Crediton & District



We have monthly meetings of general interest, a great opportunity to listen to entertaining speakers and to find out what else is going on in our U3A.

Meetings are usually on the third Wednesday of the month , at the Boniface Centre in Crediton Starting at 10.00 am Tea or coffee and biscuits included all for the price of £1.50 . There are also occasional Zoom presentations.

Please respect others’ vulnerabilities and worries by keeping a distance. We want everyone to feel comfortable but we know that some feel more comfortable and safe among crowds than others. Please also come warmly dressed as increased ventilation may well reduce the room temperature.

We now have reserved seats at the front of the hall for the harder of hearing.

Upcoming monthly meetings
May 15th 2024 Ashley Jones on "The Nobel Prize" A history of the World's most prestigious International Prize.

2024 program

June 19th 2024 Martin Pailthorpe "The Hero's of Telemark and the Raid on Norway" Hitler's Atomic Bomb is Thwarted

This Years talks so far

April 17th 2024
Rosemary Griggs ‘An Audience with the Lady Katherine and a peep inside her wardrobe’.
Rosemary took up historical research in her retirement. By dilgent research and experimentation, she has learnt how to construct how to the complex dress of the Tudor period.
Her talk was most entertaing as sometimes it was Rosemary talking to us and sometimes, Lady Katherine.
Lady Katherine was born in 1519 in Devon, At 12 years old she was betrothed to Otho Gilbert and they had a daughter and three sons. After her 1st husband died, she married Walter Raleigh (not the one with the cloak). They had one daugther and two sons. Their youngest son was Walter Raleigh (of the cloak fame). Katherine lived in Palace Gate, Exeter in her final years.
Through her personna of Katherine, Rosemary told us of the rules (sumptuary laws) governing people’s clothing in Tudor times. These laws were partly about maintaining the status of the different levels
of society but they aere also aimed to protect our own wool trade, the wealth of medieval England being built on wool.
For example, trading in the pink dye, cochineal (carmine), was controlled by Spain and so not readily available to us. Any pink cloth had to be imported, and so this not favoured. Elizabeth I also introduced a law that any man below the rank of gentlemen must wear a cap made of English wool and finished only by guild members. Again, this was to protect the wool industry.
Katherine told us how her dress showed her status as a wealthy lady. The bottom layer would be a shift/chemise made of linen. This could be washed. Everything elase was kept clean by brushing. Next there would be a layer that gave shape and support to the top half. These were called ‘a pair of bodies’ today we would think corset. Then there would be a petticoat, maybe made of red silk, and the farthingale, hooped to hold the thick dress material. Over this would go the underskirt, which could be seen at the front and so had a fine panel that was visible, although most of it would be made of linen. Over all of this would go the gown. The gown would be made of rich material and was kept together by
pins or laces. Detachable sleeves were popular as this made the costume easy to update as fashions changed.

March 20th Peter Isaacson on " Medical Detection Dogs" Super Sniffers
Peter represents the charity ‘Medical Detection Dogs’. He came to talk to us about just two ways dogs can effectively help us in ways just not possible by other means. The charity was founded in 2008 by Dr Clare Guest. She realized that dogs’ acute sense of smell can be trained to detect unusual chemicals emitted by our bodies and thus give us early warning signals of disease. Some dogs have been trained to detect early signs of cancer, Parkinson’s disease and infectious diseases such as COVID. In her book ‘Daisy’s Gift’ Dr Guest described how her own dog, Daisy, alerted her to her own early-stage breast cancer.
Other dogs have been trained as ‘personal assistants’ for people with particular problems. One disease where this has been particularly helpful is PoTS. This disease results in episodes where a sudden drop in blood pressure can lead to the patient collapsing and injuring themselves. The dog can give 5 minutes warning that an episode is about to happen, giving the chance for the patient to sit in a safe position. This allows people who were previously housebound to lead normal lives knowing they won’t collapse without warning. Currently the charity has trained assistance dogs to provide help for sufferers of PoTS, Addison’s disease and nut allergy.
Peter described how the dogs were trained. Not all dogs are suitable, and gundogs seem to have the best ‘nose’ Dogs may be specially bred but they also come from rescue homes, are donated or bought. It takes 18 to 24 months to train the dog for a particular odour. During their training they live with volunteers. Dr Guest is most insistent that the dogs live in real homes not kennels. The dogs are trained by using samples of urine donated by affected patients. This they can do very accurately. For example, a 2004 study showed that dogs were able to detect 70% of prostate cancers just from sniffing urine samples. Another study showed that the dogs were better that lateral flow test at detecting COVID.
In conclusion, Peter told us that medical detection dogs not only improve the life of patients but also save the NHS many thousands of pounds.

