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English students explore Medieval London

Posted: 3rd July 2024

In preparation for their study of Chaucer and Shakespeare, the AS students went exploring parts of medieval London. Student, Sophie L, shares her experience:

On the 6th of June, English AS students ventured into central London to gain a deeper understanding about Chaucer and the Medieval world in preparation for starting to study Chaucer’s ‘A Merchant’s Tale’ next academic year. We began the day at the Victoria and Albert museum’s Medieval gallery. The idea was to gain inspiration for the projects we will be completing over the next few weeks on Chaucer’s Medieval world, where we will create presentations on an area of his world that interests us most.

Before coming on the trip, we all had a vague idea of what we were interested in- some of us felt compelled by the role of women in Medieval England, I was personally fascinated by the truth about their hygiene (turns out they weren’t as dirty and unhygienic as we all think they were!). The aim of coming to the gallery was not only to learn more about their society, but to help us find a particular topic that we want to explore further. The artefacts were nothing short of awe inducing. I was particularly struck by the fact that almost every item had some sort of religious decoration and symbolism, teaching us that in our projects we must consider how most aspects of their lives was led by religion. A highlight for me was the opportunity to take brass rubbings with paper and pencil of some Medieval art, not to mention that the ornate and eye-catching enamelling that adorned many items is something I definitely will remember for a long time to come.

I came from the trip realising just how much of what I thought happened in Medieval times was actually not true, and this inspired me to do my project on debunking myths and stereotypes about Medieval England! We then travelled to Southwark Cathedral, which would have been the Parish Church at the time when Chaucer lived and worked nearby, and in which we saw the tomb of a contemporary of Chaucer’s. We finished our day visiting the George pub on Borough High Street, commemorating that this is the closest one can possibly come to sitting where the Pilgrims in The Canterbury Tales would have began their journey in The Tabard Inn, ending a memorable day out and a fantastic introduction to Chaucer’s Medieval England. Walking through Borough market, a market that has been there since Chaucer’s Medieval England, we were walking around the same places as people we will be reading about. This is such a unique and invaluable experience and one we are incredibly lucky to have had.

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