Adventures in Time and Space On September 20th, 1979, a select group of children from Fairburn County Primary School dressed up in 17th century garb and travelled to Wakefield to visit Clarke Hall, a genuine 17th century farmhouse just off the A642. Sporting a crafts room with working looms, a kitchen with a spit roast over a roaring fire and a beautiful landscaped garden with a maze, it was exactly the sort of place a seven-year-old boy would usually find extremely boring (especially if he went traipsing round it with his family on a Sunday afternoon when he’d rather be at home playing with his Star Wars figures). But this was a living museum and we were all dressed up like 17th century peasants, so I absolutely loved it. Every detail of the experience was designed to make us feel like we were actually living in the past - volunteers dressed as kitchen wenches, lunch cooked in a genuine 17th century fireplace, actors pretending to be the historical owners of the hall while using strange words like “morrow” and “pewter”. Late in the afternoon, an actor calling himself “Benjamin Clarke” sat us down in his drawing room and told us the story of how he hid his cousin, a priest called Martin, from some naughty men who wanted to capture him for some reason or other. I remember being utterly enthralled with it, especially with the idea of having secret hiding places within one’s own house. I’d always dreamt of having a secret tunnel that went from my house to some other exciting location, and a priest hole was definitely that kind of thing. What made the story doubly exciting was that Benjamin was able to show us the actual hidey-hole, with its secret room beyond. I’m not sure I appreciated the full historical context of the story or why a bunch of men might want to capture a priest, but I did understand that the past was a strange place full of weird people who did bad things, and it would have been horrible because there was no telly. Still, having a priest hole in my bedroom might have made up for it. Back at school the following day, I was given a brand new exercise book and asked to write out Benjamin Clarke’s story from memory. How much detail I’ve omitted or invented I can’t say, but what’s written here is probably the basic gist. There’s nothing particularly remarkable about this piece - a few spelling mistakes here and there and a touch of Yorkshire phrasing: “That Martin!!” But otherwise it’s very ordinary - not especially funny or creative, nor does it reveal much about my life. It’s not even my story. But it’s here on this website because it’s the first thing I wrote in my first English book at Fairburn School, and that’s a good place to start. OK, I suppose there are a few things to say about it: 1. There are no paragraphs I’d seen such things in books, but didn’t know what they were called and certainly wasn’t required to use them until much later in life. None of the Fairburn books use paragraphs, nor do they feature any joined up writing. Originally, when I first started planning to make this stuff more widely available, I typed the work up (a process which spanned several years) and, as a way of making it more readable, formatted it all into paragraphs, with proper spelling and punctuation and everything. Then it dawned on me that the bad spelling and crude handwriting are all part of the fun. So now you get to see the original, warts and all, lucky you. 2. Margins were a new concept to me At my previous school, I hadn’t used margins, instead just scrawling all over the page as I saw fit. The wonky, wobbly margin on this page (and throughout the book) is testament to that. I love how the top half of the margin is obviously drawn with a ruler, but I clearly couldn’t be bothered to lower it to complete the bottom half and instead drew the rest of the margin freehand. I remember these things being really annoying. The fact that I wasn’t used to using margins becomes even more obvious when you look at Page 3, where I clearly started writing without a margin, then realised my mistake, erased the original text and started again. 3. Rubbers weren’t allowed There aren’t any obvious examples in this piece, but erasers weren’t allowed at Fairburn School. Nor were we allowed to cross out mistakes. Instead, we were encouraged to place mistakes in brackets, so the teacher could clearly see them. Much neater than crossing out, yes (but potentially confusing if you wanted to use brackets properly). Naturally, this took me some time to get the hang of. I’m not sure whether this explains why the words “window” (on Page 1) and “could” (on Page 3) have been circled. Perhaps they are words which I originally erased and then needed to point out to Mr Geraghty? Which leads me to... 4. Strange markings in the text There are asterisks on Page 1 and Page 2 which appear to have been added later (slightly different pencil quality in each case). I wonder if this was to mark out a passage for me to read in assembly? There are also a few odd vertical lines scattered throughout the story which I don’t quite understand. They could be paragraph markers, but that wouldn’t make much sense, since I didn’t use paragraphs. Some of them are crossed out as well, which definitely wasn’t allowed! Anyone any ideas? 