2017-18 programme

All talks, presentations and meetings are open to visitors and are held in the Cramphorn Theatre, Fairfield Road, starting at 7.45 pm. There is no need to book but there is a nominal charge of £3 for members and £5 for visitors, payable on the night.

All outings leave from outside the theatre. Group members will have received booking terms and instructions with their Newsletter.

Parking is via Coval Lane only. Charges apply but there is an alternative car park next to the County Hotel which is free in the evenings and at weekends.

Click any event for details.

Annual General Meeting

The agenda for our AGM is as follows:

  1. A drawing of a microphoneApologies for absence
  2. Minutes of the last meeting
  3. Matters arising
  4. Chairman’s report
  5. Treasurer’s report
  6. Group funding of NT projects
  7. Election of President and Vice President
  8. Election of Committee
  9. Election of Honorary Examiner of Accounts
  10. Any other business

After the AGM Paul Forecast, the new Regional Director, will give us an update on the National Trust.

Tales from the smithyReport by Keith Otter

A coloured drawing of a horseWe were promised that Roger Dorking would regale us with tales from the smithy. He explained that he had started giving talks by accident rather than choice. BBC Essex had been preparing a programme on the Essex accent and someone recommended they speak to him. (Having heard him speak, I can confirm that he has an Essex accent and not the Estuary accent that has come to be associated with the county.) He received a telephone call from a BBC researcher and, somewhat reluctantly, agreed to take part. After the live broadcast one of the BBC staff said she had taken a number of telephone calls from people asking whether he gave talks. He phoned them all back and told them he did not. However, a few months later he did accept an invitation from a friend to speak at a WI meeting, which went so well he found himself giving more talks.

His father, known to everyone from the youngest to the oldest simply as “Henry”, was Witham’s blacksmith for nearly sixty years, starting work in the forge at the age of 14 and retiring when he was 70. The original owner retired when Henry was 56 and sold him the business. For the first time in his life Henry had to open a bank account and take out a loan. Even though he was now the owner it was his proud boast that he never earned enough to pay income tax. One of his sayings was “Hard up and happy – Money and misery.”

Henry shod horses for some 20 miles around and acted as farrier at the Essex Show and at the local point-to-point. The horses that came to him he would hot-shoe in his forge. For the other horses he would make the shoes in his forge and take them out to be cold-shoed. He knew the sizes needed by the horses he shoed regularly. For the Essex Show and the point-to-point he would take shoes of a variety of sizes with him and adjust them to fit on site using a portable anvil, a hammer and a pair of pliers.

Because he spent much of the day in the hot forge, Henry liked to be cool at home and would sleep with the window open in all sorts of weather, even though it was north-facing. Roger Dorking told us that one winter’s morning he was woken up by his father yelling “Roger, come in here, boy!” from the next room. He went in to find over an inch of snow on top of his parents’ eiderdown!

Henry would sometimes take the young Roger with him when he visited local farms, so Roger got to know them quite well. At 15 he left school to start working on one of the farms, much to his mother’s disappointment as he had done well at school and she had wanted him to go on to something grander (brain surgery?). Most of the tales he told about his own life were based on his four years working on the farm, so it was obviously a very happy time for him.

A few months after Roger started working on the farm he was asked to work with the horses as one of the horsemen had fallen ill. He worked in particular with two horses, Boxer, who was amenable, and Jack, who was fairly stubborn. He enjoyed ploughing with them. Although most farmers used tractors and other modern equipment, the farmer for whom Roger worked liked seeing the horses working on his farm and could watch them from the farmhouse.

Roger worked with an older horseman, Bert. On one occasion when the harvesting mangels, Roger asked Bert if it would be OK to take half a dozen home for his father to make wine out of them. Bert said “Yes” and Roger put six aside in a bag and cycled the three miles home with it on the front of his bike. When he got home he found that his bag contained nothing but bricks and dirt! Bert had played a trick on him, although he did find the six mangels in a corner when he returned to the farm.

Nothing was said about it. A few months later Bert put some wood aside to take to his cottage across the road from the farm to burn on his fire. Roger opened the bag Bert had put them in and hid two iron ploughshares in it. This time Bert said nothing until several weeks later when he commented that “I found a couple of ploughshares that I put on the fire. They burned beautifully.”

