Table of contents
Interview with the Vice-Chancellor
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The First President of the Association
A former Chairman
A former Pensioners' Welfare Visitor
Pensioners' Welfare Officer Report
Proposed amendment to the Constitution
Autumn/Winter Programme 2010
Reports: Spring Talks
AGM and Shirley Coates' Entertainment
The History of Hospitals in Oxfordshire
Reports: Spring Visits
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History of Science Museum
Museum of Natural History
South Wales Five-day Excursion
Go to 15
Go to 25
What the Butler Saw?
President's Garden Party
Spanish Conversation Group
Life after retirement
What it means to be a member of the AOUP
Pensioners' Crossword No 12
Go to 30
Solution to Pensioners' Crossword 11
The name of the game is ...
From the Postbag
Mice at the Pitt Rivers!
This is a very special issue of the
as we are celebrating the Silver
Jubilee of the setting up of the Association and the 20
anniversary of this
Our Chairman has been to talk to the Vice-Chancellor at the end of his first year
in office and we have messages from a few of the people who have been
instrumental in the development of the Association.
We would love to hear from anyone who would like to tell us what belonging to
the Association means to them and we have printed one such item by Roy Overall.
Keeping in touch with present members of the University, we have a piece by
someone without whom most colleges would be bereft - a Butler!
Many of our members do not ‘retire’ to a life of telly and slippers and many have
continued with other careers. If you would like to tell us about such activities, and
think it would be of interest and encouragement to others, please get in touch.
I wrote the last Chairman’s report shortly after the second full moon, or Blue Moon,
in the month of December 2009. It seems that the
cycle is a lunar one,
as today (26 July) is also a Full moon, known by various names -a Buck Moon
(since July is the month in which new antlers appear on deer), a Hay Moon, a
Summer Moon, a Thunder Moon and a Mead Moon - all fairly obvious for this time
of year. The alternative name Wort Moon apparently refers to gathering the worts
(from the Anglo-Saxon wyrt plant) for drying and storage. I had an interest in
astronomy as a child, but my recent interest in lunar mythology is undoubtedly a
consequence of retirement, with the lifting of some of the old day-to-day pressures.
It’s been a good six months for the AOUP. Social membership continues to rise,
and the second half of the winter season of talks and visits passed very
successfully. The numbers of applications for the summer trips has meant that we
have arranged a second bus for most of them. We’ve responded to requests for
specific outings, and we’re always pleased to receive suggestions for places to visit
and recommendations of speakers for the winter series. Roy Overall has
undertaken a survey of visits from 1990 onwards, going through past newsletters to
identify them. The pattern of winter talks and day summer visits was established
very early on, along with the occasional Oxford visit in one of the winter months. By
the mid-2000s, a monthly Oxford winter visit had become a regular occurrence. The
first longer holiday was a five-day visit in June 2003 to York, and a year later a
similar duration visit was made to Plymouth in May, and to the area round
Canterbury in September. The pattern of two visits a year continued, and in 2006,
the first visit to Spain took place, organised by Carlos and Marie Ruiz. We still
organise two longer visits a year, although the weakness of sterling has kept us in
I very much enjoyed interviewing the Vice-Chancellor, and learning of his view of
Oxford after nearly a year. One of the questions I asked him was whether he could
identify a role for the AOUP within the University, and you’ll see his reply. It’s a
question I’d like to pose more widely, as it seems to me that we’re potentially a
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powerful body of people, united by a past commitment to the University and/or a
College, and maybe we could still make a difference. Let me know if you have any
At the last AGM, we were charged with finding ways to spend some of our
accumulated funds. We have had discussions with the local Red Cross and have
arranged that their volunteers will pick up AOUP members who would like to attend
the winter series of talks, and they’ll bring them to and from the Engineering
Department. Similarly, transport would be available on the days when Marie Hough,
the Pensioners’ Welfare Officer, is in the University Club. The Red Cross are able
to provide either a car or a minibus, the latter to carry wheelchairs, so we hope that
this initiative will be good for members who don’t find it easy to get about under
their own steam. No charge will be made to members for this service, but it is
essential that I am given at least two full weeks’ notice of a request, either on 01865
721644 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The AGM next year will carry an item referring to a proposed change to the
Constitution. At present, AOUP membership is defined as in the phrase ‘All
members of the University staff and their partners shall upon retirement, and on
receipt of a university pension, automatically and without payment become
Members of the Association’, with a similar reference to ‘College pensioners’.
However, there are members of both the University and the Colleges who were not
enrolled in a pension scheme at the time of their employment, and it is wrong that
they should be denied membership. The proposed new wording stresses that
AOUP membership requires a pensioner to have retired
from University or
College employment (i.e. anyone who left the University or a College to move to
another position, and has since retired, is
eligible), but does not specify the
source of the pension. With all good wishes
Interview with the Vice-Chancellor
When Professor Andrew Hamilton was appointed as the new
Vice-Chancellor, it was suggested that I should interview him
for the AOUP
, and 2 July 2010 was agreed as a
suitable date. He was inaugurated on 6 October 2009, so this
gave him time to settle into his new job, and be able to
answer questions on the basis of experience.
In preparation for this interview, I looked at the University of
Oxford’s website and did a Google search on Andrew
Hamilton, and I discovered a lot of information and video
recordings of talks, and this made him seem very accessible.
I’ve included some of these weblinks in the text below for anyone who is interested
in further reading.
I started by asking what he had most enjoyed about his first year in office, and
whether there had been any particular surprises. He explained that, before his
appointment, he knew Oxford only through visits he had made over the years, and
that these had given him something of a feel for the place - but he had recognised
that the reality would turn out to be considerably more complex and stimulating -
and this was indeed what had happened. As an example, he had discovered all
sorts of research areas where the University of Oxford was active overseas as well
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as in England, and he quoted the work being done by the Oxford University Clinical
research unit in Vietnam, studying malaria, dengue, tuberculosis, HIV, typhoid,
avian influenza and a number of other infectious diseases. He had expected to
encounter many different views on any given topic, and this expectation had been
met, but it had been a surprise to discover that he would get different views from
the same person, depending on the context. Thus, an academic would have a
particular view as a member of the University, but as a College Fellow, a different
view - and different again as a resident of the city of Oxford.
Given that he’d identified the existence of different views from the University and
the Colleges, I asked what he felt about the tension that could exist between these
interests. He was very forthright in his view that this was a much-overstated
concern. Oxford has the special character of a collegiate university, but there is no
more conflict than occurs in other universities between departments. I agreed that
academics value having a foot in both worlds, but suggested that the experience of
University staff without College links could be rather different. He accepted this, and
mentioned that the University had had a Garden Party at Somerville the previous
day for current and retired University staff- and, incidentally, he joked, he’d noted
how fit and relaxed all the pensioners looked!
Following on from the mention of pensioners, I asked him whether he had any
thoughts about possible interactions between the AOUP and the University of
Oxford that don’t already exist. In response, he reinforced the relevance of AOUP in
helping to prepare staff for retirement and in demonstrating that a commitment from
the University to its retiring staff was lifelong, and taken very seriously.
My next question was about his research, and whether he’d managed to transfer
his group successfully from Yale to Oxford. His voice lifted with enthusiasm, as he
explained that his group was now in the Chemistry Department, and that he felt his
involvement with the research was essential to him -”it keeps me sane”, and also
made him part of the core activity in which so many others in the University were
involved. He described his research as being at the interface of organic and bio-
chemistry, creating new molecules which have not previously existed. These
molecules can bind to the surface of proteins, and can be used to disrupt biological
process, with the specific aim of targeting cancer cells. He’s no longer hands-on
himself - his researchers won’t allow him in the lab! - but he sees and discusses
research results on a day-to-day basis. He tries to get in to his lab two or three
times a week, but has discovered Skype as a wonderful way of communicating,
allowing him to see and talk with his team members, and study results that they
hold up to the camera. It’s almost as easy as being there, even when he’s the other
side of the world. More detail about his research can be found at
http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/News/2008/June/30060801.asp, and, for a more
technical version, http://www.chem.yale.edu/faculty/hamilton.html
I asked him whether he has specific activities that provide him with research
thinking time (using my own past journey by bike into the Engineering Department
as my example). He said that his walk from home to the VC’s office was very
valuable, although he finds himself turning over in his mind University business as
often as does research ideas. To his surprise, he’s come to value flights, since he
can’t be reached by mobile phone and his Blackberry is switched off!
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Finally I asked about his family. His wife, Jennifer, is English, and they left
England in 1981 when he became part of the brain drain, at a time when new
academic jobs in England were almost non-existent. He has three children, two
sons and a daughter, all in their twenties, the first being born while he was at
Princeton. All his children have gone through the American education system and
are indeed very American. He hadn’t planned to return to England, and had initially
declined the invitation from the University but he agreed to come to Oxford to
‘confirm his prejudices’ - and then found himself ‘beguiled’ to use the description of
his inaugural address, a copy of which can be found at
I came away from my interview feeling that, despite his conversion to Oxford
being so recent, Andrew Hamilton has understood Oxford’s culture and priorities
very successfully. I look forward to seeing how he guides the University in what will
undoubtedly be difficult times ahead.
The First President of the Association
I think it was in late 1996 that Peter Lever, the then Chairman of
the Pensioners Association, contacted me and asked if he could
come and talk about the Association. I explained to him that I
was deeply involved just then as Chairman of an enquiry into
clinical academic medicine, which involved a lot of travelling and
was consuming all my energy. It was in July 1997 that Peter and
some of his colleagues called on me and explained that the view
of the committee was that it would be a good idea if the
Association had a President, and if the members agreed, would I
be the first President? I replied that I was flattered by the suggestion, but why did
they want a President as well as a Chairman, and what was the President to do?
Peter made it clear that the President was not to interfere with the activities of the
Association or its officers, but to act as a referee if there was a crisis of some sort,
rather like the Visitor of a college. He also thought it might be helpful to have a
President who was familiar with the University administration.
So I willingly agreed, and at the next Annual General Meeting of the Association
the decision was taken, and I became a respectable officer of the Association. As it
has turned out the University has been very helpful and generous to the
Association and there has been little for me to do. I have greatly appreciated the
opportunity to get to know members of the Association and to form close
friendships with the officers. So for me it has been an undiluted pleasure! Naturally,
I had to stand down as President in 2006, when my wife, Eva, was becoming so
frail that I felt we should move to Devon to be nearer my two daughters, who had
moved there for retirement, though both have found themselves new jobs there!
Sir Rex Richards
A former Chairman
When I retired from active life at the University in 1999 I was invited by Nan Jones,
at that time Secretary of the Association, to join the Committee. This I did with no
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intention of taking office, since I saw that one of the advantages of retirement would
be to enjoy life free from official meetings. Little did I know that within a short time I
would be taking over from Peter Swift as Treasurer. I must have done something
terrible with the accounts, because, within the year, I was pushed into the position
My task was made easier by the support provided by the whole Committee and,
in particular, by my predecessor, Elsie Bridger. We already had an excellent
programme of lectures, visits and other activities, designed to help our members to
get together, enjoy each other’s company and maintain the links with their former
workplace. I saw my function as building on the foundations that had been laid by
others and upholding the principles of our founders. In the course of my duties I
made numerous new friends amongst the membership, who proved to be a
wonderful collection of all that is best in our University. I found a truly amazing
range of interests and expertise coupled with human warmth and friendliness.