5. I knew there had been more than 1,979 years The date on Page 1 is written as “Friday 21st September 1979 A.D.” It’s possible the “A.D.” may have been added later, but not much later, since it only appears after the first few dates in the book. What this suggests is that I was very proud that I knew what “A.D.” meant and wanted to show off about my superior knowledge as often as possible. I was a big fan of the comic 2000 AD, which is probably how that knowledge came about (that and me asking “What does A.D. mean, Mum?”) Whether I’d actually got around to questioning the validity of basing our calendar on the birth of Jesus, I don’t know. I doubt it. But that moment would definitely come before I left Fairburn. 6. I’m impressed with the spelling and punctuation No, I couldn’t spell “preist” and I’ve somehow given “suddennly” two N’s. I can’t spell “Precilla” at the beginning of the story, but somehow by Page 2, I can. I like exclamation marks way too much (“That Preist!!!!”) and question marks too (“What preist????”). I spell “Rats” with a capital R, “Man” with a capital M and “Preist” with a capital P (something I did quite often - was I German in a past life?). But I was seven years old! Give me a break! I wasn’t taught about “its” and “it’s” till I was eleven but I definitely know how to do it here. I can spell “cupboard” and “whistled” and “scratching” and “different”. In short, I was pretty good at it. No wonder my parents wanted me moved up a year. Woo, go me! 7. What was Benjamin’s tune again? When the Men finally arrive at Clarke Hall looking for That Martin, Benjamin alerts Priscilla by whistling “his tune”. No idea what that’s about - it wasn’t set up beforehand. Nor do I understand why Benjamin had to give three secret knocks when in fact the tune and the scream would have been warning enough. I’m also pretty certain that a curious whistled tune followed by a conspicuous scream and a blatant secret knock on a dubious hollow panel would have alerted the pursuers to the possibility of something fishy going on. Fair play to me, the Men did actually spot Martin as he made his escape, and it wasn’t my story anyway. But I find myself being rather concerned for Benjamin’s eventual fate - if the Men were after That Martin purely because he was a Catholic priest, then surely they would come back later and arrest Benjamin for the treasonable offence of harbouring him. Perhaps Benjamin was actually a pathological liar and none of this really happened? And while we’re at it, what’s all this “scratching at the window” nonsense? If Martin was going to enter through the door anyway, why didn’t he just knock? And if Martin could evade the Men by riding to Sandal instead of York, why didn’t he just go to Sandal in the first place? Aaarrgh, it’s so frustrating!!!! Some Other Stuff to Say The Clarke Hall trip also spawned a number of photographs, which I’ve somehow miraculously managed to keep and can be found at the top of the page. It’s clear from these pictures that not everyone from the school went on the trip. It may in fact only have been open to those pupils whose parents could be bothered to kit them out in mock 17th century clothes. Or maybe they were just ill? Notably, Carl Clayton, Mark Hudson and Darren Ridley are missing from the congregated group of boys. There may be others I’ve simply forgotten. Also, though most of the boys in the photo were in the junior class, I’m pretty sure Paul Mattison (bottom left in the top two pics) was in the infants class. So I suppose most of the younger boys are conspicuously absent too. I tend to remember my first term at Fairburn as a difficult time. I was in a new house, a new town and a new school, living and working alongside people I didn’t know. A quick glimpse at the timeline I’ve created will show how grim the culture was: IRA bombs, hyper-inflation, wars, hostage crises, Yorkshire Ripper murders and endless strikes were the order of the day. There were only two channels on TV for most of the term and they weren’t showing much I was interested in. The rest of the term’s work, as I’m sure you’ll see if you read on, is very cautious compared with everything I did afterwards. But look at me on the fourth photo down and at least I’m smiling. Still, my arms are folded, whatever that might mean. By sheer coincidence, I visited Clarke Hall a second time within the first few weeks of attending another primary school in Pontefract in the summer of 1982. That time, all I remember is that my teacher, Mrs Walters, introduced us all as having travelled “from Pomfret” (an old name for Pontefract used in Shakespeare’s Richard III). Thanks to the photographs and the English book, my memories of the first trip are much clearer. Clarke Hall on the Web When I first wrote this article in 2010, Clarke Hall was still an active working museum, welcoming school parties and hosting events programmed by the Friends of Clarke Hall. You could even book “Benjamin Clarke” to visit your school. Unfortunately, since then, the site was closed and put up for sale, ostensibly due to council spending cuts. Since then it has been restored and was put back on the market in 2018 at a price of £850,000. If that sounds too steep, don’t worry - you can rent an office there for £6000 a year. Because it’s been converted into offices. Converted. Into. Offices.
