Pupils baffled by commonplace 90s items found in 25-year-old time capsule

In 1996, children at a Merseyside school packed everyday items into a time capsule - a quarter of century later it was opened in front of the current crop of pupils who didn’t know what some of them were.

Some of the 90s icons are still around today - like Ant and Dec pictured on this letter. Photo Credit: Jess Hornby

The year 1996 was full of key historical moments.

Paul Gascoigne’s memorable goal against Scotland at Euro 96; the birth of the first ever cloned mammal, Dolly the Sheep – while the Spice Girls were dominating the music charts.

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But it also saw one St Helens primary school put together a time capsule which has now been opened, 25 years on.

Earlier this year, staff from St Helens Borough Council’s Archive Service were inspecting the collections at the historic Gamble Building when they came across a mysteriously wrapped item.

Pupils and staff time at the opening of the time capsule. Photo Credit: Jess Hornby

On closer examination, it was labelled ‘Willow Tree Primary School Time Capsule - not to be opened for 25 years.’ The time capsule had been donated to the Archives on March 25, 1996 and was due to be opened in 2021.

An unveiling event took place recently, attended by teachers and pupils from the school, including a former student who was at Willow Tree the year the capsule was made.

What was in the capsule?

Pupils were intrigued to see items unknown to them and pretty much surplus to requirements in today’s world.

The treasures that were pulled out of the capsule tube included a floppy disk, as well as tape and video cassettes.

The old and the new - an audio cassette tape lies next to a tablet.

However, some of the 90s icons referenced by the pupils are still going strong today, like TV presenters Ant and Dec, who were better known as PJ and Duncan from Byker Grove and had launched a music career.

Some of the children were also amazed to see artwork made by some of their parents, with a heart-warming moment when one Year 6 pupil found a report card from a member of his family and a drawing of his late auntie.

What was said

St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, Culture and Heritage, Councillor Anthony Burns said: “It’s great to be here and see the look of amazement on the children’s faces on what has been a day of pure nostalgia.”

Samantha Foster, a teaching assistant at Willow Tree who was in Year 2 when the time capsule was made, said: “I think it’s amazing that all these things have been buried and for these children to look back at it now.”

The cover of an old VHS tape pokes out from beneath some drawings. Photo Credit: Jess Hornby

What’s next?

Willow Tree Primary School now plan to work with St Helens Archive to create another time capsule to be unveiled in another 25 years’ time.

Tours of St Helens Archive search room – which contains more than two million records of local and national significance – can be booked by emailing [email protected] or by calling 01744 671748.