St John’s take part in heritage project

A small but enthusiastic group of Year 7 students at St John’s School and Sixth Form College are taking part in a heritage project in response to an approach from the Four Clocks Centre in Bishop Auckland in May last year.

The Four Clocks Heritage Venture, a collaboration between the Centre and Auckland Railways Group, is responsible for a great deal of original, painstaking research which has led to the publication of two brief histories of Bishop Auckland and the Railways and Lingford Gardiner and Co.

The school is also privileged to be working with Auckland Castle Trust as part of Historic England’s Heritage Schools Programme.

After a preparatory session with their History teacher, Miss Howard, the group, accompanied by Ruth Chittenden, Education Officer at Auckland Castle Trust, visited Bishop Auckland Market Place and conducted research in the Town Hall Library.

They then walked up Newgate Street to view the current exhibition at Four Clocks and enjoy a short and informative heritage tour guided by Michael O’Neill and Gerald Slack.

The focus of the project is Alfred Simpson who, as a 13-year-old, was apprenticed in 1866 to Lingford Gardiner & Co as an engine fitter.

Students have been able to see the original indenture as well as other old documents, maps and photographs.

Thanks to Michael and Gerald, the students have been privileged to interview Alfred’s great granddaughter, Miss Ann Woodward, and were recently given tips on interview techniques and recording oral history in a special session with Georgina Ascroft, Community Archivist at Auckland Castle Trust.

One of the students will play the part of young Alfred in a film which the group is creating with Keith Alexander, Content Director of Culture Street.

The aim of the film is to highlight Bishop Auckland’s rich heritage and features an introduction by Mrs Sue Snowdon, Lord Lieutenant of County Durham, who has emphasised the importance of our local heritage as it represents our future.

The film will be shown publicly at the Heritage Schools Celebration Event at Bishop Auckland Town Hall in early April and will then form part of the exhibition at Four Clocks.

Michael O’Neill, Chairman of Bishop Auckland Station History Group, said: “It is a privilege to work with St John’s School to create a wonderful documentary which captures Bishop Auckland’s forgotten industrial and railway past.”

Prior to the start of the project, Miss Howard and St John’s School’s Arts Coordinator, Jaquie Holloway, attended a lively and fascinating session with Viki Angel, Local Heritage Education Manager for Historic England, full of practical and stimulating ideas about how to engage young people with their heritage.

Ms Holloway said: “It is important for the next generation to understand that the Bishop Auckland was a great railway town and leave a legacy for future generations to enjoy.”

This exciting project is being jointly funded by St John’s Arts Development Department and Cllr Joy Allen who said: “When Michael approached me and told me about this project involving young people in the celebration of our local history, I had no hesitation in providing a small amount of Members’ Initiative Funding to make it happen.

“I hope many people have the chance to enjoy this local heritage resource.”

A spokesperson for the school said: “Staff and students at St John’s School very much appreciate the special opportunity and learning experience they have had”.

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