Clarke Hall
SOUVENIR PHOTOS
17th Century Fairburn Boys: Top - Andrew Wall, Gareth Daniels, Stuart Ashton, David Bramley, Simon Briggs, Andrew Dobson; Middle - Waen Shepherd, Wayne Kelsey, Jason Bastow, Duncan Grace; Bottom - Paul Mattison, Shane Cotterill, Aaron Ross, Gerald Swaby 17th Century Fairburn Boys: Top - Andrew Wall, Gareth Daniels, Stuart Ashton, David Bramley, Simon Briggs, Andrew Dobson; Middle - Waen Shepherd, Wayne Kelsey, Jason Bastow, Duncan Grace; Bottom - Paul Mattison, Shane Cotterill, Aaron Ross, Gerald Swaby Lunchtime at Clarke Hall: Top - Joanne Dobson, Tracy Bastow, Kay Wright, Shane Cotterill, Aaron Ross; Bottom - Andrew Dobson, Duncan Grace, Waen Shepherd, Andrew Wall Charcoal drawings for a school display. No idea which is mine. Best guess = top left
TERM 1 Sept-Dec 1979
TOPIC 1 Sept-Dec 1979
FAIRBURN The place where I wrote all this rubbish
WAEN SHEPHERD Who was this strange little boy?
HISTORY 1 Sept 1979 - Oct 1981
SCIENCE 1 Sept 1979 - Mar 1980
GEOGRAPHY 1 Sept 1979 - Feb 1981
Clarke Hall Old Houses Fairburn v Burton Salmon The Forgotten World String Orchestra Sheet Lightning Grezelda the Witch Bonfire Night Metropolitan Police Christmas 1979 Great Space Battles Luddenden The Hat’s Adventure Sleeping Beauty What I Do On Monday Waen Shepherd 2 Waen Shepherd in: Green Squids Ward’s 7: Move of the Galaxy Ward’s 7: Alpha Centauri Ward’s 7: Escape to Mother Ship Ward’s 7: Death Planet Blake’s 7 Ward’s 7: The Hunt Ward’s 7: Rescue The Flame in the Desert The Fugitive British Skiing Events Fiends of the Eastern Front Apeth (from Outer Space!) Tedosaurus (from Prehistoric Time!) A Walk in Our Village The Mountain Called Tyrannosaurus Rex Florence Nightingale War of the Worlds The Micronauts in: Supersilver
The Old Stone Age Ancient humans try to co-exist with cave lions and giant deer
Darth Vader An autograph from a genuine stand-in
The Forgotten World John and Mick fall foul of some extreme potholing
Bonfire Night Waen’s first time at the annual village fireworks display
Christmas 1979 Can Waen last the night without opening his presents?
Sheet Lightning Waen and his Gran shelter from the sheet- shaped storm
String Orchestra A visit from the North Yorkshire County Council Orchestra
BLONDIE! Pictures of Little Waen’s lovely blonde hair
Adventures in Time and Space On September 20th, 1979, a select group of children from Fairburn County Primary School dressed up in 17th century garb and travelled to Wakefield to visit Clarke Hall, a genuine 17th century farmhouse just off the A642. Sporting a crafts room with working looms, a kitchen with a spit roast over a roaring fire and a beautiful landscaped garden with a maze, it was exactly the sort of place a seven-year-old boy would usually find extremely boring (especially if he went traipsing round it with his family on a Sunday afternoon when he’d rather be at home playing with his Star Wars figures). But this was a living museum and we were all dressed up like 17th century peasants, so I absolutely loved it. Every detail of the experience was designed to make us feel like we were actually living in the past - volunteers dressed as kitchen wenches, lunch cooked in a genuine 17th century fireplace, actors pretending to be the historical owners of the hall while using strange words like “morrow” and “pewter”. Late in the afternoon, an actor calling himself “Benjamin Clarke” sat us down in his drawing room and told us the story of how he hid his cousin, a priest called Martin, from some naughty men who wanted to capture him for some reason or other. I remember being utterly enthralled with it, especially with the idea of having secret hiding places within one’s own house. I’d always dreamt of having a secret tunnel that went from my house to some other exciting location, and a priest hole was definitely that kind of thing. What made the story doubly exciting was that Benjamin was able to show us the actual hidey- hole, with its secret room beyond. I’m not sure I appreciated the full historical context of the story or why a bunch of men might want to capture a priest, but I did understand that the past was a strange place full of weird people who did bad things, and it would have been horrible because there was no telly. Still, having a priest hole in my bedroom might have made up for it. Back at school the following day, I was given a brand new exercise book and asked to write out Benjamin Clarke’s story from memory. How much detail I’ve omitted or invented I can’t say, but what’s written here is probably the basic gist. There’s nothing particularly remarkable about this piece - a few spelling mistakes here and there and a touch of Yorkshire phrasing: “That Martin!!” But otherwise it’s