February’s talk: Brian Fernley ‘The Battle of Britain outside London: Exeter’s role in the conflict.
Brian came to talk to us from the South West Airfields Heritage Trust. They have two sites near
Exeter that are worth visiting, Dunkeswell Airfield Heritage Centre and Upottery Airfield Heritage
Centre; both near Honiton. However, there were other airfields around Exeter during WWII.
Brian told us that the Battle of Britain arose because the German military wished to gain air
superiority before an invasion. Most of the action happened in the Sout East but there were
battles all along the south coast, Weymouth being a particular target for the Germans. He spoke
briefly about the rise to power of the Nazi party and German rearmament. Britain was slow to
rearm after WWI, and in the 1930s, the RAF was small and old fashioned. However, the new
Hurricane and Spitfire aircraft proved significant in defending the South Coast when they came on
stream. There were three squadrons stationed near Exeter, 213, 87, and at the end, 601, and they
all flew Hurricanes. The officers were accommodated at the Rougemont Hotel, whilst the other
ranks camped out in tents.
Brian was able to tell us fascinating stories about individual pilots, based on the pilots’ own diaries.
Several poignant features became apparent. Firstly, the pilots were all young men. Most were
between 18 and 25. If you were over 30, you were likely to be called ‘the old man’. Secondly, large
numbers of aircraft were involved in each battle. This meant ‘friendly’ fire was a real risk.
Squadron leader Lovell Gregg was probably shot down by one of his own flight who failed to
identify his plane correctly. His plane crashed near Abbotsbury swannery and sadly he died. John
Cock was also shot down by a fellow pilot when he accidentally flew between the pilot and a
German plane which was under attack. Cock survived a crash into the sea near Portland Bill. He
ditched his parachute, shoes and trousers so that he could swim to shore. Alas, he recorded in his
diary, he realised too late that the trousers contained a five-pound note and he had to watch the
both float away!
The Battle of Britain lasted only from 10th July 1940 to 31st October 1940. In September, Hitler
ordered less priority to be placed on bombing British airfields and the Luftwaffe then moved on.
This was most fortunate for us, as more planes were being lost than made and Britain could not
have maintained its level of defence much longer
January’s Talk: Ian Gasper 'Refugees and Asylum Seekers in the UK’
Ian is a trustee with the charity ‘Devon and Cornwall Refugee Support’, DCRS. He came to talk to us about the plight of asylum seekers and refugees. He told us that more than 100 million people were displaced worldwide, however most (80%) of those displaced move to another part of the same country or to a bordering country. Of those people that come to Europe, relatively few come to the UK. Germany, France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Sweden all receive more than we do.
Even so, our asylum seeker system is unable to cope with the number of people who arrive. Ian made the distinction between a refugee/asylum seeker and an illegal immigrant. (For example, the small boats
migrants are largely considered as illegal migrants rather than refugees.) Only about 5% of migrants to the UK are asylum seekers. In 1951, the UN convention on refugees defined a refugee as, ‘someone who, owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, cannot return safely to their own country. It also states, ‘a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom.’ The UK was an original signatory to this convention but since then has narrowed the range of this definition by defining the countries that are considered unsafe by the UK government.

Those people who are eligible for asylum applications face long periods (sometimes years) living in poor conditions; unable to work. Ian explained the complicated process they have to go through before, or even if, they gain the right to remain in the UK. Asylum seekers have to prepare and present their case to the legal system with no help from the government. This is where DCRS comes in. They provide support for asylum seekers including legal advice, and medical and mental health support.
Ian only briefly mentioned the proposed link with Rwanda. But in his view, the link could make the asylum system worse. Ian gave a thought-provoking talk. Thanks so much to him for sharing the plight of asylum seekers with us.


For 2023 years meeting reports please click on the "Events in 2023" Link

for 2022 years meetings reports please click on the "Events in 2022" Link.

for 2021 years meetings reports please click on the "Events in 2021" link.