Autumn 2017 Newsletter

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Chairman’s messageJackie Arnot

I’m pleased to report that we have had another successful season at our National Trust Supporters Group. In February our President Dennis Hance gave us a wonderful talk on properties in Essex and many members were with us to hear this final contribution before he retired at the AGM. This, in itself, was a delightful evening as we were able to make a presentation to Dennis and thank him for all his support over many years as the founder of our group. At the AGM we were also able to sing “Happy Birthday” to our new Regional Director, Paul Forecast, who gave us an up-date on NT affairs in our Eastern Region. Our final evening had Roger Dorking regaling us with “Tales from the Smithy”. Thank you to everyone who has supported our talks; it is so much nicer for the speaker to have a large audience of interested folk. We have some interesting speakers, starting with The Pioneer Sailing Trust on September 20th, in our 2017/18 programme and hope to see you at these. Please remember that you can always bring a friend as a visitor.

A painting of a batOur new President, David Simmonds, arranged a splendid afternoon at Hatfield Forest where, amongst other things, we were shown how they use the various tools our group have given them and we were again thanked for our support. David organised a Bat Walk in August so that we could see the bat detectors in use as this has been our latest gift to the Forest.

I know that many of you have been concerned about the seemingly high-handed way the Trust has dealt with the issue at Felbrigg Hall. I immediately e-mailed Dame Helen Ghosh expressing the concerns which many of us have had. I have been assured that many of the things written in our newspapers were not true or were half-truths but as a committee we will be reminding the Trustees that the National Trust is “for everyone, for ever”. Should anyone wish to see my correspondence I can make it available.

You will be able to read about the outings we have been on this summer. We are thrilled to have so many folk coming on the Holiday to the Lake District; Paul has arranged a really interesting time (as always!). It only remains for me to wish you a happy new season with our Supporters Group and to thank the Committee for all their planning to make things run seamlessly.

Jackie Arnot

Visit to Oxburgh HallReport by Pat Tate

Paul and Janet Chaplin and Pat Tate visited Oxburgh Hall on 6 July 2017. This is Pat’s report on their visit.

On our arrival we were welcomed by a team of NT managers - Teresa Squires, General Manager; Alex Lassoued, Property Operations Manager; Helen Gregory, Outdoors Manager; Lynsey Coombs, House Manager; Lisa Smith, Fundraising Manager, East of England; and Holly Kavanagh, Fundraising Co-0rdinator. Lisa Smith and Holly Kavanagh were responsible for contacting Supporter Groups in the area, so it must have been a bit disappointing that there were not more members in attendance. However, all of the team engaged in animated conversation with us and about eight other NT group supporters, before we were addressed by Teresa Squires who explained how the day’s proceedings were to be conducted.

We entered the courtyard through the imposing twin towers of the gatehouse where Alex Lassoued told us how last August one of the many dormer windows fell down off the roof at Oxburgh Hall!! (About 5 tonnes of brick, tile, wood, glass and lead). This obviously created a great deal of alarm and consternation. Since then, several expert conservationists have been to examine the hole where the window once was, and they have discovered that the Victorians also had “Cowboy Builders”Scaffolding on the roof of an old building as the dormer windows are not properly attached to the roof!!! Investigation of the roof timbers is estimated to be £900,000, and other problems could well be uncovered along the way. Meanwhile a tremendous amount of scaffolding has been erected to support the building. The design was very complicated as it must not damage the walls, so this has involved building a cantilevered structure, with a large number of concrete blocks acting as the counter weight. The scaffolding would have cost £26,000 for 4 months, so it was decided to buy it instead.

Lynsey Coombs firstly showed us how she opens and closes the huge, magnificent gatehouse doors, before taking us to areas not accessible to the public. In the attics, which like ourown, were filled will a motley selection of detritus, we were able to see the original timber beams which were carved, indicating that in the past they would have been visible to visitors to the Hall. It was interesting to be able to look out of one of the dormer windows, (which we assumed was safe), across the courtyard to the dormer windows on the other side. We were then shown into a cellar. It was not possible for them to build below the water line of the moat, so the way they got around that problem was to raise the ceiling by “borrowing” space from the rooms above it.

After spending some time in the West Drawing room, we were shown the beautifully coloured and gilded embossed leather wall coverings in the stairway and the Library. The decorative tile surround of the fireplace features the Yorkist falcon and fetterlock, which on close inspection has an anomaly, one of the falcons is on its side, because being a very religious family, they believed only God could be perfect. The Dining Room has a large and very dark and intricately carved fireplace, with an equally dark carved sideboard which has been made up using pieces of other furniture, including part of a Tudor bed.

Roof beamsThe Marian Hangings on display, on loan from the V&A Museum, are remarkable embroideries worked by Mary, Queen of Scots, and Bess of Hardwick, whose husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury, was put in charge of guarding Mary on the orders of Elizabeth I. The heavy brick floor in the King’s Room is supported by the Gatehouse carriageway vault below.

We were then taken to see the view from the top of the tower via the spiral brick staircase. This is an amazing structure, incorporating special handmade bricks that act as a hand rail. Looking down from the roof we could see the complexity of the scaffolding, and also the wonderful brickwork of the chimneys.