very ordinary - not especially funny or creative, nor does it reveal much about my life. It’s not even my story. But it’s here on this website because it’s the first thing I wrote in my first English book at Fairburn School, and that’s a good place to start. OK, I suppose there are a few things to say about it: 1. There are no paragraphs I’d seen such things in books, but didn’t know what they were called and certainly wasn’t required to use them until much later in life. None of the Fairburn books use paragraphs, nor do they feature any joined up writing. Originally, when I first started planning to make this stuff more widely available, I typed the work up (a process which spanned several years) and, as a way of making it more readable, formatted it all into paragraphs, with proper spelling and punctuation and everything. Then it dawned on me that the bad spelling and crude handwriting are all part of the fun. So now you get to see the original, warts and all, lucky you. 2. Margins were a new concept to me At my previous school, I hadn’t used margins, instead just scrawling all over the page as I saw fit. The wonky, wobbly margin on this page (and throughout the book) is testament to that. I love how the top half of the margin is obviously drawn with a ruler, but I clearly couldn’t be bothered to lower it to complete the bottom half and instead drew the rest of the margin freehand. I remember these things being really annoying. The fact that I wasn’t used to using margins becomes even more obvious when you look at Page 3, where I clearly started writing without a margin, then realised my mistake, erased the original text and started again. 3. Rubbers weren’t allowed There aren’t any obvious examples in this piece, but erasers weren’t allowed at Fairburn School. Nor were we allowed to cross out mistakes. Instead, we were encouraged to place mistakes in brackets, so the teacher could clearly see them. Much neater than crossing out, yes (but potentially confusing if you wanted to use brackets properly). Naturally, this took me some time to get the hang of. I’m not sure whether this explains why the words “window” (on Page 1) and “could” (on Page 3) have been circled. Perhaps they are words which I originally erased and then needed to point out to Mr Geraghty? Which leads me to... 4. Strange markings in the text There are asterisks on Page 1 and Page 2 which appear to have been added later (slightly different pencil quality in each case). I wonder if this was to mark out a passage for me to read in assembly? There are also a few odd vertical lines scattered throughout the story which I don’t quite understand. They could be paragraph markers, but that wouldn’t make much sense, since I didn’t use paragraphs. Some of them are crossed out as well, which definitely wasn’t allowed! Anyone any ideas? 5. I knew there had been more than 1,979 years The date on Page 1 is written as “Friday 21st September 1979 A.D.” It’s possible the “A.D.” may have been added later, but not much later, since it only appears after the first few dates in the book. What this suggests is that I was very proud that I knew what “A.D.” meant and wanted to show off about my superior knowledge as often as possible. I was a big fan of the comic 2000 AD, which is probably how that knowledge came about (that and me asking “What does A.D. mean, Mum?”) Whether I’d actually got around to questioning the validity of basing our calendar on the birth of Jesus, I don’t know. I doubt it. But that moment would definitely come before I left Fairburn. 6. I’m impressed with the spelling and punctuation No, I couldn’t spell “preist” and I’ve somehow given “suddennly” two N’s. I can’t spell “Precilla” at the beginning of the story, but somehow by Page 2, I can. I like exclamation marks way too much (“That Preist!!!!”) and question marks too (“What preist????”). I spell “Rats” with a capital R, “Man” with a capital M and “Preist” with a capital P (something I did quite often - was I German in a past life?). But I was seven years old! Give me a break! I wasn’t taught about “its” and “it’s” till I was eleven but I definitely know how to do it here. I can spell “cupboard” and “whistled” and “scratching” and “different”. In short, I was pretty good at it. No wonder my parents wanted me moved up a year. Woo, go me! 7. What was Benjamin’s tune again? When the Men finally arrive at Clarke Hall looking for That Martin, Benjamin alerts Priscilla by whistling “his tune”. No idea what that’s about - it wasn’t set up beforehand. Nor do I understand why Benjamin had to give three secret knocks when in fact the tune and the scream would have been warning enough. I’m also pretty certain that a curious whistled tune followed