Table of contents
Pensioners’ Welfare Officer’s Report
Spring/Summer Programme 2010
The story of the new Bodleian Gargoyles
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Shropshire and the Welsh Marches
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Reports: Winter Talks 2009
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Lost Land of the Jaguar: the making of the TV series - George McGavin
Send a Cow - Neil Rowe
SPECAL - approach to managing dementia - Penny Garner
Lucys of Oxford - Richard Dick
Reports: Autumn/Spring Visits 2009/10
Inns of Court
Oxford’s Stained Glass
Science Oxford Live
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Reception for newly-retired
Carol Service and Christmas Lunch
Special Interest Groups
Spanish Conversation Group
Bowling in Witney
Oxford Preservation Trust
Oxford Open Doors
Flu Vaccine Research
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Change of address
Those who have contacted us since the last issue have been generous in their
comments on the new design of the
. We hope to include more articles on
current University news in future so please let us know what you would be interested
in. As a start, Laurence Reynolds gives us his impressions of the ‘new’ Ashmolean
and we have followed the trail of two of the new gargoyles on the Bodleian.
The next issue will mark the 20
anniversary of the
. If any of you were
involved in the first issue in Michaelmas 1990, we should be delighted to hear from
The year 2009 ended on December 31
with a crisp clear night
illuminated by a blue moon, calculated by the modern definition of
the second full moon in a month. This is a much easier
calculation to make than the traditional method, which divides the
year into seasons, and, in a season which has four full moons,
identifies the third as a blue moon. The frequency of blue moons
is similar by both calculation methods (two to three years), but
they’re not the same moons.
The New Year started with heavy snow, which looked beautiful but made it
difficult getting around. I felt very privileged to be retired, and able to choose what
to do (in my case, spend a few hours cross-country skiing from my home) without
pressure to get in to work. Looking back at the winter so far, the visits and the talks
have all been popular, with numbers at the talks getting close to the capacity of the
Engineering Department lecture theatre. The Christmas carol service and lunch
were also very well attended, and I’m especially grateful to all the people who
helped with the service. We had a splendid after-lunch presentation from David
Acheson, combining mathematics and music in a satisfyingly original way. We’d
had to make the decision to dispense with the mulled wine reception this year, as
Exeter College had realised that the prices they’d charged us in previous years
were simply not economic, and the cost of the wine had been increased
significantly. We’ve been warned that the food cost will have to increase for the
next Christmas lunch. We feel that we’re made very welcome by Exeter College,
and the Hall is always beautifully decorated, so we’d like to continue having
Christmas lunch there as long as we can. If you have any views about what
features of the lunch are important, please let me know.
The Association continues to thrive, supported by the enthusiasm of the
Committee members. Our Secretary, John Harding, has reached the end of his
original commitment, but has generously agreed to stand for re-election for one
year. We are looking for his successor, and if you would be interested, I’d be very
pleased to hear from you. The Committee meets five times a year, lively occasions
at which trips, talks and visits are planned. The Secretary circulates the papers for
the meetings and produces the Minutes, and can be influential in developing the
programme of activities, the detailed organisation of which can be left to other
Committee members. Please contact me (or John) for further information, and
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consider joining the Committee as a co-opted member for a year, without
commitment, to discover what’s really involved. You would be most welcome!
is also thriving, and I’d like to encourage you to write articles for it,
perhaps about your memories of your job before retirement, or with details of a
project you’ve undertaken since retiring, or an exposition of a particular interest. If
you have suggestions for anything you’d particularly like to read about, do please
Editor, Geraldine Peissel.
Finally, a reminder that the website http://users.ox.ac.uk/~aoup carries the
, and details of the current programme. Please contact me or the
Webmaster, Elaine Grande, if you have suggestions for additions to these pages.
With all good wishes
Pensioners’ Welfare Officer Report
Last November I finally completed my two-year
probationary period as Pensioners Welfare Officer.
Never before in any of my roles with the NHS had I done
more than a three-month probation but on my arrival
here I soon learnt that this is the University's standard
time for all academic-related jobs. Now I find it hard to
believe those two years have passed so quickly.
One of the initial challenges of the role was finding my
way about not just the city but the county so my constant
companions were the city map Mrs Pensom kindly gave
Marie Hough, (formerly Hawksby)
me when she retired and the county map I bought. This
turned out to be an excellent buy and is now well thumbed although it does not
always help when I am trying to find those of you who live in villages with just house
names. Multimap is useful but I like the challenge of navigating and I am pleased to
say I have not yet found the need to have a Satellite Navigation system. One of the
other challenges was tuning into some of the terminology that had evolved around
people’s jobs at the University. I always thought a scout was a young boy who
promised to do his best … to help other people, but now I know differently.
My working week is generally very varied. Sometimes I have several requests for
help so spend time resolving problems on people’s behalf and other weeks I spend
more time coming out and visiting. My usual working day starts with some time in
the office so it is a good time to catch me on the ‘phone as I try not to visit too early
unless by request. I am likely to be able to call on between four and six people each
day depending on how long I stay and if I am attending to specific needs for people
or whether I have just called to see how you are. I have continued as Mrs Pensom
did and just call in when in your area as it means I can stay as little or as long as
you need. I continue to routinely visit the over 75s but am more than happy to call
on anyone before that age if they want to see me.
Life as we get older throws up many challenges and I am pleased to be able to
talk through them with you and hopefully resolve them where I can. Some of the
more usual things I have helped people with are applying for benefits, particularly
attendance allowance and pension credit, tax and pension queries, concerns with
care packages and daily living equipment and adaptations, blue badge applications
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for disabled parking, helping people access the Anchor Small Repairs Service.
Some of the more unusual things have been arranging a tree surgeon for a
pensioner, dealing with the land registry office and having the pleasure of taking Dr
Jon Whitely to view a pensioner’s collection of china with a view to it being left to the
Ashmolean. I do try to call on anyone that has been bereaved and if I am told of
anyone housebound due to frailty or ill health. Please do not hesitate to call me no
matter how small you feel your query is; I am here to help and support you all.
As well as visiting I do spend time trying to keep up to date with changes and
developments in services for older people and am supported by Sam Ellis, Head of
Pensions, for funding to attend study days and seminars. Last term I attended
several informative seminars at the Institute of Ageing on Banbury Road
During my visits so many of you have told me of the wonderful places you worked
in that I decided to put some time aside each month and come to Oxford and visit
these places myself and I have not been disappointed. I look forward to visiting the
Ashmolean now its refurbishment is complete and look forward to discussing how
you have received the changes. No doubt we will also talk about the developments
for the Radcliffe Infirmary area.
I am continuing to attend the University Club on the third Tuesday of the month
from 2 - 4pm. It is a nice place to meet for a meal or just a drink and a chat. I look
forward to seeing you there although I understand some of you find it a little far
from the bus service.
Finally, just to let you know that I got married in November so its just the name
that has changed.
From the Postbag
Dear Editor, I wondered if it would be possible to include more articles about the
University - its development generally, department, colleges, museums etc. … a
profile of an individual and their sphere of interest. Letters and comments could be
Dear Editor, The
is always something I look forward to receiving and
reading. Issue 39 seems to have become even better. The reports of talks, outings
and tours seem especially detailed and interesting giving great vicarious pleasure,
particularly to those of us who no longer manage too well.
The quizzes and word puzzles are challenging, the funny stories a joy, they keep
the face muscles exercised.
Thank you to all who make it possible.
Spring/Summer Programme 2010
Talk by John Banbury ‘From Feverish Foundations: A short
history of development of Hospitals in Oxfordshire’
24 & 31 March:
Visits to Jesus College
Stained Glass tour
Cosmopolitan London, including Neasden Hindu Temple
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5-day excursion to South Wales
Baddesley Clinton & Packwood House
President’s Garden Party
Buckingham Palace and the Queen’s Gallery
5-day visit to Lincoln
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard HMS Victory and Mary Rose
The story of the new Bodleian Gargoyles
When it was discovered that nine crumbling gargoyles on the Bodleian would need
to be replaced, the University and the Oxford Preservation Trust decided to launch
a competition for local schools to come up with designs under the heading
“Millennium Myths and Monsters”. We thought it might be interesting to talk to one
or two of the people involved in the process. We chose two of the gargoyles, ‘Three
Men in a Boat’ and ‘Tolkein’s Myths to Monsters’ and asked their designers and
their art teachers how they had approached the task and then visited the two
sculptors who interpreted the young artists’ ideas.
Henry Chadwick, told me that reading
Three Men in a
gave him his inspiration. He says he was “ecstatic”
when he knew he had been one of the chosen winners.
