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Suffolk children go back to Tudor times

PUBLISHED: 15:00 08 November 2001 | UPDATED: 10:49 03 March 2010

STOWMARKET schoolchildren were plunged back into yesteryear when a Tudor sailor told of life onboard one of the era's most famous warships.

The Mary Rose sunk more than four centuries ago - but deckhand Will Beckett, also known as office administrator Andy Olney, was able to recreate the scene in vivid detail for Stowmarket Middle School's Year Five.

STOWMARKET schoolchildren were plunged back into yesteryear when a Tudor sailor told of life onboard one of the era's most famous warships.

The Mary Rose sunk more than four centuries ago – but deckhand Will Beckett, also known as office administrator Andy Olney, was able to recreate the scene in vivid detail for Stowmarket Middle School's Year Five.

With the help of authentically replicated costume and small replica and actual artefacts from the period, re-enactor Mr Olney described the trials and thrills of living on board one of the most awesome vessels to sail the water in its time.

He even went onto the gory details of the ship's barber – whose duties other than shaving beards and pulling teeth, included amputating injured sailors limbs!

The children, aged nine and ten, have just started a project on the Tudor man-o-war for their history course in Key Stage Two.

The Mary Rose, named after Henry VIII sister, sank in spectacular fashion near Portsmouth in 1545. Historians argue over why but many assume it went down because there were just too many people on board.

Mr Olney, 44, said that Will Beckett was just one of many roles he plays for schools and re-enactments across the country – often accompanied by his two daughters Joanna, 16, and Chloe, 9.

Together with his partner Gillian Perrin they make up the Tudor Travellers Troupe, specialising in playing out what it was like to exist in the lowest social ranks of Tudor England.

"We mainly do the lowlife, the poor life," said Mr Olney, of Bridge Street, Stowmarket. "Everyone sees the gentry in their fancy clothes and everyone thinks that's how everyone dressed in Tudor times. In fact 70 per cent of the population was itinerant."

History teacher Mark Bartholomew underlined the importance to his pupils of visitors such as Mr Olney, who bring history to life.

"It helps their understanding of what life was like then, And while we don't know exactly why the Mary Rose went down, it helps them to look at sources and evidence and improve their thinking skills."

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