In the last ten years the Association has seen an increase in the number of
lectures, on a huge variety of topics; successful Christmas events including a Carol
Service and Christmas dinner (at lunch time!) in a College; Summer and Autumn
parties; numerous day trips, too many to list; three special excursions abroad and
more than a dozen five-day visits to different parts of England and Wales. We have
also encouraged members to organise local walks, coffee mornings, and French
and Spanish conversation groups in an attempt to provide more opportunities for
people to meet each other.
Oxford is reputed to be cold and unfriendly. The Association aims to prove that
reputation as erroneous. The support offered by the University to achieve this
objective has been vital and freely given.
Professor Carlos Ruiz
I took over the editing of the
from Irene Crawford Bryce from Spring
2001. Throughout my term as editor I was assisted by Dorothy Leach, whose
knowledge of procedure and meticulous attention to detail was invaluable. As in all
volunteer organizations, we depended on the good will and support of the
membership on the one hand and, in our case, of the University administration on
the other. There was never any shortage of either.
The editorial policy has been to reach as many of the members as possible
providing something that maintained a link with the University, while also providing
entertaining reading. It is always a difficult balance to achieve, bearing in mind the
diverse backgrounds and interests of the membership. Like other activities in the
over the years has seen an increase in the number of
contributions of all kinds from the members: reports of visits and lectures, quizzes
and anecdotes etc. It all goes to show that there is life after employment!
Long may the
continue to grow and provide a link between the present
University and members of bygone years!
A former Pensioners’ Welfare Visitor
It is to David Chapman, then Head of Pensions, that we owe the creation of both
the AOUP in 1985 and, later, the post of Pensioners’ Welfare Officer. Once the
Association was launched, it was realised that some pensioners felt isolated and
lonely after their retirement and might be cheered by a visit from fellow-pensioners.
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However, the first visitors soon became aware of more challenging problems,
beyond the scope of friendliness, and it was decided to appoint a part-time
professional Pensioners’ Visitor. Angela Fiennes was the first holder of this post
and when, on her retirement in 1999, I was appointed to succeed her, the post was
expanded to include a wider range of activity and the job title was changed.
My approach was to visit as many people at home as I could so that, before any
crisis occurred, pensioners would know that there was someone to help them
navigate the complexities of the state welfare system or to make other suggestions.
Though only rarely did we need to ask for financial assistance from the University
or the Colleges, they responded generously where necessary, and useful contact
I found this a fascinating and worthwhile job which led me to meet many
interesting and hospitable colleagues. Marie Hough continues the work in her own
way and, now that I have joined the ranks of the pensioners myself, it is reassuring
to us all to know that she is there if we need her.
Pensioners’ Welfare Officer Report
It is wonderful news to hear that the AOUP magazine has been printed for 20
years. Hopefully, it will still be in production when I retire and can enjoy it.
I have been privileged to meet some members who were involved early on with
the Committee and of course my post was evolved alongside the formation of the
Pensioners’ Association due, I understand, to the vision of David Chapman who
was Head of Pensions and had seen similar roles in other companies.
I have recently visited Mrs Susie Ullman, in her 90’s now, who was not only a
committee member but also visited pensioners when they had ill health. She told
me she is pleased the role of the Pensioners Visitor has a broader remit these
I have also had the pleasure of meeting Mrs Priscilla Fisher, who was one of the
first appointed visitors along with Bob Leiberman. They were both unpaid and
worked a day a week and reported back to the office any difficulties they found
pensioners had. Mrs Fisher was also a member of the early committee because of
her role as Pensioners Visitor but relinquished her place on the committee when
the role became a paid position. From the conversations we have had I feel the role
continues to have some of the main essential elements that were there in the early
days, that is to let the pensioners know there is someone there to help you when
you think you are alone or troubled by what seems an insurmountable problem.
Mr Peter Swift, one of the early Treasurers, was happy to recall with me his time
in the role. He was asked by David Chapman if he would be Treasurer. Peter was
keen to have a year off before undertaking any new jobs in retirement but David
Chapman kept asking him, no doubt keen to use Peter’s skills from his days at The
Chest. Peter enjoyed his five years as Treasurer. He recalls all the work he did was
handwritten as there was not a computer to access. He told me many people used
to send in unsigned or undated cheques to pay for their membership and outings.
At that time his role of Treasurer involved organising the outings and he recalled
one coach company in particular being very keen to demand the cheque for
payment considerably in advance of the outing dates. Once when Peter had to
write a cheque for the AOUP Christmas lunch at Halifax House he recalls diligently
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paying the correct amount for the bill received. Canteen staff from Wellington
Square had done the waiting at tables that day and promptly told him off for not
including a tip in the amount! Peter eventually handed over the role of Treasurer to
Prof Carlos Ruiz who, Peter said, has moved the Association from strength to
Nina Phipps took the opportunity to visit me at The University Club on the third
Tuesday of the month (where you too can come and have a coffee and a chat with
me). Nina was involved as secretary to Elsie Bridger and Professor Vincent when
they were Chairmen of the Association.
I have heard that Earth Sciences had a large proportion of committee members in
the earlier days rather like Engineering seems to have now. I wonder which
department this may change to in the future?
Proposed amendment to the Constitution
At the next AGM on 16 February 2011, we will consider the following amendment to
At present, paragraph 3 of the AOUP constitution reads:
“3. All members of the University staff and their partners shall upon retirement,
and on receipt of a university pension, automatically and without payment
become Members of the Association. All members shall receive a
twice a year. All members of the Association are also eligible to subscribe as
. College pensioners and their partners may also subscribe as
Social Members, and receive the
It is proposed to replace this by
3. Staff who retire directly from University employment shall automatically
and without charge become Members of the Association, as shall their
partners. All members shall receive a
twice a year and are also
eligible to subscribe as Social Members. Those retiring directly from
College employment and their partners may also subscribe as Social
Members, and will then receive the
. An individual is considered
to be retired if he/she is in receipt of a pension.
Autumn/Winter Programme 2010
Stuart Weir - Sport more than a game?
Tim Healey - The Green Man Trail
Tim Ryan - The History of the Beachley to Aust (River Severn)
Ferry and the Rescue of the Severn Princess
19 January 2011 Chris Perrins - The Galapagos Islands
AGM and Annie Skinner - Hidden & forgotten histories in East
Chris Patten, Chancellor of the University
Backstage at Oxford Playhouse
12 January 2011 Vaults beneath Oxford Covered Market with George Chesterfield
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23 and 24 March Magdalen College (dates correct at time of going to print, but
23-27 May 2011 The Lake District
AGM 17 February 2010 and Shirley Coates’ Entertainment
After the AGM we were entertained by Shirley Coates, whom some of you will have
met before, as she joined us one day during our visit to Shropshire.
Shirley had to choose between French and Music at school and opted for the
latter. She studied at Trinity College of Music in London. She then spent three
years with D’Oyly Carte before going to study singing (and Italian) in Rome under
the auspices of the British Council. After this she returned to join the Sadlers Wells
Opera Company for a further three years.
She worked for too long (her own words) in the working men’s clubs! Needing a
change, she persuaded an agent that she was suitable to entertain on cruise ships.
Such was her persuasiveness that he found her a spot on what he considered to be
the ideal ship for her. On asking him where the cruise was going, he replied
“around the world”. Not a bad opportunity.
A less pleasant experience was a trip to perform in South Africa, where she came
face to face with the worst aspects of apartheid.
We were entertained to music, none of which, she assured us, was written after
the year 2000! From that moment on we felt really at home! Even more so when
she invited us to sing along, which we did with gusto, guided by her wonderful
voice, and all accompanied by herself on the keyboard.
The History of Hospitals in Oxfordshire, John Banbury 17 March
John Banbury revealed his rich knowledge of the history of hospitals in Oxfordshire
in a talk which opened our eyes to previously unknown fragments of information
about the origins of health care in the county.
In a wide-ranging review of 900 years of hospital care we learned that many of
the early establishments stemmed from religious orders (like the Abbey in Abingdon
or St Bartholomew’s, the leper hospital in Cowley, still remembered in the
Bartlemas road names) while later developments owed their origins to the social
conscience of people with money - as was the case with John Radcliffe and the
Part or all of many of the buildings that housed these pioneer hospitals still
remain and were well illustrated by a series of slides enhanced by historical
information which both surprised and interested members. Which of us knew, for
example, that the Old Parsonage in Banbury Road was once the priest’s house for
the adjoining St Giles’ Hospital? Or that the Churchill Hospital was originally built to
house people from Oxford if the city was bombed, and only later in the war became
an American military hospital?
John’s comprehensive talk also took in the creation of the asylums of the 19
century - Littlemore, Cotshill at Chipping Norton, and the Radcliffe Asylum (later the
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Warneford) - among others; the Cowley Road workhouse that later became the
mainstay of elderly care in Oxford, and the Horton Hospital in Banbury, which was
endowed by Miss Horton whose wealth came from her father’s elastic stockings
We were left with lots of “I never knew that” surprises and a reminder of how
fortunate we are to have a National Health Service
wing to a blip in the system this report was omitted so, with apologies to John
Barton we print it below. Ed]
History of Science Museum 11 November 2009
“So what, exactly, is Steampunk?” was the question asked on our way to the
History of Science museum to see the Steampunk exhibition. “Don’t know,” came
the reply, “But I’m sure we’ll find out!”
However, first we had a guided tour and a brief history of the museum as we
enjoyed the expertise and enthusiasm of assistant keeper Stephen Johnson. We
learnt that the museum was originally the Ashmolean Museum, built in the
century and used for teaching, and that it was the home in later years of the
OED. It is home to the world’s largest collection of astrolabes, including the only
spherical model in existence, Islamic in origin and made in the 15
are all on display on the ground floor, alongside armillary spheres and sundials of
different sizes, and various orreries - many of these treasures were originally in a
private collection given to the museum.
floor is given over to the 17
century collection of natural and man-made
rarities. So the snout of a sawfish and the molar tooth of an elephant appear
alongside more astrolabes, some dating from the 9
century. Some of the artifacts
are made with silver or gold, as well as well as brass, but all display a marvellous
blend of function and artistic flair.
We found the Steampunk exhibition in the basement. The exhibits would appear
to be rooted in Victorian technology, although I did overhear the well-known firm of
Wallace and Gromit mentioned, and there are at least two functioning computer
keyboards. The items on view range from Stirling engines - the video shows them
working but they can’t be operational because they are powered by nightlights
which pose a fire risk!- to some rather disturbing helmets with breathing tubes and
goggles, which seem to serve no purpose whatsoever. This is possibly the point of
most of it. Various models, such as the exotic bee-bird and the
look as though they should work at first sight, but closer inspection shows that they
cannot. As one exhibitor says,” If the viewer does not ask if it actually works, then
I’ve failed”. Don’t take my word for it, visit the exhibition yourself and, even if you
think it’s all rather perplexing, admire some of the craftsmanship involved. You
probably won’t be late home- there are three very gothic clocks, all of which tell the
time correctly, once you’ve worked out how to read them! In addition there’s a very
useful broadsheet to take home and read at your leisure.