He very much enjoyed meeting Mr and Mrs Peever, the
sculptors, and learning the process by which carvings
are made and seeing his own gargoyle taking shape.
Henry’s art teacher at Christ Church Cathedral School
is David Cotterill and he told me “It was with great
interest that I learnt of the competition, and to tell the truth, I was rather envious of
the situation … what a prospect to have a gargoyle designed by yourself, carved in
stone and then installed on the Bodleian Library and to rest there, perhaps for
hundreds of years!”
“The more we thought about it the more it became evident that if anybody was to
win such a wonderful prize then our thoughts would have to be channelled to
something more specifically ‘Oxfordish’. The shout went out…find the stories,
wonderful, weird and funny. One of the first literary connections that came in was,
Alice in Wonderland
, closely followed by the
saga, hot on the
heels of the
Lord of the Rings
Three Men in a Boat
found its way to the
Artrooms… Henry picked it up and ran with it. After several drafts and thoughts
about dogs and oars the design was really finished.”
“I was so pleased for Henry when the gargoyles were finally unveiled - it was a
lovely Oxford occasion. And I’m still envious…”
Alex Sermon, was inspired by Tolkein. He is a pupil at John Mason School (JMS)
in Abingdon and told me how he had developed his idea. “Firstly, my design was
based around a project we were doing within our GCSE course. The theme was
gargoyles and 'Myths and Monsters', of course, and I decided that to make the link
between Oxford and literature strong, I would base something around JRR Tolkein
who had a large role within Oxford, and that’s when I came up with the idea of
creating one of his characters from his books, which I really enjoy.”
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He was unable to visit the sculptors at their studio but they kept in touch with him
by e-mail “and it was very exciting to know how they were creating my design and
how it was going for them. Also, their comments on how easy or difficult my design
was to make was very intriguing for me. All of the experience was fun and exciting.
From when we started it two years ago, I would never have thought my design
would be any good on paper let alone eventually appear on the Library! I hope it
survives as long as possible and that, in future, everyone will enjoy it and people
close to me, my friends and family will be able to look up and remember what the
gargoyle means and feel proud that I designed it.”
Alex’s teacher, Claire Pennington, writes the following:
“When I received the flyer advertising the competition our department had already
decided on the theme of Heroes and Villains for our first GCSE unit of coursework
with the new Year 10 cohort. The competition fitted brilliantly with the theme and we
liked the cross-curricular potential to link it with local history and literary references.
The students began the project by researching and studying existing Oxford
gargoyles. They then considered the purpose of the Bodleian library and many
chose to develop ideas to do with Oxford authors or literary characters to link with
the library. Students collected images and research on their chosen subject and
then developed and experimented with various ideas and caricature methods
before completing refined designs to submit to the competition with an
accompanying paragraph to explain their ideas.
The student response was fantastic - the added incentive of the competition
really inspired them to push themselves to perfect their designs and consider their
aims thoroughly. They had to work to a tight external deadline which also stood
them in good stead for the rest of the course.
The two students who won were not our identified ‘top’ students, but the
confidence that winning the competition gave them projected them forwards
(particularly Alex, who was always quite a reserved student) in their attitude to their
work. It was brilliant to see their self confidence develop throughout their GCSEs
and Alex is now focused on continuing with art and design as a career after A levels.
I am immensely proud that some of JMS’s artwork
is quite literally on public display for centuries to
come in one of our most visited cities. Seeing the
gargoyles unveiled in September was a particularly
proud and memorable moment in my teaching
career (and as an Oxfordshire resident) and I am
really pleased and grateful that we were given this
opportunity by the Bodleian and all involved.”
Once the winners had been chosen, planning
Alec and Fiona Peever in their studio
permission had to be sought and English Heritage
consulted. Professional sculptors then had the enjoyable task of realising the
children’s ideas. We went to visit Alec and Fiona Peever to see how they had
approached the commission. They work together in their studio near Charlbury and
Fiona gave us a description of how they proceeded once they had been given the
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She researched each subject, re-working them
and making clay models before the stone could be
carved in such a way that they would be clearly
seen from below the Bodleian building, and angled
correctly so that rainwater would not gather in the
nooks and crannies where it might soften the stone
or crack it in cold weather. Bath stone was
selected as it was the right colour and was
available. Each block took about six days to carve
and, as Alec explained, each piece of work
The nine chosen drawings
evolved as he went along.
They held a workshop for the winners so they
could get some idea of how sculptors work which
included setting them the task of drawing a Green
Man and making a model.
It seems to have been an inspired exercise that
has given a large number of people pleasure and
has added another generation’s comment on
contemporary society to the Oxford skyline for
many decades to come.
The reopening of the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology
It is difficult to know what to call it: neither ‘New Ashmolean’ nor ‘refurbished
Ashmolean’ will do; the former because, from the outside it is still the ‘Old
Ashmolean’ that we see, albeit cleaned to be sparkling and fresh, and, broadly
speaking, the collections are still the collections that were there before (although by
no means all of them were on display); the latter because what has happened has
been far more than the word ‘refurbishment’ conveys. It has, in fact, been a
; as if a wand had been passed over or a veil removed, so that we
see everything afresh.
Yet, if you knew what was there before, it is probably not the collections that you
will see on your first few visits. The spatial impact of the new build is so
overwhelming that, for the time being, you wander round in a daze. And the wonder
of it is that these huge, airy volumes and vistas that draw the eye across, through,
upwards, horizontally, diagonally, are all, Tardis-like, created within a shell,
practically invisible from the exterior, that occupies no more than the footprint and
external dimensions of the previous building but with double the display space.
Rick Mather’s new build engages harmoniously with C R Cockerell’s work and
actually restores to some of Cockerell’s grand neo-classical gestures their original
impact, which had been diminished by subsequent accretions; in particular the view
from the main entrance into the museum, previously blocked by a mezzanine floor,
has been opened out and the dignity of the pillars and tall arch reinstated. The new
views outward from Mather through Cockerell are equally felicitous and, at the time
of writing, given an added touch of magic in the dusk by four chastely illuminated
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Mather has added two spectacular staircases to
Cockerell’s grand sweep: the one in the great light-well
of the new building lightly traces a series of graceful
tos and fros through six storeys; uninterrupted views
can be had from a multitude of view points on various
levels, and it is soothing to stand in the fading light and
watch the movement of people up and own the subtly-
lit stairs, from right to left, and left to right.
The other staircase, which rises through four
storeys, it would be insulting to call ‘back stairs’
because it is graced by a tall west window which looks
out onto a newly opened vista down part of Pusey
Lane and Beaumont Buildings across St John’s Street
to Worcester College and Wytham Hill beyond. On a
stormy evening with a lurid sunset (which is how I saw
it in skeletal form during the topping-out ceremony early in 2008) this is going to be
a spectacular viewpoint, especially as you can now turn round to see the other
feature of this staircase - a cloud of portrait busts from the Chantrey Bequest, not
hitherto on display and now hovering magically in the stairwell against a wall of the
The overall architectural impact of Cockerell plus Mather is so successful that one
is almost tempted to say ‘Never mind the collections, just feel the spaces’. But the
museum staff wouldn’t thank me for suggesting that; and quite rightly too, for what
we actually now have is a setting worthy of the collections and one which admirably
serves both didactic and recreational ends.
A huge investment of thought has been given to the redisplay of the collections.
The fine detail to which this was taken can be judged from one of the current
Making the New Ashmolean
, where it can
be seen that every single object to be displayed was
mapped to scale on charts. Two main characteristics
will be evident in the redisplay. First, and most
obviously, the organizing theme of
- stressing cultural connections and
influences rather than pointing out cultural differences.
This has dictated an orderly progression in time from
the lower ground floor up. On each level spatial and
cultural contiguity is represented by the positioning of
the galleries. Links through time can be reflected by
vistas from one floor to another: the eye is drawn and
new connections are made. Interesting objects
glimpsed from afar can draw you on or, as was
pointed out to me by a parent, can throw a lifeline to a
child whose attention might be wandering from the immediate surroundings. The
didactic underpinning is not oppressive, either for adults or, I imagine, for children.
Timelines and thematic paths are there for those who wish to follow them; but the
building happily accommodates those who prefer to flit as the fancy takes them: as
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you stand in the light-well in the Mather building you are offered an enticing
selection of windows to look through, bridges to cross, and burrows to run down.
The second characteristic of the new displays is that, on balance, they are more
selective, or ‘thinner’ as the jargon has it, than what we might recall of the higgledy-
piggledy nature of
of the old cases, particularly amongst the archaeological
exhibits. Now that I have
the redisplay - rather than relying on what I recall
from overhearing curatorial discussions during the planning stages - I am less
conscious than I thought I was going to be of any loss through ‘thinning out’.
