Throughout Spring 2016 London Bubble has been working with Year 6 of Peter Hills School in Rotherhithe to discover the history of their school.
The fun we had with the school was part of a larger project by Southwark Council and the Rotherhithe Amicable Society to restore and conserve two 17th century statues which sit on the site of the old Peter Hills School in St Marychurch Street. We’re lucky to live in an area so rich with history, there are not many schools who can look back to four hundred years and still see artefacts from their past displayed in the street.
The children were asked to help two ‘time travellers’ from the future to plan a new version of the school. Together the children and time travellers looked back in time for inspiration. We inspected the statues, searched through the school archives, discovered history from local libraries, talked to people who had been to the school many years ago, acted out our favourite stories, went on a history walk, planned the new school and created a book telling the incredible story of two statues who come to life and travel through time to see the how the school has changed.
As a final celebration the children went to visit the newly conserved statues at the old school building. To our surprise the statues had come to life (and looked strangely like two London Bubble Young Theatre Makers). The statues were able to tell the children about all the things they’d seen before returning to their places on the building.
Alongside the school project, the conservation of the statues was unearthing history for local adults as well as the children. We displayed the statues at Bubble twice, in their original and then their completed state. Hall Conservation were on hand to tell visitors the facts of what they found; the statues were not made of Coade Stone as originally thought and over the years they had been painted 26 times in a variety of different colours. Local residents brought their own history with them. There were many stories about the statues being haunted and switching places in the dead of night.
Though the statues are back to their original state in their original places and Peter Hills School is no longer visited by time travellers, the project lives on. London Bubble continues to make theatre from the stories of local people and local historian Stephen Humphreys is working with the school to help preserve their archives and the new information we have unearthed.
Our big thanks go to Cllr Kath Whittam who started the project and invited London Bubble on-board. It’s been a real treat to work on a project which captures the wonderful mix of history and mythology, fact and imagination which makes up the continuing story of Rotherhithe.