Wednesday 7 March – St Joan’s Centre. Keith Betton – Return of the Red Kite. Keith is County Recorder for birds in Hampshire and a council member of RSPB. He tells the story of the remarkable resurgence of this spectacular bird from near extinction in this country, illustrated by some of the most spectacular bird photography I have ever seen.
Prof. Sophie Scott, neurologist and Duncan Wisbey, actor/impressionist – Speech and the Brain.
Prof Sophie Scott is giving the 2017 Christmas lectures at The Royal institution, titled ‘The language of life’, exploring how humans developed language, how laughter links us to our animal last, and the subtle cues we send out through facial expression, tone of voice and even smell.
Wednesday 14 November – St Thomas on the Bourne
Joanne Watson, retired BBC Sports Producer – title to be confirmed
Farnham Society Norfolk tour, 15 – 18 September 2017
Building on the success of tours in previous years, our 2017 tour comprised four days in Norfolk.
We were privileged to have a private visit to the home of Sir Antony Gormley, the renowned sculptor and creator of such works as Angel of the North – which we had seen on our 2013 Northumbria visit. Sir Antony spoke of the evolution of sculpture from classical times to the modern day. Classical and Renaissance works were based upon biblical and mythological events, for example the sculptures in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence. Nowadays, following the Age of Enlightment and the Industrial Revolution, people find themselves living in a much changed world, and contemporary sculpture is inspired more by the uncertainties which characterise the modern age.
Works by Sir Antony treat the human body as a space, rather than depicting movement or representing an event. We also saw something of the task of bringing a concept to its final physical form. A work would start as a model in clay, cardboard or polystyrene. The finished item, typically a large metal figure weighing several tons and displayed outdoors, required modern manufacturing techniques.
The theme of sculpture continued with a visit to Houghton Hall. The house is currently host to a temporary exhibition by the sculptor Richard Long, as well as being home to a number of permanent sculptures.
The present house was built in the 18th century by Robert Walpole, the first British Prime Minister. His son Horace, the novelist, later created Strawberry Hill, in Twickenham – which The Farnham Society has also visited.
We visited two sites with a religious heritage. The first was Ely Cathedral, dominating the surrounding fenlands from its elevated position on the Isle of Ely. Beside the Cathedral are extensive former monastic buildings, now retained mostly as official residences.
The second was Walsingham, a major site of pilgrimage in the middle ages, up to the dissolution of the Priory under Henry VIII. Pilgrimage was revived at the end of the 19th century, with the development of two shrines. The Catholic shrine is centred around a restored medieval chapel, the adjacent 20th century chapel emulating the form of a barn. The Anglican shrine sits in the village centre, surrounded by houses from medieval and Georgian periods.
Felbrigg Hall, a national Trust property, is a very different house to Houghton. Much smaller, it was Jacobean in origins though much altered in 18th century. A family home until the mid 20th century, it still has a feeling of being lived in.
Our final day offered something less ‘serious’. A visit to Bressingham gave the opportunity to explore the magnificent gardens developed by four generations of the Bloom family. We were able to enjoy rides on the train and carousel in Alan Bloom’s collection of steam engines and railway carriages.
The exhibition also featured some of the sets and vehicles from the BBC series Dad’s Army, filmed nearby.
On Friday 19 January 2018, Major Paul Whittle gave an illustrated talk on Florence Nightingale, the Lady with the Lamp.
Paul spent his professional career in the financial sector, also serving in the Territorial Army. Now retired, he works as Regimental Historian, and is active in heritage transport, at home and overseas. He has lectured for 12 years, in the UK and on cruises.
On Thursday 7 December 2017, Rt Revd Dr Christopher Herbert gave an illustrated talk on The Journey of the Magi. He traced the history of how the Biblical story has been represented in western European art, from Roman sarcophagi to contemporary Christmas cards.
William Heath Robinson (1872 – 1944) is an artist renowned for his cartoons of weird inventions. The Heath Robinson Museum, which recently moved to a new building in Pinner (north west London) explores this and other sides of his work.
Having trained as an artist, he sought to pursue landscape painting. However the need to earn a living led him to join his brothers Charles and Tom in a book illustration business. His output covered Shakespeare, contemporary writers such as Kipling, and children’s books, extending to high qulaity magzines such as Tatler. The humorous side of his work can be seen, for example in satirising GF Watts.
The First World War brought shortages which affected the publishing industry, and Heath Robinson focussed on his humorous cartoons, contributing to the war effort with bizarre ideas for battlefield tactics.
The museum opened in 2016, in a new building in Pinner Memorial Park, alongside the Georgian West House. Beyond the park is Pinner village, with 16th century buildings lining the mainstreet, which leads up to the 14th century church at the top.
The afternoon took us to the London Museum fo Water and Steam for a guided tour. The museum is located in the 19th century pumping station at Kew, on the north side of the Thames. The site dates from the 1830s, though its origins go back to the early 19th century and the need to supply water both for the canals and for the population of London.
A section on water supply traced the history back to the 16th century, with the use of wooden water pipes – elm was a favoured material. A water main was formed by boring a hole along the length of a tree trunk – hence the names ‘trunk’ and ‘branch’ for main and secondary service lines. Wooden pipes were superceded by iron piping during the 19th century.
The Kew pumping station housed a number of steam engines, together capable of pumping several million gallons per day. Diesel powered pumps were introduced during the 20th century, though the steam pumps were retained as a backup until WWII. Electric pumps were introduced post war.
Several of the steam engines have been restored.The museum also houses various engines brought in from other sites. One engine is run in steam each weekend – fuel costs prevent more frequent operation. On the day of our visit, it was the turn of the Easton and Amos engine. Built on 1863, it had operated at a waterworks in Northampton until 1930.
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‘Love and Time’ image courtesy of Heath Robinson Museum.