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Spring Visits 2010
Blackwells 11 February 2010
The planned visit behind the scenes became impracticable as 100 members had
applied. Rita Ricketts of the Blackwell Archive Project gave generously of her time
with an illustrated talk in the favoured setting of Convocation House. The Archive is
housed in the Bodleian, although some remains for the present in Merton, where
Rita is a member. She related some of the history since the first shop in 1846 but
concentrated on the personalities involved. Benjamin Harris (1813-55) came from
London and opened the shop on the “other” side of Broad Street since there was
severe competition on the south side. The emphasis was to be on service and hard
work, ultimately outlasting the older establishments. Harris’s high ideas began a
family tradition of contribution to the community, e.g. he founded a branch of
teetotallers which housed a ferment of liberal thinking, while his son, Benjamin
Henry (1949-1924), was the first Liberal on the Oxford City Council.
The publishing business began in 1875, when Blackwell benefited from the rapid
expansion of universities in the United States. Sir Basil (the Gaffer) lived to the age
of 94 (1889-1985), and his contributions to Oxford are legendary; his crest of arms
can be seen in the Great Hall of Merton. More recently Julian has donated £5m
towards the redesigned New Bodleian. Rita ended by quoting from Sir Basil’s diary
entry for 1 January 1919: ‘political upheaval; poor weather; and reading Spinoza’.
Clearly he was her favourite, although we were left in no doubt about her general
enthusiasm for the Blackwell Archive Project and for the bookshop which stands
proudly opposite and alongside the world-renowned Bodleian.
Museum of Natural History 25 February
The great joy of this brief but stimulating guided tour of a familiar Oxford institution
was that we learned the human stories behind the impressive building and its vast
collection of exhibits.
Our guide, Chris Jarvis from the museum’s education staff, explained that he was
often talking to children or youngsters with special needs. We found his amusing
and informative style was equally well-suited to his more senior audience.
We learned of the vision of Sir Henry Acland who was determined to create “a
cathedral of science” for Oxford in a building that combined both art and science in
its construction, with pillars of almost every stone ranked in geological order
embossed with carvings by the Irish O’Shea brothers who drew their inspiration
from branches and flowers gathered from the botanical gardens.
We admired the slender cast iron columns that support the glass roof, and
learned that the original design was so lace-like that it fell down, that the original
gas lighting smoked so much it was never used again, and how the museum hit on
the idea of public subscription for a statue of the late Prince Albert which raised
enough to pay for statues of the great scientists down the ages as well.
We admired the industry of William Buckland, the Dean of Westminster, and the
first Reader in Geology at Oxford who was the first to present a scientific
description of a dinosaur and found out why the skeleton of a giraffe has a different
coloured tail (it was because the process of boiling down the bones near Carfax
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made such a stink that the local populace overturned the huge vat and in the
resultant chaos a dog ran away with the original).
Our visit was well-timed to coincide with an exhibition about Charles Darwin,
which reminded us that the museum was the venue for a celebrated debate about
the origin of species between Thomas Huxley (“Darwin’s bulldog”) and the Bishop
of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce, after which the wife of the Bishop of Worcester was
heard to remark: “Descended from the apes! Let us hope it is not true. But if it is, let
us pray that it will not become greatly known.”
The building opened to the public in 1860 and was to be the focus of all Oxford
science. Its role has changed as science grew and spread into what became known
as the science area, and as a museum it now enchants both adults and children,
while still remaining a centre for scientific study. With thanks to our guide and to
Roy Overall who organised our visit, we can be sure that the delights of this Oxford
treasure will be yet more greatly known.
Jesus College 31 March
The second tour round Jesus took place on a
blustery and cold day but the interest engendered
from the start by the Home Bursar, Dr Shahpur
Patell, who took us round, made us quickly forget
the weather outside. He told us about the founding
of the College in 1571 by a remarkable Welsh
Admiralty lawyer, Hugh ap Rhys. It was the only
college founded in the time of Elizabeth I who
granted the new college a charter and the
premises of White Hall which had already had a 300-year-old history. Jesus was
set up as a foundation for Welsh boys of poor background and to this day there are
15% Welsh young men and women though that is rather thrown into insignificance
by there being 15% Chinese too! We started the tour in the Chapel, begun in 1619
and extended in 1636. Among people commemorated here are Sir Leoline Jenkins,
one of the College’s greatest benefactors, whose tomb lies at the entrance to the
chancel, and TE Lawrence. The Garter banner of old member Harold Wilson,
former Labour Prime Minister, hangs in the Chapel, the only banner hanging
The Hall, built about 1618, shows the Welsh influence in its frieze of Welsh
dragons decorating the screen. A magnificent portrait of Elizabeth I, said to be by
Nicholas Hilliard, hangs above High Table, and portraits of Charles I and II as well
as the College’s great benefactor, Sir Leoline Jenkins, John Nash, TE Lawrence
and Harold Wilson decorate the walls.
The Fellows’ Library is particularly awe-inspiring with its collection of books
acquired before 1770. It is the most unchanged building in the College and the
magnificent bookcases predate the building. Unfortunately the books were not
cared for during the early 20
century and declined due to damp and general
deterioration but they are now in good condition, care having been taken to ensure
correct temperature and humidity by installing underfloor heating.
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Cosmopolitan London, 21 April 2010
Our visit to London on 21 April was very successful. It was a nice sunny day. We
visited the Spitalfields area in East London and the Neasden Hindu Temple in the
north west - in both cases expertly guided by Marian of City and Village Tours.
The Spitalfields area is of great historical interest, being home to successive
waves of immigrants. Huguenot silk weavers arrived in the 18
the persecution of Protestants in France; in the 19
century, Jews came in flight
from pogroms in Eastern Europe and, more recently, since the 1970s, have been
replaced by Bangladeshis. Each group of immigrants has left its mark on the area.
We walked down a street of the silk weavers’ houses, and the flexibility of the place
was illustrated by a building which now houses a mosque, with a striking metal
minaret, which had earlier been successively a Huguenot Protestant church, a
synagogue, and a Methodist chapel. We visited the beautiful restored 18
Hawksmoor church, Christ Church Spitalfields; we also saw the old Spitalfields
market, and reached Brick Lane, now the focus of Bangladeshi settlement.
On our way to Neasden we were driven through the City and our guide pointed
out the landmark buildings such as the Mansion House, Guildhall and the Bank of
England. It was of interest also to pass by Toynbee Hall.
The Neasden Hindu temple, a recent construction, is simply splendid. It is built in
the traditional Hindu style of temple architecture prevalent in western India. It
consists of two separate but interconnected buildings, the Haveli (hall) and the main
shrine dedicated to Shri Swaminarayan (1781-1830), the founder of the
(sect). Hinduism is a religion of exemplary holy men and the sects that
grow around them. Shri Swaminarayan belongs to the Vaishnavite tradition. The
temple was opened in 1995. Both the Haveli and the main shrine are full of
interesting architectural features and intricately carved wooden and marble pillars,
ceilings and garland-like arches. There are marble images of major Hindu deities;
the principal image is of Shri Swaminarayan himself. The main shrine is surrounded
by a well-designed garden and has a magnificent gateway and a broad flight of
steps leading to the shrine.
The doctrine of the
emphasizes non-violence, vegetarianism,
financial probity and generally good character - a doctrine characteristic of 19
century Hinduism. (An original copy of the
a book of instructions by
Shri Swaminarayan, is in the Bodleian Library, and is frequently visited by devotees
for veneration). With the Swaminarayan
Hinduism has spread to
different parts of Europe and America supplying the spiritual needs of Hindus who
have migrated to these shores and their descendants.
Maritime Greenwich 17 May
This was such a popular excursion that we needed two coaches to transport us.
The drive to docklands is not without its hazards, especially on the eastbound M25,
but our friendly drivers navigated it with their usual skill. We got a good view of the
new Olympic Stadium and other parts of the Olympic complex, together with a
nostalgic glimpse of the Millennium Dome - for many years an ugly duckling, now
transformed into a swan entitled O2. We arrived in good time to tackle a formidable,
but by no means forbidding, number of important historic monuments. Since the
whole of Maritime Greenwich is a World Heritage site, we did not stay together, but
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made our own choices about which of the many attractions on offer we should visit.
For those who fancied a spell on the river, our organisers had arranged
concessionary fares on boat trips to the Thames Barrier, but my small family group
did not take up that particular option.
We started with the National Maritime Museum, not least because it was nearest
to our point of arrival and a chilly wind stimulated a decisive choice of the first
available shelter. But we were very happy with what we found. The Museum is a
welcoming place. Having passed through an informative section on naval
explorations, complete with appropriate sound effects, we decided to take
advantage of a conveniently placed snack bar to fortify ourselves for the serious
sight-seeing that lay ahead. We were duly impressed by Nelson’s uniform coat,
worn at the Battle of Trafalgar and complete with bullet hole;
Miss Britain III
, the first
single-engine power-boat to exceed 100 mph on open water, which was for several
years the fastest vessel of its kind in the World; the magnificent stained glass from
the old Baltic Exchange, and a plethora of ships’ bells, turbine screws, torpedoes
and boats of all shapes and sizes. At the top of the building there were
opportunities for the younger element to simulate gunnery, loading cargo or even
commanding a ship from the bridge.
On leaving the Museum we decided to visit the nearby Queen’s House, one of the
first truly classical buildings in England. Designed by Inigo Jones and partly
modelled on a renaissance Villa outside Florence, this beautiful white house was
originally intended as a private retreat for the wife of James I, and was largely
completed by her successor Queen Henrietta Maria before the English Civil War
disrupted courtly life. We were particularly impressed by the two-storey hall with its
tulip staircase and the fine collection of portraits and other paintings, many of which
have nautical themes, in the exhibition on the upper floor.
