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Seize the smuggler

Key facts

  • Suitable for: Key Stage 2
  • Subjects: English, History
  • Session type: Museum led
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Class size (maximum): 30
  • Venue: Seized! gallery at Merseyside Maritime Museum
  • Free


Seize the Smuggler  takes pupils on a journey through time, looking at the history of smuggling and its historic links to the coastline and docks of Wirral and Liverpool; bringing things right up to date using our museum’s handling collection.

Further details

Mother Redcap leads the session, a flamboyant local character renowned for her links to smuggling back in the 1700s. Interacting with Mother Redcap pupils find out about the techniques and hiding places used by smugglers throughout the ages. Using discussion and critical thinking they investigate real smuggled objects and find out what they are used for.

“During Key Stage 2 pupils learn about significant people, events and places from both the recent and more distant past. They learn about change and continuity in their own area, in Britain and in other parts of the world ...They also learn that the past can be represented and interpreted in different ways.” Department for Education

Our professional staff member greets the class in character as Polly Jones (Mother Redcap). She introduces the pupils to her family trade, the art of smuggling, which she is pleased to announce still goes on today!

We thoroughly encourage pupils and staff to come dressed for the occasion as smugglers and pirates, but this is optional. Through role play we take part in the landing of smuggled goods on a beach. We look at the signalling techniques and the team work used by the smugglers. We investigate the reasons why people used to become involved in the smuggling trade, and compare these findings with the smuggling trade of the present day.

We have a close working relationship with UK Border Force, who directly fund the Seized! Gallery. This gives us unique access to genuine contraband which has been confiscated at the UK Border for our handling collection.

Curriculum links

Key Stage 2 - History

  • Pupils should be taught about: a local history study - a study over time tracing how several aspects of national history are reflected in the locality (this can go beyond 1066)
  •  inspire pupils curiosity to know more about the past.
  • gain historical perspective by placing their growing knowledge into different contexts, understanding the connections between local, regional, national and international history; between cultural, economic, military, political, religious and social history; and between short and long term timescales.
  • construct informed responses that involve thoughtful selection and organisation of relevant historical information

English Spoken Language

Pupils should be taught to:

  • listen and respond appropriately to adults and their peers
  • ask relevant questions to extend their understanding and knowledge
  • articulate and justify answers, arguments and opinions
  • maintain attention and participate actively in collaborative conversations, staying on topic and initiating and responding to comments
  • use spoken language to develop understanding through speculating, hypothesising, imagining and exploring ideas
  • participate in discussions, presentations, performances, role play, improvisations and debates

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

Pupils will:

  • Use observation skills and critical thinking to discover the use for smuggled objects.
  • Work as a team to re create a landing of smuggled goods.
  • Talk about the negative and positive impacts of smuggling.
  • Learn about the real life character of Mother Redcap and her link to the local area.
  • Learn about the work of the Border Force and how it has developed from the Customs Officers of the 1700s to the present day.
  • Learn about the role Liverpool and the docks plays in the world of smuggling and its detection.     


Pupils will:

  • Improve their speaking and listening skills in a group discussion context.
  • Learn to question and discuss issues relating to smuggling.
  • Develop their role play skills and experience life as a smuggler.


Pupils will:

  • Be introduced to the world of smuggling through the stories of Mother Redcap.
  • Be introduced to the work of the education team and the value of a visit to a museum.
  • Learn about the techniques used by smugglers past and present to get such items as tobacco, lace, brandy, endangered animals and fakes into the country; and learn about how the UK Border Force works to keep us safe. 


Pupils will:

  • See the museum as a fun and interesting way to learn more about the past and the present.
  • Be introduced to Mother Redcap and her account of the past.
  • Be inspired to investigate unusual objects and work out what they may be for or where they may have come from.