After four years Roger left the farm for higher wages and worked in a number of non-farming jobs, including one he had at Marconi’s for twenty years. He married and started his own family, not having taken his father’s advice “Remain single and bring up your children to do the same.”

Space prevents me repeating all the stories Roger Dorking told us. He proved to be a real character, so it is no wonder people were so taken by his original broadcast. If you ever get the opportunity to hear him speak, do take it.

President’s Event

Our President, David Simmonds, would like to invite you to an afternoon at Hatfield Forest (where he is a volunteer)

The event would start at 2pm with the option of lunch at the Forest Café beforehand. First, there will be a talk about The Forest. This will be followed by a walk to look at one of the lesser known aspects of Hatfield Forest, the Georgian landscape, which was created by Capability Brown, whose birth bicentenary was celebrated last year. Then, tea will be served. If the weather is fine, David would be willing to lead a further walk to look at a different aspect of The Forest, if wanted. It will be a little early for the buttercups to be in flower, but we may hear the Cuckoo and see the returning Swallows. Please bring suitable footwear and waterproof clothing, if necessary.

Outing to Wicken Fen and Otley Hall

Wicken Fen Nature Reserve is the National Trust’s oldest nature reserve - the first parcel of land being donated by Charles Rothschild in 1901- and is now England’s most famous fen.A drainage ditch It provides a window on a “lost landscape”, and is a unique remnant of un-drained fenland which once covered the vast lowlands of East Anglia. Today the fen is home to over 9,000 species of plants, birds and dragonflies, some very rare, and is a biological “Site of Special Scientific Interest”. Although it appears to be a natural wilderness, it is in fact managed intensively to maintain and protect the delicate balance of species. Grazing herds of Highland cattle and Konic ponies help create a diverse range of new habitats. Our Chelmsford Centre covered the cost of the transport of a highland cow called Anag, and we bought a Konic pony, that we christened Tindal. The last news we had of him was that he has a harem of mares and has sired several foals. The bird life is prolific at various times of the year, and visitors can access two bird hides along boardwalks. There is a café that serves light lunches and afternoon teas.

Otley Hall is a magnificent Grade I, 16th century moated Tudor Hall. Pevsner described it as “one of the most interesting 15th and early 16th century houses in Suffolk”, which has survived largely intact, and is considered a perfect example of late medieval architecture. The impressive Great Hall and linen fold Parlour, both look out onto the Rose Garden, and according to Farrer, these two rooms are “unequalled in Suffolk”. There is a screens passage, richly carved beams, linen fold panelling, and 16th century wall paintings. Outside there are lofty chimneys, herringbone brick work and vine leaf pargetting, which can be viewed when walking in the ten acres of award-winning gardens which surround the Hall. It is a private home owned by Catherine Beaumont, and has been voted one of the top twenty historic houses in the UK. At one time it was home to the late Percy Edwards who was famous for his impressions of bird songs.

Outing to Capel Manor and de Havilland

The thirty-acre estate at Capel Manor and Gardens was first established in the late 13th century and surrounds a Georgian Manor House and the Victorian Stables. There are many different styles of gardens to look at, some of them originally created as entries in the Chelsea Flower Show. There are also some beautiful wildflower meadows to enjoy. Capel Manor College is a working estate where students gain hands-on experience of all aspects of horticulture, including Garden Design, Floristry, Animal Care and Environmental Conservation. There is a restaurant serving hot meals and light refreshments.

The de Havilland Aircraft Museum is the oldest aviation museum in the UK dedicated to the preservation and display of de Havilland aircraft.A passenger propeller aircraft taking off The company created world beating aeronautical innovations, including many iconic aircraft, and examples of these can be seen on display, such as the Mosquito, the Comet and Tiger Moth, the Vampire, Sea Hornet and Sea Vixen. A major expansion plan is underway and funds are being raised to build a new hanger to house even more exhibits. The Supporters Society was formed on Cup Final Day in 1974, and since 1977 the de Havilland Aircraft Museum Trust Limited has operated the museum. The Society has been responsible for the high quality restoration and conservation of many of the exhibits, starting with the Chipmunk in 1978. The current project is work being done on the de Havilland Rapide, which is to be restored to flight status. Refreshments are limited to hot and cold drinks, sandwiches and ice creams.

