Hands-on History at Bruce Castle Museum

High Street Heritage: hands-on history at Bruce Castle Museum

Bruce Castle Museum is now offering extended ‘High Street Heritage Days’ as part of its education programme following a successful pilot scheme in 2017. Through object handling, role play, and art and design pupils can explore the heritage they see every day and learn about the history of the high street.

The pilot scheme was generously funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the North Tottenham Townscape Heritage Initiative. The following case study illustrates the activities, resources and outcomes of a High Street Heritage Day at Bruce Castle.

The Pilot Scheme

During 2017 over 300 children and young people took part in the High Street Heritage Schools Programme. Designed and delivered by the education team at Bruce Castle Museum and Haringey Archive Service, the project worked with a wide range of audiences reaching pupils at both Key Stage 1 and 2; Key Stage 3 English as an Additional Language (EAL) students; and Special Educational Needs (SEN).

The aims of the project were to:

  • inspire children and young people to explore their local heritage
  • increase knowledge and understanding of the history of the high street
  • explore the preservation of Tottenham High Road and White Hart Lane

Whole day workshops took place at Bruce Castle and were tailored for each group. Activities included exploring photographs from the archive, handling original Victorian and Edwardian artefacts, drama and role-play activities and creating artwork.

Participating Schools

  • Harris Primary Academy Coleraine Park
  • Lancasterian Primary School
  • Duke’s Aldridge Academy (formerly NPCS)
  • Risley Avenue Primary School
  • St Francis de Sales Catholic Infant and Junior School
  • The Brook on Broadwaters
  • The Willow Primary School

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Exploring photographs from the archive

“The children found the workshop very engaging and informative. Some of the children are still amazed that parts of Tottenham were farmland 100 years ago.”

Lancasterian Primary School

"It was very interactive, which the children enjoyed. I think the fact it was about their local area was great. The children loved finding out about places they knew."

St Francis de Sales Catholic Infant and Junior School

Handling original artefacts

"It was wonderful for the children to have the opportunity to handle artefacts. I also really liked the way this portion of the session was structured, with the clues and the opportunities for discussion and drama."

St Francis de Sales Catholic infant and Junior School

Drama and role-play activities

“Giving the children to opportunity to role play as shopkeepers was excellent. It led to conversations about packaging because they realised that the shopkeepers did not use plastic bags. Thanks for a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging workshop.”

Lancasterian Primary School

"The kids really enjoyed it, especially the role play. It also extended their vocabulary brilliantly, e.g. stationer, confectioner!"

St Francis de Sales Catholic Infant and Junior School

Creating artwork

Inspired by the architecture of traditional Victorian shopfronts, students had the opportunity to create their own historic window-dressing!

"It was fun because we learnt about the shops."

Year 2 participant

"I told my mum what shop used to be where Sports Direct is and she said how did I know that and I told her we learnt it at the museum."

Pupil from St Francis de Sales Catholic Infant and Junior School

“A fantastic history and art project”

Harris Primary Academy Coleraine Park

Project Outcomes

  • Over 300 children and young people from seven schools actively engaged in exploring the heritage of their local area
  • All participants handled original Victorian and Edwardian artefacts
  • 284 children took part in art workshops and designed their own shop fronts
  • 7 pupils with special educational needs took part in sensory workshops
  • 29 students with English as an Additional Language extended their vocabulary through describing old and new high street objects
  • 39 teachers and teaching assistants developed new skills in using museum and archive collections within their practice

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Legacy Outcomes

  • Fostered relationships between Bruce Castle Museum and local schools


    • “We will definitely come back!” Harris Primary Academy Coleraine Park
  • Inspired children to learn more‚Äč


    • “The workshop has awakened a desire to learn about the local environment and I expect that over the holidays the children will be far more observant as they go about with their families. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to take part in this exciting project.” (Risley Avenue Primary School)

If you would like to create your own High Street Heritage Project, why not get in touch with Bruce Castle Museum to find out more? Phone on 020 8808 8772 or email museum.services@haringey.gov.uk

“A fantastic place, especially for schools”

Lancasterian Primary School

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Here are some ideas to get you started!

  • Ask pupils about the local high street. Do they go the shops? Which ones? What does it look like today? What words would they use to describe it?
  • Imagine it is 100 years ago. What would be different? Would anything be the same? Describe how it would look, sound and smell. Pupils could discuss in pairs and then feedback.
  • Ask pupils how we can find out about the past. What resources are there? Use the table below as a starting point.




Maps: Tell us how an area has changed. The ratio of buildings to open space can show how an area like Tottenham has grown.

Photographs: Show how the high street looked, individual shops and their design, how people dressed and travelled.

Objects: What people used. Aid understanding of how technology has changed the way we shop and buy things.

Thank you to all the staff and pupils who took part in High Street Heritage.

This project was generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the North Tottenham Townscape Heritage Initiative.

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