Monday 3 December, refreshments 7:30 pm for 8:00 start
St Joan’s Centre, Tilford Road, Farnham, GU9 8DJ
Brenda Longman, Ray Murphy with Farnham Rep present material from writings and musings of Charles Dickens, Miles Kington, Joyce Grenfell, Nancy Mitford, Victoria Wood, William Shakespeare, Christine Roeestti, Rosemary Wisbey and many more.
The Farnham Society Memorial Lecture “Talking Brains”
Neuroscientist Professor Sophie Scott is among the world’s foremost experts on speech and the brain.
Working with local actor/impressionist Duncan Wisbey of Radio 4’s Dead Ringers she explained how our brain negotiates the complex task of talking. Sophie’s research has helped therapists find new techniques to help stroke patients recover their speech.
Farnham-born Professor Claire Harman talked about her forthcoming book, ‘Murder by the Book: a sensational chapter in Victorian crime’.
It’s the true story of a murder, a best-selling novel and a literary controversy that involved Dickens and Thackeray. Author of a best-selling biography of Jane Austen, ‘Jane’s Fame’, Claire is well known on both sides of the Atlantic, winning many prestigious awards as biographer and poet.
Our first visit of the 2018 season was on Wednesday 23 May, to Chiddingstone Castle and Emmetts Garden in Kent.
Chiddingstone Castle originates from the 1550s when High St House, as the castle was known, was home to the Streatfield family. Several transformations have since taken place, including rerouting the High St to avoid the house. In 1805 Henry Streatfield extended and remodelled his ancestral home in the “castle style” which was then fasionable. The Castle was sold in 1938 and served as a base for Canadian military forces during the Second World War. After the war it became home to Long Dene School until 1954 when the school was closed. In 1955 the antiquary Denys Eyre Bower rescued the house from creeping dereliction and used it to house his eclectic collection of over 8000 objects. On his death in 1977 he left his collection for the enjoyment of the nation. The house is now run as a charitable trust.
The Castle stands next to Chiddingstone Village, which is owned by the National Trust and has houses dating from the 16th and 17th centuries
Emmetts is a National Trust garden housing exotic plants from around the world. It is known for its beautiful bluebells and spring colour, summer roses and vibrant autumn foliage.
In the morning we will visit Hughenden Manor, a National Trust property near High Wycombe. This was the home of prime minister Benjamin Disraeli during the 19th century, and was used as a top secret map making base during the Second World War.
In the afternoon we will be joining a boat at Windsor for a leisurely two hour round trip on the Thames. We will cruise upstream going through Boveney Lock, passing Sutherland Grange, The Willows, Oakley Court, Bray Film Studios, Queens Eyot and Monkey Island. There will be classic views of Windsor Castle on the way back.
This trip will include a cream tea.
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Diana was chairman of the committee that planned and accomplished the building of Shakespeare’s Globe with Sam Wannamaker and Prof Andrew Gurr. You may have heard her talking about it recently on Radio 4’s ‘The Reunion’. She is a highly accomplished Shakespeare scholar and presented fascinating and lively seminars at the Globe for many years.
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.