Worcester

Reports-Main Meetings

20th November-The Green Centre
"Courtyard Gardens" by Adrian James

What could be better on a dismal November afternoon than to be whisked off to sunnier climes in the expert hands and camera of a true photographic and gardening expert who obviously loves his craft.

Adrian took us through the ages which led to the development of these stunning gardens around the Mediterranean and Arabia. He explained how water was obtained from the snow melt of the mountains and tunnelled and piped to where it was needed. This system was such an incredible feat of engineering in ancient times that it still works today. The holes used for the spoil and for breathing for the workers can still be seen in lines across the desert.

The gardens were created in those parched lands to satisfy the natural human craving for water, shade, greenery and rest. The earliest garden was at Pasagadae in Iran. Although it is now a ruin, the shape of it’s vast expanse with walls, rills and orchards can still be viewed. There followed the building of these Paradise gardens by successive dynasties as they swept across Arabia, Spain, North Africa and eventually to India. Probably the most well known and accessible to us is the Alhambra palace in Granada.
Adrian explained that there are actually several of these wonderful Islamic gardens here in the UK, not least his own garden, Langdale, at Offenham which he and his wife open for charity. Also Chelsea winner Cleve West; The Pant, Abergavenny; Roundhay Park, Leeds; Lister Park, Bradford; Sezincote, near Morton in Marsh which is purported to be the best Islamic garden in Europe.
To view photos visit Adrian's website: adrianjames.org.uk langdalegarden.uk

6th November at St. Peter's Baptist Church
“Lest We Forget” by Sandra Taylor

‘Lest We Forget’ is a talk based on Worcestershire War Memorials and the casualties commemorated on them.
War memorials and Rolls of Honour have a long history, many dating back to Napoleonic times. Sandra has been researching those in Worcestershire for over 20 years and gave a lively and informative talk about them.
Memorials became more common after the Boer War as bodies were not repatriated. The numbers increased rapidly during and after the First World War. Families were not able to visit the graves of their loved ones, even when the locations of them were known, and the memorial became a focal point for their grief. Most villages had casualties and memorials were erected through public subscription. Over the years, the fallen from recent conflicts have been added to the lists. Most recently, this has included casualties from Afghanistan.
There are many different styles of memorials; the “Cross of Sacrifice” was a popular choice with committees tasked with setting them up. Less common are memorial windows and even a memorial lectern. Sadly, the years have not always been kind to some of them, particularly those outside. Some have weathered badly and are illegible, others have simply collapsed or have been vandalised.
Sandra chose to research the history of some of the soldiers listed on local memorials. The Isaac Brothers from Boughton House were both lost in the Great War. Old newspaper articles provided details and photographs of them from before the war and the National Archive at Kew had officer records which detailed where they saw action and lost their lives.
Not many women are recorded on war memorials despite many losing their lives in conflict. Several VAD nurses died when casualty stations were bombed. Very few were added to the lists to record this. Hereford Cathedral does have a woman figure in nurses’ uniform on their memorial but no name!
54 villages in the UK are Thankful Villages and 17 are doubly thankful. All their young men came home. These villages suffered years of shame because they had “Not joined the sacrifice or paid the price.” Now the Royal British Legion is putting up plaques in the Thankful villages to commemorate those who served but survived to come home.
Are these memorials a lasting legacy? The Commonwealth War Graves Commission takes care of war graves but cannot look after private graves. The CWC can place a marker on a grave site but not touch it. Local authorities have the responsibility to take care of the memorials but often have not the resources to do so. Sandra advised that if we know of a memorial in poor shape, we should contact the local authority but not attempt to clean the stones as this can cause further damage. Taking a record of what is there is very useful.
After her talk, Sandra took several questions from the floor. Her enthusiasm for her subject and her wide knowledge made for a very interesting and informative talk.

9th October at St Peter's Baptist Church

'Worcester's Wonderful Women'-Speaker: Miriam Harvey

We have been blessed in this area by a number of remarkable women who have excelled in their various fields over the last three centuries. Some are, perhaps, better known than others and Miriam took us through a thumbnail sketch of many which may whet our appetite for further investigation.

