 by Thomas C. Williams, Jr., who then crated it up and shipped it to Richmond.
The kids were given jobs as servants in the manor house, and tour guides dressed in period clothing showed the kids what their jobs might have entailed in the early 1600s. Eldest Son was a shearer’s assistant. He thought it was a pretty cool job, considering some of the options (chamber maid, for example. Not a lot of maturity happening when sixth graders are having the truth about chamber pots explained to them, or how 16th century laundresses got stains out of clothing. Hint: they used ammonia.) After a tour and some hands-on (here’s ES brushing wool:) the kids signed seven year indentures, and voyaged to the New World.
Of course, the voyage was really a comfortable ride in a chartered coach, and the New World was really Henricus Historical Park, located on the site of the second permanent English settlement in America.
Once the indentured servants arrived at Henricus, reenactors took them around the settlement and showed them what life may have been like for the settlers. Not pretty. If the fact that 2/3 of the settlers died didn’t scare ’em off, the idea that they had to live for seven years of labor with 350 men and boys (no women until 1619, at which point I think the men just grabbed whatever women were near the docks) pretty much made them go, “Yuck.”
Not to mention, it was really cold. We’ve had a temperate season so far, but of course the day when we’re outside for six hours is the day when it’s forty degrees (4.44 Celsius for all you metric-system types). I made lots of friends, as I’m a pretty good wind break.
Here’s the kids lined up to train as militia:
ES is way in the back on the right, so you can’t see him. Wait – I think I have another angle:
Not a great pic, but ES has misplaced my camera, so I had to use an old one without the nifty gizmo that makes the pictures come out clear even when your hand is shivering.
Check out nutjob child next to ES wearing shorts. What kind of parent lets their child go outside in winter wearing shorts?
After farming tobacco, trading with natives, and mustering for the militia (all while freezing their tucasses off), the kids were ready to get their freeman papers and strike out on their own. (In our case, striking out meant jumping into the mini-van and turning the heat up.)
It actually was a pretty neat trip. I love experiences that make history come alive. Especially for kids like my son, who has no interest otherwise. I start talking about Tudor England or early N. American settlement, or even US history, and the boys/men in my family glaze over in a manner moments. Youngest Son will listen a little longer, but I think that’s mostly because he’s learning the art of humoring me. (Middle Son doesn’t even try – but then he rarely believes anything, anyway. I told him I was born in California, and he told me I was lying. When faced with a skeptic like that, what can you do?)
All in all, a worthwhile day.