Learn about Victorian family life in Hitchin at British School Museum’s Dead Street display

British Schools Musuem

British Schools Musuem - Credit: Archant

Another brilliant exhibition launched at a historic Hitchin venue on Friday, and it’s here to stay.

The British Schools’ Museum in Queen Street has opened its brand new exhibition called Life on Dead Street: Hitchin’s Victorian Families.

The display – which runs until July 2 – gives the public the chance to see, hear and smell the terrible conditions families faced in ‘Dead Street’ during the Victorian era.

There will be an opportunity to understand how pupils at the time found Hitchin’s British Schools’ Museum to provide a life-changing opportunity to escape the terrible cycle of Victorian poverty.

The exhibition, designed in partnership with students from the University of Hertfordshire, gives a sample of what it was like to live in the poorest part of Hitchin during the 1800s.

At a time when Britain was still at war with revolutionary France, the idea of educating the ‘lower orders’ was highly controversial.

Nevertheless, Hitchin holds a unique place in the history of education as it boasts the world’s last remaining purpose built monitorial schoolroom.

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The Grade II-listed building opened in 1837, but the school was actually founded in 1810 – a full 80 years before the government finally provided free elementary education for all. The site developed and further classrooms were built in 1853, 1857 and 1905.

Amazingly the school stayed open until 1969 and then became an annex of Hitchin College, but by the late 1980s the site fell into disrepair. When all seemed lost a charitable trust was set up, the buildings were saved and a museum created.

The museum’s new opening hours are 10am to 4pm on Fridays, 10am to 1pm on Saturdays, and 2pm to 5pm on Sundays.