Recently the English department took a group of NCW students to visit the Avoncroft Museum of Historical Buildings. The group had a great day soaking up the history of the site and appreciating the different buildings. Mr Hinds (Head of English) has written the following:
“After surveying the ground, Snowball declared that this was just the place for a windmill, which could be made to operate a dynamo and supply the farm with electrical power [to] light the stalls and warm them in winter . . . [The animals] listened in astonishment while Snowball conjured up pictures of fantastic machines which would do their work for them while they grazed at their ease in the fields or improved their minds with reading and conversation.”
As many of you will know, the above is from the novel ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell. In it the windmill is a symbol of all things good that will come to the animals when their revolution is complete. And, on the subject of all things good, it was with the windmill in mind that the English department took year 11 to the Avoncroft Museum of Historical Buildings to see a real windmill.
Arriving at 10am we were met by our guide, Pete, who proved to be knowledgeable, patient and engaging as he took us on a tour of the site. First up we visited the ‘mail-order’ chapel which originally stood in a place called Brinksty. This was basically a construction kit made of wood and corrugated iron. Next up was the threshing barn and grain storage – key processes on our journey to the windmill.
In the barn we learn about why the doors were of different sizes, how the wattles (walls) were made, and the process of threshing. In the grain storage we saw how the pillars had been designed to stop the rats and to stop the animals hurting themselves by being made of special round bricks. And then, we were off to the windmill.
Unfortunately, the windmill was not functioning but we could still go up it and examine the mechanisms, see the grinding stones, have a go at pulling a grain sack up, and see how the coarseness of the flour was regulated. Our guide, Karen, was very informative and really helped the students to explore. The windmill is almost totally made of wood with different woods being used for different purposes according to their properties.
Finally, Pete took us to the brick sheds where we had a go at making our own wattle and daub walls (we used clay instead of the real daub which amongst its original ingredients includes horse manure!). After this we all made our very own bricks which are currently drying out in the sun.
Overall, we had a fantastic and informative day. The students got a real insight into the farming methods explored in the novel and also had a great day out. A big thank you to all the staff who supported.
As a postscript, one of our year 11 classes was preparing for their Functional Skills exam in the build up to this trip. As such, we got them to organise the entire trip. They wrote emails, rang the museum, organised the packed lunches, ensured we had a driver… They were magnificent. A big thank you must also go to the staff at the museum for making us so welcome.