Indeed, some galleries or individual displays still rely for their impact on mass
exposure - the splendid Marshall Collection of Worcester porcelain, Yue greenware
for the tea ceremony, the Chantrey busts, or a case crammed with Greek funerary
libation vases (an ironic comment, perhaps, by subject specialists on the way that
their displays have traditionally been regarded by the lay public?). Engaging with
the new exhibits also helps to refresh our encounters with displays that have been
carried over from an earlier period in the museum’s life: a case of row upon row of
minute Ancient Egyptian amulets, meticulously labelled in royal-blue ink, glows with
seemingly freshly-minted, jewel-like colour.
Far from underplaying the collections, the redisplay and the creation of additional
gallery space has allowed some fabulous material to emerge from hiding in the
reserve collections. For the first time the Ashmolean’s textiles and tapestries get a
proper showing, and the Money Gallery has allowed Cinderella to dress for the ball.
Also a revelation, because it was not one of the departments that had to be
decanted from the site during the redevelopment, although it did undergo a major
refurbishment, is the reorganisation of the galleries displaying European paintings.
There are now two delightful rooms devoted to landscape oil sketches of the 19
century. A larger room than was previously devoted to Britain and Italy in the 18
century has allowed some much-merited escapes from the reserve, including a fine
and a sprightly oil-sketch by him of a fair in the Piazza San
Marco. Elsewhere, a completely unexpected show-stopper is Sir Joshua
Reynolds’s state portrait of
George, Second Earl Harcourt, his wife Elizabeth and
which has recently arrived at the Ashmolean as an
settlement of death duties, pending a government decision on its permanent
allocation. One can only hope that it will be allowed to remain here.
I believe that the Ashmolean in its latest incarnation will be as much-loved as
ever. It is a very comfortable place to visit: the ambient temperature is genial, not
stifling as in so many public buildings; there are plenty of places to sit and reflect, to
watch other visitors, and to dine or snack. And I was pleased, one late afternoon, to
find that surest of signs of a good and welcoming museum - a visitor snoozing
peacefully and contentedly in front of a masterpiece.
Shropshire and the Welsh Marches 14-
18 September 2009
Hereford Cathedral 14 September 2009
We arrived at Hereford at 2.20pm hoping to visit the Cathedral and to see the John
Piper Tapestry and the Mappa Mundi and the Chain Library. We discovered,
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however, that the funeral of Sgt McAleese was taking place. He was killed by an
explosion in Afghanistan as he went to the aid of an injured comrade.
Sgt Paul McAleese the son of the SAS hero John McAleese, died on foot patrol in
the Sanguin district of Helmand Province on August 20
. He was a member of the
Bn The Rifles, and leaves a wife, Joanne, and five-month old Charley, who was
born a week before this father’s deployment to Afghanistan.
Around 1,000 mourners packed Hereford Cathedral and hundreds more filled the
surrounding lawns outside to pay tribute to him. There was also a guard of honour
of the Royal British Legion. Many of our members saw the two beautiful black
horses, black plumes on their headgear, who stood motionless with the black and
white glass carriage. We all stood quietly as the strains of the last hymn,
, were heard coming from the Cathedral, and the tears began to fall.
Such a waste of a young life. Then came a Scottish piper playing a lament and a
trumpeter sounded the Last Post.
The coffin, draped with the Union Jack and borne by six of his comrades, was
followed by the many mourners and Mrs McAleese with baby Charley in her arms.
We waited while the Union Jack was carefully folded on the coffin in a very special
way, before being placed in the carriage. Having lost my husband, Peter, in
October last year, this occasion was the more poignant to me.
As the horse and carriage moved away, there was a ripple of loud applause from
the many people standing outside the Cathedral. I am crying myself as I type this
article, such a sad start to our holiday to Shropshire and the Welsh Marches.
We arrived at Erddig having been given a good
introduction by Carlos who told us it was the
second most visited National Trust property in
the country and we later learned it was the
winner of UKTV History ‘Britain’s Best’ Historic
House. It is a curious property because you do
not see the house at first, but enter through a
series of outbuildings used by the estate
servants, including kitchen, laundry, bake house,
stables, sawmill, smithy and joiner’s shop. There
Carts at Erdigg
by Bernard Hickey
were several vintage cars, carriages, and
bicycles on show, and horse drawn carriage rides were available for disabled people.
The grounds were stunning, 1200 acres in extent, and near the house were colourful
formal gardens, and walls covered in trees full of tempting fruits!
The story of the house is interesting as it was built in the 1680’s by Joshua
Edisbury who became bankrupt through disastrous speculations and the house
then came into the possession of a wealthy London lawyer who in turn bequeathed
it to his nephew Simon Yorke. Erddig remained in the Yorke family for nearly two
and half centuries. The last owner, Philip Yorke III, offered the rather decayed
property to the National Trust in 1973 and extensive restorative work had to be
done before the public were admitted for the first time in 1977. There was no
electricity, apart from a generator to enable Mr Yorke to watch television. The
house, grounds and contents were handed over complete on the understanding
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that all the many beautiful treasures within were left as they were. The most
interesting part of the Erddig story is the long relationship between the Yorke family
and their servants. This is wonderfully revealed in the servants’ hall with portraits
dating from the 1790s complete with doggerel verse about each servant written by
Philip Yorke I. This tradition was continued by succeeding Yorkes, with
photographs and graphic verses displayed in a long corridor in the servants’
The main house was equally interesting, particularly the dining room, rather dimly
lit, but with a table laid as it would have been at the turn of the twentieth century.
On the sideboard was a book of table layouts, kept by the second wife of Philip
Yorke II, together with menus and comments on the entertainments provided. The
arrangement of the Saloon is based upon a photograph taken in 1908 showing
much of the original furniture bought in the early 18
century. The music room was
especially interesting as it not only had a grand piano with pianola, but a Victorian
neo-Gothic organ, a Regency harp lute, musical boxes and an Edison phonograph.
The bedrooms were all lavishly furnished and colour-coordinated, the most
stunning being the State Bedroom which houses the magnificent 1720 State Bed.
By the 1960s this room, in particular, was suffering from subsidence, with rainwater
pouring through the ceiling on to the bed. The Victoria and Albert Museum carefully
conserved the bed which is now back in the State Bedroom. There was a charming
nursery, with many toys on display, some of which had been made by the estate
The Gallery, like those in earlier Tudor and Stuart houses, was where family
portraits were hung and exercise could be taken on wet days .
Erddig was not a large house, but every room within it was full of historical
interest and the genuine concern the Yorke generations showed for all their
servants made it a very special visit indeed. It is certainly a place we will hope to
Trude and Bernard Hickey
Attingham Park is, to me, the quintessential late 18th century mansion - no wonder
it is so architecturally strong. The picture gallery and the splendid staircase were
designed by John Nash. Humphrey Repton made proposals for the landscape and
most of them were carried out by Nash.
The first Lord Berwick, born Noel Hill, got his title for services to the government
of William Pitt. His son had great pleasure in buying works of art for the new
mansion but to such effect that he went bankrupt and the entire contents had to be
sold. It fell to the 8
Lord Berwick and his wife to furnish the house with the lovely
things we see now. Some of the original pieces were recovered and today there is
a very good collection of furniture and pictures and in the basement a vast
collection of silver and silver gilt is on display.
Although grand, the house does not seem to threaten or overpower and it is not
difficult to imagine family life there. During the Second World War an airfield was
built to the east of the park, with rows of Nissan huts in the park itself. A girls’
School from Birmingham was evacuated to Attingham but with the arrival of the
airfield the girls departed. The house was then requisitioned by the WAAF and
eventually was used by the Shropshire Education Committee for adult education.
Before Lord Berwick’s death in 1947 it had become obvious that Attingham was no
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longer viable as a private house. James Lees Milne (of the National Trust) came to
stay for a few days and he and Lady Berwick worked on His Lordship who fought
tooth and nail to keep his beloved house but in the end had to submit. The Trust
seems to be doing a splendid job of restoration, keeping the house and park open
and welcoming. From some of the rooms there was a delightful view, beyond the
Tern Bridge on Watling Street and between the trees, of the Stretton Hills.
On a fine but chilly Wednesday morning Carlos
led us to the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron and
to the remains of the 1638 furnace where
industrial history was made. Thanks to Abraham
Darby and his family and associates, Quakers
all, we are today able to enjoy the many
advantages of modern life which we take so
much for granted: travel (without trains and rails?
I don’t think so), and heating (the evolution from
iron grates to central heating boilers and radiators for instance) to name just two.
These pioneers found ways in which to smelt iron in huge quantities with coke
instead of charcoal, and Carlos was able to give us detailed information on how this
was done in front of the very furnace where this took place. Impressive, especially
as this was over 300 years ago, when alchemy was still the rage.