By this time the sun was shining brightly and we decided we should get some
fresh air. What better choice than to walk up the hill in the park to the famous old
Royal Observatory? It is quite a stiff climb for a crumbly like myself, but worth it for
the view over docklands as well as the historic building to which it leads. The
original observatory at Greenwich, which was designed by Sir Christopher Wren
and Dr Robert Hooke in 1675, bears the name of the Astronomer Royal, John
Flamsteed, who was paid the rather niggardly sum - even for those days - of £100
per annum. He was instructed by Charles II to apply himself with care and diligence
to ‘the rectifying the tables of the motions of the heavens, and the places of the
stars, so as to find out the so much desired longitude of places for the perfecting
the art of navigation’. Flamsteed, who lived in fairly cramped quarters in the
Observatory and carried out observations in a ‘shed-like’ structure in his garden, did
indeed exert diligence in a career which lasted for 44 years. He was successful in
defining the first Greenwich Meridian, even though it was later moved somewhat
eastwards as his successors developed more sophisticated instruments. It was on
the basis of this ongoing work that an effective system of global navigation was
developed during the 18
century and perfected in the 19
. For this purpose
accurate time-keeping was essential, and we were intrigued to see examples of
pioneering sea-clocks, such as those built by John Harrison between 1735 and
1759. By 1851 the Greenwich time-line establishing zero Longitude had been
definitively established, and from 1884 the world set its clocks according to the time
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of day on the meridian at Greenwich. Apart from numerous fascinating clocks, we
were of course determined to see, and indeed photograph, the line of Longitude
itself, let into the ground outside the Observatory. This took a little time, since so
many other tourists were posing astride it. We were also delighted to see the time-
ball, first installed over Flamsteed House in 1833 so that ships in London docks
could set their chronometers by it when it was lowered at noon. The whole
Observatory complex is a ‘must-see’ demonstration of pioneering scientific
brilliance which has influenced all our lives.
We had by no means exhausted the delights on offer, but time was getting on and
we were becoming a trifle leg-weary. We thought of looking at the
, but it
seemed difficult to find and we were not sure how much of it could actually be seen.
So we decided to look into the Old Royal Naval College and did not regret our
choice. The College was originally a naval hospital, but in 1873 it became the home
of the Royal Naval College for the education of officers - a sort of ‘University of the
Navy’. Most of the buildings now form part of the University of Greenwich - a
campus which must be among the most attractive in the country. But the dining hall
and the chapel of the old College are simply magnificent, and rounded off our visit
to Greenwich in the most satisfying way.
It says a good deal for the self-discipline of Oxford pensioners that, although we
had scattered over the whole area after our arrival, both buses were able to leave
for Oxford exactly on time. Perhaps it was the influence of Greenwich timekeeping
that made us so punctual. It remains only to express my own heartfelt thanks and
congratulations to the organisers of the excursion for a very successful operation
which provided us all with a most enjoyable and instructive day.
South Wales 10-14 May 2010
Tintern Abbey and Chepstow
For the first day of our trip to Wales, we headed for
Tintern Abbey. In the first of many excellent informative
talks on the coach, Carlos prepared us with a brief
history of the Abbey and a reading from Wordsworth’s
famous poem. ‘Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern
Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a
Tour, 13 July 1798’. Worsdsworth was certainly
unstinting in his title. (Carlos confessed that as a schoolboy he had found it difficult
to translate the first section of the poem into French!)
The Abbey itself doesn’t actually get a look in. The River Wye takes centre stage:
again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a soft inland murmur
.* - Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion;
The river is not affected by the tides a few miles above Tintern.
Wordsworth was right about the seclusion. The situation of Tintern Abbey makes it
very special, nestling peacefully as it does in the valley of the Wye, the river running
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gently alongside the outer buildings, the green hills rolling up all around. We
wandered at leisure through this wonderfully peaceful ruined abbey, and were
blessed with sunshine and shelter from the cold wind.
Founded by Cistercian monks in the 12
century, Tintern is one of the greatest
monastic ruins in Wales. Others, like me, were content just to wander and soak up
the atmosphere. I have been here several times before, and each time am
wonderstruck. The huge and beautiful window apertures in the Chapel make
stunning frames for views of the countryside, and cameras were very busy.
There was plenty of time for a relaxed cup
of coffee before moving on to Chepstow.
Here a good sandwich lunch awaited us at
the Chepstow Castle Inn, and the promise of
a talk by a local historian. None of us, least
of all Carlos, knew what to expect, but we
assumed that it would be a talk about
Chepstow Castle, visible from the windows
of the hotel. Instead we were treated to a
robust and extremely humorous account of
the Beachley to Aust ferry, which plied across the fickle waters of the Severn
Estuary from 1926 until the building of the bridge forty years later, carrying people,
cars, and livestock between Wales and England. Our speaker was Tim Ryan, an
enthusiast with a great gift for communication. He showed us the original ferry
signs, acquired rather deviously, and archive footage, recently discovered, of the
loading and unloading of cars, with the use of a turntable on board to put each car
in the right place. He gave a graphic account of the rescue of the last ferry, the
Severn Princess, retrieved in a submerged state from Ireland, and somehow towed
through choppy seas back to her home in Beachley, where she is now in the last
stages of restoration - not, alas as a floating boat, but as part of a new maritime
exhibition, soon to open on the banks of the Wye. All this was told with infectious
enthusiasm and a host of anecdotes. It was better than a stand-up routine and
much appreciated by us all. [Tim will be giving this talk in Oxford on 8 December -
see list of talks.
In high good humour we crossed the
greensward to Chepstow Castle, set in a very
commanding position, high on a promontory
above the River Wye, very close to where it joins
the River Severn. The castle was established by
William Fitz Osbern, a loyal supporter of William
the Conqueror, after the Battle of Hastings and
was one of many built to secure the border with Wales, the great tower being the
first stone structure built, incorporating building material from the nearby Roman
town at Caerwent.
In 1189 the castle passed to William Marshal who fortified the castle on a grand
scale. He extended and enclosed it with stone walls with large circular towers and
built Marshal’s Tower, probably as private apartments for himself and his wife. Each
of his five sons inherited the castle and they and the Bigod family who inherited it
later, continued to improve its defences and accommodation until it was a very
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considerable structure. It eventually fell into disrepair in the 17
century, but the
ruins are impressive and well worth exploring. You can clamber up twisting
staircases for wonderful views of the river, and walk along the solidly built walls.
And so to Swansea and the very comfortable Dragon Hotel. All in all a highly
satisfactory first day, promising good things to come.
century Cardiff was a small harbour town but when Wales became the
world's first industrial nation, the Iron Masters and Colliery owners chose Cardiff at
the head of the River Taff to expand their booming businesses, and this spread to
Swansea, Port Talbot and generally over the South Wales region. The Bute family
owned most of the coal-rich Welsh valleys and the second Marquis created the first
Cardiff Dock in 1839.
By the start of the 20
century Cardiff had become one of the world’s leading
ports established on the wealth of a vast coal and steel empire; sadly this led to the
intensive bombing of Cardiff and all the surrounding industrial areas during WWII
which resulted in a large number of post-war buildings.
We set out from our hotel to visit Cardiff Castle and the Welsh Assembly
(Senned) building and Milan (our driver) gave us a coach tour which enabled us to
see the large number of very modern buildings, both completed and under
construction. We eventually arrived at our destination which presented parking
problems because of their security which resembled anti-tank deterrents. The
building designed by Richard Rogers and costing £67 million (5 times the original
estimate) was erected to support the work of 60 members elected for a period of 4
years. The design is ultra-modern and gives the appearance of a space circulating
a giant mushroom, with the stalk going through the centre and the spores spreading
and supporting the building. As one would expect there is a large quantity of Welsh
slate and Welsh oak in the construction, with the mushroom being constructed of
red cedar from Canada. It has been praised for its many “green” principles using
energy systems which aim to reduce running costs by 50%. English MP’s visiting
the Senned must be equally green at the space and facilities afforded to the Welsh
Cardiff Castle 11 May 2010
Cardiff Castle dominates the main East-West thoroughfare of the Welsh capital, but
its heavily-restored Victorian façade belies the Roman origins of this square
encampment around which the city grew, and grows still.
The richly-decorated clock tower of the castle, with its many colourful shields and
its huge statues of the planets, proclaims from afar the fantasy world conjured up
by William Burges (1827-81), architect to John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, third
Marquis of Bute. Fabulously wealthy from the inherited land and mineral rights of
most of South Wales, the Marquis was a keen follower of the Victorian artistic taste
for the Middle Ages. Burges transformed the castle, already remodelled by Bute’s
ancestors, into a monument to Bute’s nostalgic if illusory vision of a romanticised
medieval past, far removed from the grim and dangerous world of his mines, iron
works, and dockyards, which had made him the wealthiest man in Britain.
However, the Marquis and his architect cannot take credit or blame for all the
alterations which the castle has undergone. In the 1770’s, ‘Capability’ Brown and
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son-in-law Henry Holland had been instrumental in demolishing the massive ward
wall dividing the site, clearing away important buildings which got in the way of their
fashionable landscape vision, filling in the moat, and cutting down the trees growing
on the ancient mound, to reveal its twelve-sided limestone Norman keep. Curious
sightseers, stepping through the entrance to the Roman fort, now leave behind the
noisy street traffic to discover a wide sweep of open green, flanked on the left by a
magnificent Gothic manor house, and marked at the furthest point by the ancient
keep. Tucked away on the immediate right of the entrance, the inevitable cafeteria,
and an education centre which attracts school groups with its digital toys and re-
enactments of the castle’s history, intended to entertain and instruct.
The visitor to the great house itself negotiates narrow passageways and twisting
stairways, to emerge into stunning rooms which defy description by their sheer
boldness and intricacy. The interiors of the Castle are never less than ingenious
and dramatic, and often magnificent, if rather extravagant to modern tastes.
Everywhere one finds gold leaf, jewelled colours, and intricate carvings. The third
Marquis was also something of a naturalist, and scores of gilded animals and
insects gambol along his golden banisters and lintels. Butterflies were among his
favourites, but apes, a crocodile, and other exotic creatures dazzle and amuse the
visitor, along with the flora and fauna native to the Vale of Glamorgan. Typical of
such delights are the Banqueting Hall with every inch of wall richly frescoed, the
exotic Roof Garden at the top of the Bute Tower, the Summer Smoking Room with
its signs of the zodiac depicting scenes such as Hercules slaying the Lion (Leo),
and the splendid golden inlaid ceiling of the Arab Room.
In spite of the castle’s predominantly Victorian Gothic appearance, it still testifies
to many aspects of its earlier stormy history, through the Normans and the Tudors,
a history very important not just to the city of Cardiff, but also to the national identity
John and Gaynor Woodhouse
Blaenavon - the ‘Big Pit’
With some trepidation we set off for the ‘Big Pit’ in Blaenavon where we were told
we would actually go down the mineshaft complete with lamp and helmet, to
experience what the miners of not-too-long ago had to face every day of their
When we arrived in the coach we had a little walk up to the entrance and
unfortunately one of our party tripped and hurt her arm and face on the stones
beside the path. Having been swiftly treated by the local first aid people an
ambulance was called and she and her husband were taken off to the nearby
hospital for attention. (Milan - our trusty coach driver - made a slight detour after
we had finished our visit, and we were able to pick them up from the hospital so
that they could continue their time in Wales.)
After that little adventure, everyone was ushered into a room to await our turn to
get ‘kitted up’ with helmets, lamps etc before descending 12 at a time, to the coal
face. On the monitor we could see the previous party of schoolchildren getting
prepared and when they had moved on it was our turn. We had to leave all
belongings, including watches, in a locker, and then an ex-miner joined us and took
us down in the cage. He was very informative and really created the atmosphere of
what life was like working down the mine, fielding many questions.
