York Castle Museum Workshops for School Children

York Castle Museum Workshops

Home to Kirkgate, the world-famous recreated Victorian Street, York Castle Museum is the perfect venue to explore and understand how people have lived over the past 400 years.

Our two latest exhibitions are Shaping the Body: 400 Years of Fashion, Food and Life (which opened in March 2016) and 1914: When the World Changed Forever (launched in June 2014 to mark the centenary of the First World War). In April 2017, we opened a new interactive experience, Chocolate: York’s Sweet Past.

There are also Period Rooms, the Toy Stories exhibition, a groovy Sixties Gallery and the interactive Prison Experience. It is the perfect venue to explore and understand how people have lived over the past 300 years.


Primary Schools Workshop Programme

Workshops have been created by teachers and are based on the National Curriculum covering history from medieval castles to the swinging sixties, as well as Science and Art.

We offer interactive and informative workshops for Early Years Foundation Stage (FS), Key Stage One and Key Stage Two pupils.

All our sessions are delivered by experienced learning staff and include special opportunities for pupils to handle real museum artefacts from our collections.

Click here to download details of the National Curriculum links.

Each workshop is for a maximum of 30 pupils, unless otherwise stated. Each workshop has its own risk assessment which can be downloaded in PDF form.


To book a visit, please click here to complete a booking form and email it to groupbookings@ymt.org.uk.

You can contact our Group Bookings department on 01904 687633 for further information (Monday – Friday).



Prices depend on the length of the workshop, there is no minimum number of pupils required. Workshops have a maximum of 30 pupils.

1 hour workshop – £60
1 hour 30 minutes workshop – £70
2 hour workshop – £80 (prices vary during Special Weeks, see below)
Actor Led Workshops – prices vary

We require a minimum of two full working days’ notice of cancellations for sessions not to be charged in full.

If you are running late on the day we ask that you call 01904 687633 to let us know your expected arrival time and if
your group are 30 minutes late for your booked workshop/s you will be charged £30.00 (per 30 minutes) to cover our costs.



Rowntree and Poverty in York – KS2 – 1 hour

Meet an information collector for the Rowntree Poverty Report and help them in their task of finding out what it means to be poor in Victorian York. Pupils will handle original objects from the collection before finding out about Seebohm Rowntree, his faith and why he wanted to help those in need. They will then explore Kirkgate, our Victorian Street, to gather the evidence they need to help complete the report which became a huge part of York’s local history.

Rowntree and Poverty in York Risk Assessment Form


Rowntree and the Chocolate Factory – KS2 – 1 hour

It’s the 1930s and the Rowntree chocolate factory is looking for new staff. The factory supervisor will tell you of the Rowntree family and of life at the factory before putting you through your paces using replicas of the original tests used on prospective employees. Pupils will have to sort colours, fit shapes, show a steady hand, tie bows and pack replica chocolates to prove they have what it takes. A great workshop to link with our local history.

Rowntree and the Chocolate Factory Risk Assessment Form


A Healthy Past? – KS2 – 1 hour 30 minutes

Be inspired by our new gallery, Shaping the Body, and decide whether we were healthier in 1890, 1950 or the present day. Pupils will look at what it means to be healthy and investigate different areas of health. They will cook an original Victorian breakfast recipe, interpret data, create meal plans, investigate packaging and explore the gallery to help them make up their minds.

A Healthy Past? Risk Assessment Form


Dick Turpin: Hero or Villain? – KS2 – 1 hour 30 minutes 

Pupils will be investigate written sources and discuss how an author persuades the reader to think of a character as hero or villain. They will visit the re-created prison and find out what life was like for a convicted felon such as Dick Turpin and finish by planning and creating two newspaper reports – one showing Turpin as a hero and one as a villain.

Dick Turpin – Hero or Villain? Risk Assessment Form

Early Years Workshops

Knights at the Castle – FS
1 hour

In this hands-on workshop pupils will discover what life was like in York Castle hundreds of years ago. Activities include looking at the remains of the castle, trying on replica helmets, feeling the weight of chain mail, smelling the smells of the castle and making a cardboard helmet and shield to take home.

Knights at the Castle Risk Assessment Form


Nursery Rhyme Time – FS
1 hour

Come along to the Castle Museum for some Nursery Rhyme fun. This active workshop encourages pupils to recognise and have fun with traditional rhymes. They will make a ‘hickory-dickory dock’ clock to take home, use role play and props, discover objects from our collection and match them with the rhyme, sequence familiar nursery rhymes and lots more.


Christmas at the Castle

December means Christmas at York Castle Museum, so book a festive workshop to get into the spirit of the season!

Victorian Christmas – FS and KS1 – 1 hour

Listen to the rhyme of ‘The Night Before Christmas’, make coconut ice, traditional decorations and go window shopping on Kirkgate, our Victorian street, in this festive workshop celebrating a Victorian Christmas.

Victorian Christmas Risk Assessment Form


Victorian Christmas – KS2 – 1 hour

Be like Ebenezer at the end of A Christmas Carol and rejoice in a Victorian Christmas. Pupils will make sugar mice, create a magical Christmas card and go window shopping for presents on Kirkgate, our Victorian street.

