The Re-creation of Jamesford

The starting point for this ‘Mantle of the Expert’ was a visit to Kentwell Hall as part of the study of Tudors and Stuarts in history. During the recreation at Kentwell participants take on the roles of people in those times and bring a particular date in history to life. The children all had to wear Tudor costumes and spent a wonderful day there.

When we returned, I talked to the pupils about well known Tudors and Stuarts from around Ipswich. In particular Bartholomew Gosnold, who lived at Otley Hall near Ipswich and sailed to America on the Godspeed in 1607. He was one of the founders of Jamestown.

Now veterans of M.0.E. we decided to set up our own re-creation so that people in Ipswich now would be able to discover what it was like to arrive in America in 1607. The children would run the management company for the recreation and then take part in roles as the original sailors and immigrants.

The first task for discussion was finding a suitable venue. Many thought that the school field might be a possible site but after considerable thought, measuring etc it was rejected.

For the re-creation the class divided itself up into groups with different responsibilities, having learned by experience that is very hard work if you try to do everything.

  • Sailors
  • Cooks
  • Builders
  • Farmers
  • Hunters and soldiers
  • Potters
  • Doctor

In the sailors’ group, Jonathan was soon established as the Captain as he had been sailing a few times. Once his expertise was know, all questions about the boat and the voyage were automatically addressed to him and he rarely failed to give a sensible answer. This group designed the ship, studied the maps and charts to see where we needed to sail and decided what equipment could be taken to the New World. The detail in their diagrams and lists of equipment reflect their developing knowledge and commitment to the task.

The builders group also had a natural leader, a boy who finds reading and writing hard work and is quiet and passive in Literacy lessons. In this situation however he was full of ideas and soon had the respect of his group. They decided that although eventually we would need to build substantial houses, we would need some shelters to be erected quickly. They therefore began designing a large ‘bender tent’. There was much discussion about suitable materials and calculation as to the length of branch needed to bend to make a structure that would be a meter high. Plans were drawn and eventually they could contain themselves no longer and had to go and make a model tent in the garden.

As the project progressed, a date for sailing was set and preparations were made with even greater urgency. Each person needed to decide what to pack in their trunk Captain Tills would only allow one trunk per passenger and of course the weather would play a big part in his decision. Amy, one of the potters, became increasingly worried. When asked in a meeting what the problem was she explained that she would be away from school on the proposed sailing date and would therefore be left behind! (We postponed sailing until Monday.)

The voyage itself was very real to the children and the quality of the writing produced was exceptional for their age.

A short extract from an account of the voyage:

The Royal James was laden with people and animals. Luckily I was on deck steering the ship not down in the smelly hold with all the poor, sick passengers!
The storm was a rough task for me. It’s very difficult to keep the boat on course when the wind is blowing a gale. Even more annoying was when the mast was blown down. It took two days to mend and we thought we would all perish.

Alex year 4

Another problem that caused considerable debate was that of the Native American Indians.

  • Would they be friendly?
  • How would we know?
  • Should we take guns or presents when we went to meet them?
  • Did they have knowledge and ideas that would be valuable and useful to us?

Back in the twenty first century, we wrote leaflets advertising the recreation, made posters and began to consider how much the project would cost and where to obtain funding. Perhaps we might apply for a lottery grant or ask descendants of the original Suffolk passengers to make a donation.