The City of York has survived Viking raids, the wrath of William the Conqueror, Civil War damage and the recent floods. However, Chief Superintendant Albert Fleece of the Yorkshire Constabulary reported that the recent invasion of more than sixty unidentified children presented him with an unprecedented challenge: How could he secure the safety of York’s citizens from this high spirited group?

The solution was remarkably simple: “Keep ‘em occupied.”

In fact, the BOFTA award winning historian, Edward Tobias Batchelor, who led the party, had engineered such an action packed programme that there was little time for firing catapults, gob stopper hurling or water pistol fights. Instead, the children appeared remarkably and enjoyably engaged in visiting many of York’s splendid sights. They visited the old prison, walked through the re-constructed Victorian streets in the Castle Museum and were moved by the World War One exhibition. They raced up the steps to visit Clifford’s Tower, an impressive shell keep, were re-fuelled (accompanied by pigeons and a visiting family of Canada geese) and then walked through ‘The Shambles’ before switching to a quiet and deferential mode for a stirring guided tour of York Minster.

IMG_7148 IMG_7189
DSC00710 DSC00620

The York police had expressed concern that the party might present problems during the curfew hours but, apart from a rather ill-planned dorm excursion which was swiftly scotched by Detective Constable French, all was quiet. A bingo session, a GK quiz and the need for revision for the important assessment, all served to encourage sleep and sobriety.

Fortunately, Superintendant Fleece was unaware of the group’s earlier forays. En route, there had been a peaceful pilot visit to the intimidating motte and bailey at Helmsley Castle. This visit acted as instructive preparation for the later attack on Byland Abbey, the principal topic for the History Assessment Paper. Setting about their tasks with vigor, the abbey sustained extensive investigation. Indeed, so thorough was the party’s probing examination of the structure that a foreign visitor wondered whether, indeed, the monastery had been a ruin before Cranleigh’s visit.

DSC00528 DSC00557
P1050968 IMG_7204

On the final morning, the party waved at the Saturday scullers as it meandered along the banks of the River Ouse to the National Railway Museum. Queen Victoria’s railway carriages, a replica of Stephenson’s ‘Rocket’, station platforms by the score and a thrilling simulated ride on Mallard’s record breaking run provided a worthy finale. Like Flying Scotsman, which was glimpsed preparing for a public journey, this excellent, action-packed, three day tour whistled merrily along at full steam.

Re-printed from The Yorkshire Toast.  ‘Bread daily by thousands.’