A day at a primary school, 2017

The Archivist of Radley College spent an afternoon at a local primary school to talk about education in the Victorian period.  This was part of a term-long project on the Victorians that the children were studying.  She took along the carved desk lid, a prefect’s banner, a letter and photo of Gerald Talbot, and the prefect’s fives bat. Here are some of the children’s thank you letters and questions …

‘Thank you for teaching us about being a Victorian child it was very inspirational and I loved it. It was one of the BEST lessons I had in ages. Now I know a lot about the Victorians and the fact you had to break the bat when you left was stunning. I am still wondering what Samuel Reynolds would have played with? and what his lessons were like?’

‘I liked learning about them getting punished.’

‘I liked the bit where you said they kept lizards in their desks! And all about the prefects and their pennants that they hang on the dining hall walls. My favourite bit was when you told us about how they carved on their desk tops!’

‘I hope I will never carve on my desk. My favourite part was when you told us about the punishment. I would not ever want to get the cane or play the game where they hit people with a wooden stick.’

‘Thank you for the amazing things you said to us. A wooden bench and desk top. I enjoyed it.’

‘I really liked it but my favourite bit was when you told us about classes with no walls between each class.’

‘I was really interested in the desk. The patterns were so interesting. My favourite was keeping pets in the desk.’

‘It’s weird that Victorians go to boarding school but why did they stay there forever, did they? In Victorian times was paper invented?’

‘Some Victorian children bring some pets to school like snakes, mouses, rats and a couple more things. When I heard it, it was surprising when you said that Victorian children took pets to school.’


‘I found the punishments a bit extreme not having done anything. I thought it was interesting that prefects were allowed to beat other children. It was also interesting that even though you got beaten people still carved in their desks and things like it. I was very shocked that people kept pets in their desks (did lots die?)’

‘I enjoyed looking at the desk top and the letter and that they had pets they took to school. I would take a snake!’

‘My favourite part was when you talked about how the children had pets under their desks and the punishments with the cane. It was very fascinating to look at the prefect banner and the desk. I also liked when you talked about Gerald Talbot and his brother.’

‘I thought it was very interesting that they carved on their desks and they kept pets. I very much enjoyed looking at that big banner.’