Home Page

Spring term

Victorian Builders

The children have started their new Mantle by exploring items from the past.  They sorted the old from the new and then explored the old items.  
They had great fun playing games from the past!

The team then dressed up as Victorian children.

Once the team began to understand the term ‘past’ and the Victorian times it was time to start our story.


The team observed Queen Victoria in London 1858. She was worried about all of her people dying at a very young age. There was a sickness spreading across London and something had to be done about it.


As she read the newspaper she was shocked by what she saw!



The Silent Highwayman" (1858).

Death rows on the Thames, claiming the lives of victims who have not paid to have the river cleaned up.



The Great Stink


The Great Stink was an event in London during July and August 1858 in which the hot weather made the smell of untreated human waste unbearable.  The problem had been mounting for some years, with an inadequate sewer system that emptied directly into the Thames. It took three outbreaks of cholera and the Great Stink before anyone blamed the ongoing problems with the river.

Can you see the colour of the river Thames?

 The water level of the River Thames had dropped. This meant the sewage and waste that were being dumped in the river were no longer being quickly washed away.  During hot weather the smell was overpowering.  The bad air was thought to transmit contagious diseases.  People were advised to wear a face covering and make sure their nose and mouth were covered.  



Michael Faraday was a scientist who believed that the River Thames was the problem of the cholera pandemic.  The whole of the river was an opaque pale brown fluid.  He tore up some white cards into pieces and then dropped them into the water.  Before they had sunk the pieces were hidden from sight.  This showed the level of pollution in the water.




The team tested the water from four of London's streets.  The worst arears were Broad street and St Giles Street.

More and more families were moving into these areas and living in crammed conditions.  This resulted in more people getting cholera!  Red crosses have been put on the doors of the households that have cholera.




Faraday then visited Broad street to see why so many people were getting cholera.  He discovered a water pump, that families were using for water, had been contaminated with raw sewage. 




Who's water is contaminated?

Some of the team did an experiment to see how easily germs are spread if you don't keep your hands clean.  They put glitter on their hands to represent the germs and then touched different objects.  The glitter was then visible on the objects.  Once they had cleaned the objects and washed their hands they touched the objects again, but this time there were no germs!  

How germs are spread?

The team saw a newspaper article asking for builders to help build the sewage system underground. They had to attend a meeting at county hall and sign up to be a part of Joseph Balzgette’s builders.  Everyone signed up and shared their skills with Joseph.  He was extremely happy to see his team grow and grow.

The team  looked at a selection of materials and tested them to see if they would be  suitable to use to make the sewage system.   We looked at:

  • glass
  • wood
  • metal
  • brick
  • fabric
  • paper


We buried all of the materials and left them to see what would happen to them over time


Next the team explored a range of objects and sorted them by the materials they are made if.  They also sorted objects by their  properties.  They looked at:



What happened to the materials that we buried?


We dug up the materials to find out what had happened to them in the soil.  We found out that the glass, wood, metal and brick were unchanged.  The fabric and paper were wet from the rain and soil.  When we took out the paper, it tore into pieces.  We decided that paper and fabric would not be used as they were too flexible and they absorb water.


We then discussed which material would be the best to create the tunnels for the sewage system.


Children’s ideas:

”We can’t use glass because it will break and people will get cut” (Rio)

”The glass is fragile, it will break” (Katia)


”Brick will be the best because it is strong” (Harry)

“Metal is strong and stiff we could use it to build the tunnels” (Archie)


“Wood is good, it is strong and hard” (Kiyah)


The children then chose what material they thought would be the best and the majority said “brick”.



Planning the sewage system

Many people, who lived on the waterfront, were dying of cholera as they were drinking water directly from the river.  They had to move out of their houses so the builders could begin their work.  The team needed to make the river narrower so that the water flow would be faster.  This would ensure the waste in the river was flushed out to sea quicker. 


In small groups we worked together to explore, create and plan the sewage system.  The tasks that we took part in were:

  • making paper tunnels as a prototype 
  • creating tunnels using Lego
  • making flood defenses and narrowing the river
  • Adding tunnels to a map of London and the river Thames



Building the sewage system

Once our plan was ready we began constructing the sewage system.

 First we used clay to make the bricks for the tunnels.

Then we began to make the sewage system. 

Finally we completed the task and had an opening ceremony, we all celebrated with cake.