Whodunnit history?: The clue of the fingerprint

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By Activities devised by Headline History

Bring the Victorian era to life with this fun history and drama project. Will your class solve the mystery of the missing earrings?


The following project presents children with a detective story to solve. The story centres on the life of a Victorian family and their staff. When a valuable pair of diamond earrings go missing, the household is thrown into turmoil. There are three key suspects. By exploring these characters, children will have the opportunity to learn more about life in Victorian England.

Setting up

For this project you will need this month’s A2 poster, which provides four character cards. These can be cut out and laminated. Background information on each character is provided on the reverse of each card.

You will also need to give pairs of children a copy of online activity sheet 1, ‘The Clue of the Fingerprint’ and an enlarged version of the text for whole-class use. The text is also reproduced on the following page. Prior to presenting this project, it will be beneficial if the children do some preliminary work on the era. The project itself is a good opportunity to reinforce this knowledge and to expand on it as the children explore the setting and characters. You may also find it helpful to have some basic costume devices that the children can wear, to denote who they are when they are in ‘role’ as the various characters. These could comprise:

  • Sir Archibald Carew (a monocle or beard)
  • Lady Agatha Carew (a necklace or long gloves)
  • Richard Carew (a top hat or curly moustache)
  • Eliza James (an apron or mob cap)
  • John Sadler (a jacket or clothes brush)
  • Inspector John Smith (a long coat or magnifying glass).
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