Exploring, Discovering, Learning

I want to make the Past, both History and Prehistory, more exciting, relevant and 'hands-on'. It's a fun place with some great stories, I want to share these with everyone.
I work with schools, museums, community groups, either at their place or outdoors in the Landscape.
I develop and deliver projects. I create resources. Exploring the Past and our shared heritage, bridging the divide and Discovering the links between these artefacts, sites or museum and Us. I try to put objects back in context, helping people Learn about the past. I use objects, both orginal and replica, costume, crafts and role play, in other words - Living History.

I'm a member of a small group of like-minded people - The Deja Crew

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Roman Style Signalling at Segedunum

Evocatus - Victor the Veteran
As part of Segedunum's celebration of  Connecting Light Victor the Veteran demonstrated how the Roman passed messages along Hadrian's Wall - or at least that's what the publicity blurb at Segedunum stated!
The day was a little quiet, being the last weekend of the Summer Holidays, but we still had fun.
How we did it
There's a good book by David Wooliscroft (see below), which looks at signalling from an archaeologist's point of view and relates it to the remains on Hadrian's Wall.  However we needed something children could make work across the fort

The Flags are  dipped rather than raised

Using 2 sets of 3 flags, rather than the banks of 5 usually used in the reconstructions and by adapting a code Julius Arfricanus in the 3rd Century.  If all the flags are raised and the message sent by dipping a flag, it makes it easy to spot which flag is moving.

By changing the alphabet from the original Greek and dropping the 'J' and 'U' gives 24 letters.  All the receivers need to do is to count the number of time a flag dips and use the grid to note the letter.  With practice we could send a letter every few seconds.  The flags are just large enough to be obvious over 100m or so, but to be visible over longer distances, they would have to be much bigger and further apart.

Some of the 'Connecting Light' balloons were being stored in the bathhouse - that led to a couple of surreal encounters...

I am NOT a NUMBER!!!!!

I am Rufus Aelius Victor and I will have my revenge...

Enough said.....

if you're interested -
David H Wooliscroft, (2001)  Roman Military Signalling,
Adam Hart-Davis, Discovering Roman Technology

Friday, 31 August 2012

Connecting Light at Segedunum

Segedunum, 30 August 2012, just about Dusk
As it was just before dark today...

looks very surreal.  Tomorrow I'll be signalling using flags along the balloons - I hope.  If all goes to plan I'll be using a simplified code first described by Julius Africanus in the third century.

Some of my flags.

If the code and flags work, I'll write it up and let you know how we did it.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Connecting Light

This weekend I'll be involved in something very different -

Connecting Light - London 2012 Festival

Connecting Light is a major new digital art installation along the line of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site, one of the most significant structures of the Roman Empire.
The Connecting Light installation will be live between 8pm and 11pm on Friday 31 August and Saturday 1 September. 
Connecting Light is an opportunity to re-imagine Hadrian’s Wall as a metaphor for borders and boundaries, and as a structure that inspires communication rather than division and confrontation, stimulating creative conversations.
You are able to influence the outcomes of Connecting Light through direct engagement with the installation
Messages sent across the Wall will be made visible online and through handheld mobile devices during the day and throughout the installation ‘performances’, and at a number of visitor sites across the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site.
The installation will be visible in the evening between dusk until 11pm.
Influence the artwork by sending a message, or to discover more visit www.connectinglight.info

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Records Smashed...

That's what they reckoned after the doors closed at Bede's World on Bank Holiday Monday!  The day had been given over to - Pirates and Pieces of Eight - Storytelling, Coracles, Bucaneer school, face painting and a Roman from the Classis Britannica there to sort out those Saxon Raiders, so busy didn't even have time for a photo.  Still the Photographer from the Shields Gazette was there...

the Romans Returned...

Back at Hardwick Country Park for the now annual Romans Return event.  It being Summer, Saturday it rained, but Sunday was Glorious.  Still the rain didn't worry the Deja Crew, we were under cover.

Our activities tent, with weaving, willow work and  Life in the Roman Army.

"How did they move around with all this weight?" - quote from one new recruit.

All the things you can try on, including Roman Underpants!

a quite moment in between the raindrops on Saturday,
however Sunday we didn't even have time for a photograph!

A grand event, hopefully we'll be back again next year, see you then.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Romans Return again.....

Come and see me at Hardwick Country Park at the weekend for the annual Roman extravaganza - http://www.durham.gov.uk/Pages/pressrelease.aspx?pid=3811 - the Romans Return.  

The Deja Crew and Rufus Aelius Victor will be there from 11:00am to 3:00pm on Saturday and Sunday - August 25th and 26th .
Along with other broups and artists, the day will include military demonstrations, falconry and some Celts.
Admission - £4 per person, £12 per family, car parking free.

Hope to see you there and the sun shines!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

LOOK FIERCE!, he said, SNARL!!!!!

here are a few of the images from the recent photo shoot at Housesteads

Think  'Clash of the Titans' he said...

...and the photographer said "just run towards me, it'll be fine..."

I am Sparticus....
No! I am Sparticus,
I am Sparticus...

