Learning about Gladstone

Gladstones – past and present

It is always amazing what opportunities can pop up along the way, during our year of ed-venture. Last weekend we were invited to do a talk and workshop at the Good Life Experience festival after co-founders Charlie and Caroline Gladstone heard Tim’s Four thought back in May earlier this year. We loved the ethos of the festival and enjoyed the friendly atmosphere and fantastic events, encouraging people to enjoy the outdoors more, something close to our own hearts.

On the last evening of the festival, as we were saying our thank yous and goodbyes, an opportunity arose that we could not refuse. Charlie Gladstone enthusiastically invited the girls to return to the estate for a tour and more specifically to see the study belonging to William Gladstone, four times Prime Minister of Britain and his great, great grandfather. This then triggered the learning for the start of the week. The following day the girls set to work finding out as much as they could about the “Grand Old Man” in preparation for their tour. They read information and listened to a radio programme about him before writing a piece of their own.

We then returned to Hawarden estate. Charlie, along with his wife Caroline, daughter Tara and six trailing dogs welcomed us into their home, proudly showing us around, pointing out family heirlooms along the way. The focus of the visit was the study which had not been changed since William Gladstone had used it himself. On the desk were quills and paper weights framing headed writing paper. Cupboards contained stationery still wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string. The shelves were crammed with books and walls were adorned with paintings of the man himself. It was like stepping back in time and we felt very privileged to be there. The girls, having spent time learning about William Gladstone, were able to discuss him confidently with Charlie and ask appropriate questions.

After the tour of the castle and grounds, we continued on to the Gladstone Library, a building housing 33,000 of his books (22,000 of which he had read).  The books were personally transported by wheelbarrow to the location by William Gladstone, aged 82. The library is the only residential library in the UK and was built as a memorial to the man and his books. One section houses books in movable book shelves, an invention that William Gladstone himself devised and is now used in libraries worldwide.

William Gladstone might not be on the history curriculum for many 10 and 12 year old girls but it proved an interesting topic that was brought to life through visiting Hawarden estate and meeting his great great grandson Charlie Gladstone.