The museum was very interesting too, with its history of the Iron Masters and
articles which had been exhibited at the Victorian Great Exhibition. Wonderful
garden seats, tables, fire surrounds, huge statues of dogs, and such things as
mowers and Agas - all in cast iron. Very heavy kitchenware too - kitchen staff had
to be very strong in those days! We then walked up to the two elegant but simple
Darby houses, positioned so that they could keep an eye on the foundry. The whole
family was involved in the iron process, with Sarah Darby holding the reins until the
next male Darby could take control when he reached adulthood.
We managed to see the Iron Bridge itself when we had a brief photo stop, and
then on to the Victorian Village. The entrance was an eye-opener: we felt as if we
were in the middle of a foundry, with noise, fire, and sweaty workers handling pipes
containing molten iron. Outside the little shops were a joy, many of them manned
with very helpful assistants eager to impart their knowledge. The baker sold good
bread too. Also there were chickens, pigs and a horsedrawn cart.
All too soon the visit came to an end and, tired but much better informed about
the industrial revolution, we climbed back onto the coach and were whisked off to
our comfortable 21
Stokesay Castle - September 2009
Stokesay Castle is situated in really beautiful countryside just a few hundred metres
west of the busy A49 and running southwards from Church Stretton.
We only had an hour before closing time but it is a small property and an hour
was enough. So, after a quick refreshing
cuppa from the absolutely minute
kitchen in the timbered Gatehouse I wasted no time in my tour of this delightful,
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The excellent English Heritage guide book says “Stokesay Castle is a truly
remarkable survival, a fortified manor house that has hardly altered since the late
century. It is more domestic in character than military”. It contains no furniture.
It has a roughly square footprint (approximately 150’ x 150’) and is walled on
three sides. On the east wall is the Gatehouse. The Manor House buildings
completely fill the western side. Stokesay was built by a local wool merchant,
Lawrence of Ludlow, in a relatively peaceful period during Welsh border raids,
hence the lack of massive fortifications. It appears that he employed the same
skilled carpenter (consistent set of carpenter’s marks) throughout the ten-year
period of building from 1281. Sadly Lawrence died in a ship-wreck in 1294, so did
not enjoy his lovely new home for long.
There is a huge hall with a tower at either end. It is likely that communal meals
were taken there by the whole household - lord, family, servants and guests. A fire
burnt in a hearth to warm those at the high table.
With considerable care I climbed the medieval staircase alongside the north wall
of the hall - a remarkable unusual survival. From it, I got a close view of the cruck
roof - a new technology for that age which enabled the wide span of the hall to be
cleared with one truss. This staircase gave access to accommodation in the
Northern Tower. The guests who used it would have felt extremely comfortable in
the spacious room with a huge fireplace and many windows with very fine views.
Servants probably slept in the hall but the lord
and his family enjoyed luxurious private apartments
in the Solar Block to the South. There is an elegant,
comfortable living room with beautiful Jacobean
panelling on the first floor. I was very taken with the
two cunning little shuttered windows either side of
the fireplace through which the lord could keep an
eye on the goings on in the hall, down below.
The South Tower provided further
accommodation possibly used by the lord and his family to sleep in. Battlements
aloft and a drawbridge at the entry to the tower gave it a defensive capability
(lacking in the Solar Block).
I climbed the tower to these battlements and enjoyed the gorgeous views of the
rolling Welsh landscape in the distance. I fell into a reflective mood and wondered
what the medieval lords who lived here so long ago would think if, miraculously,
they were transported forward in time to join me on the tower top. I mused that, if
their ears worked, they would surely be in a state of sheer panic at the incessant,
unholy roar coming from the A49 but, maybe, if unable to hear and, standing with
their backs to the road and looking west to Wales they might not find it so very
different from what they were used to.
Chirk Castle is a paradise for small boys. Perched high on a hill on the
English/Welsh border, it stands ready for war. A young person, looking upwards,
could easily picture the now-mullioned windows as arrow slits. Or conjure up some
fierce English soldiers on the battlements ready to pour boiling oil on the Welsh
beneath. The Welsh would already have struggled across the moat, now, alas, dry,
but still discernible. The oldest courtyard has a 30m-deep well, dug near the Adam
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Tower, the oldest part of the castle, which remains almost untouched by time. From
the Guardroom, a sinister dark and narrow spiral staircase leads down to the
dungeon. In an upper room, when we were there, a teacher was explaining how
you made an arrow to a group of attentive children.
But it isn’t all for children. The inside of the remaining part of the Castle has been
almost completely remodelled, redecorated and refurnished by Pugin and other
artists of the Gothic Revival and is very beautiful. The state dining room is
exquisite: of moderate size and in pale subtle colours. Of the many other rooms, I
would choose the Long Gallery as the most outstanding. It is much wider than usual
and contains a multitude of portraits and fine pieces of furniture. There was not time
to explore all of the vast garden but we could admire the yew topiary, and wonder
at the skill of the Welsh ironmasters who, from 1712 to 1719, made an exquisite
pair of gates. Chirk is a wonderful place. We were so lucky to see it.
If you have not yet visited Powis Castle then I
strongly recommend that you get yourself there as
soon as possible. Its impact is quite overwhelming -
it is, indisputably, a place with wow factor. Built of
red gritstone quarried from the crag on which it
stands, the first stones of this mediaeval stronghold
were laid in the 12
century, probably by Owain
Cyfeiliog, warrior and poet, Prince of southern
Powys from 1160 to 1197, the work eventually being
completed by his great grandson, Owain, around 1300. In the 16
Herbert family took possession of the castle and over the years have transformed it
into a magnificent dwelling. In 1629 William Herbert was created 1
and the present Earl of Powis retains an apartment here.
‘Y Castell Coch’ (The red castle) stands in a commanding position high up above
the Severn Valley. The views are stupendous. Standing on the top terraces with the
gardens falling away from you steeply, Autumn colours of reds and purples, ochres
and golds, outline the terraces and streak the grass. The flowers are indeed
wonderful but the real glory of the garden lies in the great rolling mountains of
clipped yew. Some of them centuries old, the yew hedges sweep down the incline
in massive billowing waves; at its highest point ‘big hedge’ measures 52’, and a
hydraulic lift is required to trim it. Yet more yews are planted in tumps along the
terraces. These tumps are not presented in a formal fashion, but shaped
individually giving the impression that it is Nature that has determined their
positions. From the bottom of the garden looking up towards the castle the effect is
that of green clouds swirling towards you over the terraces. It really is a stunning
Within the castle the treasures are abundant and various, each room containing a
wealth of fascinating objects. I really loved the atmosphere of this place. I had the
powerful feeling that Shakespeare might pop out of one of the doors at any
moment. Elizabethan lords galore look down from the walls and I was especially
delighted to find a portrait of William Herbert, 3
Earl of Pembroke, Shakespeare’s
patron, to whom the first Folio is dedicated. He is to be found in the Long Gallery, a
wonderful room decorated by Sir Edward Herbert between 1587 and 1595. The
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intricate plasterwork, the fireplaces and the beautiful elm floor all date from that
time. The eye-boggling
panelling was added at the beginning of the
We watched some of the restoration work which is being done in the presence of
the visitors. The lengths to which the Trust is prepared to go in order to ensure
authenticity is extraordinary. I felt quite envious of the artists and artisans at work
there. What a lovely job!
Finally in the Clive Museum we saw some of Clive of India’s treasures, brought to
Powis by Clive’s son who married the last of the Powis Herberts. His tent, a very
ornate colourfully embroidered affair very far removed from anything you might see
on a camp site today, is on display, as is his camp bed, again gloriously
unrecognisable as such.
Our final visit on our Shropshire Tour, which might
loosely be described as “The National Trust Trail”,
perhaps brought us to the most romantic house of
them all Wightwick Manor (pronounced “Wittick”).
Situated in charming gardens it is hard to believe it
stands only three miles from the centre of
Wolverhampton. It was built in 1887, extended in
1893 and lovingly decorated and furnished over
some one hundred years by the Mander family,
owners of a paint and varnish company, before being handed over to the National
Trust in 1937. The Mander family purchased the land upon which an earlier house
stood but it was demolished with some of the timber being used for the new manor.
