Sounds of Reading Abbey: Takeover Day 2019

On Monday 11th November 2019, Reading Museum and Town Hall found itself filled with the ‘Sounds of Reading Abbey’!

Year 5 children from Geoffrey Field Junior School and Caversham Park Primary School came in to ‘Take-Over’ the Museum and Town Hall with their presentation of Reading Museum’s newly developed Music Resources for Schools.

The Project

Takeover Day is a national event, established by Kids in Museums, when museums, galleries, historic homes, archives and heritage sites invite young people in to take over jobs normally done by adults. 

We worked with Rebekah Frost, an enthusiastic local Music Educator, to create a varied scheme of work exploring the History of Reading Abbey through music. The scheme of work covers Reading’s History from when the Abbey was first built in 1121 to the Victorian era. These resources form part of the Reading Abbey Revealed Project funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund. Geoffrey Field Junior School and Caversham Park Primary School agreed to give our resources a thorough testing in the Museum and in school. The results were impressive!


Meeting a Medieval Washer Woman

Visit to the Museum

This year’s Takeover Day project began in June with both schools visiting Reading Museum and the Abbey Ruins. We introduced them to the history of the Abbey and the music project with a musical warm-up where we clapped different rhythms, did some Tudor dancing and sang songs to the tune of Sumer is Icumen in! They learned about some of the jobs that monks did when the Abbey was built, the people who used the Abbey throughout its history and what happened during the dissolution.

They also met some exciting characters from the past of Reading Abbey; Caversham Park Primary School met one of our costume interpreters, Jane Haysom who becomes Adeliza, a medieval washer woman and Geoffrey Field Junior School met Empress Matilda (Jen Woodhams) who really helped bring the past to life for the children!

Henry Vlll is a big meanie

Back in School

Back in school the children researched and designed their own Abbey, using the resources to throw themselves into creating songs, dances and soundscapes. The Learning Team visited both schools in September and we were delighted to be given a preview to their presentations, posters, leaflets and their Abbey Plans. Some of these will be on display in Reading Museum in December in the Visitor’s gallery on the second floor. Come in and have a look, get some inspiration and make a map of your own abbey!

Children give a presentation of their work

On the Day

On Takeover Day, the children were surprised to meet King Henry I (our fabulous volunteer Ian Lowry) who built Reading Abbey! He introduced proceedings telling us a little bit about his role in the Abbey. Both schools delivered some fantastic presentations and showed us that they learned an incredible amount about the history of Reading Abbey through Music.

The audience, parents and guests of the Museum, were treated to Caversham Park Primary singing Sumer is Icumen in in a round (where two groups sing the same song but start at slightly different times – it has a very fun effect of making the song layered!) and Geoffrey Field Junior School gave a fun rap with some clever rhymes about the jobs that monks did in the Abbey!

Our Music Resources

This was a great cross curricular project with Music Resources which both schools informative and easy to use, which is great news for us and for schools.

Our resources include different ways of exploring sound and music, from the old English words of Sumer is Icumen in to making a rap of Monk jobs that can be used in school and in the Museum. Schools will be able to access this resource from December 2019!

Thank you!

We would like to thank Rebekah Frost, Paula Newbury, Jo Pritchard and Emma Raven for making this project possible.

We would also like to thank children's parents, Friends of Reading Abbey and Friends of Reading Museum for joining us. We hope that you enjoyed the show!

Get Involved

If your school would like to take part in our Takeover Day in 2020, please email the Learning Team to express interest.