I really need to work on that snarl, no wonder the Vikings were so feared
Thanks go to the photographer Andrew Heptinstall and to Gardiner Richardson for the images.  I'm still waiting for the one of us doing press-ups!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Slaving away...

Back to being a Rufus the Slave, my Master Gaius Bellicus is away along Hadrian's Wall at Cilurnum.  So I've been left here at Arbeia, with the moulds and a huge order to fill.  There's a bit of the flux going round so the votives of bowels are just flying out the door!

Friday, 10 August 2012

Digging my way out...

Spent a pleasant day playing in the mud on Wednesday, Graham Taylor (Master Potter of Potted History ) is re-building a Saxon style pottery kiln at Bede's World in Jarrow.  Someone was needed to stand up to their knees in the mud and mix it up,


The kiln is the hole in the ground and there is a firebox  (the hole in the foreground) that feeds into the main chamber.  In use the kiln will be roofed over with a temporary clay covering with a small flue to draw the heat through the pottery stacked inside the kiln chamber.

The kiln still needs some work to thicken the walls, so weather and workload permitting it will be ready to fire later in the Summer.  I'll let you know when.
A Roman, a Viking and a Medieval Knight all got together one day at Housesteads......

...sounds like the start of one of those old jokes, but this motley crew was joined by a Gladiator for a photo shoot to support English Heritage's summer events programme.
Thanks to photographer Andrew Heptinstall for this image   http://andrewheptinstall.com

Friday, 3 August 2012

Calling any Teachers...

Don't know if many Teachers read this blog, but if you do, you'll know there was very little interest for our Teachers training session in June.
So could any Teachers out there tell me why?
We are hoping to have another event during the Spring Term 2013.
Can you help us?
What would help you include a visit to Hadrian's Wall in your teaching of The Roman's?

Thanks in advance,

Monday, 16 July 2012

waiting for the photos...

Imagine that - a Viking, a Gladiator, a Knight and an Roman, all at Housesteads and all doing press-ups!  A photo opportunity like no other and all for the launch of English Heritage's programme of Summer Events.  As soon as I have an image or a link, I'll post it so you can all have a laugh.  I'm not very good at this snarling business!!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Best School Trip Ever!

It's Official.
Picture the scene,
 it's raining, a group of damp school children have just finished a session with Rufus Aelius Victor, the Evocatus and are now getting their hands dirty with Gaius Bellicus, the Potter - a voice from the back says  'this is the best school trip EVER!'   
Makes it all worthwhile.
The weather was good for the first 2 days, so bright the camera on my phone couldn't cope with the sunshine!

 Feedback from a Teacher
The quality of the learning experience was excellent.  The children (and staff!) thoroughly enjoyed their time at the Fort, and learned much about the Roman way of life.  The Roman soldier was very popular, with his drill and shield formations,
However the last day was a bit wet, but the Children and Teachers were equal to the task;
Thank you for a wonderful day in Piercebridge we all really enjoyed the activities and the children had a great time even though it was wet.  I would definitely recommend this trip and if it was carried out again next year we would definitely come again.  Thanks again. 
Well done to all the Children and the Staff that came with them!


This is the first time that Schools Workshops have been held at Morbium.  The site is looked after by the Head of Steam - Darlington Rail Museum and Darlington Brough Council.  We ran schools activities during the morning, the children met the Commanding Officer's Wife - Aurelia (Sarah Gouldsbrough, the Learning Officer from the Head of Steam); a Potter - Gaius Bellicus (Graham Taylor from Potted History) and myself, a Veretan from the Legions.

During the afternoons we were there for the Public.  We had a good number of visitors, many local to the village.
It was a really good 3 days - we even got a mention in The Northern Echo on Wednesday 20th June.
Hope to see you all again next year.

Roman Roadshow CANCELLED

The Teacher Twilight event at Housesteads Roman Fort has been cancelled - only 2 teachers could make it! Hopefully English Heritage will be able to run it sometime in the future, if they do I'll post the details.

Monday, 18 June 2012

On detachment at Morbium

Over the next 3 days I'll be travelling south on Dere Street looking for new recruits at the fort of  Morbium, known to the local Brigante tribe as Piercebridge.  During the afternoons we'll be on site for the general public, everyone welcome.
Come and have a look at this little visited fort.

Teacher Twilight Event at Housesteads Roman Fort

Do you want new ideas on teaching the Romans? Do you want to meet experts who can bring the history of Hadrian’s Wall to life? If so, English Heritage would like to invite you to our FREE teacher's twilight event. Discover what exciting offers are available from attractions along the Wall.
Have a look at the Teachers Event Flyer for more information and how to book your place.
Hope to see you there.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Did the Romans do the Olympics?

The Olympic Torch made a little detour from the pre-planned route today for a quick visit to Housesteads Roman Fort.  Deftly finding a gap in the rain, Charlotte Proud from Gateshead, nimbly dashed past Rufus Aelius Victor who just happened to be on guard duty near the north wall - well there you go!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Roman Roadshow Teachers Event - 27th June 2012

Come and find out how we can help you teach the Romans.