A cream tea refreshment break was enjoyed, before we were taken by Helen Gregory to see The Wilderness. This was created deliberately to be a complete contrast to the formality of the gardens surrounding the house. However, it has become much too wild, and seedlings have grown into trees, and the sunken area, known as the Dell, is overgrown. A photograph exists that shows a child standing on a bridge across the dip, which may be something that will be restored. Archaeological excavations are being carried out to discover where the original path ways were located, and also the original piers for the wooden bridge. There are many ideas of what could be done, and great excitement and enthusiasm from all the NT team members.

A special treat was reserved for the end of our day. Sir Henry and Lady Bedingfeld, who live in a private part of the property, invited us all to see their beautiful sitting and dining rooms. The sitting room has the most wonderful tall stone bay window looking out onto the moat and the gardens, and their dining room has a lovely honey coloured oak table and chairs. Both rooms have the richly colourful and gilded embossed wall coverings, similar to those in other parts of the building. Sir Henry and his wife were very charming and spoke to us all in a very natural way. They have four children and ten grandchildren, so they are kept “up to speed” with technology, and Sir Henry has recently discovered that he has a talent for painting portraits. They also, very kindly, gave us refreshments, which was a most enjoyable end to our visit.

We came away very impressed with all the team members, who were full of enthusiasm for their differing jobs, working for the National Trust. We wish them well in their Fund Raising, as the repairs to the roof will be expensive, but essential. Hand written notes of thanks have been sent to the NT team, and to Sir Henry and Lady Bedingfeld.

Fading awayShirley Deering

It’s always hard to accept that an old friend may not be with us much longer; it’s even harder to admit that he may have a habit that we really won’t miss!

“Sir Clarence came in when I was showing a party round the Tudor Library this afternoon.”

A painting of the head of an old man in profile“That is most unusual. Normally he doesn’t like to be seen when the public are traipsing all over his ancestral home.”

“Yes, I was surprised, I don’t believe he has ever become reconciled to the fact that Hawksdene Hall no longer belongs to his family. Anyway, I can assure you he didn’t stay long and none of the visitors noticed him, they were too busy admiring the plasterwork of the ceiling.”

“And how did you think the old boy was looking?”

“Very tired.”

“Yes, when I last saw him, which is several months ago now, I thought how frail and weak he looked, just a shadow of his former self. I’m afraid we may not have him with us much longer.”

“Sadly, I think you are right, and we are really going to miss him when he does go.”

“Yes, Hawksdene Hall just won’t be the same without him. Even though we didn’t see much of him we just knew he was there.”

“That’s very true. I know he did some outrageous things in his time, but it was so long ago, he’s had his punishment and I believe we all have a great deal of affection for him. There’s just one thing about him I really won’t miss. I do wish he would use the door instead of walking straight in through the wall!”

Jessie Thom 4 June 1916 - 11 August 2017Tribute by Shirley Deering

Although she had not been able to join us on outings and holidays, or attend evening meetings for several years, many members remember Jessie Thom. A truly remarkable lady, Jessie attained the truly remarkable age of 101 in June this year. An endearing eccentric, with a multifaceted personality and a wide range of interests and activities, Jessie was never one to mince her words. You knew where you stood with Jessie! After a short illness Jessie died peacefully in Broomfield Hospital on the evening of 11 August. She will be much missed and remembered with great affection.

Chelmsford Cathedral Christmas Market

A cartoon showing two men carrying a Christmas Tree 
We will again have four tables at the Chelmsford Cathedral Christmas Market on Saturday, 2 December. Please come and support the event.


Our Membership Secretary, Colin Jay, wishes to remind all couple members to amend their membership fee standing order to £9.00 from £7.00. The subscription for sole membership remains at £5.00. (The new membership fee was agreed at the AGM in March 2016 so this is an additional reminder.)

Thank you letter from Theatre Royal

Members will know we gave a donation to the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds last year for improvements to the outside spaces. The text of their thank you letter is given below. Those of us who went to the Ballet at the Theatre Royal last autumn should be able to visualise the transformation.

Theatre Royal logo21 June 2017

Dear Mrs Arnot

I wanted to let you and your members know that the Courtyard garden at the Theatre Royal is vastly improved from last year thanks to your donation, together with a donation from the North Herts NT branch.

I cannot tell you what a huge difference it has made to the space. Please do come and see it if you can, and let me know if you are coming so I can get it in my diary and we can meet.

We now have a decent, smart wooden trellis up along the length of the far wall shielding the view onto the Greene King depot, and we currently have 24 terracotta pots planted with a range of climbers, perennials and bright red Geraniums and annuals. We have also been able to purchase (at a deal price - we’re always ones for a deal here) some lovely white painted furniture to replace the motley selection of rather tired wooden furniture that Greene King were chucking out from one of their pubs three years ago and which we’d asked if we could have. You can imagine what an enormous difference that has made.

In the evenings, the garden is now full of our audience members enjoying the space and in my 9 years here I’ve never seen the Courtyard space so buzzy. It has made a huge difference. We have around £700 left in the kitty to create some lighting and buy a few more tables and chairs which we will do in the next month or two. However, I did want to give you this update and let you know just what a beautiful and welcoming space you have helped us create.

Thank you most warmly

Julia Read
Head of Development