In St Peter’s, the parish Church of Clyffe Pypard, Wiltshire, there stands a monument to Thomas Spackman. Born in the Parish in 1711, Thomas started life as a humble local carpenter who went on to amass a fortune in London and on his death, bestowed a considerable legacy to the Church; the remnants of which are still with us in the form of a small educational trust. A striking life-sized marble memorial of him, at the South-West corner of the Church, serves as a constant reminder. Thomas died a wealthy man in 1786, leaving £1000 (a colossal sum in those days) in his will to purchase annuities to pay for a master to teach the poor children of the parish ‘Reading, Writing and Arithmetic’. His monument depicts him in eloquent pose in flowing robes, with two children standing to his left and right, and the tools of his trade below at his feet. The monument is by John Devall Jnr. the figures are carved in white marble.
Architectural Historian Nikolaus Pevsner described it so: ‘The monument displays plenty of tools of the carpenter’s trade, a gratifying sight in an age of such snobbery in monuments’.
Recently I had the privilege to work with the community of Clyffe Pypard and Bushton (see their website here) on a heritage event they had planned which included a celebration of Thomas Spackman but enough from me …
… let me hand over to the Reverend Rachma Abbott:-
“We had heard about professional storytelling before but we were even more interested to hear about how the storytelling could be used alongside the school curriculum. The impetus came from the local Heritage Weekend we were planning in the Autumn. We wanted to celebrate our local historical heritage but were also conscious that we wanted to create new experiences and perhaps even new traditions through the event – a new history for tomorrow. Working in partnership with the local school, Spackman Trustees and Church Council, we set about weaving a programme that would link our local history in with the current day and the perfect opportunity came through storytelling, working in the local primary school at Broad Town (see their website here) linked to the story of Thomas Spackman*.
We had heard about Charlie before but now we had the perfect opportunity to work with him. Already very familiar with the school curriculum, Charlie was quick to make all the links and tailor a programme that would work with children in reception through to year 6, taking into account the very different learning requirements, learning ability and individual learning needs; and they all had a ball!
After a couple of days’ intensive delivery (thanks to the support of all the teachers) , we were delighted to receive an email from the head teacher Bridget Long. Along with her thanks, we were also delighted to read the children’s comments. ‘Where’s the storyteller?’ ‘He told us that it’s not just him telling the story but we were all going to help’ ‘He was good at getting everyone involved’ ‘It was so good you could imagine the story, he used colour and adjective so we could see what to do and what good adjectives to use’ ‘ It was educational and fun’, but we knew that we had reached our target when we read the following ‘He inspired some of us to do better with our literacy’; we couldn’t have hoped for better feedback.
The week ended with the Heritage event held at the church and again Charlie delighted the audience by playing Thomas Spackman himself. Gradually the chatter in the church went silent and the audience young and old were captured by ‘Thomas’ and the story of his court appearance. Spellbound, we were all hooked and, for nearly 45 minutes transported to the Georgian era and a London courtroom to hear of Thomas’ ordeal; fabulous theatre.
Our goal was to bring our heritage to life and if we could, engage with our local children in a new way but the opportunity that presented itself has done a whole lot more. Not only did we enjoy some priceless moments of real theatre and entertain the eager minds of local children, it has given us, the PCC a new impetus to work with the school, the Trust and other organisations. It has enabled us to develop new partnerships and the confidence to try new initiatives. Charlie gave us more than just a story, he gave us new energy but more importantly, he gave the children a lasting memory of something rather special and we couldn’t have asked for more .
With thanks, on behalf of St Peter’s Parochial Church Council, Reverend Rachma Abbott.”
Thanks too to Anna Radley for help in preparing this article.
Some testimonials for my work in schools:-