The new season of evening talks got off to a splendid start on 18 September when Jackie Arnot, our Chairman, welcomed Lord Petre, head of our local titled family, who would tell us of his family history. Lord Petre concentrated on the eighteenth century, which covered the lives of the seventh, eighth and ninth Lord Petre, who all lived at Thorndon Hall.
The seventh Lord inherited the title at the age of seventeen, the fourth and only surviving son of his father. He married a wealthy heiress from Lancashire, tragically dying only fifteen months later but, happily, leaving an infant son to become the eighth Lord. From an early age the eighth Lord had a passion for botany and transformed the grounds of Thorndon Hall. He set up greenhouses and propagation frames and collected rare plants. Sadly, he died at twenty-nine, leaving a five-year old son.
By the time the ninth Lord reached twenty-one Thorndon Hall and its grounds had become very run-down and neglected and he decided to pull the old hall down and replace it with the building we know today. Nothing remains of his father’s extensive work in the gardens.
On 16 October members welcomed Tamsin Wimhurst, a Social History Curator from Cambridge Museum, for a talk on the David Parr House. This outwardly unremarkably mid-Victorian terrace house in Cambridge hides a treasure-trove of artistic skill.
David Parr worked for a very prestigious firm of interior decorators, F Leach, in Cambridge, and was familiar with the designs produced by William Morris and other exponents of the Arts and Crafts Movement. An extremely talented and skilled workman, David Parr spent 40 years painstakingly painting the interior of his home with copies of their designs. His granddaughter, the last resident of the house, had no idea of its significance, but kept everything as it was out of deference to her grandparents
On 6 November members enjoyed an interesting and informative evening with a talk by Chris Farndell on the two halves of his career in photography.
Chris explained he was a serving police officer for thirty years, for the last ten years of which he worked as a scene of crime photographer. Members were amazed to see pictures of the already very old-fashioned cameras he used, but he explained that the advantage was they produced large prints, hence needing a minimum of enlargement. It was surprising to hear how late the police changed to colour photography; this was because of concerns that questions over colour fidelity could be raised in court.
After retiring from the police, Chris became a tutor at a college, teaching photography as Art. The students would begin with black and white photography, and were stunned when shown how a photo is developed from a negative.
At the final meeting of the year, held on 11h December, members enjoyed something a little different; a light-hearted talk, and seasonal refreshments.
The Speaker, Linda Scoles, amusingly described how she broke every one of the six New Year Resolutions she had made at the Millenium. Both Americans, Linda and her husband had settled in England after her husband’s retirement from the US Airforce. Some of her anecdotes related to their life in America, others to their later years in the small Suffolk village where Linda, sadly now a widow, still lives. Linda ended her talk by dramatically tearing up the scroll on which she had written her Resolutions and hurling the pieces in the air.
The first meeting of 2020 was held on 8 January, when members enjoyed a talk by David Simmonds, the Group’s President. David has long been a lover of the works of Thomas Hardy and had come to realise a connection between the aims and objectives of the National Trust, with the passionate concern for the countryside and the rural way of life, that Hardy shows in many of his novels.
Although Hardy was never a member of the National Trust, which was not a large or very well-known organisation in his lifetime, the Trust now owns both his birthplace and the house where he died. In his beautifully illustrated and painstakingly researched presentation, David took members on a virtual tour of Trust properties which are clearly related to scenes in Hardy’s novels and poems, or where ancient skills like hedging and ditching, and coppicing, are still practised.