English Heritage are hosting a Teachers Event at Housesteads Roman Fort.  In partnership with The Deja Crew, Vindolanda, Segedunum, Arbeia, Hexham Abbey and others, we aim to Engage, Enthrall and Educate.
The event will be from 4:00 to 6:00pm on Wednesday 27th June at Housesteads Roman Fort and is FREE to attend.
 It's essential you contact Zoe Spring (01904 601962 or zoe.spring@english-heritage.org.uk) if you want to come along.
I'll post more details soon

Friday, 8 June 2012

Friend of Epiacum

One of the things I like about this line of work is the sense of continuity that sneaks up on you.  I have just become a 'Friend of Epiacum'.  In May 2010 is was lucky enough to be the Roman Army recruiter for Epic Epiacum (see blog post 27 July 2010) where over 200 local school children experienced this little known gem of a  Roman Fort.

Last year Cockfield Primary School who had been to Epic Epiacum, the year before asked me to visit their school and run a workshop.
22 May 2012 I was invited to the Launch of  the Epiacum Heritage, a volunteer run project that has come about because of the drive of Elaine Edgar

Stewart Ainsworth, of English Heritage and Time Team, has championed Epiacum for several years and told a 100-strong audience at the launch: “It is probably the best-preserved fort in the Roman Empire and a flagship for our project.” Mr Ainsworth, who is to be president of the Friends of Epiacum group, added: “Whitley Castle was at the hub of a thriving landscape and was vitally important..." (http://www.journallive.co.uk) 

The intention is to turn the site into a resource for schools and the local community.

The projects' website will be live in a few weeks at  http://www.epiacumheritage.org/  

Hopefully the project will continue to grow and grow and I wish Elaine and her fellow volunteers all the Very Best for the future.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

The Romans Return to Hardwick Country Park... Again!

For the Fourth Year in a row The Romans Return to Hardwick Country Park, near Sedgefield.  The weekend of the 25th and 26th of August will see The Deja Crew and others creating a Roman encampment within this beautiful landscape.   I'll post more details as they are confirmed or check with Durham County Council at
Hardwick Park Events

The Romans Return
Saturday 25 & Sunday 26 August
11am-3pm / £4 each, £12 family
Our annual event is back. Come and learn
all about life in Roman times. Visit our living
history displays, see dramatic battles and
ballista demonstrations.

Discovery Visits 2012

The Discovery Visit season for English Heritage is off to a fine start.  Despite the Winter closures we've had half a dozen groups already.  There have been a couple of changes, there's only myself delivering the workshop now and the 'Discovery Visit' is only available at Housesteads, there are now different arrangements for Chesters.  However your school can still book for

Meet a Roman Soldier - Housesteads

Explore Roman military life and discover how the building of Hadrian's Wall affected the local population in remarkably different ways. Meet Roman Officer Centurion Maximus and discover what life was like on the frontier. Take on the role of a recruit and be taken through duties using drama and role play. Recruits will tour both inside the fort and the remains of the settlement beyond, using replica and real artefacts found near Hadrian’s Wall to find out about the lives of the soldiers and civilians who lived at Housesteads
for details and how to book

For educational visits to Chesters Roman Fort, there is the option of working with me as an 'Approved Educational Provider'.  Contact English Heritage directly on the new Bookings Number 0870 333 0606
they will pass on my contact details and we can arrange your sessions
(please note: the prices quoted on the EH website do not apply to workshops arranged this way)

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

from Slave to Evocatus...

... in one weekend!

On Sunday I was Rufus, a slave to Bellicus the Master Potter at Coria (Corbridge).  Gosh it was cold, I did wish my Master could have issued bracae to go with the thin linen tunic, the locals wear them, why shouldn't I.  Still slaves can't choose to follow fashion.

The next day back to being Rufus Aelius, Evocatus and Signaller for the beacon lighting celbration at Arbeia Roman Fort, much warmer!

Didn't get a photo (it was dark), but here's the link   http://www.enews-twmuseums.info/microsite/flyer.php?nid=674 

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Rufus Aelius Victor, Evocatus

I'm getting more inquiries from schools looking for a 'Roman Army' session so here is a quick session plan for what I could do for your school.

I introduce myself as Rufus Aelius Victor, I am in costume and describe myself as an Evocatus or Veteran Soldier back in the Army after 25 years service. I try to work as interactivity as possible, with plenty of movement, almost all of my equipment and armour is replica and can be handled by the children, I have tunics for the children to wear and wooden shields and either foam 'spears' or wooden swords to use when drilling the group.
A typical session could be
  • Introduce myself and talk briefly about the people living in the area before the Romans, question and answer as to why they might want to join the Army.
  • I recruit them and check if they are fit for duty (with as much movement as the space will allow)
  • Using a couple of volunteers show the dress and equipment of a Legionary and Auxillary soldier.
  • Dress the group in tunics, issue them with shields and weapons and drill them as recruit using Latin commands.
This session could be run either indoors (for example, in the school hall) or outdoors.  I know almost all of the Roman Sites in the North east and across Hadrian's Wall, so I could run this session as part of your visit.
If this brief description has stimulated your interest, why not drop me a line, either to  rlwsn@btinternet.com  or on 07960 125218.