Firstly, Ellen Price was born in1814 into a family of 10 whose father was a glover. She had a curvature of the spine and spent time writing about people she knew. She married Henry Woods, a banker and became a successful novelist here and in America. Her most famous book was East Lynne which subsequently was made into a film. There is a Blue Plaque marking her birthplace in Sidbury, a memorial in the Cathedral and her grave lies in Highgate cemetery.

Hannah Snell 1723-1792, was born in Friar Street and unusually for a woman wanted to be a soldier. She did what she thought was the next best thing and married one. Unfortunately he deserted her when she had a child who died and she took off after him, enlisting as a marine, disguising her sex and being wounded several times. Her husband was hanged for murder. She ended her days as the first female Chelsea Pensioner.

Ann Elgar 1822-1902, nee Greening, the mother of composer Edward was born in Mealcheapen Street. She married in 1848 and they first rented a property in College Precincts. Edward was the forth of their children and was born at The Firs, Broadheath. He grew up surrounded by his musical family, in the Elgar Brothers shop in High Street, teaching himself several instruments and playing with his siblings. Sadly two of his brothers died. The family were Roman Catholic and Edward became organist at the church in Sansome Place, leading to Elgar’s difficulties with the Church of England authorities.

Vesta Tilley 1864-1952, is probably the best known of these ladies, born to a family of entertainment entrepreneurs, she appeared on stage as ‘little Tilley’ and grew up to be a famous male impersonator, although she was very feminine and attractive. Burlington Bertie was her best known role and she appeared in music halls widely including America.

Diana Ogilvy 1890-1955, was our first woman mayor whose imposing portrait hangs in the Guildhall. She became a non-party political councillor, a skilled organiser during the war and received an M.B.E. She was a Magistrate who judged with compassion at a time when this was not always the case. She was a philanthropist known for her no-nonsense attitude.

Sheila Scott 1922-1988 was a passionate aviator who became obsessed with flying following an air show on Pitchcroft. She won numerous awards for long distance solo flights, covering 34,000 miles, including over the North Pole.

Selina, Countess of Huntingdon 1707-1791 was an extremely wealthy lady who became horrified by the low morals of the society of the time. The upper classes cared nothing for the lot of their lower fellow beings and she resolved to change what she could. She joined with the Methodist preachers and financed numerous chapels and livings to the point of selling her jewels and property to pay for it. Our own Huntingdon Hall was a chapel, last service in 1979, rescued by the Civic Society and the Council and becoming a concert hall.

Jenny Lind 1820-1887 known as ‘the Swedish Nightingale’ was an opera singer of great beauty, a sweet nature and a wonderful voice. She toured all over Europe to great acclaim and was introduced to America by P. T. Barnum where she made a great deal of money. She came to Worcester and sang in College Hall to raise money to build the chapel at Worcester Infirmary. She married in Malvern and retired to live in Herefordshire.

Sarah Siddons 1755-1831 born in Brecon at first was too nervous to perform. She tended to act in tragedies and was the best -known actress of the eighteenth century. She came to Worcester and performed in what was then a barn behind the Golden Lion pub opposite the Guildhall. She was very successful with 4,000 people lining the route for her funeral in London.

Frances Havergal 1836-1879 was born at Astley, her father was a clergyman at St Nicholas church Worcester and a composer, as was her brother, Henry. Her Education was completed in Germany where she came to love the mountains and nature. She was an accomplished linguist and immersed in religion and music, she wrote poems and hymns many of which became popular and were published. She died young of peritonitis and is buried with her family at Astley churchyard.

Mary Herbert1858-1903 always wanted to be a nurse at a time when there was little or no training or status. She became an assistant matron and started the School of Nursing with the backing of Queen Victoria. She worked tirelessly to improve conditions for nurses and therefore patients. When she retired, she was presented with an illuminated address by local doctors.