Outing to Woolsthorpe and Southwell WorkhouseKeith Otter reports

There were two coaches for this trip. Pat and I were on Coach J. Normally Jackie Arnot would have been in charge of us but she was otherwise engaged so Shirley Deering kindly took responsibility for us all.

Paul Chaplin had arranged for Coach J to proceed to Woolsthorpe Manor and then to Southwell Workhouse and for Coach P to visit in the reverse order. We in Coach J arrived at Woolsthorpe at 10:40, only to discover they didn’t officially open until 11 am. Fortunately we were spotted and were allowed in before that.

Woolsthorphe Manor was a farmhouse built in 1620. Sir Isaac Newton was born there on Christmas Day 1642, his father sadly having died without seeing his son. When Isaac was three his mother married a widower with two daughters and moved to live with him, leaving Isaac at Woolsthorpe with a nurse. When her second husband died some seven years later she moved back with her stepchildren.

She wanted Isaac to be a farmer but he was often so deep in thought that he forgot what he was supposed to be doing. On one occasion he even rode into Grantham on a horse and absent-mindedly walked back leaving the horse there. He was not an apt pupil but did get a place at Cambridge, where allegedly he just scraped through his degree.

A large treeOne of the outbuildings now houses a small cinema where you can watch a short film on Sir Isaac Newton’s early life at Woolsthorpe, which is very helpful in interpreting some of the objects the house. Visitors can enter the study where he conducted his early experiments with light. I was actually more interested in the dining room, which had a sleeping cubicle next to the large fireplace. I assume it was a cubicle for a live-in servant. It must have been the warmest place to sleep in the winter.

In the orchard you can see the famous apple tree under which Isaac was sitting when an apple fell and he started forming a theory of gravity. According to the introductory film he reasoned that, if there was a force which made the apple fall to earth from a height of 40 feet, that force must still operate at much larger heights and even up to the heavens.

Those of us who had not taken picnics had lunch in the Woolsthrope Manor café before getting back on the coach at 12:30 for the 45 minute journey to Southwell Workhouse

It ended up taking us more than 45 minutes as our driver missed the turning into the Workhouse car park. However, that did mean we had an enjoyable unscheduled tour round Southwell itself with some good views of the Minster.

Southwell Workhouse was purpose-built in 1820 and housed 158 men, women and children. Entry into the workhouse was purely voluntary but only those in desperate poverty would apply. The Medical Officer would determine whether anyone entering was “old and infirm”. Adults who were not old and infirm were regarded as “idle and profligate”; if you were out of work it was taken to be your own fault and not because there was no work available. The Workhouse was funded by the poor relief paid by the ratepayers of the sixty parishes around Southwell; each parish was entitled to appoint a representative to the Board.

A long red brick buildingChildren were separated from their parents, the mere fact that they were in the workhouse being “proof” that they were a bad influence. The children did receive schooling, unlike poor children outside the workhouse, and were expected to leave at 12 to take up posts as domestic servants or apprentices. When they left the Worhouse’s Board became their guardians rather than their “idle and profligate” parents.

Life in the Workhouse for those who were not classed as “old and infirm” was deliberately harsh in order to encourage them to leave as soon as possible. The only paid staff were the Master and Matron (normally the Master’s wife) and the Schoolteacher. The adult residents who were not old and infirm were required to work most of the day, the men in the garden or breaking rocks and the women on domestic chores. The work was intentionally dull and repetitious.

A tour of the Workhouse takes 1½ - 2 hours. Pat and I borrowed two of the free audio guides, which I highly recommend. I was impressed by how well the Workhouse was designed, bearing in mind its purpose and the attitudes of the time.There were two wings, one for men and the other for women. These were further subdivided into spaces for the “old and infirm” and the “idle and profligate”. The accommodation for each group consisted of dormitories, a day room, a work yard and an exercise yard. At the front of each exercise yard was a privy, providing the only (and very primitive) toilet facilities.

