Hello! Hello! Are you there?


Hello! Gran? Are you there?

Day 3 of Old Science Week at Lotherton Hall saw us making telephones out of plastic cups and string. This was a very good activity for both the older and the younger children to engage with, as they could first be as creative as they wished with their cups, and then, with a little help on the knots, they could make and experiment with a rudimentary scientific instrument. The children really got into this, and there was plenty of shouting, some loud whispering, and even a bit of singing as they worked out how best to use them by making sure the string was pulled tight. However, we soon found it was a good idea to put some sellotape over the hole to make sure the string didn’t keep popping out of the cups! The adults had fun too; here is one of the children talking to his grandmother on his newly decorated string telephone!

A heater? A bug zapper? It's a toaster!

A heater? A bug zapper? It’s a toaster!

The old electrical objects were still on display, and I got some intriguing responses when asking the children to work out what the toaster was; a heater was a fairly obvious guess, but a bug zapper and a laminator were definitely evidence of some pretty good out-of-the-box thinking from the visitors. As one of the items was an ice cream maker, which was not electrical, I asked the children to think about which of the items was the odd one out and did not use electricity. Some were surprised to be told that not everyone had liked electric lights at first, because they were considered to be too bright, and also to learn that old telephones were not as easy to use as their modern equivalents.

A colourful set of telephones.

When talking to the children about the electrical objects, we also took the opportunity to engage with the adults, and talked about how Lotherton Hall was electrified relatively early, having previously only been lit by oil lamps and candles. The decision to electrify the house, taken by Colonel Gascoigne around the turn of the 20th century, was not an obvious one, and was complicated and expensive as Lotherton Hall needed to be able to generate its own independent electricity supply. Whilst it may have been more common at that time to have gas lighting installed, Colonel Gascoigne was keen on modern technologies, and also had central heating installed as well as owning a fleet of motor vehicles, so he chose electric lighting.

Read about what we did on the first day here!