Real-life history to put a chill down the spine

From: Richard Taylor, Chairman, Ripon Museum Trust, The Workhouse Museum, Allhallowagate, Ripon.

I THOUGHT Jayne Dowle made a really good case in her article ‘Downton’s cosy past still has something to teach us’ (Yorkshire Post, September 26) that TV costume drama can be one way to interest children in history.

It’s easy to be sniffy and say that Downton Abbey is a bit far-fetched but she is right that at least it’s fun and it engages younger (and older) minds in thinking about their ancestors’ past.

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She rightly says that children learn by asking about things and by comparing them with their own experiences. I would go further and say they learn even better by going to real places. You can’t get that chill down the spine in any other way than by actually being in the buildings where history happened.

We at Ripon Museums know that because we have the real Ripon Union Workhouse, not the stage-set version.

Thousands of visitors, both young and old, come to see this 150-year-old building, which is now the Workhouse Museum, and many say they are deeply affected by the experience.

One such visitor was the renowned author Barbara Taylor Bradford, who came last year to see where her mother, then a child, and grandmother lived. The visit clearly moved her.

I encourage all who want to find out more about this important part of our past to come and see Ripon Workhouse Museum.

Experts tell us that it’s the best-preserved workhouse in Yorkshire, indeed in the north of England.

The Workhouse and its companions, the Courthouse and Prison and Police Museums, are open every day until the end of November. Details are on www.riponmuseums.co.uk or by phone on 01765 690799.