The 1887 manor was designed by Edward Ould, architect of a Liverpool firm, his
clients drawn largely from successful industrialists who wanted moderate-sized
homes reflecting their status. Co-incidentally one such client was Lord Leverhulme
and Ould designed the model village at Port Sunlight. Ould also designed the
extension to Wightwick in 1893 due to the growing family’s need of bedroom space
and the desire to entertain on a larger scale. He cleverly combined various old
architectural styles both inside and out so creating a sense that Wightwick had
evolved gracefully over centuries rather than just a mere six years! This style was
called Old English though the second stage reflects his growing preference for
designing wholly timber-framed buildings. Many of his stylistic ideas came from the
Cheshire area and some members may have been reminded of the wonderful
Elizabethan ceiling at Speke Hall when they looked at the ceilings of the Drawing
Room and Billiard Room.
The Entrance Hall was small initially, but opened out in 1893, and though we
might claim it was gloomy it contrasted with the bright and lovely Drawing Room
where the ladies of the house would entertain. There is a lovely inglenook in which
four delicately designed and stained glass windows by Kempe depict the four
seasons. Evidently Kempe was a close friend of the family and according to our
excellent guide these were given to the Manders. It is in this room that we see the
beginning of the Mander fascination with William Morris and other members of the
Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. However, despite the enormous range of fabric
designs used in Wightwick we were informed that Morris never visited the manor,
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although his daughter May did, and that the fabrics were purchased mainly from
catalogues. In a room displaying artefacts created by De Morgan, paintings by Lord
Leighton and others there is one painting that stands out because it epitomises the
fascination the Brotherhood had with red hair in their portrayal of women. The
portrait by Rossetti of the dark haired Jane Morris, was evidently finished by Ford
Madox Brown and he depicts her with abundant red hair.
The main room of the house, the Great Parlour, built in 1893, is medieval in
character although evidently the minstrels’ gallery is at the wrong end of the hall
and the bay window would not have been centrally placed if it had been authentic.
Equally the magnificent Kempe frieze of Orpheus and Eurydice, based on that in
Hardwick Hall, reflects the admiration of the Victorians for medieval decoration and
design. In the dining room while music played the guests would sit admiring the
eastern carpets, and enjoying the Kempe stained glass which celebrates St
George, St Andrew and St Patrick (strangely no St David). Once more we see
items from the Morris factory and De Morgan artefacts but the most outstanding
painting is that of “Love among the Ruins” by Burne-Jones.
It is impossible to do justice to the richness and magic of Wightwick Manor in a
(All photographs for these articles supplied by Maggie Bishop)
But I fear my brain declines
To grasp how two revolving lines
Can give a cooling tower a waist -
Why not a corset tightly laced?
At Powis Carlos drew aside
An unsuspecting castle guide
Became himself the commentator
To explain the workings of a regulator
But even he can fall from grace;
For on arrival at each place
Carlos doesn’t miss a trick - its
“Just wait here, I’ll get the tickets”
Hail! Carlos, King of Engineering
We’re anxious to get on the track
Our thanks are due to you for steering
We wait ....
and wait ....
till he comes back!
Your motley charges round this region,
And still to come, the tour of Wightwick,
Its history rich, its treasures legion
Carlos, our analytic critic
Attingham, Erddig, Ironbridge, Chirk,
Of Kempe, de Morgan, crafts and arts,
Stokesay, Powis, wondrous work
And Morris, man of many parts
You have achieved; we are bewitched
If you come unstuck on all those Pre-
By glorious buildings, Our lives enriched
Raphaelites, just ask Marie -
By confronting that ‘Lancashire’ despoiler
The Queen, the perfect holiday Rep
The ‘Babcock non-exploding boiler’
This year’s mantra, “Mind the step!”
And Darby’s furnace fuelled by coke -
You smooth our path, cure all our ills,
Like you he was a clever bloke
Collecting our prescription pills
And you explained it with such passion
You count us out, you count us in,
We understood it in this fashion -
At outings end and days begin
We needed an industrial revolution
But I’m a teeny bit afraid
And IRON PIGS were the solution!
That she who has to be obeyed,
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Is guilty of the sin of greed
As Carlos is to iron pigs
Esther’s fruits she covets, she’d
So is Marie to juicy figs
Steal them from her plate, our Queen
And just to show we really care,
If she could manage it unseen
One prickly pear for you to share
Winter Talks 2009
George McGavin -Tropical Wanderer: The Lost Land of the Jaguar 21 October
Oxford University has a great expedition tradition, through both departmental and
undergraduate members. George came to our October meeting to regale us with
tales of daring-do in the interests of conservation and exploration. For members
unfamiliar with the making of television films they must have been surprised to see
how much planning was necessary and the vast amount of equipment that was
required to support a quite small group of scientists in the field. In addition to a
great deal of jocularity we were all made aware of the great care that was needed
to ensure the safety of their film-makers and scientists, though it was clear that the
greatest dangers were likely to emanate from human activities rather than those
posed by the local flora and fauna.
As rising human numbers pose a far greater threat to our survival than climate
change, although the two are closely interwoven, the pressures on the natural world
become greater and greater as even the remote
areas are exploited for timber and other
precious resources. Even his small group,
observing and collecting for no more than a few
weeks were able speculate that many of the
creatures that they recorded were new science.
There is always a great thrill when you find an
animal or plant that you have never seen
before, but that adrenalin-rush becomes that
much greater when you realise that nobody
Large Stick Insect (Eurycantha sp) BBC
(you think) has ever seen it before. Here, we
always have to remember that species that are new to us and our science are
probably well known to the local people with whom
we share these near-pristine environments.
George’s passion for his insects was a great
feature of his talk and I could feel some of members
of the audience cringing with horror as he allowed
the massive but harmless stick insect to walk up his
arm. His well known pleasure in eating large insects
was postponed for another day to our great relief.
I have always believed that all lectures should be
both informing and entertaining. George McGavin (or
Giant bird-eating spider, Theraposa
blondi, the biggest spider in the world:
McDudu as he is known in Swahili) was both of
Jin Packard, BBC
these and with a large slice of hilarity to boot. We
look forward to his promised adventures in Bhutan next year. Please can we all
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Send a Cow - Neil Rowe 18 November
I have been to the lecture on Send a Cow twice and was fascinated by the whole
arrangement. The Charity was started by a group of farmers who deal only with
villagers and not through governments. Consequently the aid to each village has a
knock-on effect and everyone benefits either directly or indirectly.
Send a Cow helps African farmers grow enough food to feed their families, sell
produce and develop small businesses. They contact the villages and find who
needs help and who will be a suitable candidate for a gift. They are then trained for
approximately six weeks and when they are considered able, the Cow, Goat or
whatever is appropriate will then be delivered. The balance of practical farming
skills with social and life skills is a potent mix and produces remarkable results.
SPECAL: approach to managing dementia - Penny Garner 9 December
Penny Garner’s lecture on the SPECAL approach to managing dementia was both
well attended and well received. SPECAL (Specialized Early Care for Alzheimer’s)
is a charity based in Burford which offers a model or metaphor for the disorder and
an approach to its management. The aim is “contented dementia”.
In brief, the model is of the mind as a photo album with photos taken and stored
continuously from birth. Each photo is made up of both facts and their associated
feelings. With dementia, blanks in the album appear, the facts vanish but the
feelings, both painful and happy remain. The helper needs to use this model to
understand and support the dementia sufferer, using the intact photos to find the
interests and skills that are still there, and avoiding the kind of questions that lead to
the person coming up against the blanks.
Mrs Garner illustrated her approach with role play. The talk was interesting and
moving. While we should note that this model has not yet been scientifically
evaluated, it was encouraging to find out about a new way of thinking about people
with dementia and of interacting with them.
Lucys of Oxford - Richard Dick 20 January 2010
We had a wonderful talk by Richard Dick, Chairman of W Lucy and Co, the iron
foundry in Walton Street (the Eagle Works) on Wednesday 20 January. The
company is nearly 200 years old and has been managed by Richard's ancestors
(his grandfather and father) for the last 100 years. The main area of the business is
the supply of electrical equipment and castings to customers in more than fifty
countries. In the past they built the shelving in the bookstacks under the Radcliffe
Camera and the lamp standards in St Giles. One interesting story is the technique
used for making the lamp standards. The poles are extremely long and had to be
straight and hollow. They were cast around a rope which burnt away but they had
to be cooled very slowly. The solution to this problem was to collect the dung from
Port Meadow and wrap it round the poles to ensure that they cooled at the right rate
and did not crack! Nowadays one item of iron made by the foundry (now in Witney)
are the lovely railings round buildings in the city. The magnificent gates to the old
foundry are still in place at the Eagle Works and are a reminder of the past. It was
very interesting to learn more about a local industry and how it has developed and
diversified over the years.
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Reports of Autumn Visits 2009
Inns of Court: Legal London 23 September
When this outing was announced we thought it would be popular but never
expected to have three coaches to fill the demand!
