The Unprecedented Case (2019)

In October 1545, Sir Ralph Sadleir learned that his wife and the mother of seven surviving children, Ellen Mitchell, had been married before. In order to save his reputation and legitimise both his marriage and his children, he wrote a letter to his employer and close friend Henry VIII, asking for help. The Act of Parliament that followed annulled Ellen’s first marriage on the grounds that her husband, Matthew Barre, had abandoned her, saved Sir Ralph’s family as well as his career. It was a truly unprecedented case.

Returning for a third year, ‘The Unprecedented Case’ brought together 30 SEND, EAL and PPG Year Six pupils from three Hackney primary schools, and an entirely new artist – contemporary soprano singer Nina Guo.

The children spent four full days at Sutton House, exploring literacy, music and puppetry through artist-led workshops. They also enjoyed a trip to the Houses of Parliament, which included a full tour, an unprecedented exploration of the Parliamentary Archives – where we saw the 1545 Act that saved Sir Ralph’s marriage to Ellen – and workshops exploring Tudor scroll-making technology.

The final performance featured a series of short dramatic re-enactments of Sir Ralph and Ellen’s story, as well as rhythms and lyrics all developed, created, devised, and performed by the children. We wish them all the best of luck as they begin secondary school in September!

Further thanks Ark Build Plc., Katy Parry and Dani Handley, Forest School, and Emer Williams.