Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Brick History at The Historic Dockyard, Chatham

I often receive emails asking if we are interested in going to one event or another and although I think many would like these events I usually turn them down if they either don’t strike something we would all be interested in as a family or are not educational for Home Ed.
It has always just been something that I have done and never mean it to be a negative to the event we have been invited to.

Recently, The Historic Dockyard, Chatham contacted us regarding “Brick History;” an event that travels through time exploring 13.8 billion years of the world. Now, admittedly, I have always enjoyed the exhibitions that they hold and as we are currently studying Castles and what they were made of, clever clogs over here thought learning about history of bricks that it would fit quite nicely.
Well, as many of you would enjoy, I was wrong; not that learning about how bricks were made wouldn’t be a great exhibition to visit but the truth behind the exhibition itself was surprising and cool…

LEGO! The Historic Dockyard, Chatham is holding an exhibition that journeys through time in models made from Lego. Something that made both Will and I super excited when we arrived and saw the banner!
Apart from the Dockyard holding this fantastic event the actual artist behind it is Warren Elsmore. Warren is an artist in LEGO® bricks and a lifelong fan of LEGO® who is based in Edinburgh, UK. He has been in love with the little plastic bricks since the age of four and now spends his days creating amazing models with LEGO.
Exhibitions of Warren’s models tour museums and galleries throughout Europe, entertaining hundreds of thousands of people.
The exhibition itself is fun, engaging and fascinating for both children and us children at heart. They cover, very cleverly, areas of their own history like the model of the Battle of Trafalgar and Chatham made HMS Victory, to local history featuring Rochester Castle both at War and at Peace time and other areas of history like Prehistoric models to the Suffragette movement with, in total, over 40 models that are not only historically accurate but a piece of art work in itself!
Each model displayed is rich in detail, engaging and “cool” for the children and is accompanied with brief historical facts for all to read and learn.
Anyway, enough of me talking away (because I could for ages at how good it is) and let me show you a few examples of this ingenious exhibition.
Underground Railroad

Many of the models had a real impact on both of us adults as well as the children. For me, I knew many of these enriched historic points but in some ways seeing them being shown, with additional information, made me really grasp how much has changed, for many, in the world today.
In the above and below photos you will see the representation of the underground Slave Railroad. It stated that the underground railroad marks a very dark period in American history and has nothing to do with actual tracks and trains. In the nineteenth century the United States was split with one overriding fact; slavery was legal in the Southern states but illegal in the Northern ones. Many people living throughout the United States felt slavery was wrong, so they helped slaves escape to the Northern states, or even Canada, where they could be free.
It was a small detail in many ways, yet at the side of the manor house you saw 3 slaves running for their freedom. This alone raised lots of questions from William and served well as a poignant reminder of a darker point in history that we shouldn't forget.
The Suffragette Movement
We read and learnt that although democracy has been in existence for a very long time, voting was long restricted to men. In the 1900's, the women's suffragette movement in Britain started a campaign for equality, frustrated that women had to follow laws and rules that they could not vote for.
What I loved about this model, aside from showing and highlighting the struggles and rights for women, was the clear historical reference to the police uniforms, the fact that they were riding horses, carrying batons and you could really see the struggle upon the woman's face. Even in Lego form it made you sit and contemplate the age that they were in and the battle that they had.
Along with these harder hitting models in history we also found different landmarkschanges in engineering and structure.
The First Underground Train
At first glance at this model you notice the detail on top which shows horses pulling carriages and it makes you really question that trains would match this scene. However, as with the other models, the accompanying descriptions helped us gauge a greater understanding.

London in the 1850's had a problem. The railways were bringing thousands of workers into the city, except the train could only go as far as the stations. The trains were not allowed to go further into the city above ground so the only option was to go under the city.
Rochester Castle
The castle is a clear representation of Rochester. The design and layout is outstandingly perfect! However, what I loved more was that it was split in two; one half showed what the castle would have looked like at war and the other in peace. The fact that they did this just showed the level of craftsmanship that was put into it and the dedication in trying to educate the person viewing it.
At Peace

In Peace time we saw that they had knights surrounding the castle, people selling food, carrying items for both the Lords and soldiers as well as looking into the castle and seeing the cook arranging dinner, the Lady of the castle drinking from a chalice and meetings being held.
At War
The instant change in how the castle looked was incredible. You saw catapults, soldiers climbing ladders, soldiers defending the keep and castle and Lords holding council meetings and being guarded.

 We learnt that after the peace when the Magna Carta failed, rebels took control of Rochester castle and King John besieged the castle, which was the largest siege in England and took 2 months! The siege was eventually broken when the royal troops undermined the castle and destroyed part of the keep.
The Boston Tea Party
Again, like many of the above, the Boston Tea Party was a point in history that I knew a fair bit about but it wasn't until this visit I realised that I knew very little.
This model showed that it was one of the defining moments in the struggle that led to the American revolution. America paid their taxes but had no say in the British Parliament. It was said that the protestors rallying cry was "Taxation without representation is tyranny"; something that I didn't know was actually not said until we learnt it here!
However, the clear distinction between the costumed Indian "natives" and the British soldiers during this demonstration definitely highlights and captures the escalating conflict that fuelled the movement for independence.
I hope with these few examples from the exhibition you can see why it is a fantastic idea that is engaging for both child and adult.
On the day I took over 100 photos of all the different models and the sheer detail that each held. It was more than just history, it was art. Although I wont spoil the visit for anyone by showing all the photos that we took I did want to just highlight a couple more that you should see!

Greek democracy in action!

Prehistoric dinosaurs in action!

The viewing of the first "Talkie" movie. (I just loved that they used black and white blocks for the picture!)

Finally, the globe of Earth. This beauty is actually continually rotating around so you get a chance to identify the different places as well as learning about globes too!.

Once you have taken your time to look round, learn about history and just stand in awe at the beauty of the craftsmanship in making this there is, of course, a place for all to sit, make or even attempt something of your own of history.


I hope you can see how much fun this was for all of us that went. It was an exhibition that blew our minds and imaginations and one that I think everyone should go and visit. It is on from the 6th July all the way to the 16th September so is perfect for Home Ed families to go and visit in school time or for families to visit over the holidays.

 This is also part of their big 400th birthday celebrations this summer. The Historic Dockyard, Chatham is holding a summer "Party" to celebrate which will include Black History of Kent, Brick History, Pirates who are taking over the Gannet, Doc.Yard (Science and conducting experiments) and we were told that they are turning part of the site into a beach by using a massive amount of sand on the main court yard! They are also, rather sneakily, saying that there will be much more in store!
If this exhibition is anything to go by then it isn't something that you would want to miss out on!


(This was a collaborative post. We were given this experience for free to review. My opinions, love of Lego, stupidity in thinking the event was something else and photos are my own. I am under no obligations to give a positive review. Please see my full disclosure at the bottom of my blog)