Latest group news
We have an exciting programme planned for 2020. On 20 January we’ll have a talk on the history of the Chinese diaspora and on 17 February we’ll hear about Magellan. In March we’ll be learning about the history of cinematography and photography. After our tea breaks we are starting to share the history of one of our ancestors.
We wound up 2019 discussing Christmas traditions around the world – some of which seemed quite bizarre to us! – and enjoyed mince pies and shortcake with our tea. In September we heard part 1 of Alan's talk on watermills and shared our opinions of the best and worst inventions.
New convenor – Jane
In July our first talk was by Gill: a well-researched insight into the life and times of Henry I, including the tragedy associated with the White Ship disaster in 1120, when Henry lost his only legitimate son and heir. The second talk, by Pam, introduced us to ‘Wicked Ladies’: women adept at riding horses, handling guns, and with a penchant for disguising themselves in men's attire to become notorious highwaymen. A life of quiet domesticity was not for those women!
When we met in August, John gave a talk about youth services in Somerset, after which there was the now traditional annual cream tea. Thanks to everyone who helped with that.
At the May group meeting Jane gave a fascinating talk about copper mining in the Bronze Age. The Great Orme is known as the Stonehenge of copper mining and comprises more than five miles of tunnels spreading across nine different levels and reaching a depth of 230 feet. Mining began around 4,000 years ago. Stone tools were used to mine malachite ore and refine it into copper.
The final guests to arrive at our dinner party were the notorious Mata Hari, and three ordinary members from one family. The grand dinner party is very eclectic, to say the least! And the conversation buzzed!
In April Clive's talk on ‘Taking the cure’ provided an enlightening insight into the use of spa waters over the centuries. We learned about some very unusual treatments such as cold baths to treat deafness and wearing a cap filled with snow to treat raging madness...
Thank you to Di for hosting us in our hour of need (we found ourselves locked out of Townsend House!). And, appropriately, it was Di who won the raffle.
Our ‘dinner party guest’ feature has proved to be both informative and fun. This time there were invitations for Paul Robson, Lord Baden-Powell and seven failed Prime Ministers – the latter, we decided, best left to dine in a room on their own!
In March Alan concluded the second part of his fascinating talk about windmills. It was a revelation to hear about the wide and varied industries that utilised windmills as an integral part in production.
This was followed by stimulating 'dinner party conversations' with the scene wonderfully set listening to music by William Byrd, the 16th–century composer. We also heard about Socrates, Hildegard of Bingen and Sir John Forster.
Starting off our February topics, Alan recounted the history of windmills from their very early days, with some excellent pictures to illustrate his talk. Then Di talked about John Hanning Speke, who was the first explorer to reach Lake Victoria. Fascinating.
We enjoyed the second part of Alan’s windmill presentation at our March meeting. After the tea break, three members regaled the rest of the group with ‘dinner party conversations’ with their favourite historical figures, explaining why they'd chosen that individual. These 'snippets' will continue as time permits at future meetings and should prove interesting. One thing is certain: judging by what we've heard so far, the final guest list will be extremely varied!
We kicked off the New Year with presentations from both Dave Scott and Di Martin. Dave gave a fascinating insight into the medieval hunting forest. It was with great disappointment that we all now view Robin Hood in a completely different light! Di gave a wonderful description of Exmoor in wartime, and the part played in looking after evacuees, people, treasures, rabbits and herbs. To say nothing of the warm welcome that the American army received − in some cases too warm, by the evidence left behind!