Conservationist, Artist, Social Reformer, Writer and Teacher


Doorway to weekend learning

Detail from the Octavia Hill story mural in the reception area of the museum showing Caroline Hill teaching at the infants' school in Wisbech, which she and her husband founded and which is now the Angles Theatre

Detail from the Octavia Hill story mural in the reception area of the museum showing Caroline Hill teaching at the infants’ school in Wisbech, which she and her husband founded and which is now the Angles Theatre

A brave new educational venture is set to be launched at the first home of Wisbech’s most celebrated daughter.

Octavia Hill’s Birthplace House, a museum dedicated to the memory of the social reformer and co-founder of the National Trust at 7 South Brink, Wisbech, is preparing to host a series of Wisbech Weekend Workshops – known as 3W – in the grand setting of its Grade II* listed Georgian premises as its opens its doors to Saturday study.

The 3W project reflects the values of Octavia’s parents, who helped to change the face of education in the town.   Octavia’s father, James Hill, built an infant school, which was run by his wife, Caroline, the first Englishwoman to teach using the methods of the Swiss pedagogue, Johann Pestalozzi.

The school building, now the home of the Angles Theatre, also reached out to a wider age group and was open in the evenings as the ‘hall for the people’, a community centre for adult education and recreation.

Two English classes will spearhead the start of the educational programme.   A Saturday School for Year 10 students studying GCSE AQA English Language will run from 9am to 10am, offering support to work already being carried out in schools as well as for home-schooled pupils.

An English Helpshop, taking place from 10.30am to 11.30am on Saturday mornings, is designed for speakers of other languages who wish to build their skills and confidence in English.   The classes will be affordable and concessions will be available.

Other workshops are set to include how-to-do practical sessions, heritage and craft skills and a variety of community support groups, and classes in the pipeline include a history book club, make and mend, gardeners’ world, living with dementia, calligraphy, upcycling books and notable women who have influenced history.

Students and parents interested in signing up for the two English classes have the opportunity to drop into the museum on the two Saturdays preceding the start of the courses.   On Saturday, October 12, a question and answer and registration session will run from 10am to 12 noon.

There will be a second chance to find out more and register on Saturday, October 19, from 10am to 12 noon, as well as the opportunity to meet and greet the tutors, and the classes will start on Saturday, October 26.

Messages, which should display 3W in the subject line, can also be emailed to the Birthplace House at info@octaviahill.org and telephone inquiries, which need to include contact details, can be left at the museum on 01945-476358.

Mr Peter Clayton, chairman of the Octavia Hill Birthplace Museum Trust, said:  “The distinguishing feature of Octavia Hill’s life and work was that she identified community needs and responded to them herself without waiting for others to do it.

“In the Birthplace House we already attempt to address such demands, but the new 3W Saturday morning classes will feature needs that are either not being addressed at all or being catered for inadequately or at times inconvenient to most working people.”