The Marden bell was selected by Herefordshire Council’s Heritage Services as the centrepiece for this year’s Take One project. Take One is an inspirational learning programme based on the National Gallery’s Take One Picture, where one object is selected as a stimulus for learning in schools.
Visually, the Celtic bell is nothing special to look at, but it has a fascinating and sacred history. Celtic bells were associated with Celtic missionaries, pilgrims and saints. Once associated with a saint, they were regarded as holy relics and used to chase away bad spirits in graveyards. People would swear oaths on them as they were so sacred. They were also encased in beautiful caskets called shrines and had their own hereditary keepers. The Marden bell is linked to the legend of Saint Ethelbert and the myth of the Mermaid of Marden.
You may think that children would get bored studying just one thing, but the opposite appears to be true. Children have followed many different lines of enquiry and imaginative explorations all inspired by the bell.
In Aylestone Business and Enterprise College, teachers took pilgrimage as their theme and three classes made a pilgrimage to Hereford Cathedral to see Saint Elthelbert’s shrine and later to Hereford Museum to see the original bell. They explored pilgrimage through geography, history and art and created visual diaries of their own pilgrimage.
Much Birch Primary school explored the religious significance of the bell and retold the story of Saint Ethelbert through a Bayeux Tapestry-style banner.
Several schools explored the mermaid myth: Sutton primary school found out about the mermaid’s home and discussed what happened after the mermaid took the bell back. Pupils from Eardisley went pond dipping to find out what might have kept the mermaid company. Pupils at Broadlands wrote imaginative tales involving supernatural characters and pupils from Ewyas Harold researched famous mythical creatures which inspired a great deal of creative writing.
Wellington primary school imagined who might have touched the sacred bell over the years and Eardisley primary school looked at what the bell was made out of and linked it to a project on materials. The children decided that the iron was sonorous when struck and could be hammered into shape without breaking.
The creative work and investigative work that the children produced will be on display at Hereford cathedral along with the original Marden bell.
Siriol Collins, Herefordshire Council’s heritage learning officer, said: “The Take One project is an excellent example of the power of museum objects to inspire curiosity, wonder, fascination and creativity. The project is extremely motivating for children who think of it as learning, but in a fun way”
The exhibition has been organised by Herefordshire Council in partnership with Hereford Cathedral and runs from Saturday 2 June to Saturday 16 June. Call 01432 260692 to find out more.