We started at an impressive Grade 1 listed building, erected in 1888 as the Law
Courts branch of the Bank of England. It was designed in the Italianate style, very
appropriate for the lawyers’ bank and now being very well used as a rather grand
Pie and Ale house. Had I known it was built on the site of Sweeny Todd’s pie shop I
would perhaps have chosen something other than a pie for lunch!
We then crossed the road and very carefully walked the few minutes down the
uneven, cobbled Middle Temple Lane into the courtyards of Middle and Inner
Temple and the Temple Church. This was built by the Knights Templar and
consecrated in 1185 by Heraclius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, in the presence of
Henry II and most of the great men of England. The Templars were a powerful and
wealthy order of soldier monks who had come into existence as a result of the
Crusades and undertook to protect pilgrims by keeping open the pilgrimage routes
and maintaining peace in the Holy Land. Little more than a century later the
Templars had ceased to exist. They were abolished by the Pope, their great wealth
seized, and most of the Knights were put to death throughout Europe on the same
day, Friday 13
in 1307 - a day still regarded as being unlucky! The church is in
two parts, the Round, built to resemble the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at
Jerusalem and the Chancel. Disaster overtook the church during the Second World
War when the Inner Temple was destroyed and only the structure remained. It was
fully restored after the war, fortunately without replacing the Victorian
embellishments, and is now open to the public on certain days. It was one of the
hidden gems of London until Dan Brown wrote
The Da Vinci Code
- alas no more.
We retraced our steps to visit the Royal Courts of Justice which was the last
major Gothic building to be erected in London, and was opened by Queen Victoria
in 1882. It contains over a 1000 rooms and became the permanent home of the
Supreme Court. Prior to this building the courts had been held in Westminster Hall,
Lincoln’s Inn and various other buildings around London. Parliament paid £1.5m for
the site which displaced over 4,000 people living in 450 houses. The building was
paid for in cash, accumulated in court from the estates of the intestate to the sum of
£700,000. There is a very grand entrance hall with steps leading off to the court
rooms. Members of the public can enter any of the court rooms but, beware, the
judges take a very dim view of the slightest disturbance.
Our final visit was to Middle Temple which looks very uninteresting from the
outside but is magnificent inside. It is one of the four Inns of Court, and all barristers
must be accepted by one of them before practising. Constructed over a ten-year
period and finally completed in 1583, there is no record of the cost, but the work
must have been very expensive as leading craftsmen were brought in to produce a
showpiece that could compete with anything in the palaces and stately homes of
the day. The woodwork is superb with a double hammerbeam roof and an amazing
wooden screen. Still central to the daily routine of Middle Temple lawyers, this
remarkable hall is one of London’s great survivors. The Great Fire of 1666 left it
unscathed after the wind changed direction and wartime bombing destroyed only
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the wooden screen at the eastern end of the hall. The pieces of wood to the very
splinters were collected and, with financial help from the American Bar Association,
the screen was completely restored. A dining hall of this quality had as much to do
with attracting patronage as it did with serving the needs of members. Middle
Temple was well favoured by Elizabeth I and she was both benefactor and guest.
The Queen would sit at the 29’ long table made from a single oak tree, presented
by the Queen from Windsor Great Park. It was in this hall that the Chamberlain’s
men gave the first performance of Shakespeare’s
Windsor Castle 12 October 2009
Our visit was blessed with a gloriously sunny day which showed off the autumnal
colours of the trees splendidly, especially in the Thames valley near Marlow. To
someone who had not been round Windsor Castle before it was a revelation. Built
only 20 years after the Conquest, originally as a defensive position, it became a
royal residence due to the opportunities to hunt nearby. Consequently it has been
well maintained and extended over the centuries. The art on display is astounding -
Leonardos, Holbeins, Van Dycks, amongst many other famous artists - and every
state room has something of beauty or grandeur. Also noteworthy is the extensive
collection of porcelain. The views from the terraces of the surrounding countryside,
are splendid. We took advantage of the pass-out system to have lunch in the town
before returning to see St George’s Chapel, which alone would justify a visit to
Windsor. The extensive renovation work following the fire in 1992, and costing
some £40 million, has been carried out superbly, demonstrating that modern
craftsmen can match the skill of their illustrious forebears.
Stained Glass in Oxford Walking Tour 20 October
The second tour of stained glass windows took place on 20 October, under the
expert guidance of Marie Ruiz who started by giving us an outlook on the
development of coloured and painted glass, on the techniques of framing the
panels into a scene.
As we are fortunate in Oxford to have a rich choice of stained glass, it was a
matter of selecting some, and this time Marie included the chapels of Merton, and
of Lincoln College. We also visited the less well-known chapel of Harris-Manchester
(Unitarian) College, which was a delight. Its windows, representing graceful
feminine figures, allegory of virtues, or angels with fiery wings, set in intricate
foliage, date from 1895 and are by William Morris. This chapel offers a beautiful
harmony of style. By contrast, Christ Church Cathedral, where we started the tour,
is rich with glass from all ages. The oldest medieval window contains a small centre
panel representing the murder of Thomas Becket, a jewel which might well have
been passed unnoticed. We admired the Jonah window by Abraham van Linge
where the main figure is made of rich blue stained glass, whilst the rest of the
window, the town of Nineveh which he contemplates, consists of small panels of
painted glass offering a luminous and detailed vision. My favourite was the colourful
St Frideswide window by Burne-Jones with its numerous and detailed scenes
showing the adventures of our local saint.
This was an exciting tour. Marie has kindly offered a third one in the near future
[18 March] for those of us who could not be accepted.
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Science Oxford Live 12 January
Despite the snow, a small group of members met at the venue in St Clements for a
brief overview of the work being done by Science Oxford Live. I had noted the old
Humphries Car Showroom had a new occupant but not really taken on board the
use it was being put to.
In 1985 the Oxford Trust was set up by Sir Martin and Lady Wood when there
were no innovative centres or science parks. By 1990, a small interactive science
gallery had been set up in the Old Fire Station and during the next 15 years it was
visited by over 150,000 people, a large proportion of which were primary school
children. In 2005, Science Oxford was launched to give the people of Oxfordshire
the best of scientific thought through lecture and exhibition programmes.
Oxfordshire has an incredibly active environment supporting innovation in business,
education and public outreach. Science Oxford is a large comfortable area where
one can enjoy displays of information on a range of natural topics such as weather,
its extremes, geology etc. We were invited to sit down whilst Don Mead, the Chief
of Staff, gave a brief rundown of what the enterprise is aiming to achieve. We were
given examples of how Oxford and indeed Oxfordshire has in the past been a place
where scientists have worked and inventions have been ‘born’ i.e. Francis Bacon,
balloonist James Sadler, radio was first discovered, penicillin was worked on, and
DNA fingerprinting was discovered amongst other things.
As we know, Oxfordshire is unique in that there is a cluster of experimental
establishments around the county where technologies such as information and
communications, medical and bioscience, precision instrumentation, environmental
and motor sport are all to be found. It is with this in mind and with the idea of
keeping Oxford at the front of Science that Science Oxford is now going forward,
especially by engaging with schools and making it fun as well as educational for
There are lots of ‘toys’ to tease the brain which provide a stimulating, interactive
learning experience for pupils, set in real-world contexts and showcasing the work
of Oxfordshire’s high-tech economy. The whole aim is to sustain the region’s world-
class status by nurturing an entrepreneurial culture, supporting innovation and
inspiring the next generation. I, for one, will be taking my grandson there.
Reception for newly-retired staff - 24 November 2009
There were fewer new pensioners than usual this
year but this may have been because we had not
received the full list from the University Offices.
However, those who did come seemed enthusiastic
and enjoyed wine and refreshments in the elegant
surroundings of the Divinity Schools. The Chairman
welcomed everyone and Sam Ellis from the Pensions
Office introduced himself as did the Pensioners’
Mr Sam Ellis,
Head of the Pensions Office
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It was a good opportunity to get to know a little of what the Association offers and
we look forward to seeing you during the coming year.
Christmas Lunch 18 December
The Christmas lunch was again held in Exeter College dining hall, which was, as in
previous years, beautifully and festively decorated. The Hall was full - more than
150 members - and after the pulling of crackers and the donning of bright paper
hats (for many if not all!), we ate a traditional Christmas lunch. The guest of honour
was Dr David Acheson, and during coffee he
entertained us both intellectually and musically.
He explained to us the fascination that
mathematics held for him from a young age,
and illustrated its unexpectedness by providing
each table with pen and paper, and getting us
to do some arithmetic. The task was to write
down any three figure number in which there
Charles Mold (organist) and David Acheson
was a difference of at least two between the
(entertainer, mathematician and musician)
first and last figures, and then to obtain a new
number by reversing the figures. The smaller of these two numbers was then to be
subtracted from the larger. The answer was then added to its own reversed
sequence, and each table was invited to show the result - 1089 in each case!