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All along the tunnel were wooden doors which had
to be shut behind us as we went along. ‘Minding the
doors’ would have been done by children holding a
candle, and if a draught caused the candle to blow
out, they might be totally in the dark for some minutes
until someone came to relight it. To experience this
feeling we were all asked to turn out our helmet
lights. A minute or two was plenty for me, and I’m
sure would have been really frightening for little ones.
This particular mine had over 70 named stalls for the horses working down in the
mine for 50 weeks of the year, and one can imagine how they must have enjoyed
their fortnight in the fields under the sky. I wonder how difficult it was to take them
back down in the cages at the end of their holiday.
Apparently only 1 in 10 people working in the mine were actually working at the
coal face. There were many other occupations. Obviously people looking after the
horses, engineers propping up the shafts, people in charge of the trucks and laying
down the rails etc. At least we were able to walk upright most of the way through
the tunnel which pleased us!
When we came back up to the surface we were able to go and visit the showers
the miners used since the 1930’s. I guess that made their return home at the end of
their shift so much better for their wife and family as well as for themselves, as they
would at least feel human again! As we looked down the line of shower cubicles we
noticed that towels had been draped on one or two and at each end of the line a
glass screen displayed the back of a man at one end and the front of a man at the
other dressed only in a towel, and voices of miners talking made it more realistic.
On some of the lockers were potted histories and photos of miners who had worked
there. We really got into the spirit of the place and felt that it was extremely well
David and Dorothy Allen
Through unforeseen circumstances, we didn’t reach Aberdulais Falls until after we
were scheduled to leave! The famished made a bee-line from coach to tea-room;
others entered the Visitor Centre and shop of this industrial heritage site. The
National Trust owns and manages the site, having acquired the property in 1981,
and has since pursued a substantial programme of conservation and restoration.
Armed with a map and suggested walking route from the Visitor Centre, we set off
to explore the site, bounded on one side by the gorge of the river Dulais. Water
power has been harnessed here for over 400 years; a small water-powered tin
works was the last industrial application.
Nowadays, prominent features are the modern 8.2 metre-diameter waterwheel
and the tall chimney. Other buildings remain from the tin-plate manufacturing era,
though only dilapidated “footings” exist in some places. Currently, the water is used
to drive a hydro-turbine (in the recently-constructed Turbine House) as well as
powering the waterwheel. Both generate electricity which is used for heating,
lighting and power on-site, with surplus sold to the National Grid. A film entitled
“Reflections on Tin” was screened in the Turbine House, relating the history of the
tinplate industry which once flourished here and in many other locations in Wales.
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From the lips of the Welsh narrator, we heard “Dulais”
being pronounced so as to rhyme with the last two
syllables of “mobilise”.
The walking tour took us up to the falls and weir of the
river, a scenic view captured by many artists in the past.
Apparently, a million litres of water a minute gush by at full
flow. Many remarkable facts were disclosed in the Tin
Works exhibition, housed in the former stable block. Thus
a certain Captain Parry, of Welsh descent, “took a can of
veal on his Arctic expedition of 1824, and the meat still
proved fine 113 years later when the can was opened in
At the Bastion, constructed to support the channel that carries water to the water
wheel, a colony of Daubenton’s bats have taken to roosting in the arches. Though
we didn’t spot any, we played back an available sound recording of noises made by
bats. By these and a variety of other points of interest, our tour led us back to the
starting point at the Visitor Centre.
Meanwhile, back at the Tea Room, formerly the Old Works Library where the tin
workers and their children were educated, volunteer National Trust staff had
delayed their departure so that we should not go hungry. Justice was done to what
remained of bara brith, lemon drizzle cake and Welsh cakes, while viewing a
Millennium tapestry hung above the fireplace and featuring a map of the site, a
collaborative stitch-work created by staff members, Friends and hundreds of
The National Botanic Garden of Wales
The garden is about 12 miles northwest of Swansea, and built in a very spacious
country estate. On entering we walked towards the Dome which we could see on
the right in the distance, passing the large walled garden on the left. This is
beautifully planted and in one corner is the tropical glass house. On the right are
large garden lakes.
The old stable block has been adapted into a comfortable restaurant and shop.
Passing various interestingly planted gardens we reached the spectacular Glass
Dome, shaped like a huge inverted saucer. This contains a very wide selection of
plants from areas all over the world which have a Mediterranean climate.
Dinefwr Park and Newton House
After lunch on this lovely sunny day we left the National Botanic Gardens of Wales
and set off for Dinefwr Park.
The 800-acre Dinefwr Park was created by the Rice (Rhys) family in the 18
century. The diversion of roads and moving of buildings resulted in a natural-
looking landscape with rolling grassy slopes now grazed by an ancient pedigree
herd of White Park cattle and over 100 fallow deer. Clumps of trees were planted
and the whole aspect is one of peace and tranquillity. “Capability” Brown advised
on some of the improvements and wrote afterwards: “I wish my journey may prove
of use to the place, which if it should, it will be flattering to me, as nature has been
truly bountiful and art has done no harm”. True, until your eyes fall upon Newton
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House, the focal point of the park. The house has gone through extensive re-
modelling resulting in a dark Venetian-Gothic structure with diagonally-set towers at
each corner. Slate replaced stone roof tiles and the whole was faced with limestone
making the outside heavy and gloomy-looking. Inside the house are paintings
showing the original house built in 1660. Elegant, light and unadorned, it seems to
sit more comfortably in the landscape.
The interior was refurbished by the National Trust in 2006, some of the rooms
styled as they might have looked in 1912. A rather splendid gramophone stands in
a corner of the drawing room. On a shelf in the basement, with the National Trust’s
usual attention to detail, is a 1912 copy of Kelly’s Handbook to the Titled and
Official Classes. In the boot room a pair of boots stands on a 1910 copy of The
South Wales Daily News and in the Butler’s room is Lord Dinefwr’s breakfast tray
complete with an ironed (to set the ink) copy of The Times of 5th May 1912.
There is a more domestic scale to the rooms than is usually found in large houses
and there were no darkened rooms, to protect paintings and wall coverings, which
prevent visitors seeing very much at all. Upstairs a small conservatory opens off a
landing and it was very restful to sit here and gaze out over the parkland. There are
no restrictive notices anywhere in the house about sitting on the furniture, so you
could plonk yourself down whilst looking at paintings or the extensive displays on
the history of Dynefwr.
There was no time to make the 30-minute walk, steep and wooded, to explore the
ruined Dynefwr Castle, home of the Rhys dynasty since the 12
for a 200-year gap when they were dispossessed by Edward I in 1277). There are
mature trees here, mainly oak and wych elm, which attract woodpeckers, redstarts
and pied flycatchers. This is a perfect reason for making another visit.
Museum of Welsh Life - St Fagans
Typical Welsh weather - rain pouring down on our coach all the way from Swansea
- but Wales is a courteous host and the rain ceased as we poured off the coach at
St Fagans. During this wet ride Carlos said, “Before this trip I asked Wendy
Thomas if she had any recommendations of places to visit. She put St Fagans at
the very top of the list”.
The visitors’ booklet starts with “St Fagans is one of Europe’s leading open-air
museums and Wales’ most popular heritage attraction. It stands in the grounds of
magnificent St Fagan’s Castle, a late 16
century manor house donated to the
people of Wales by the Earl of Plymouth”. And how right both these comments are!
As usual, time was pressing and even with giving
the restaurants, galleries and gift shop a miss, we
didn’t have time to visit everything, everywhere. Even
if we had dashed frenetically from one building to
another we couldn’t have covered everything. And we
didn’t want to dash frenetically because each exhibit
was so interesting that we just had to linger. We
made time to peep into just about every building that
had been removed from its original place in Wales
and re-erected on this 104.5 acre site, furnishings and
all, from a circular pigsty from Pontypridd to a whole row of iron-workers’ cottages
from Merthyr Tydfil. There was a church from Swansea complete with rood screen
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and wall paintings from around 1520 to a small, very plain chapel from
I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to live in the old farmhouse from Denbighshire
with its cattle at one end and the open hearth placed in the centre of the hall with
smoke able to escape only through the thatch and the unglazed windows. Brr! By
contrast it was interesting to observe that in the row of six iron-workers’ cottages
that although each one was of exactly the same size and plan, the change in
comfort from the end one, furnished à la 1805, through 1855, 1895, 1925, 1955 and
1985, was amazing as furnishings and lighting changed over the years. (After
viewing the last in the row we had to be back to the first one to make sure it really
was the same size and layout!)
There was a whole village there for us to inspect, comfortable, large farmhouses
and farmsteads complete with furnishings and fires, a smithy, stores, a mill, a
tollhouse, post-office and the tantalising smell of freshly baked bread, (purchasable)
from the bakery and bread shop.
Bee boles, potato rows, pony shed, pigeon lofts, pre-fab bungalows, rows of
onions and beans amongst the privies in the cottage gardens, a War Memorial, a
Workman’s Institute from Caerphilly; (what a job it must have been to re-erect the
There were 57 exhibits in all and frustratingly we had time to visit only 27, not
even the castle and its gardens, though we did peep in the Celtic Village in the
woods. We didn’t dawdle but did linger where it was lovely.
As our coach drove towards the Red Castle we could admire from afar what to all
appearances was a picturesque film set, imposed on a background of majestic
trees in the surrounding woodland. The castle has a stunning position surmounting
a vertical rock face overlooking the green and fertile Taff valley. The whole edifice
seems to hang in mid air, its battlements and elegant conical towers creating the
popular impression of a 13
century knight’s castle as required by its 19
seigneur. When Lord Bute (John Patrick Crichton-Stuart) and his family tired of
Cardiff Castle, where in any case they spent little more than a few weeks each
year, they could retire to this weekend retreat.
Originally a ruined 13
century fort to the north of Cardiff on the Bute estate,
Castell Coch was completely rebuilt by Lord Bute’s architect William Burges, the
mastermind behind the transformation of Cardiff Castle. His restoration of Castell
Coch again demonstrated the architect’s passion for the romanticised world of the
medieval past. In the public rooms his gilded sculptures and richly painted scenes,
some depicting medieval kings and saints, harmonised with the Catholic beliefs of
his newly-converted patron, and elegantly expressed Bute’s mysticism and love of
The site of the castle restricts its size, and therefore the scope of the private
rooms, glorious though their decoration might be. The effect is mainly one of
intimacy, not to say claustrophobia at times, while the steep and narrow staircases
make for cautious progress between the main family rooms, probably one
explanation for the relatively infrequent visits of the Bute family. The entrance to the
Castle crosses the drawbridge, which can still be raised by means of a vast and
impressive winch, while inside, the medieval courtyard is reminiscent of a stage,
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encircled by covered balconies. The drama begins to unfold in the Banqueting Hall
on the first floor, itself a most colourful creation, which leads into the more
magnificent Drawing Room, dominated by a fabulous chimney-piece of the three
Fates, greater than life-size. The naturalistic decoration of the walls, depicting local
animals and plants, almost in a William Morris fashion, is in keeping with the
country setting of the castle in the 1880s. The gallery above and the window bays
allow in light and give sensational views of the woodland below and the sea in the
distance. The most extravagant decoration however, is probably that of Lady Bute’s
bedroom, to be approached via a narrow spiral staircase, as though she were a
kind of Victorian Rapunzel. It contains elaborate Gothic furniture, while a Moorish
double dome forms a canopy to the central 14
century style bed.