The centre block contained the entrance for the Board members, leading directly to the Boardroom. Immediately above that was the room for the Master and Matron with windows overlooking the garden and all the exercise yards so that an eye could be kept on the residents. The children’s accommodation and schoolroom were at the back of the central block. The kitchens and cellars were below ground level

The Southwell Workhouse became a model for the national scheme when it started in 1834. It joined the scheme in 1836 and continued as a workhouse until the 1930s. Whllst many workhouses were converted to hospitals when the modern welfare state was born in 1948, this did not happen to Southwell Workhouse. In the 1970s some of the rooms were used as temporary accommodation for homeless families. The National Trust took it over some 20 years ago.

Outing to Jane Austen’s House and PetworthReport by Keith Otter

Pat and I made our way down to the city centre to join the 53 or so other members of the Group. We were picked up by one of King’s Coaches coaches to visit Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, Hampshire, and then go on to Petworth House in Kent.

Jane Austen lived at Chawton Cottage for the last eight years or so of her life. One of her brothers had been adopted by wealthy relatives who had left him their three estates, one of which was Chawton. He gave the cottage rent-free to his mother as a home for her, her two daughters and their friend, Martha Lloyd. Jane and her sister Cassandra had shared a bedroom when they were children and continued to do so as adults at Chawton.

Although Jane Austen had started writing earlier, she was living at Chawton Cottage when she had her first novel published and was to write most of her works there. The cottage is now owned by a trust, thanks to a benefactor who bought it when it came on to the market in 1947. It is furnished in the style Jane would have known and includes her writing desk (although only the top is original); to modern eyes it looks much too small to write on.A wide village street

The cottage faces on to the main village road, which was quite busy in those days. To give the women greater privacy Jane’s brother had a window in one of the downstairs rooms bricked up and another made in the side facing the garden.

The cottage is modest in size when you consider it housed four adults. Some of the rooms are quite small. Among the artefacts it now contains I was particularly struck by the “square piano”, which is apparently similar to the one Jane would have played. One of the trust’s volunteers started playing it while we were looking round. It has a very light tone.

Some of the rooms contain reproductions of the original wallpaper. An example found in one of the rooms during restoration revealed that there was a fault in the printing, suggesting the women had bought “seconds” in order to save money.

When we had finished at Chawton we got back on to the coach for the ride to Petworth House. Luckily for us, the only time it rained was during this journey. One of the villages we passed through was Selborne (of “The Natural History of Selborne” fame).

At Petworth we were all impressed by our driver’s ability to get the coach round the 90° bends in one narrow street. He deposited us outside the church, which is right next to the pedestrian entrance to Petworth House.

Front of a large Georgian mansionPetworth House is a late 17th century, Grade I listed country house. For centuries it was the southern home of the Percy family, Earls of NorThe house has been home to the same family for 900 years. It was given to the National Trust on the understanding that family members would still be able to use private apartments there.

It is a very large building but, unusually, the servants’ accommodation, store rooms and kitchens are in a completely separate building running parallel to the main house and about twenty yards from it. Apparently the food would be cooked in the kitchen and then carried by footmen into the main building via a tunnel that linked the two. The volunteer we spoke to commented that the family never expected to eat their food hot!

Petworth House is a late 17th century, Grade I listed country house. For centuries it was the southern home of the Percy family, Earls of NorThe kitchen is huge. A long wooden table with copper and china utensilsThe dairy and the room for storing meat are also large. I was taken by the tidy and well-ordered housekepper’s room.

The main building houses the National Trust’s largest art collection, actually built up by the family. The walls of the downstairs rooms are all covered with paintings, as apparently they were when the family owned it. Unfortunately the lighting has to be kept low to protect the artwork. I noticed some well-known paintings that I have seen reproduced in art books and the like. The Beauty Room contains portraits of some of the ladies of Queen Anne’s court and is named in their honour. At one time this was set up as a memorial to the Napoleonic Wars and still contains a portrait of Napoleon and a bust of the Duke of Wellington.

As well as paintings, the North Gallery houses numerous statues, including John Flaxman’s sculpture of St Michael overcoming Satan. I particularly noticed the way the sculptor had shown all the muscles on St Michael’s back.

