IELTS Cue Card Sample 480 - A historical building in your country or city

IELTS Speaking Part 2: IELTS Cue Card/ Candidate Task Card.

Talk about a historical building in your country or city that you know.

You should say:

  • what and where is it?
  • when was it built? Why?
  • what is it known for?

and describe this historic building.

[You will have to talk about the topic for one to two minutes. You have one minute to think about what you're going to say. You can make some notes to help you if you wish.]

Sample Answer 1:
I live in England in the United Kingdom where we have a wealth of historic buildings. For this topic, I could take my pick from castles, to manor houses and even prehistoric stone circles! I am spoilt for choice in thinking about what historic structure to talk about. However, instead of telling you about one of our more obvious and famous places, I want to tell you about a little piece of living history that is near to where I currently live in Sheffield.

I shall tell you what and where it is; and fill in as many details as I can about when it was built; why; what it is known for and describe it as best I can.

I first came across this construction when I was exploring a woodland trail near to where I had just moved to in Sheffield after I had to relocate to this city for work. Hidden in amongst the trees, and next to a carefully constructed waterway where the narrow river seemed to have been diverted, was a humble looking stone-built workshop of some sort. When I first discovered it, the building was very run-down, almost completely derelict. Although it was clearly part of the area’s industrial heritage, I had no idea what it was originally built for. It was overgrown with trees, brambles and ivy, and the wooden shutters on the windows were falling off and rotting away. Someone must have told me it was known locally as ‘The Shepherd Wheel’ but that made little sense. It didn’t seem to be in an area where sheep would be kept, and it seemed more likely it was for some sort of semi-industrial purpose, but what? So the building is ‘The Shepherd Wheel’ and it is in the woodland of the Porter Valley, in the south-west outskirts of the city of Sheffield. As to when it was built and why? - it took me a while to find this out!

Over the course of the next couple of years, some money was made available by some sort of heritage trust, and a project commenced to return the building to its former glory. As part of the restoration project, some care was taken to put up signs explaining the history of the site, and eventually, I learned much more about it, and have been in to see the renovations, and even participated in some of the work to do so. Only last year I spent a morning volunteering on the project helping to paint the newly crafted wooden shutters on the windows, to protect them from the elements of driving rain.

So I can now tell you that this construction is connected to the knife-grinding industry for which Sheffield was once renowned. Even today Sheffield has a proud heritage of Sheffield Steel, and many of the buildings in the city are linked to the Steel industry and the work of ‘the cutlers’ who for some 400 years created fine knives, blades and other steel products. The building, is in fact, a surviving example of a cottage industry that was once widespread on the valley. Set in the picturesque valley of the Porter Brook, this Shepherd Wheel is a unique, now once again working example of Sheffield knife grinding industry. At one time there were many such small water-powered grinding workshops along Sheffield's rivers abut now this alone remains. I am told it is the earliest complete example of this industry with evidence dating it back to the 1500s. That is an extraordinary notion. That site has been worked for generations, a water wheel turning there since 1584 – or even earlier. It was mentioned in a will of that date when the wheel owner passed it to his sons, who knows how much further back in time something was first constructed on this site?

From the outside, it is a single storey stone building, with windows at the side.  Inside is an open workshop that seems dark, despite the extent of the windows. However, at the side of the building, and this is what has now been restored to working order, is an enormous water wheel. Powered by the force of water diverted from the river to power the wheel, it turns, and through a clever mechanism provides the energy to power grit stones on which knives were sharpened as they rotated within the workshop itself.  Amazingly, the restoration project has managed to find photographs of people who worked in the Shepherd Wheel building toward the end of its time as a thriving industry, together with various tools and equipment that are now all on display. Pride of place is given to the two grinding hulls, grinding wheels and, of course, the waterwheel itself. It is a small working museum, staffed largely by volunteers. It is only open for a few days throughout the year, but well worth the visit.  On special days they will get the wheel turning, and give educational tours. You can begin to imagine how in this workshop, in dark, damp conditions, skilled grinders produced fine, sharp cutting edges. It was not until the 1930s that grinding ceased and the Wheel's pivotal role in Sheffield's cutlery industry ended, so this is relatively recent history, just about within living memory even though the site itself goes back for hundreds of years.

I love this building, it is in a beautiful location, and has a solidity to it that pleases me. It is a link to our local industrial heritage. For those that worked there, the work was really hard. Back breaking, and very dusty conditions with the blade on the grindstones generating lots of dust. I suppose that’s where the phrase ‘keeping your nose to the grindstone’ comes from, bent double over a the wheel, knife grinders had to lean right into the gritstone to sharpen blades, sometimes even lying flat on their fronts, with their faces near the grindstone in order to hold the blades against the stone. Lovely as the building is, and important as the heritage is, it is perhaps unwise to romanticise the reality of what it would be like to work there. All the same, I’m so happy that people have made the effort to restore the works, it is important to remember how working life was for local people in times past.

[Written by - Lucy Marris (2016):  Careers Adviser (UK), TEFL teacher (Vietnam)]


Sample Answer 2:
Sydney Opera House is the World Heritage Site and a renowned building in Australia. I am glad that I got the chance to describe this famous building in my country, Australia. The building is also a wonder for the country.

Sydney Opera House is a venue mostly used for exhibiting performing arts. Now this has become an iconic and historic building for the country. The building is located in Sydney Harbour. The Sydney business district is adjacent to the building. The building is also near to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and thus accessible almost from all the directions. The venue is used for several purposes together and hosts over 1400 performances annually. This is also one of the most visiting places in Australia and a notable number of people come to visit the structure.   

The initial plan to establish such a huge theatrical performance hall was adopted in the 1940s and with gradual development, the designing of the building was done in 1957 while the construction of the building started in 1958. The key aim of constructing the building was to create a unique facility where people can enjoy theatrical performances in a sophisticated environment. But the construction experienced some other troubles during its construction process and finally was opened in October of 1973 for public. Now a wing of the New South Wales Government named the Sydney Opera House Trust runs the building. The building is covered with a series of concrete shells which appear uniformed from a distant view.          

The building is known for several reasons. Firstly, this is an important landmark for Australia that has been representing the country for years. The venue is mostly known for holding theatrical performances on its inside space. There are two large space and some smaller spaces inside the venue. One of the larger spaces is occupied by a concert hall inside the building. The seating arrangements inside the halls are done technically and the seats rise from the lower to the higher position so that the audiences could enjoy the shows and performances clearly. Sydney Opera House is also known for the Joan Sutherland Theatre, Drama Theatre, a Playhouse, a studio with 280 permanent seats, multipurpose venue for arranging parties, conferences and for arranging other functions and the recording studio.

The Sydney Opera House construction was completed in three stages. The site where the building is standing now was occupied by the Fort Macquarie Tram Depot and it was demolished before the construction of the Opera House. The building contains all the modern facilities to its visitors and even guided tours are also available here to know the building perfectly. The building has restaurants and cafes for the ordinary visitors and even they can have a glass of drink as well sitting at the bar. Shopping is fun here on the retail outlets. The backstage tour is another popular aspect of the building and it shows about the activities of the performers before the show begins. The concert hall can accommodate over 2500 audiences at a time.


Part 3 – Two-way discussion:

Q. Is it important to conserve old buildings? Why?

Q. Is the history useful for the coming generations? Why?

Q. What is the difference between houses built in the past and now?

Q. What are the differences in sizes of houses? Why?

Q. Do you prefer a big or a small house? Why?

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