Fresh from their success at the Sandford Award ceremony at the Tower of London on Monday, the National Civil War Centre’s Learning Team is learning a new skill to share with their visitors: how to load and shoot a musket.
The team was awarded a Sandford Award in recognition of their outstanding work
with schools, who visit from all over the country. Sarah Clarke, Team Leader for Learning and Participation at the museum, said, “Children who visit us have a really unique, memorable experience learning about the civil war – a time in history which made anything possible.”
Many local children have already enjoyed joining in a pike battle at the museum,
using weapons made of foam! There are fake guns too, and armour for dressing up. But the Learning Team, comprising Sarah, Adam Nightingale and Denise Greany,
really wanted to get to grips with the musket drill for real. After a training session on Thursday morning, they've now felt the flash of gunpowder in their faces and smelt
the sulphur on their coat sleeves; “firing the real musket brings home how much smoke, noise and confusion there must have been on the battlefield,” explained Adam.
When staff warned some of the museum’s neighbours about the noise they were going to make, some people were surprised to hear that women were learning to fire muskets as well as men. Although most soldiers in the Civil War were men, some women sneaked into the ranks in disguise. But women didn’t have to pretend to be men in order to get involved. One of the many lively stories told in the museum is about Lady Christabella Wyndham. “I like to imagine the brave women like Lady Christabella who defended their homes from attackers,” enthused Denise, looking pretty feisty herself. “As Parliament’s forces were attacking her castle, she found a loaded musket and fired it from the ramparts at Oliver Cromwell. Unfortunately she missed him and hit the man next to him instead, but she later sent a cheeky message to Cromwell asking if he had received her love token!”
They were joined in their musket training by Curator Glyn Hughes, Collections Assistant Kevin Winter and Operations Manager Rose Maxwell. Colonel Overton’s Regiment of Foote supplied an excellent trainer with years of military and re-enactor experience. There will be a chance to see him and the rest of his regiment on Sunday 16th December as they bring the 17th century to life with a stunning firing display at Newark Castle and a Christmas feast with demonstrations of period trades and crafts at the National Civil War Centre.