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Gun drills – teamwork Tudor-style!

The Tudor gun drill was well established in the original museum and is still one of our most popular activities. Tudor gunner, volunteer Mike, explains…

“Gun crew, have a care… Give fire!”

With these words a pupil brings to a climax one of the most popular activities provided by the learning department at the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth.

As visitors emerge from the lift on the upper deck of the museum, they are frequently confronted by a group of enthusiastic children clustered around a full-size replica of a Tudor gun known as a port piece. They quickly become fascinated by what the children are doing, as they go through the key stages of loading and firing the massive gun.  A generous round of applause often follows the completion of the task as the sound effect of the explosion dies away.

Why do we offer this activity and what are the educational benefits?  After all, the children are very unlikely to use Tudor gunnery skills in their later life!

Firstly, and importantly, it is fun to try something so unusual and different from their everyday experience.  Also, it is an activity unlikely to be found elsewhere due to the unique nature and atmosphere of the Mary Rose Museum.  As the children peer down the length of the gun, they gaze through a huge plate glass window at the eerie remains of Henry VIII’s flagship.  Not bad for starters!

In terms of language, the children are introduced to a range of specialized and unfamiliar vocabulary.  Repetition of words such as ‘linstock’, ‘slow match’ and ‘oakum’ by the presenter helps to cement the meaning in the memory and understanding of the pupils.  When encouraged to use their imagination in follow up work, children have produced some outstanding creative writing, particularly in the form of poetry.

We deliver this activity with great success to a wide variety of age groups and to people of varying abilities, including (with appropriate adaptations) special needs pupils.  It also proves highly popular with families and the wider public in holiday times.

One of the Mary Rose guns features in the British Museum’s 100 Objects for Teaching History which features incredible objects from museums across the UK with resources, information and teaching ideas to inspire students’ interest in history.

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Experience inspiring educational visits to the Mary Rose

Our award-winning Learning Department provide expert-led sessions designed to enrich teaching and learning in both history and STEM subjects.

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