Robert the Rat
Come and meet our exciting character from the past, Robert the Rat.
He is a dashing rogue who has seen the history of Exeter unfold for the last 1,000 years. He lives at St.Nicholas Priory and has his home in the kitchen – perhaps you can find it!
Families can pick up a ‘Ratbag’ and choose various items to help them discover this amazing building. In each room Rat Bats will tell you where the other activities are hidden in chests and cupboards.
Make a cloak for Robert the Rat and design costumes for Tudor gentlemen
In Tudor times, wealthy people had portraits painted to show their wealth and status. They enjoyed showing themselves in very expensive and impressive clothing. Portraits show a lot of information about the shapes of clothes and accessories, and how they were embellished with embroidery and jewels.
Robert the Rat also dresses to impress. Find out how to make Robert’s Tudor cloak and dress a Tudor gentleman.
As a wealthy man living in St Nicholas Priory, one of the larger houses in Elizabethan Exeter, Nicholas Hurst would have worn garments made from fine cloths and coloured with expensive dyes, although he might not have worn the latest fashions that were seen in London.
Fine cloth would have been cut and sewn by a tailor. If Nicholas Hurst wanted to have his cloak lined with fur, his tailor would send the unfinished cloak to a furrier. Working with fur was a special skill separate from tailoring. Smaller items such as shirts, ruffs or other linens would have been made by a seamstress.
At this time, tailors were always male. In Exeter, there are records of tailors that include Tudor Ellis (1596), Bastyn Whytehead (1600), and Hannibal Carwitham (1605).
Nicholas Hurst has a lodger in his house who scurries around unheard and hears and sees everything. From the shadows Robert the Rat sees the modern fashions and he pays a visit to his tailor, Master Threadneedle. The tailor made Robert a new cloak, and left some instructions for you to make your own.
Robert the Rat’s adventures
Robert the Rat is a shadowy but friendly resident at St Nicholas Priory. He is secretive about his arrival almost a thousand years ago when the Priory was first built as a Benedictine Monastery.
Robert scurries along secret rat-runs in the Priory and its gardens, unseen and unheard, but he sees and hears everything and has fantastic tales to tell. Share his adventures here. May Robert show you around his wonderful home …
Robert the Rat’s poem
I’m Robert the Rat
And I’m fine and fat
I live in this house
(With at least one mouse!)
The people don’t know
That I come and go
So I’ll show you around
My own home ground.
A long time ago
When this house was aglow
With candles and smoke
And lots of fine folk
There lived in the wall
Some eyes that saw all!
Its old this room….
You can see a tomb!
Stone coffin you could say
Monks came this way
Walking in solemn line.
Bells were rung to tell the time.
Deep in prayer, they rarely saw
The rat that ran across the floor!
The painted parlour is bright and fine
People used it to wine and dine
And to entertain the guests
(Who were suitably impressed!)
There are some lions to be found
Quite a way above the ground.
The kitchen is my special place
For food is left about the place,
I, and Bess the mouse do find
The grain, the bread, the cheesy rind!
By day the room is full of noise
With fire and feet and tiresome boys
Who chase and kill the running rat
Or even worse, set the dog and cat!
The Stone Stairs
Now these steep stairs are not for me
I’ve other ways to climb and see
The rooms where people sleep and play,
Look for me when you’ve found your way!
The Bed Chamber
You’ll find me hidden by the bed
(The one with the canopy overhead).
The Master sleeps but writes his will
For we all know he is very ill.
The little bed is for you to try –
So lie and listen to a lullabye.
The Great Chamber
This great room was used in many ways –
Children played here on rainy days
Or important Elders gathered here
To discuss the City’s future year.
But listen carefully and you may perchance
Catch the music of a joyful dance.
Robert’s claim to fame!
Now I’ve got a bad name
A great claim to fame!
For I carry some fleas
That spread disease.
And every warm year
People lived in fear
And barred their doors
(I came in through the floors)
Turned their neighbours away
(I was here to stay).
They didn’t know why
They were going to die
But it was I……Robert the Rat!
Recipes for a Tudor picnic
These are a selection of delicious recipes that were eaten at Tudor picnics. See if you can work out the old English words for the salad ingredients!
Most of the ingredients need to be cut up before you use them. Except for the salad, all the recipes must be cooked before eating. If you want to cook these recipes, you will need adult supervision in the kitchen, especially when using sharp knives or hot cooking equipment.
The recipes here are reproduced with the kind permission of Peter Brears.
- 1 medium chicken
- 4 hard boiled eggs
- 2 medium onions
- 1/2pt chicken stock
- 2-3 tablespoons of lard
- salt, pepper, cinnamon and ginger
Prepare chicken for stuffing. Separate egg whites and yolks. Slice onions thinly. Bring stock to boil, add onions and parsley. Cook for 2-3 mins. Remove parsley, cook onions till soft. Drain and cool. Chop the parsley leaves with the egg yolks, lard, seasoning and spices. Add onion. Stuff chicken. Roast on hand turned spit over a wood fire.
Take parse, sawge, garlic, chibllas, oynons, leek, borage, myntes, porrectes, fenel and ton tressis, rew, rosemarye, purslayne, lave, and waisshe hem clene. Poke hem, pluck hem small with thyn hond and myng hem with rawe oile. Lay on vinegar and salt and serve it forth.
Curd Cheese Flan
- Curd cheese
- 2 tbls butter
- 2 large eggs
- Pastry flan case
Take nessh chese, and pare it clene, and grinde hit in a morter small, and draw yolkes and white of egges through a streynour, and cast there-to, and grind hem togidre; then cast thereto Sugar, butter and salt, and put al togidre in a coffin of faire past. And lete bake ynowe, and then serve it forth.
Honey toasts with pine nuts (pokerounce)
- 8 oz stiff honey
- pinch of ground ginger
- a pinch of cinnamon
- a pinch of black pepper
- White squares of bread, crusts removed.
- Pine nut kernels
Warm honey with spices – do not boil. Toast the bread, stick in pine kernels and pile on warm plate – pour honey over.