David then illustrated the link that mathematicians traditionally have with music by
playing his own compositions on his electric guitar, providing echoes of the music of
the sixties. It was a magnificent ending to a most enjoyable occasion. Incidentally,
anyone wanting to be reminded of his mathematics and his music will find more
information on http://home.jesus.ox.ac.uk/~dacheson.
Special Interest Groups
If there is anyone who would like to run a group to pursue a special interest, then let
Editors know details so that we can advertise them for you.
Spanish Conversation Group
We would like to introduce the Spanish Conversation group which meets about
once a month. We discuss anything from topical subjects to the weather, fashion,
modern music, Spanish traditions and food etc. The linguistic ability ranges from
complete beginners to native speakers. We indulge in coffee (or tea or any other
alternative) and biscuits or anything else that takes our fancy. Anyone wishing to
join us would be most welcome. Please contact Carlos and Marie Ruiz on 01865
Don’t forget there is a thriving
French Conversation Group
. If you are interested,
then contact Mireille Steer on 01865 764589.
Bowling in Witney
Have you thought of trying your hand at indoor green bowls?
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Join us for a taster session with qualified coaches to show you how it’s done. We
have booked the venue for
for a two-hour session starting at 10.00 am.
The cost will be £3.00 each. Refreshments may be purchased afterwards.
Places will be limited.
Contact Mavis or Ian Hale on email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone
on 01993 881368.
Oxford Preservation Trust
The Oxford Preservation Trust is Oxford’s own national trust, with 80 years of
experience of owning land and buildings to protect the character of Oxford and its
green setting. The Trust prides itself on its positive approach to Oxford in the 21st
century and makes an important contribution by owning and giving public access to
over 700 acres of land, carrying out conservation projects, taking an active interest
in planning and running its own education programme.
Go to www.oxfordpreservation.org.uk to find out more about its work, become a
member or a volunteer.
Oxford Open Doors - 11-12 September 2010
This innovative project has become a highlight of the Oxford Calendar. Organised
by the Oxford Preservation Trust with the support of the University of Oxford, it
allows public access to some of Oxford’s oldest and newest buildings, little known
corners and unusual places. With over 75 venues involved, visitors see a huge
variety of different buildings and places making Oxford come alive in a fascinating
Volunteers are needed for 2010 so if you are interested go to
www.oxfordopendoors.org.uk to find out more.
Oxford University cutting edge flu vaccine research
Flu can be a serious illness, especially in older people who bear the burden of
severe disease. As the virus mutates its outer coat, traditional vaccines only protect
people against very specific strains and need to be re-formulated every year to
allow for this. Also as we have seen with the recent pandemic, new flu viruses can
occur for which no vaccine is available. Our team at Oxford University, headed up
by Dr Sarah Gilbert, are developing a vaccine that targets some of the internal
proteins of flu, which are conserved across all sub types of influenza A. We have
tested this vaccine in 43 healthy people aged 18-45 so far, and it has been safe
with generally mild, short- lived side effects. The vaccine also boosts immunity
which we assess by blood tests throughout the study. We now need to see if the
vaccine is as safe and effective in an older age group of healthy volunteers.
If you would like some more information on volunteering you can call or email the
Volunteer Coordinator on 01865 857406 or VaccineTrials@well.ox.ac.uk.
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Pensioners’ Crossword No 11
Manner of the teacher on a graduate course? (8)
Conclusion loved by the likes of 63 (5)
12. Where the chief exploiter of 3 down was born (7)
13. Reptile (3)
15. Aerial flotsam? (3)
16. Be wary if you are dealing in metric weight (2)
17. OS series of special interest to a 50 (10)
19. Good prefix in Greek but more commonly known in the upper case (2)
20. For a scientist peculiar seriousness in short (2)
21. A claw rather mineral than animal or vegetable (4)
22. Initial combination in words from Greek (2)
23. A gentleman in our President’s native land (2)
24. And an old coin there (4)
26. Reading experience for Oscar Wilde (6)
28. A geographical term rarely heard except on Boat Race day (4)
30. Thatcher’s friend (6)
33. Abbreviated alias (3)
34. Your favourite short form (2)
35. Palindromic belief (5)
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37. Characterises primary school-teachers and soon will the legal and medical
42. A country in 19 (2)
43. Suffix in 42; article much used by 23 (2)
44. The eldest of 3 sisters (4)
45. Shylock is remunerated (4)
46. A Greek letter - or a gathering of ladies (2)
47. A northern city with a handicap (4)
48. Avoider of animals? (5)
53. Instruction of Morse’s inventor to printers? (2)
54. The impersonal third person singular (3)
55. An officer in short (2)
56. These are experiencing expansion despite the recession (6)
59. Stevenson asks for this of a 7 down (4)
62. Arch but not roguish (4)
63. see 40 down (8)
66. College fit for rowers etc (9)
67. And for food enhancer (5)
What your compiler hopes to do (4,5)
Omen defied by the Prince of Denmark (6)
Great Britain, for example (2)
A system of light metering (3)
Easier confused when I leave (5)
Dial a circle of flowers at the nursery (4,1,4,1,5)
see 59 across (3)
An insect on the leaf makes quite a showy display (7)
Possessive adjective (3)
see 52 (2)
Rock bottom placed by top person (10,5)
A roll especially in the North (3)
A river in Siberia and source of Pushkin’s hero? (5)
Pharmacist and proprietary brand (3)
Informal name of a pet (4)
East Midlands post-code or French article (2)
Egg cells (3)
Scottish port (3)
Trinity’s symbol (7)
Happiness in the Ancient World (9)
Carol is also a boy (4)
40 and 63 across. Did this learned scientist equate to ten elite brains? (6,8)
41. Albanian writer of epic and grandson of folk-song collector (4)
46. Batter especially in Rugby (4)
49. An irregular verb in almost all languages (2)
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51. An English traditionalist would insist on the hyphen; nobody would in the USA
52. Two of the key words in a Turgenev title (4,2)
56. Sound engineers exclamation with a flutter (3)
57. Suffix usually denoting a comparative (3)
58. Used to describe some wines (3)
60. Who says there can be no plural of O? (3)
61. One of Swann’s favourite animals (3)
64. Gin accompaniment (2)
65. An echo of 23 but with 60 you could make ramblers (2)
We hope you enjoy puzzling out the mixture of straightforward clues, anagrams and
factual teasers, some of which have an Oxford/AOUP reference. Send your answer
by 3 April 2010 to
, 2 Bell Close, Cassington, Witney,
OX29 4EP. A modest book token will be awarded to the correct solution drawn by
lot during Eastertide.
Answers to Quiz No 3
The links are:-
(a) BUTTERFLY: Bauby wrote ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’; Puccini
composed ‘Madame Butterfly’; and the writer Nabokov was also a
lepidopterist; pleurisy-root, Asclepias tuberosa, is also known as butterfly-
(c) WINCHESTER: Simon Winchester, a St Catherine’s graduate, has written
biographies of Needham and of James Murray; the latter lived on
Banbury Road, where no 56 is Wykeham House; and Winchester was the
capital of Wessex.
(d) CLARE: John Clare was the poet; Clare in Suffolk; Clare College; and
Clare of Assisi.
(e) POLISH: Bug is a Polish river; Lot the airline; Police a small town; and the
Polish Corridor separated East Prussia from the rest of Germany.
(a) The first national pension in the UK was introduced in 1908.
(b) The year 1099 began a sequence of 104, the longest so far, of years with
a repeated digit.
1949 in Combe.
These were the libraries where Philip Larkin worked.
(c) Hailey near Witney has a pub called ‘The Lamb and Flag’ whereas Hailey
in the south of the county has ‘The King William’.
(d) Bletchingdon House.
(e) Trinity College, Oxford.
Charles Michel de I’Epée in the 1760s.
ELEPHANT, as in the ‘Just-So Stories’ Kipling has in ‘The Elephant’s Child’
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I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew)
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who
but Edward Lear’s ‘Nonsense Songs’ omit ‘where’:-
Who or why, or which or what
Is the Akond of Swat?
How about the following quiz show answers to make you smile?
University Challenge (BBC2)
Jeremy Paxman: What is another name for 'cherrypickers' and 'cheesemongers'?
Paxman: No. They're regiments in the British Army who will be very upset with you.
Beg, Borrow or Steal (BBC2)
Jamie Theakston: Where do you think Cambridge University is?
Contestant: Geography isn't my strong point.
Theakston: There's a clue in the title.
Contestant: Leicester .
Stewart White: Who had a worldwide hit with What A Wonderful World?
