War Studies: Welcome and Worcester

As part of the Welcome Week activities, before the first week of teaching, the War Studies class went on a jolly to Worcester to learn about the last battle of the War of the Three Kingdoms (or the Third English Civil War, depending on your preferences). It was an excellent chance to really get to know the rest of the year, and a couple of the academics who led the programme (and who would be our Personal Tutors).

Worcester - Guildhall (King Charles I)
Guildhall – Statue of King Charles I

Taking a very full train we sped to Worcester, past some fantastic architecture (I was lucky enough to later visit the splendid Guildhall, watching out for echoes of the Civil War wherever we went.

Worcester - Cathedral 1
Worcester Cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

Our first port of call was the impressive cathedral, and after a breathless trip up and up we reached the tower where we were given a description of the Battle of Worcester, with a real appreciation of the challenges facing both sides, and of how the terrain affected the fighting. It was a really entertaining and enlightening whirlwind tour of events, and really highlighted how little Worcester had changed since the mid seventeenth century.

Worcester Cathedral

After a brief stop for pie we went on to the Commandery, which was the headquarters for the future Charles II during the battle and now houses a really fascinating museum where we were introduced to the arms and armour of the period – and were able to see some marvellous hidden gems; I particularly liked the medieval painted wall!

Worcester - King Charles House (Pub)
King Charles House Pub

Following this we had a guided walking tour of the battle which brought home quite how close the two armies were, and how hard the struggle was, which ended at a pub which Charles fled from (before hiding in an oak tree) after the battle was lost. Taking the opportunity to enjoy a relaxing pint (or two) and getting to know each other better, we all reflected on what a great start to the year it was!

Worcester - Cathedral View 2
View over Worcester from the Cathedral

By Rik Sowden, BA War Studies

Erddig House: Exploring Georgian Domestic Service

On Friday 31st October a group of second year history students from the University of Birmingham set out on a trip to visit Erddig House, a stunning 18th century National Trust property in Wales.

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The house is of great interest to us, as we are all writing group research projects on domestic servants in the Georgian Era as part of our module ‘Domestic Service in Georgian England’ , and the house is renowned for presenting an insight into upstairs-downstairs life during this period.P1030541

Upon arrival at the house we were given a guided tour of the property, paying particular attention to the servant spaces (including the kitchens, the servant bedrooms, and the laundry rooms), whilst also appreciating the beauty and grandeur of the more luxurious rooms in the house.

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Each group benefited greatly from this tour, for it not only enabled us to see clearly the environment, and atmosphere, within which a domestic servant at that time may have lived and worked, but it also presented the opportunity to ask questions relating specifically to our topics of interest, including areas such as the nature of the relationship between master and servant, and what role gender played in establishing the servant hierarchy within the house. A truly fascinating moment during the trip was being shown the elaborate collection of servant portraits belonging to the house.

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The Yorke family, who lived at Erddig, began a controversial tradition of painting, and later photographing, their servants in the 18th century, and today the collection lives on to provide a unique and insightful medium through which the lives of domestic servants can be viewed that is unlike anything else available. The visit was rounded off nicely by the opportunity to wander around the landscaped garden before heading back to the University. Overall, it was an interesting and informative trip enjoyed by all.

By Anna Dearden, second year B.A. English Literature and History

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