Sabine Johnson, the Tudor Merchant’s wife


I will be in costume and in character as Sabine Johnson, a real Tudor merchant’s wife. Because the Johnson family letters survive this allows me to intersperse my performance with anecdotes from the Johnsons’ family life.


I begin by insulting the children – since any respectable Tudor person would keep their heads covered – and tell them I have come to teach them good Tudor manners.


Firstly I show what my clothing says about me – respectability and status – and then get a boy and girl to come and put on costume also. Because my clothing is relatively high status this allows us to see clearly the contrast between the dress of rich and poor in Tudor England.


As I am speaking I ask the children questions, firstly because this allows me to guage their level of knowledge and adjust my performance accordingly, and secondly because it gets them to make direct comparisons between their everyday lives and the equivalent aspect of Tudor life. My performance is also interspersed with little anecdotes from history and the Johnson family letters.


Next we use artefacts related to dress – purse, shoes, chamber pots etc – to explore various aspects of Tudor society, with particular reference what the streets were like in busy towns.


Once we are all properly educated in Tudor dress its time to move on to education in Tudor times. I make the children define literacy for me before dividing the group up into who would be literate or illiterate and exploring what this meant in context.


Then I get one of the girls to come and be a Tudor servant girl, and we “demonstrate” what Tudor toilets were like!


I usually pause for a while to allow an artefact handling session using the pieces we have been looking at so far – I prefer not to talk at this point because it’s nice to let the class discuss the objects for themselves.


We have a short or long storytelling session, depending on the time available.


Questions and answers to finish.


Time for each session is approximately two hours – however this is flexible to fit around your timetable for breaks, assemblies etc. Obviously for a half day some of the above might have to be omitted, so if there is a particular subject you want to focus on please let me know.




About opusanglicanum

embroiderer, weaver and costumier. Mainly interested in the medieval period
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5 Responses to Sabine Johnson, the Tudor Merchant’s wife

  1. Victoria Wilkinson says:

    I am looking for prices and availability for January/February 2015 for this workshop if possible. Thanks.

  2. Emma Welch says:

    Hi there, I am looking or prices and availability for a full day with a Y5 class in October/November 2015 please. Thanks in advance x

    • Hi Emma,

      It’s £115 for a half day and £195 for full ( which can be two different sessions or one long one) at the moment availability for October is 2 nd, 5th, 8th, 12th, 16th,19th 20th, and November is 3rd, 5th, 11th,16th, and18th onwards. I do have some other dates available but they’re dependant on your location? I usually advise choosing a second choice date as this is my busy time for bookings


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