Victorian Christmas Risk Assessment Form


Famous People

Suffragettes! – KS1 – 1 hour

Discover more about what it meant to be a Suffragette and the significant contribution that Emily Davison made towards women’s rights, before donning time-travelling costumes and going on a Suffragette march on Kirkgate – keep an eye out for the police!

Suffragettes! Risk Assessment Form


British History Beyond 1066

Queen Victoria’s Empire – KS1 and KS2 – 1 hour

Find out about the 1851 Great Exhibition and discover inventions from across Queen Victoria’s Empire. Activities include creating individual printed silhouettes to take back to school, investigating mystery objects and exploring Kirkgate. KS2 pupils will also have the opportunity to examine Victorian coins from across the Empire.

Queen Victoria’s Empire Risk Assessment Form


Victorian Classroom – KS1 and KS2 – 1 hour

Pupils will discover what it felt like to go to school in Victorian times and might be glad to get back to your classroom after an hour with our Victorian school teacher! During the lesson, set in our Victorian schoolroom, pupils will use the abacus and try some simple arithmetic, practise their handwriting, apply their reading skills and take part in drill to help them feel fully immersed in Victorian childhood.

Victorian Classroom Risk Assessment Form


Troubled Times in Victorian York – KS2 – 1 hour

Led by an Actor, £100 per session

Our Victorian street, Kirkgate, is always full of characters, but none as colourful as Joseph Beedham – street trader and loveable rogue. Pupils take a tour of Kirkgate with Joseph, but when he is arrested for theft, they become his judge and jury and help to decide his fate. Will Joseph be found guilty or innocent? A great addition to your PSHE curriculum!

Troubled Times in Victorian York Risk Assessment Form


Total War – KS2 – 1 hour 30 mins

Pupils will discover how and why the First World War started and what life was like as a Tommy in the trenches at the front, as well what was happening back home. Supporting hands on group activities will cover the advances in weapons, the vital role of women on the home front and the role children could play. Pupils will handle real artefacts to illustrate the stories of ordinary people who lived through an extraordinary time.

Total War Risk Assessment Form


‘One Man’s War’ – KS2 – 1 hour

Led by an Actor, £100 per session

Meet Great War veteran Lieutenant Frank Wood (actor, Chris Cade) and play a part in his story. Be recruited into his regiment, the East Riding of Yorkshire Yeomanry, and set sail for Alexandria. Help him relive his experiences of the Middle Eastern Theatre of War, including defending the Suez Canal, fighting the Battles of Gaza and being part of the last great cavalry charge in Britain’s military history! But first, be trained and prepared for the desert. Learn to follow orders and forget home comforts as you look to take on the Turks as part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. Lawrence of Arabia, camaraderie and patriotism inspire you to keep going despite intense heat, disease and heavy casualties…

One Man’s War Risk Assessment Form


Electricity – KS2 – 1 hour

After a brief tour of museum displays noting the change in use of electricity through our recent past, pupils will look at its role in the First World War before making their own Morse code machine to take back to school. (One machine between two will be made during the workshop and resources given to make the rest back at school). This workshop provides a great cross-curricular approach to the subject.

Electricity Risk Assessment Form


Crime and Punishment – KS2 – 1 hour

Learn what a grim place York Prison could be by hearing the story of a real felon imprisoned here as told by his brother or sister. Handle original objects used in the prison over its last hundred years, look at prison diets throughout history and even carry out a prisoner’s daily exercise. This workshop is a great starting point for studying crime and punishment through time.

Crime and Punishment Risk Assessment Form


Swinging Sixties – KS2 – 1 hour 30 mins

Swing on down to the Castle Museum and explore the decade when the cars and the skirts were mini! Pupils visit our Sixties gallery where they will compare the fifties and sixties by trying on costume, listening to music, exploring lifestyle changes, and even ‘launching’ a space rocket! This session uses real artefacts and archive footage to set the decade in its post war context; giving pupils an appreciation of just how much Britain had changed by the end of the 1960s. This workshop is a great starting point for looking at leisure and entertainment in the 20th Century.

Please note: this workshop is also available for KS1.

The Swinging Sixties Risk Assessment Form


Continuity and Change

York Prison Through Time – KS2 – 1 hour 30 minutes

In this cross-curricular workshop, combining art and history, pupils are encouraged to examine the evidence and investigate how the museum building has changed over time, using old photographs and plans of York Castle and York Prison. They will look at what remains of the 15th century castle and the 18th century prison area and make their own drawings to record their findings.

York Prison Through Time Risk Assessment Form.


Click here for information on booking your visit.


The Shops and Streets of York – KS2
1 hour

Kirkgate, our Victorian Street, houses reproductions of many shops that could have been found in York in Victorian times. Using replica and original objects, maps, census returns and other written evidence, pupils will find out more about some of the shops and the people who would have used them.

** This workshop also comes with a map of present day York along with details of where the shops studied could have been found in order to form a comparison of the areas then and now. This is a self-led task that can be carried out after the workshop.