Along with the Arabic Room and the Summer Smoking Room in Cardiff Castle,
the Drawing Room and Lady Bute’s bedroom at Castell Coch represent an intense
and dazzling vision of the gothic revival, perhaps more than any other works of
architecture, craftsmanship or draughtsmanship produced in 19
Baddesley Clinton 23 June 2010
… there, at the moated grange resides this dejected
Mariana.’ Measure for Measure
Act III, Scene 1
It’s to a moated grange in the middle of Shakespeare’s
Forest of Arden that we are bound, though on a day of
sunshine like today it would be difficult to be dejected.
However, being jilted does, I suppose, colour your view of
the world. Be that as it may, to the carefree bachelor,
Warwickshire is looking especially sylvan and restful to the eye.
Baddesley Clinton is a moated manor house most of whose surviving buildings
date variously from the mid-15th to the mid-17th century, though it is probable that
the site has been occupied since Saxon times. The charm of the place comes in
large part from the continuity of family ownership (direct or by marriage) since John
Brome, Under-Treasurer of the Exchequer 1445-7, took over and began developing
the house and estate around 1442. But from 1517 until transfer to the National
Trust in 1980 the family name associated with Baddesley Clinton was Ferrers. As
the Ferrers remained staunch Roman Catholics the manor house comes well-
provided with priest holes, trap-doors, disguised passages and a chapel plus
sacristy. However, without compromising, the Ferrers family generally managed to
pursue an even tenor of life, and the prevailing mood of the house is one of
sequestered, domestic calm. At times, you could almost sense the quiet resolving
into the tedium of long hours endured by Shakespeare’s Mariana as reimagined by
The sparrow’s chirrup on the roof,
The slow clock ticking, and the sound
Which to the wooing wind aloof
The poplar made, did all confound
Her sense; but most she loathed the hour
When the thick-moted sunbeam lay
Athwart the chambers, and the day
Was sloping towards his western bower.
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Tennyson would, I am sure, have found Victorian Baddesley Clinton a congenial
place to pitch up in, particularly during the tenure of ‘The Quartet’: the ‘Old Squire’
Marmion Edward Ferrers (1813-84) ‘the pleasantest and most genial of men’; his
wife, the painter Rebecca Dulcibella Orpen (1830-1923); and their close friends
Edward Heneage Dering (1826-92) and his novelist wife, Georgiana, Lady
Chatterton (1806-76). (After the deaths of Marmion and Georgiana, Edward and
Rebecca married.) They have left the strongest impression on the house, not least
because of the extent of Rebecca Ferrers’s more than competent legacy as a
painter. (In admiring her portrait of her husband Marmion, sitting in the Great Hall in
his uniform as a captain in the Warwickshire Yeomanry, I can’t have been alone in
noting the resemblance to Peter Bowles as poor, cuckolded Paymaster Duberley in
Charge of the Light Brigade
But, after all, when you have weather such as we were blessed with, it is outside
where the memories abide, and, oddly, where the past inhabitants of the house
seem most to be present, enjoying, just as we do, the grateful shade of noble trees,
the glimpse of the house over the long grasses of the sloping wild flower meadow,
and the occasional heavy splash of a fish in the waters of that moated grange.
Packwood House made a fascinating contrast
with Baddesley Clinton. Arriving at Packwood is
a generally grander experience, with respect to
both the house and garden. We were
immediately struck by the magisterial collection
of topiary yews, which brood over the whole
environment. In fact, the topiary garden is one of
the few features of Packwood that has survived
without substantial change since the 17
century. The rest of the extensive and
beautiful gardens effectively capture the spirit of older gardens, but are recent
creations of the National Trust.
The complicated range of buildings that constitutes Packwood House was
completely transformed by Graham Baron Ash, who took control in 1925. Over the
next few years this obsessive bachelor drew on his inherited fortune to engineer a
complete transformation of the house. Ash erased or transformed virtually all the
structures and interiors produced during the three-hundred-year tenure of the
Featherston family. The impressive great hall, a conversion of an old barn, and
showy long gallery newly-constructed in the early ‘30s, indicate the radical nature of
the interventions by Ash. The renaissance tapestries and long table in the hall, like
many of the other most impressive artefacts, derived from Baddesley Clinton,
whose impoverished owner had little choice but to sell off his treasures to his
assiduous neighbour. Such associations added to the point of combining both
houses on the same visit.
Our enjoyment of Packwood was enhanced by the introductory talk, which was
delivered with great sparkle in the open air on a very hot afternoon. The guide
obviously admired the pertinacity of Ash, but gave some insight into his manifold
foibles. Long before his death Ash graciously turned the house over to the National
Trust, but relations soon degenerated into a fierce confrontation that lasted for the
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rest of Ash’s life, which was a sad ending to an act of fine generosity. Packwood
gave us much to think about as we ended the day with a well-earned ice cream
from the little shop.
Will Newman be Oxford’s First Modern Saint?
Notwithstanding the plethora of outstanding writers, scientists
and politicians that claim Oxford as their
, so too do
thirteen saints. Fifty-six graduates have been beatified by the
Catholic Church. While the majority of these were martyrs
sentenced to death for their profession of the Catholic faith
between 1535 and 1642, the Pope has announced that a more
recent alumnus will be declared blessed: John Henry Newman.
Who was Newman?
Newman was a prominent intellectual of the 19
century. He is perhaps most
renowned for his involvement with the Oxford Movement which attempted to
counter what it saw as being the three most pressing challenges facing the Church
of England: spiritual stagnation, interference from the state and doctrinal
He was born in London on 21 February 1801, the eldest son of a London banker.
He came from a family without any strong religious tendencies. However from the
earliest years, the young John Henry took a great delight in the Bible. He
matriculated at Trinity College, Oxford on 4 December 1816. Winning a scholarship
of £60 in 1818, he was able to stay at university despite his family’s precarious
financial situation. However, his anxiety to do well resulted in a breakdown during
his examination and he graduated with a third-class honours degree in 1821.
Undeterred, he aspired to a fellowship at Oriel: “the acknowledged centre of Oxford
intellectualism”. He achieved this and was elected on 12 April 1822.
On Trinity Sunday, 1825, he was ordained priest of the Church of England in
Christ Church. His contemporary, Richard Hurrell Froude, described Newman as
“one of the acutest, cleverest and deepest men” he ever met.
In 1842 he moved to Littlemore, just outside Oxford, in order to devote himself to
a life of prayer, study and physical austerity. When studying the history of the early
Christian Fathers in 1839, Newman was much perturbed; for it appeared that the
position the Church of England bore a close resemblance to that of the early
heretics. He then sought to reconcile himself with the Catholic faith. He was finally
received into the Catholic Church by Blessed Dominic Barbieri, a Passionist priest.
His conversion caused much controversy and Newman was ostracised by many
of his friends and relatives. John Henry then decided to travel to Rome to become a
priest. While he was there, he cultivated an admiration of the Congregation of the
Oratory: an order of priests founded by Saint Philip Neri in the 16
founded the first English Oratory at Maryvale, near Birmingham, in 1848, which
then moved to Alcester Street, close to the town centre, where he converted a
disused gin distillery into a chapel.
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Newman spent the rest of his life in Birmingham, quietly writing, preaching and
counselling. In recognition of his great academic work and devotion to the Catholic
faith, Pope Leo XIII made the unprecedented gesture of naming Newman, an
ordinary priest, a Cardinal. After a life of trials the news came as a joyful relief and
Newman declared ‘the cloud is lifted for ever’. Cardinal Newman died on 11 August
1890 and received a universal tribute of praise.
wrote: ‘whether Rome
canonises him or not he will be canonised in the thoughts of pious people of many
creeds in England.’
Will Newman be made a saint?
Beatification is the second stage in the process of becoming a saint. First, the
Church declares someone to be ‘venerable’ as John Henry was in 1991. Then, to
be made ‘blessed’, they must be responsible for one miracle which can be
scientifically verified. The person who claims to be cured must have their case
investigated by the cardinals and bishops of the Congregation for the Causes of
Saints and a team of scientists and doctors. Then a document known as the
is prepared. One of the criteria for beatification is that the person who
was cured prayed to this ‘blessed’ person and nobody else.
In the case of Newman, the Holy See recognised that Jack Sullivan, a Catholic
deacon in Boston in the US, had been miraculously healed of a “serious debility of
the spine” through his intercession. In 2000, Sullivan prayed to John Henry
following a warning from his doctor that his back problem could result in paralysis.
Extraordinarily, the next morning he found that he no longer had any pain and he
was once more able to walk. The Church has recognised the significance of this
miracle and consequently announced that Newman would be beatified on
19 September in Cofton Park, Birmingham near to where Newman was buried.
There are reports that another miraculous cure has been attributed to Newman.
Should this miracle be authentic, as it is widely believed to be, then Oxford’s
Cardinal could become the first saint in Britain since St John Ogilvie, a Scottish
martyr, canonised in 1976.
Conor Gannon, President of the Oxford University Newman Society
What the Butler Saw?
My name is Robert Saberton-Haynes and I have been Butler at the Queen’s
College since October 2001. Previously I worked at Jesus College for 22 years so I
have had 30 years in college life.
Being a butler is built on knowing about food service and wine; I look after the
College cellars and also the serving of the Provost, fellows for their formal dinners,
Gaudies and private functions so most of it is in-house. However I can retell an
event while working at Jesus. Mr Nelson Mandela was in Oxford and as Sir Peter
North, the Principal of the College, was then Vice-Chancellor to the University, he
came for lunch. Preparations were duly made and because Mr Mandela had a sore
leg the dining table which was on the first floor and seated 20, had to be dismantled
and taken downstairs. Then we were told of his dietary requirements, one of which
was freshly squeezed mango juice; however, none of our suppliers had such a
thing. We searched all over Oxford and the Principal’s Secretary even rang her
husband who worked in London to see if he could check whether Harrods had any
- but no. Finally my wife and children found some on the Cowley Road on the day
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of the lunch. With everything now ready, Mr Mandela duly arrived and the guests
included the Lord Mayor of Oxford, the Vice-Chancellor and many more.
He shook hands with all of my staff saying it was an honour to meet us, then,
sitting down for lunch, requested 2 plain rolls and a small glass of sweet wine. Oh
well, such is College life!
Robert Saberton-Haynes, SCR Butler, The Queen’s College
President’s Garden Party,
Thursday 8 July
As usual, Carlos and Marie welcomed members to
their lovely garden on a warm and pleasant evening.