by a conspicuous scream and a blatant secret knock on a dubious hollow panel would have alerted the pursuers to the possibility of something fishy going on. Fair play to me, the Men did actually spot Martin as he made his escape, and it wasn’t my story anyway. But I find myself being rather concerned for Benjamin’s eventual fate - if the Men were after That Martin purely because he was a Catholic priest, then surely they would come back later and arrest Benjamin for the treasonable offence of harbouring him. Perhaps Benjamin was actually a pathological liar and none of this really happened? And while we’re at it, what’s all this “scratching at the window” nonsense? If Martin was going to enter through the door anyway, why didn’t he just knock? And if Martin could evade the Men by riding to Sandal instead of York, why didn’t he just go to Sandal in the first place? Aaarrgh, it’s so frustrating!!!! Some Other Stuff to Say The Clarke Hall trip also spawned a number of photographs, which I’ve somehow miraculously managed to keep and can be found at the top of the page. It’s clear from these pictures that not everyone from the school went on the trip. It may in fact only have been open to those pupils whose parents could be bothered to kit them out in mock 17th century clothes. Or maybe they were just ill? Notably, Carl Clayton, Mark Hudson and Darren Ridley are missing from the congregated group of boys. There may be others I’ve simply forgotten. Also, though most of the boys in the photo were in the junior class, I’m pretty sure Paul Mattison (bottom left in the top two pics) was in the infants class. So I suppose most of the younger boys are conspicuously absent too. I tend to remember my first term at Fairburn as a difficult time. I was in a new house, a new town and a new school, living and working alongside people I didn’t know. A quick glimpse at the timeline I’ve created will show how grim the culture was: IRA bombs, hyper-inflation, wars, hostage crises, Yorkshire Ripper murders and endless strikes were the order of the day. There were only two channels on TV for most of the term and they weren’t showing much I was interested in. The rest of the term’s work, as I’m sure you’ll see if you read on, is very cautious compared with everything I did afterwards. But look at me on the fourth photo down and at least I’m smiling. Still, my arms are folded, whatever that might mean. By sheer coincidence, I visited Clarke Hall a second time within the first few weeks of attending another primary school in Pontefract in the summer of 1982. That time, all I remember is that my teacher, Mrs Walters, introduced us all as having travelled “from Pomfret” (an old name for Pontefract used in Shakespeare’s Richard III). Thanks to the photographs and the English book, my memories of the first trip are much clearer. Clarke Hall on the Web When I first wrote this article in 2010, Clarke Hall was still an active working museum, welcoming school parties and hosting events programmed by the Friends of Clarke Hall. You could even book “Benjamin Clarke” to visit your school. Unfortunately, since then, the site was closed and put up for sale, ostensibly due to council spending cuts. Since then it has been restored and was put back on the market in 2018 at a price of £850,000. If that sounds too steep, don’t worry - you can rent an office there for £6000 a year. Because it’s been converted into offices. Converted. Into. Offices.
Clarke Hall
SOUVENIR PHOTOS
17th Century Fairburn Boys: Top - Andrew Wall, Gareth Daniels, Stuart Ashton, David Bramley, Simon Briggs, Andrew Dobson; Middle - Waen Shepherd, Wayne Kelsey, Jason Bastow, Duncan Grace; Bottom - Paul Mattison, Shane Cotterill, Aaron Ross, Gerald Swaby 17th Century Fairburn Boys: Top - Andrew Wall, Gareth Daniels, Stuart Ashton, David Bramley, Simon Briggs, Andrew Dobson; Middle - Waen Shepherd, Wayne Kelsey, Jason Bastow, Duncan Grace; Bottom - Paul Mattison, Shane Cotterill, Aaron Ross, Gerald Swaby Lunchtime at Clarke Hall: Top - Joanne Dobson, Tracy Bastow, Kay Wright, Shane Cotterill, Aaron Ross; Bottom - Andrew Dobson, Duncan Grace, Waen Shepherd, Andrew Wall Charcoal drawings for a school display. No idea which is mine. Best guess = top left
TERM 1 Sept-Dec 1979
TOPIC 1 Sept-Dec 1979
FAIRBURN The place where I wrote all this rubbish
WAEN SHEPHERD Who was this strange little boy?
HISTORY 1 Sept 1979 - Oct 1981
SCIENCE 1 Sept 1979 - Mar 1980
GEOGRAPHY 1 Sept 1979 - Feb 1981
Darth Vader An autograph from a genuine stand-in
The Forgotten World John and Mick fall foul of some extreme potholing
String Orchestra A visit from the North Yorkshire County Council Orchestra
BLONDIE! Pictures of Little Waen’s lovely blonde hair