The Chapel, which is still consecrated, is also worth a visit.

Our thanks, as usual, to Paul and Jan Chaplin for arranging the visit and to Jackie Arnot for helping them to shepherd us.

Talk on the Pioneer Sailing TrustPay on the door

A red-sailed fishing smack 
David Tournary will tell us about the history and work of the Pioneer Sailing Trust.

Group holiday in the Lake DistrictFully booked

Monday, 25 September

We travel by coach to Grange-over-Sands and on our way spend a short while at Mosley Old Hall near Wolverhampton.

Tuesday, 26 September

A wooden pleasure boat tied up at a jetty on a lakeA Victorian day out. We visit Bowness and look around then travel on Lake Windermere by boat southwards to the pier at Lakeside. We then have a steam train ride to Haverthwaite Station. Our coach picks us up and we travel to Holker Hall and enjoy the afternoon there before returning back to our hotel.

Wednesday, 27 September

We visit the Beatrix Potter Gallery and/or Hill Top then take a trip on Steam Yacht Gondola after which we have some free time.

Thursday, 28 September

We start the day with a visit to Sizergh Castle and after lunch we then travel north through the Lake District to Wordsworth House and Garden and spend the afternoon there before returning to our hotel.

Friday, 29 September

Depart for home visiting Sudbury Hall near Ashbourne, Derbyshire, on our way.

The cost of the holiday is £440 per person and the single room supplement is £75. Insurance through Kings Coaches will be in the region of £27 - £30.

Outing to visit London film locationsPlaces available

Coloured drawing of a cameraman leaning against his cameraWe leave Chelmsford a little later than usual so we can start with a Carvery lunch before the tour, and then have time for a cuppa before we leave.

From the Long Good Friday to Harry Potter, James Bond and Bridget Jones, we will be shown the “locations” in one of the world’s most filmic cities. Revealed will be interesting facts about how filming in London works, where permission is needed to close somewhere like Trafalgar Square or Westminster Bridge, or to film in and around various buildings. It is a fascinating glimpse into the life of “Lights, Camera, Action” in the capital city, and a tour of some great sites of London.

The Evening Standard 31st January edition told us: “London aims to become the world’s most film-friendly city as part of series of measures announced today...” London is the third busiest city for film productions after Los Angeles and New York... About three-quarters of the UK’s film industry is based in and around London contributing roughly £1.2 billion to the capital’s economy in 2016.

Guide price £43.50

Talk on the history of Chelmsford High StreetPay on the door

A pedestrianised shopping street 
A talk by Alan Pamphilion.

Talk on the Gunpowder PlotPay on the door

Drawing of an old-fashioned bomb with a lit fuse 
It may not be 5 November but this is still an appropriate time to remember the plot to blow up Parliament in 1605. Richard Thomas will tell us something of this fascinating piece of history.

Christmas lunch on the ThamesNot yet open for booking

A fish looking at a cooked turkey lowered on hooks 
We will go by coach from Chelmsford to Windsor. There we will board our boat for a three-hour cruise, during which Christmas lunch will be served. When the boat returns to Windsor we will get back on our coach for the journey home.

Guide price £49.00


“Salisbury Hall & de Havilland Aircraft Muesum”Pay on the door

A passenger propeller aircraft taking off 
If you visited the de Havilland Aircraft Museum with us on 17 June, or even if you didn’t, you are sure to be interested in this talk by Alistair Hodgson.

Talk on Canine PartnersPay on the door

Canine Partners logo 
How do Canine Partners give practical and emotional help to their partners?

Speaker to be announced.

Talk on plans for Chelmsford’s MuesumPay on the door

Stylised version of the universal symbol for a museum 
Nick Wickenden will bring us up to date.

Annual General MeetingPay on the door

A drawing of a microphoneAfter the AGM John Frankland will tell us the fascinating story of William Potter.

The date is still to be confirmed.

Talk on the history of the handbagPay on the door

A pink handbag 
Come and learn the history of Maggie’s favourite accessory from Sarah Shehadeh.

Group holiday in DevonNot yet open for booking

A riverside town 
Our 2018 Group holiday will be based on Tiverton, Devon. Watch our Newsletters for further details.