We have continued to explore the undiscovered world
of the nearby. In the true spirit of AOUP, previous
status within the University matters not, hence our title. Our Abingdon pair,
however, must have special mention for hosting the December occasion. Not only
had they organised a special visit to Christ’s Hospital, but also they guided us
through Albert Park, showed us St Helen’s Church and taken us along a riverside
path, then entertained us to a fine pre-Christmas feast in their home.
By January we had to face the reality of winter: a
core of hardy members did a circuit of Christ
Church Meadows, with snow underfoot, continuing
along Logic Lane, where the University College
undergraduates (presumably) had made an
enormous snowman. The grotesques on New
College Lane looked particularly grim.
That was to be the first of four walks exploring
the Cherwell valley, for we had seen its confluence
with the Thames. The next month we followed its
banks from St Catherine’s to Wolfson via the University Parks. For March a semi-
rural walk was planned to where the River Ray flows into the Cherwell. An almost
full attendance heard a brief introduction by Christopher Lower to Islip. The mud on
our boots confirmed the naming of the village (= slippery place) but, as the
photograph shows, we took refreshment in the Millennium Wood.
While we witnessed no flood in Kirtlington in April, our path had to be modified.
Never dismayed, we walked round the Park, admired the drifts of daffodils by the
Dashwood Manor and returned to refresh ourselves by the cricket ground, before
looking into the Church.
As last year, in May, the group had the opportunity of joining the annual West
Oxfordshire gathering at Woodstock.
The high spot of the year - at least in the punny sense - came in June. After
letting our shared vehicles take the strain of climbing Watlington Hill to the highest
point of the county, we took a path by the holly bushes, which give Christmas
Common its name. The heat suggested a shortened version of the planned walk,
but we were still assailed by an armada of red kites (the collective justified by the
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provenance of the re-introduced bird?) though not at the time of our refreshment at
Cowleaze Meadow, which we reached by a short car-ride.
In July, we returned to Cumnor but not to repeat a previous walk, for this time we
took a path past the Physic Well to Bablockhythe, while in August we could survey
Otmoor from a ridge above, as we pursued our usual circuit, on this morning
beginning and ending in Horton-cum-Studley.
With an annual account published in September, one must look back to the
autumn of 2009. Our visit to the Barton Abbey Estate was blessed by good
weather: once again there was no use of the four-letter word; lest you should
misunderstand, the reference is to ‘rain’. Farmoor was the last of our semi-rural
walks in 2009, so your leader was pleased to show not only the centre of Burford,
but also glimpses of the countryside, which is soon reached, even on foot.
In short, another excellent year’s ambling, staving off the stiffening of joints and
proving we are ‘social’ members of AOUP.
Spanish Conversation Group
The Spanish Conversation group meets at 37 Davenant Road. The dates are
decided from one group meeting to the next. We meet every four to six weeks to
put the world to rights in Spanish! Our members cover all levels of competence.
Often those who are not too sure of their conversational ability will sit and listen to
start with, but very quickly join in!
[If you would like to join, contact Carlos and Marie Ruiz on 01865 558293.
It has been a successful year again, with an average ten of us meeting
approximately once a month. Several new members have joined in, very few left
(and we hope to see them again!) Everyone is welcome, if only to listen, but most of
us are enthusiastic to speak French and always ready for a joke and a laugh.
Our themes of discussions have been varied. One attempt has been made to see
(expressed through French literature) the recurring topic of hypochondria and its
financial exploitations. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Albert Camus’
death, last January, we read extracts of his works and discussed them. We talked
over current hot topics in France, such as the controversial banning of the burqa
worn by Muslim women, or the much criticised attempt to revive National Identity.
More recently we discussed the unfinished novel by Irene Nemirovsky, Suite
Française, written at the time when she was deported to Auschwitz where she died.
All of us had agreed to read the book, several made interesting personal
contributions, which was a great achievement!
Finally a number of us met at the Maison Française to watch a programme of
films by Marcel Carne. Whilst there, we seemed to continue to chat in French
happily: our Amicale always offers pleasurable social occasions when we almost
forget that we are in England!
[Further information from Mireille on 01865 764589.
Life after retirement
I live in Appleton and had always said: ‘When I retire, I shall help in the village
shop’. I had been retired for about three weeks when I received a phone call -
‘Please would I consider being a Director of our Community Shop?’ I said ‘Yes’ and
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have learnt a lot about retail in my eight years of retirement - it’s great fun and
working in the shop is a great way of getting to know most people in the village.
After I retired I realised that we have the freedom to do what we like but it is better
to have some structure so this is what I worked out: - I do something for my feet,
something for my head, something for others and something for myself. This way
my life is varied and very fulfilling. Let’s fill in the four areas: My feet - this is the
physical exercise - I walk with a small group of friends once a week - we do 7 to 10
miles along the footpaths of Oxfordshire. I also attend Yoga classes. My head - I
have been taking the Governing Body minutes at Linacre College three times a
term for the last eight years - I’ve just retired from that! I am Treasurer at District
and Division level in the Girl Guides and I scrutinise unit accounts. There’s plenty of
head work at the shop. Something for others - my work at the shop and Girl
Guides. Currently I am campaigning against the rebuilding of an unique paddle and
rymer weir at Northmoor Lock. Something for myself - Yoga once a week, travelling
(about six trips a year, in cool climates), I sometimes do some gardening. I don’t
And I nearly forgot - I am also a Bodleian Tour Guide which comes under all the
What it means to be a member of the AOUP
My wife retired from Oxford University and we decided to join AOUP. We enjoyed
the friendly company and attended both talks and day trips. We then progressed to
booking for the holiday to York. Unfortunately she died - dilemma, go alone on a
week’s holiday with almost complete strangers, as I had never worked for the
University, or cancel.
Following discussion with Carlos, the then Chairman, I decided to go. Fortunately
I was not allowed to be lonely. I travelled on the coach sitting with different
members. I visited stately homes and gardens and shared meals with different
members. I enjoyed myself.
Since then I have been on seven different holidays in England and Spain.
Unfortunately the AOUP holidays have become so popular and so I have missed
out on four holidays.
I know that the memory of my wife is still with me sharing my enjoyment of
retirement and the AOUP.
I would like to say how much I agree with the sentiments expressed by Polly
Friedhoff in the last edition of the
. We too have found new friends and
enjoyed the trips and holidays taken in the company of this very sociable group.
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Pensioners’ Crossword No 12
1 and 18.
celebration (9 and 11).
8. A certain kind has our featured number at the top (5).
11. We have quite a few among our members (6).
12 and 46. One of the few rules of AA (2 and 3).
13. Even the scientists among our walkers do not use this term, but reserve it for
their research (2).
14. The printer would recognise the heart of our number(2).
15. Set into the ground (7).
18. see 1 (11).
22. Implied (5).
24. Comes within 8 down but designates a country other than France (2).
25. Arch as one word; almost the opposite as two (6).
27. Follows 31 so regularly by Kipling (3).
28. The contradiction of 12 (3).
29. Used to welcome Oxford engineers, but sadly no longer (3).
30. Suffix almost always delivering bad news (3).
31. Oft repeated by the poet - see 27 (2).
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32. Do all workers of the world really belong? (3).
34. NZ bird (3).
35. Lent his name to a rebellion (3).
37. Where Amblers love to rest (5).
39 and 48. One imagines such ideal places have plenty of 37 (7 and 6).
40. Become more intense (6).
43. Often introduces a novel movement (5).
44. A strong metallic element, in short (2).
45. He sought to define truth and logic (4).
46. see 12 (3).
48. see 39 (6).
49. Another way of expressing 5 down that would not satisfy a player in 1 down (5).
51. Some use this short form as part of their valediction (2).
53. Kipling’s second verse (2).
54. A French lady would love this to accompany 8 down (1,4).
55. Another French “lady” celebrates her 1 and 18 this year (4).
58. A less usual first name (3).
60. Greek letter (2).
61. Will answer all your gardening questions (3).
62. You might have expected this to be a down clue (5).
64. Exceptional (4).
65. Antiquated language (2).
66. 5 down questions gave us this clue (7,4).
67. The country of origin of 55 (2).
1. A recent trophy (6-6-3).
2. Which England contrived to - (3).
3. Is this how the politician was known at Queen’s? (2).
4. Yes, this really is a lake in Sudan (2).
5. Seemingly contradicting 1 down, a Shropshire lad denied this would recur (6).
6. Exists, in whole or part (2).
7. Spill (5).
8. Greetings from AOUP’s French discussion group (3,12).
9. Will the editor be given it next year to recall the monarch’s experience of
opening the New Bodleian? (1,3,2,3,4).
10 and 37. Their re-introduction to the Chilterns also celebrates its 1 and 18 (3 and
12. A place of pilgrimage for Hindus (5).
17. The printer would recognise this instruction (3).
18 and 20. What 2 x 5 measures (6,2 and 6).
19. Occurs in 18 across and 8 down (2).
20. see 18 (6).
21. The source of 10 and 37 (5,2 and 5).
23. When rustics used this greeting, spelling was not fixed, but surely this one is not
26. Hails from Australia but sounds like another European institution (3).
29. Tinge or misspelling of the Cambridge second boat (5).
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33. Beloved by the Welsh and the Spanish though they would scarcely agree on the
36. One third, almost half, of a Somerset Maugham favourite (3).
37. see 10. (5).
38. A unit of measure for cloth (4).
42. see 21 (5,2).
45. Continent (4).
47. Popular man springs up in Iceland (6).
50. Sounds as if the Spaniard agrees with the use of metric measurement (2).
52. First-name initials of treasured writer (2).
56. Comparative suffix for certain adjectives (3).
57. A source of wealth but also of conflict (3).
58. A fair chance a French sheep would eat this (3).
59. A human failing (3).
60. Richardson would not have approved of this short form (3).
63. Parents more often use this in the negative (2).
64. Egyptian god (2).
Solution to Pensioners’ crossword 11
1. Masterly; 8. Proof; 12. Austria; 13. Boa; 15. UFO; 16. KG;
17. Landranger; 19. Eu; 20. SG; 21. Peen; 22. Pn; 23. Sr; 24. Real; 26. Gaoled;
28. Eyot; 30. Reagan; 33. aka; 34. Yr; 35. Tenet; 37. Spanandry; 42. UK; 43. El;
44. Olga; 45. Paid; 46. Mo/Mu; 47. Ebor; 48. Vegan; 50. Ambler anonymous;
53. Ro; 54. One; 55. Lt; 56. Waists; 59. Song; 62. Ogee; 63. Einstein;
66. Worcester; 67. Sauce.
1. Make sense; 2. Augury; 3. SS; 4. TTL; 5. Erase; 6. Ring a ring o’ roses;
7. Lad; 8. Pageant; 9. Our; 10. Of; 11. Foundation stone; 13. Bap; 14. Onega;
18. ENO; 22. Peke; 24. Rt; 25. LE; 27. Lank; 29. Ova; 31. Ayr; 32. Gryphon;
36. Eudemonia; 38. Plumbago; 39. Noel; 40. Albert; 41. Dara; 46. Maul; 49. Go;
51. No-one; 52. Nest; 56. Wow; 57. -ier; 58. Sec; 60. Oes; 61. Gnu; 64. It; 65. Sr.
Despite the unfortunate confusion over 46 across - for which apologies - quite a few
solutions were sent. The winner was David Holmes, the former Registrar who now
lives in Birmingham. I am expecting a bumper crop this time, as no. 12 is easier,
especially when you have discovered the recurring theme. The address remains
2 Bell Close, Cassington, Witney OX29 4EP, and the closing date is 30 October
2010. The name of the winner will be announced at our November talk.
The name of the game is …
You are invited to compile an alphabetical list from A to Z, with as many entries as
you can, of current ‘British’ (English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish) first or ‘given’ names -
what in pre-PC days were generally known as ‘Christian’ or ‘baptismal’ names.
