WHAT was life like 500 years ago when the nation emerged from medieval times, the Reformation occured and great strides were made in seafaring?
Families can find out fascinating facts at a new free temporary exhibition at Harrow Museum called: 'Off With Their Heads! The Harrow of Henry VIII'. The reign of one of Britain's most prominent monarchs, who famously had six wives and beheaded two of them, began in 1509 and lasted for 38 years.
Some of the local stories brought to life by the display include charges of witchcraft in Pinner, a prosecuted eavesdropper in Stanmore, and the mischief John Lyon's servants got up to behind his back.
The exhibition also explores how plotters hiding in the Harrow area were linked to the downfall and execution of Mary Queen of Scots.
More widely, Henry's rule saw the unification under one government of England and Wales and the establishment of the Church of England with the king as its head when the Catholic Church refused to grant him a divorce.
He actually owned Headstone Manor, Middlesex's last remaining moated manor house, which lies in the grounds of the heritage centre. The tithe barn in which the museum is situated was itself built just three years before the famously rotund king took to the throne.
Just how different Tudor Britain is from our 21st century experiences will be made clear when parents and children alike learn about the monarchy, crime and punishment, and bizarre medical cures.
And thanks to a £4,700 grant from Harrow Heritage Trust, museum staff will be able to help children immerse themselves in a history from half a millenium ago. The money has bought authentic costumes for youngsters, replica artefacts to handle and herbs for a Tudor herb garden, while The Friends of Harrow Museum have donated £400 towards flowerbeds.
Martin Verden, chair of the Harrow Heritage Trust, said: "This is a brilliant way for young children to discover the excitement of our heritage!
[25cf] 'Off With Their Heads! The Harrow of Henry VIII' runs until November 2 at Harrow Museum and Heritage Centre, Pinner View, Harrow. The centre is open between 10.30am and 5pm at weekends and 12.30pm-5pm on Thursdays and Fridays.