The Shops and Streets of York Risk Assessment Form


Hidden York – KS2
1 hour 30 minutes

This walking tour takes pupils around York spotting signs, remains and details often overlooked, giving a rounded view of how York has changed through the centuries. The workshop ends at the Castle Museum with an object handling session of everyday items through time.

Hidden York Risk Assessment Form


Medicine in Victorian England – KS2
1 hour

In this cross-curricular science and history workshop, pupils will visit the pharmacy in Kirkgate, our Victorian Street, where they will have the opportunity to find out about just how different medicine and health was 150 years ago. Activities include trying their hand at pill rolling, medicine mixing and diagnosing diseases rife at the time, before deciding on the best treatment (all in a safe way!). This workshop is a great starting point for looking at changes in social history.

Medicine in Victorian York Risk Assessment Form


Changes within Living Memory

Toys through Time – FS and KS1
1 hour

Pupils take a peep into our old toy chest to discover toys from the past. Through hands-on exploration they are encouraged to discuss the similarities and differences between toys, how they work, and the materials from which they are made.

Toys Through Time Risk Assessment Form


Wash Day – FS and KS1
1 hour

Using original possers, dolly pegs and tubs, pupils are set to work for a taste of Victorian domestic life helping Dolly White with the weekly wash. They also have the opportunity to distinguish wash day objects from the past and present and decide what Dolly’s mystery objects were used for.

Wash Day Risk Assessment Form


Bread and Butter – FS and KS1
1 hour 30 minutes

Using ‘The King’s Breakfast’ by AA Milne as inspiration, pupils will make real butter using a replica butter churn along with trying their hand at grinding wheat, patting playdough ‘butter’ into shape and investigating old butter making equipment. They will then visit the mill and will have the opportunity to learn the basics of the flour milling process and see the huge machinery up close.

In fine weather, pupils can sit outside the mill to enjoy the butter they helped to make, or the butter can be taken back to your setting to taste later.

Bread and Butter Risk Assessment Form


Swinging Sixties – KS1
1 hour

Pupils will find out how life has changed since the 1960s by playing with toys, dancing, dressing up, sketching objects from home life and even looking at the excitement over space travel all on our Sixties Gallery. An excellent addition to a study on changes within living memory.

Please note: this workshop is also available for KS2.

Swinging Sixties Risk Assessment Form


Significant Historical Places

Castle Life – KS1
1 hour

York Castle Museum is built on the site of a medieval castle and in this workshop different aspects of life there are explored: the home, the defensive fortress and the religious space. Pupils can try on medieval-style helmets as well as handle original objects from the museum’s collections such as pottery, arrow heads, coins and stained glass. For brave pupils there is a chance to try and identify various castle smells!

Castle Life Risk Assessment Form


Tours and Object Handling

We also offer tours and object handling for school groups based around the following themes:

KS1 Homes
KS1 Victorians
KS2 Victorian Life
KS2 The Great War
KS1 and KS2 Time Detectives
KS2 Behind Bars – Dick Turpin and life in York Prison
KS3/4 Victorian School Lesson
KS3/4 Tour of Kirkgate
KS3/4 Prison Tour and Object Handling

KS1 and KS2 tours are for a maximum of 15 pupils at a time, so when one half of your class is on a tour, the rest can use one of our self-led resources linked in with the theme (which we will provide for you). Groups can then swap over so that each child will have completed both activities. Tours last 30 mins with an additional 15 mins for object handling per group. Costs as per workshops listed at the top of the page.

KS3/4 offers are for a maximum of 18 students at a time and cost £45 per session. Please click here for further details.

Sets of History Hampers are available to book for groups to use on the galleries. They include activities such as spot the difference, question cards, toys to play with and drama prompts.

They are available for:

KS1 Houses and Homes
KS2 Victorian Childhood

Don’t forget to check out the wide variety of trails available to download from our website too.


NEW! Workshops for English Language Learners

Two workshops are now available for ESOL students, both based on Victorian shopping:

Elementary level
Kirkgate, our Victorian Street, houses reproductions of many shops that could have been found in York in Victorian times. Using replica and original objects, students will practice and develop their vocabulary before creating their own role plays based on the interactions between customers and shopkeepers.

Intermediate level
Kirkgate, our Victorian Street, houses reproductions of many shops that could have been found in York in Victorian times. Using replica and original objects, maps, census returns and other written evidence, students will find out more about some of the shops and the people who would have used them.

Workshops are suitable for up to 15 students. Each workshop takes 1 hour 30 minutes and costs £70. Please see below for information on how to book.


Residential Booked Groups

We suggest the following workshops for those groups on a residential visit to York Castle Museum – please click here.


Students with Additional Needs

We offer two workshops designed specifically for groups of students with additional needs – please click here for more information.


Home Educated Children

We can adapt many of our workshops to suit groups of home educated children. Please contact us to discuss your requirements and we’ll try to organise something to suit.


Booking a Visit

To book a visit, please click here to complete a booking form and email it to groupbookings@ymt.org.uk.

You can contact our Group Bookings department on 01904 687633 for further information (Monday – Friday).