Contestant: I don't know.
White: I'll give you some clues: what do you call the part between your hand and
White: Correct. And if you're not weak, you're...?
White: Correct - and what was Lord Mountbatten's first name?
White: Well, there we are then. So who had a worldwide hit with the song What A
Contestant: Frank Sinatra?
Late Show (BBC Midlands)
Alex Trelinski: What is the capital of Italy?
Trelinski: France is another country. Try again.
Contestant: Oh, um, Benidorm.
Trelinski: Wrong, sorry, let's try another question. In which country is the
Contestant: Sorry, I don't know.
Trelinski: Just guess a country then.
Contestant: Paris .
The Weakest Link (BBC2)
Anne Robinson:- Oscar Wilde, Adolf Hitler and Jeffrey Archer have all written books
about their experiences in what:- Prison, or the Conservative Party?
Contestant: The Conservative Party.
Beacon Radio (Wolverhampton)
DJ Mark: For £10, what is the nationality of the Pope?
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Ruth from Rowley Regis: I think I know that one. Is it Jewish?
Bamber Gascoigne: What was Gandhi's first name?
GWR fm (Bristol)
Presenter: What happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963?
Contestant: I don't know, I wasn't watching it then.
RTE Radio 2fm (Ireland)
Presenter: What is the name of the long-running TV comedy show about
pensioners: Last Of The ...
Phil Wood Show (BBC Radio Manchester)
Phil: What's 11 squared?
Contestant: I don't know.
Phil: I'll give you a clue. It's two ones with a two in the middle.
Contestant: Is it five?
Richard and Judy
Q: Which American actor is married to Nicole Kidman?
A: Forrest Gump.
Richard and Judy
Leslie: On which street did Sherlock Holmes live?
Contestant: Er . . .
Leslie: He makes bread . .
Contestant: Er . ..
Leslie: He makes cakes . .
Contestant: Kipling Street ?
Lincs fm Phone-in
Presenter: Which is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world?
Presenter: I was really after the name of a country.
Contestant: I'm sorry, I don't know the names of any countries in Spain
National Lottery (BBC1)
Question: What is the world's largest continent?
Contestant: The Pacific
Rock fm (Preston)
Presenter: Name a film starring Bob Hoskins that is also the name of a famous
painting by Leonardo Da Vinci.
Contestant: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
The Biggest Game in Town (ITV)
Steve Le Fevre: What was signed, to bring World War I to an end in 1918?
Contestant: Magna Carta?
James O'Brien Show (LBC)
O'Brien: How many kings of England have been called Henry?
Contestant: Er, well, I know there was a Henry the Eighth ... er...
ER ... three?
Chris Searle Show (BBC Radio Bristol)
Searle: In which European country is Mount Etna ?
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Searle: I did say which European country, so in case you didn't hear that, I can let
you try again.
Caller: Er ...
. Mexico ?
Paul Wappat (BBC Radio Newcastle)
Paul Wappat: How long did the Six-Day War between Egypt and Israel last?
Contestant (after long pause): Fourteen days.
Daryl Denham's Drivetime (Virgin Radio)
Daryl Denham: In which country would you spend shekels?
Denham: Try the next letter of the alphabet.
Contestant: Iceland? Ireland?
Denham (helpfully): It's a bad line. Did you say Israel?
Phil Wood Show (BBC GMR)
Wood: What 'K' could be described as the Islamic Bible?
Contestant: Er . ..
Wood: It's got two syllables . . . Kor . . .
Wood: Ha ha ha ha, no. The past participle of run . .
Wood: OK, try it another way. Today I run, yesterday I . . .
Melanie Sykes: What is the name given to the condition where the sufferer can fall
asleep at any time?
Lunchtime Show (BRMB)
Presenter: What religion was Guy Fawkes?
Presenter: That's close enough.
Steve Wright in the afternoon (BBC Radio 2)
Wright: Johnny Weissmuller died on this day. Which jungle-swinging character clad
only in a loincloth did he play?
Several people who attended the Carol Service before the Christmas lunch asked
to see the poem read by Marie Ruiz, which we print below. Ed
A Soldier’s Christmas
The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the garden to a winter delight;
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve
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My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream
The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child
"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he said "It's really all right,
I'm out here by choice
I'm here every night
"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times;
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me
My Grandfather died in France ' on a day in December,"
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gran always remembers
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of Burma
And now it is my turn and so, here I am
I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue
a Union flag
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a trench with little to eat
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall
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"So go back inside," he said, "harbour no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right
"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
"Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us
Michael Marks, 2000
Mr Peter Nye
, 13 February, Reader in Soil Science and Founder Fellow, St Cross
Miss G M Ledger
, 19 April, Librarian, Department of Education
Mrs Barbara M Burden JP
, 7 June, widow of the Rev Stanley Burden
Miss Elizabeth Mary Buxton
, 9 June, Librarian, School of Geography
Mrs Margaret Cripps
, 21 June, Accounts Clerk, Department of Zoology
Mr Roger David Batham
, 7 July, Steward, Christ Church College
Mrs Margaret Mary Sheard
, 10 July, Caterer, Hertford College
Mrs Beryl I Robinson
, 12 July, Steward, Christ Church
Mr Christopher P Pritchard
, 19 July, Senior Common Room Assistant, University
Mrs Connie Kelland
, 20 July, Senior Clerk, University Appointments Committee
Mr Albert Bennett
, 28 July, Porter, Taylor Institute
Mr Allen Royston Bolley
, 30 July, St Cross
Mrs Marion M Dunstan
, 31 July, Library Assistant, Bodleian Library
Mrs Janice Lewis
, 11 August, Accounts Clerk, Department of Biochemistry
Mr Ernest M White
, 18 August, University Offices
Mrs Greta J Ilott
, 22 August, widow of Mr E H Ilott
Mr John F McKiernan
Mrs Nita Lankford
, 25 August, Personal assistant, Nuffield Department of
Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Dr Irene Crawford-Bryce
, 12 September, Department of Zoology
Miss Jennifer A Morton
, 15 September, Library Assistant, Bodleian Library
Mr John Stinson Haywood
, 16 September, Department of Zoology
Mrs Jean M Silvester
, 18 September, widow of Mr Peter Silvester
Mr Michael Carroll
, 20 September, Deputy Butler, St Catherine’s College
Mrs Isabella Cunningham Dixon Wall
er, 26 September, University Scout, Taylor
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Mr Brian T Greer
, 27 September, University Messenger, Central Services
Mr George Melson
, 6 October, Deputy Chief Accountant, University Chest
Miss Joan Lillian Hartley Cracknell
, 11 October, Senior Medical Secretary,
Nuffield Department of Surgery
Mr Bryan G R Cannon
, 14 October, Maintenance Technician, Sir William Dunn
School of Pathology
Dr Martin Birch, 17 October 2009
, Curator, Hope Entomological Collection,
Emeritus Fellow, Lady Margaret Hall
Mr Ronald Martin
, 23 October, Department of Educational Studies
Dr John F A Mason,
31 October, Librarian, Christ Church
Mr Hugh A S Disney
, 2 November, Printing Press Manager, University Offices
Mrs Irene B J Dear
, 3 November, widow of Cyril Addison Dear
Mrs Jennifer Blake
, 15 November, Secretary to the Provost of Worcester
Mrs Elizabeth James
, 22 November, Lincoln College
Mrs Margaret Sparrowhawk
, 25 November
The Rev Herbert E J Cowdrey
, 28 November, Fellow and Tutor in Modern History,
St Edmund Hall
Mrs Gillian Powell
, 8 December, Mailing Room Assistant, Careers Service
Mrs Iris Gilmour
, 13 December, widow of Mr James Gilmour
Mrs Sheila Bradbury
, 14 December
Mrs Hazel G Earl
, 17 December, St Hilda’s College
Mrs Marion R Illing
, 19 December, Catering Assistant, Department of
Mrs Judith D Freedman
, 20 December, widow of Professor Maurice Freedman, All
Mr Austin Jones
, 21 December, Energy Conservation Engineer, University
Mr Geoffrey B Marshall
, 21 December, Department of Atmospheric Physics
Mr David Pinfold
, 26 December, Technician, Department of Materials
Mr Douglas G Saxton
, 6 January, Technician, Clarendon Laboratory
Mr Laurence J Sharpe
, 9 January, University Lecturer, Public Administration,
Mr Derek K Winney
, 10 January, widower of Mary Winney, Careers Service
Mrs Grace B Donnelly
, 15 January, Ruskin College
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reaches you regularly, will you please record any
change in the address to which the magazines should be sent on the above form
and send it to:
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c/o Beaver House, 23-38 Hythe Bridge Street, Oxford OX1 2EP