Talking about time

Everything changes, whatever we do and wherever we go things will, and are, changing. Everyone with an interest in history knows this but neither change nor time are concepts that are easily understood or accepted.


  One of the most important tools in the detective's toolbox is the timeline.  Scroll down the page to see the basic detective's timeline. It identifies the major periods of history that many of us know but cannot always put into chronological order. Chronology is often perplexing so every heritage detective needs this timeline!  Click on the download, cut out the template, and stick the pieces together. 


Every heritage detective should have a timeline.
Download a timeline, print it onto some stiff card. Cut out the sections and stick them together to make a timeline you can fit into you detective's bag.
Make your own timeline.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 457.0 KB


The Go West Heritage Knights use timelines when talking to children about time and the passing of time. Children place their wonder cards on the timeline to determine what Arthur might recognise

Detective's Workshop in St. James Church Norton-juxta-Kempsey
The Go West Heritage Knights use the timeline at a Detective's Workshop


A timeline to show the architectural development of windows.
A timeline to show the architectural development of windows.

Want to know the age of a church building?


Look at the shape of the windows in an old church, they might give you a clue about how old it is.


Heritage detectives should try to start their detective work by looking at the doorways and window openings of a church building. This can be done from the outside but if you have the chance to go inside go and have a look at from the inside.  When Arthur was a boy all the windows in churches were the round headed windows of the Norman (Romanesque) style.  They were quite small and built high up in the thick walls, they didn't give out much light.  If you look at theses windows from the inside of the building you will see how the builders splayed out the stone to use the light as effectively as possible.

As a teenager and a squire to Stephen de Holt Arthur started to travel around the country.  He would have seen churches with wooden scaffolding and workmen replacing the window, they made the openings in the walls bigger and put in new windows with pointed arches. Look for that shape on the windows timeline and then look for the next shape the builders would use and think about the difference that would make to the building.


Sometimes if you look very carefully at the stone work you may see the remnants of the old tiny windows, many openings were probably blocked up when the new windows were inserted in the walls somewhere else. 


Take a look at the windows timeline below to see how things developed right up to Tudor times but do take care - in the 19th century many churches were restored. The fashion at the time was often to return them to what was considered to be the medieval style, the ‘correct’ architecture for a church! This can be confusing for young heritage detectives but if you find yourself in this position it might be worth looking more closely at the state of the stonework.  The Victorians had the technology to cut the stonework by machine so the resulting edges tend to be crisper than their medieval counterparts.Again take care because sandstone deteriorates more quickly than some other stone work and may look very old when it is not! (take a look at St. Leonard's Bridgnorth it was almost completely restored in Victorian times but looks very much older)

A tool to go in your detectives tool kit.
Download a copy of this timeline and take it with you as you explore church buildings. Use it to help you date the construction of the walls, doors and windows.
Medieval windows timeline.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 307.8 KB


Columned timelines can be used to store information ready to create stories around moments in time.  


Create up to five parallel columns depending on how well you can mange them and the size of your paper.  Give each column a heading: 1. Date; 2. Church. 3. People; 4. Land. 5. Comments. (see figure below) The comments column is important. Use it for the notes and references it is so essential to record when making research notes.


Even when using wide paper it is only ever possible to create short one line entries in any column of a time line so a well organised back up system of note taking and recording is essential.


Timelines are very much easier to produce on a computer.  Spread sheets and tables make it possible to insert new lines when needed and working in landscape format it is possible to make the best use of the space available. 

Here is an example of a timeline used to collect information

Scroll the timeline




New pointed windows inserted - Norman building


Abbey tenants from town and local settlements use the altar of the Holy Cross in the Abbey nave


Pershore monastery held land from the King


Ref  B1

A simplified version of this timeline is used in the Time Traveller's Guide