Each name must begin and end with the same letter of the alphabet, e.g.
. Standard abbreviated names are allowed à
Tom, Dick and
Harry. The category of ‘British’ names here excludes primarily American, European,
Asian and African, all of which are now adding to our muster.
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Those who study the social history and formation of British first names have
recently enjoyed a huge boost to the knowledge of recent and current practice.
, a 300 million name data-base of the most popular first
names, derived from UK marriage and death records from 1837 to 2005, reveals
the following popularity order for men and women:
Between 1550 and 1799 the three commonest names for men were William, John
and Thomas, and for women Elizabeth, Mary and Anne. According to figures
compiled by the website Ancestry.co.uk, 1,067,650 girls were called Elizabeth
between 1837 and 2005, and 2,090,961 boys were named John. The website’s
director has commented on the prominent link between the names of royalty and
the popular choice of first names by the public. “To feel that a famous person, in
particular a royal” he notes, “has adopted a name gives it that seal of approval”. A
spectacular instance of this phenomenon is the fillip given in Britain to the name
Zara after 1981, following the birth of Princess Anne’s daughter, with an earlier
average of 9 per year rising to 94 in 1982 and passing the 200 mark by the turn of
the century. Historians have long pointed to the influence of the titles of popular
novels on the choice of a first name.
A new trend has been the celebrity knock-on effect of the first names of ‘celebs’,
especially in the worlds of entertainment and sport, e.g. Kylie, Jodie, Madonna,
Destiny, Tracey, Jordan, Wayne and, to cite three that have already appeared
social register of 2010, Buttercup, Hyacinth and Juniper. Linked to this
source might be a study of the names chosen by celebs for their own children.
David Beckham’s kids are called Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz, while those of the
conductor Sir Edward Downes, who died last year, are Caractacus and Boudicca.
The Geldof children made the headlines when they were named Fifi Trixibelle,
Peaches and Pixie. Along with this fashion for less conservative choices can be
identified a preference for respelling standard names, like Jayne, Alyson, Jon and
Lisbeth. In the USA there is already evidence of the effect of fashion and gossip
magazines, as well as of TV ads and social network sites like Twitter and
Facebook, on the creation of first names that were unknown fifty years ago. Finally,
it is possible to discern a new trend in converting family surnames into first names,
like Hamilton, Lester, Kent, joining the earlier models of Beverley, Stuart, Cameron
and Meredith. The girl Newby we once met turned out to be a parent-coded name
for New Baby!
Other features of first names are (mercifully?) a bit more down to earth than the
Tiger Lily style. One of immediate relevance to our Names Game is the long-
established trend of abbreviating a first name to a less formal, more friendly format,
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what might be called the ‘diminution of affection’ process. Thus Richard becomes
Dick or Rick, Michael/Mick, Robert/ Rob or Bob, John/Jack, Ronald/Ron,
William/Bill, Florence/Flo, Patricia/Pat, Philippa/Pip, Susan/Sue. This short-form, is
particularly noticeable among first names that are heavily multisyllabic, such as
Augustus/Gus, Antony/Tony. Christopher/Kit or Kim, Jeremy/Jerry. Nicholas/Nick.
Elizabeth/Elspeth or Liza, Charlotte/Lotte, Gillian/Jill, Margaret/Rita or Megan,
Joanna/Jo, Diana/Di, Dorothy/Dot, Katharine/ Kate, Christiana/Kirsty. Linked with
these ‘diminutive of affection’ shortened first names is what may be termed the
‘closer affection’ form of first names. Here a ‘pet name’ is created by adding a final
-y or -ie, either to an abbreviation of the name, Archibald/Archie, Leonard/Lenny,
Reginald/Reggie, William/Willy, Andrew/Andy, Terence/Terry, Frances/Fanny,
Sarah/Sally, Janet/Jenny or Ginny, Gertrude/Gertie, Jennifer/Jenny, Judith/Judy,
Penelope/Penny, Susan/Susie, Deborah/Debby, Mary/Maisie, Jacqueline/Jackie, or
added to its ‘diminutive by affection’ form instead, such as Sam/Sammy,
Dick/Dicky, Rob/Robby, Ted/Teddy, Jean/Ginny. What is perhaps unexpected is
that the result of the -y or -ie pet-name suffix produces a longer name than the
original shortened, diminutive name.
Another interesting feature of first names is the result of parental pressure,
particularly in the late Middle Ages, when there was a widening search on how to
adapt saints’ names for the use of girls by feminizing traditional boys’ names. A
common device became the addition of the Latin feminine final -a. Thus today we
have Alexander/Alexandra, Augustus/Augusta, Eugene/Eugenia, Edwin/Edwina,
Antony/Antonia, Henry/Henrietta, Nicholas/Nicola, Robert/Roberta, Victor/Victoria
as well as Alan/Elaine, Louis/Louisa, Paul/Pauline. John is exceptional in its
multiple partners of Joan, Jean, Jane, Janet, Janice, Jo(h)netta. Unusually Francis
and Frances involve only the change of a vowel, while Leslie, Terry and Sylvester
are equally men’s and women’s names.
In the sample list compiled by my wife and myself, we must admit to drawing
blank in our search for any entry under F, I or Y; and, less unexpectedly, J, O, X
and Z. On the other hand, we can in compensation boast of a generous number
(over a dozen each) for A and E, principally among girls’ names. However our
average score is no more than two or three names per letter.
After three months of reading first names in
daily register of births,
marriages and deaths, in booklists of authors and in the cast and credits lists of TV
soaps, plays, news reporting and multiple competition presentations like
Mastermind, Strictly Come Dancing and the X Factor, as well as frantically recalling
the names of friends, schoolmates and students, we have ended up somewhat
name-dazed, and are now barely able to read or hear a first name without fast-
forwarding to its final letter. We wish you good luck in your A to Z first name search.
For those who want to learn more about the history and meanings of first names, I
recommend E.G. Withycombe’s excellent
Oxford Dictionary of English Christian
Back to Index
From the Postbag
Mice at the Pitt Rivers!
Brian Winkfield, formerly head attendant at the Pitt Rivers Museum, has written the
During my time at the Museum, I devised a Mouse Trail. A number of wooden mice
are hiding in different cases around the Museum. You have to follow the clues to
find them all and children get a mouse sticker on completion. I thought that this
might interest some members who can take their grandchildren along to have a go
at this challenge - all good fun! And while they are looking for the mice they also
see lots of other things in the cases - which is why I wrote this trail for the younger
Mrs Nancy Piggott
, 14 January 2009 widow of C B Piggott, Archivist, University
Professor Elizabeth Fallaize
, 6 December 2009, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Education),
Fellow, St John’s College, Tutor and Reader in French
Mr George T Jones
, December 2009, Fellow, Wolfson College, Senior
Researcher, Institute of Agricultural Economics
Mrs Sylvia Cass
, 14 January, widow of Mr Kenneth Rumble, Head of Building
Services, Clarendon Laboratory
Dr Joan Austoker
, 19 January, Director, Primary Care Education Research Group
and Reader in Public Health and Primary Care, Cancer Epidemiology Unit
Mr Harry Peters
, Lodge Porter, Lincoln College
Professor Jack Pole
, 30 January, Rhodes Professor of American History, Fellow,
St Catherine’s College
Mr Byron Evans
, 2 February widower of Mrs Margaret Caffel, Dyson Perrins
Mrs Audrey J Hopkins
, 9 February, Examination Schools
Mrs Pamela Hannan
, 11 February, Department of Experimental Psychology
Mrs Katharine Haines
, 18 February, Press Officer, Public Affairs Directorate,
Mrs Marion Warland
, 21 February, widow of Arthur Warland, Administrator,
Department of Zoology
Mr Henry Allen
, 27 February, widower of Monica Allen, Domestic Assistant,
Department of Zoology
Dr Charles Caine
, 26 February, Fellow and Tutor in Mathematics, St Peter’s
College, Chair, University Chest
Dr Roger Hay
, 2 March, Director, Oxford Policy Institute
Ms Pauline Speaks
, 4 March, Exeter College
Mrs Laura Marsland
, 6 March, Department of Earth Sciences
Back to Index
Mrs Ilse Seldon
, 14 March, widow of A Seldon, Librarian, Modern Languages
Mrs Margaret Fletcher
, 16 March, Secretary, Department of Clinical Medicine
Mr Richard Day
, 21 March, Clarendon Laboratory
Mr Leslie Hedges
, 22 March, Accounts Clerk, University Offices
Mr Arthur Evett
, 25 March, Technician, Department of Physiology
Mr Ian Crombie
, 27 March, CUF Lecturer in Philosophy, Wadham College
Mr Kevin Mahoney
, 28 March, Worcester College
Mrs June Bennett
, 5 April, Cleaner, Green College
Mrs Pamela Taylor
, 5 April, Administrative Assistant, Department of Plant
Mr Roger van Noorden
, 12 April, Tutor in Economics, Drapers’ Company Fellow,
Investment Bursar, Hertford College
Dr Elizabeth Lennox
, 19 April, Childhood Cancer Research Group
Mr Cecil Hambridge
, 20 April, Department of Experimental Psychology
Mr Arthur Mason
, 28 April, Building Supervisor, Estates Directorate
Mr Rodney Prior
, 28 April, Research Technician, Dyson Perrins Laboratory
Ms Carmen Perez
May 2010, Catering Steward, Brasenose College
Mr John Wyse
, 11 May, Technician, Zoology
Mr Trevor Holloway
, 14 May, University of Cambridge Local Examinations
Mr Eric Valentine
, 14 May, Senior Electronic Technician, Nuclear Physics
Mr Peter Sanders
, 22 May, Begbroke Science Park
Mr Richard Kerr Kindersley,
30 May, Fellow, St Antony’s College
Mr Philip Connock
, 8 June, Senior Technician, Clarendon Laboratory
Mrs Mildred Richings
, 13 June, Ashmolean Museum
Mr Michael Williams
, 14 June, Building Services Manager, Department of Physics
Mr Michael Holland
, 16 June, Clerk of Works, Surveyor’s Office
Miss Lalita Carol McClure
, 19 June, Secretary, Voltaire Foundation
Mrs E M Humphreys
, 29 June, Bursary Officer, Balliol College
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