Case Study – The Seal Chart Mystery

An exciting History, Writing and ICT project for Key Stage 2 pupils

How can we use census data in the primary classroom?

The six week, 4 part project was an opportunity for Upper Key Stage 2 pupils from 11 West Kent primary schools to improve their literacy skills through History and ICT.

The Event

On Monday 24th August 1908 Caroline Luard was shot outside the Frankfields Summer House close to the parish church at St Lawrence. Following the incident, her husband Major General Charles Luard was questioned by police but to this day no one has been able to prove beyond reasonable doubt what did happen.

Project Outline Click here to visit the project website

The “Seal Chart Edwardian Mystery” was an exciting History and Writing project for Key Stage 2 pupils supported by The South East Grid for Learning, English Heritage and the National Monuments Records Office. Details about the project were circulated to schools in November 2010 and a planning meeting attended by English Heritage Education Officers was held in Chatham in early January 2011. At that meeting details about the Activity Days were shared and teachers were shown how to find resources on the Heritage Explorer website and take part in the follow-up web conference.

The two activity days took place on the 28th and 31st January 2011. Each school brought a group of 6 writers. Hosted by the Wilderness Golf Club the pupils and accompanying adults arrived at 09:30. Following an introduction to the Edwardian period the party then traveled to Godden Green. There the pupils were divided in to 4 groups to take part in the four short twenty minute activities.

Following the morning activities and lunch at The Golf Club the party departed for Seal St Lawrence. Situated two miles from Godden Green it was here the murder was committed. Walking from the parish church through the famous “wicket gate” the school party walked towards Frankfields House. At the edge of the wood the pupils stopped to complete the final activities. These involved creating a glossary of words to support their writing and calculating the time it would have taken the Major General to have walked from home to the Golf Club. The activities completed the teachers and pupils returned to school at 14:30.

Using census data in the primary classroom (pdf)

In the Seal Chart Mystery pupils had access to the 1901 and 1911 census data for Godden Green and the surrounding area. Access to the data enabled them following the activity day to research and find out who lived in the labourers Cottages in Back Lane and the more affluent dwellings situated along Park Lane between the School House and The Bucks Head. The data also helped the pupils to write their reports about the death of Caroline Luard. At the inquiry following her death in 1908 the court was told who had witnessed the Major General striding towards the Golf Club. On his walk he was seen by farm labourers, a Coachman’s wife, the Green Keeper and the local vicar. All the people quoted lived in or just outside the village and appeared in the census.

Researching these characters besides collaborating the Major General’s account of the event also provided an insight in to village life at the turn of the century. Why did most people live so close to their place of work? Who owned a car? Why was it not unusual living in the countryside to hear gun fire in the middle of the afternoon? The census data also provided the pupils with other significant information to help them plan their reports of the murder. Why did so many lodgers reside in the farm labourers cottages and why were e so many of this group listed as having been born outside the parish and coming from the London area? The final page of the inquiry in to the death of Caroline Luard had stated “murdered by person or persons unknown.” West Kent at the turn of the last century was home during the summer months to many casual workers from the city. The harvesting season always brought an influx of workers to the region. Maybe the murder was a random killing? After all the police report had stated that the scent detected by the “tracker” dogs only allowed the party to follow the killer’s path to the A225? Maybe it was there on the main road to Sevenoaks that the killer hitched a lift to the station and there boarded a train for London?

Full project report (pdf) Click here to view or download full project report… (pdf)