With the start of the New Year I thought it would be an opportunity to bring everyone up to date on what has happened since we began our Winter Programme of Talks in October of last year and what is planned for the coming year.
Firstly, those of you that attended the meeting in October will remember that Peter Raikes (Chairman) opened the meeting and after the opening announcements went on to say what a success the summer season of visits had proved to be. Whilst much of this was because we were generally lucky with the weather, it was also due to the choice of the places visited. Indeed many members have commented on how much they had enjoyed the visits to: Shugborough, Tattershall Castle, The Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Museum, Blenheim Palace and Sandringham, and it is with those comments in mind that we are now busily putting the finishing touches to this year’s summer programme, details of which should be available in March.
It was then on to our speaker Adrian Henstock who used historical sources to tell the story of the ‘Turnpike Toll Roads of Nottinghamshire and surrounding counties in the 1700 and 1800’s’. His talk was fascinating and contained many photographs, drawings, maps and other images as well as copies of historical documents from the time. For me, the most intriguing related to how many coaches, carts and waggons, most of which were pulled by horses, used the roads on a daily basis. Then there were the thousands of various people who travelled often very long distances across the country and how long those journeys could often take. It was also interesting to see the old photographs of local coaching inns, many of which were the 4 Star Hotels of the time, and come to realise how important they were to the local economy by providing employment and a vital market for local traders. Many members later commented on the fact that many of the roads we use today still follow exactly the same route that they did in the 18th century when it was often not much more than a muddy track!
In November the talk was given by David Bell, who many members of the audience knew from when he lived in Melton as a child. David’s talk was on ‘Leicestershire and Rutland Murders’ and covered several events that have been recorded in local history. The talks were full of anecdotes and whimsical memories from childhood which many members could associate with and David very generously donated a copy one of the many books that he has written to the society. The book which is full of photographs is entitled ‘Leicestershire and Rutland Privies’ and is available to borrow from the Secretary. Members may like to take inspiration from the book and sit down in a quiet corner to read it whilst enjoying a cup of tea. Another book this time relating the ‘The Green Bicycle Murder’, which was recounted by David during his talk, is also available by any member wanting to know more about this strange tale and its outcome.
In December we were to be treated to a talk recounting ‘A Day in the Life of a Victorian Gentleman’ by Gareth King who spoke to the society last December, but on the very morning of the meeting he phoned to say he could not come due to illness. However, we were saved by Brian Johnson who stepped in at the very last minute to give a light-hearted and very interesting talk on the history of ‘Prefabs’. The talk was entitled ‘Living in a Box’ and covered the period from when they were developed and introduced toward the end of the World War Two to present day, when many of those original houses are still in regular use. Brian recounted his childhood growing up in one of these and together with numerous photographs and drawings told of the strengths and weaknesses of the different types including the construction, materials, size, layout and their relative costs. It was fascinating to equate these to building houses today and realise that at the time it was not just about providing homes to replace those destroyed during the war, but also to provide much needed work for those returning to civilian life after military service and during a period when almost everything necessary for everyday life was rationed. All in all it was a very enjoyable and interesting talk.
For January we can look forward to a talk by Richard Knox who is to present an illustrated talk about ‘Bosworth Battle Field’ within the context of ‘The Wars of the Roses’. I look forward to seeing you there for another interesting escape into our local history.