Lectures for the season 2021 – 2022

23rd September 2021: Afternoon Lecture: 
Stories of the English Coinage

Many thanks to Phil Griffiths, a long-standing member of WNTA , who took us through the history of our coins, starting from early origins in ancient Greece, through to decimal currency. He informed us of how coins were minted and how the silver content varied according to the financial state of the monarch at the time. He also explained the latin inscriptions on the coins. This was a very good start to the season in our new light and airy venue and was well supported by members.

13th October 2021: Evening Lecture:
“The most dissolute man in London”

Our first evening lecture in the new venue was well supported and we were rewarded by an excellent lecture by Dr Gillian White whose subject was William Cavendish, 4th Earl and 1st Duke of Devonshire, described as ’the most dissolute man in London’.  He had an eventful life during the reigns of Charles II, James II and William and Mary but was also part of a small group of aristocrats who brought constitutional monarchy to the throne.

The second part of Gillian’s talk dealt with the remodelling of Chatsworth over many years into one of our greatest country houses.  Dr White’s talk was clear, humorous and supported by excellent slides.

28th October 2021: Afternoon Lecture:  
“The History of Benthall Hall

Our guest speaker this afternoon was Alan Burrage, Property Operations Manager at Benthall Hall which is a 16th-century English country house near Broseley, Shropshire, a few miles from Ironbridge Gorge. The house was built in 1535 but there have been Benthalls living on this site since the medieval period.  Allan described many of the interesting events involving the house, from the Civil War to the Industrial Revolution.

Benthall Hall has been owned by the National Trust since 1958.  The house is open to the public and worth a visit.

10th November 2021: Evening Lecture:
Vulcan’s Temple

Andrew Lound’s presentations are always outstanding and this one was made even better because the venue’s sound system was used for the first time. (Thank you to Josh, their young technician).  Andrew took us through the history of the Soho foundry from the partnership of James Watt and Matthew Boulton to the development and manufacture of weighing machines by the Avery company, stressing its importance during wartime.  The site was so important to the war effort that it was a prime target and was in fact bombed and put out of action for three months.  This was a very personal talk by Andrew as he was curator of the Avery Museum until it closed.

25th November 2021: Afternoon Lecture 
“History of the Birmingham Gun Trade

Steve Green, who looks after the museum at the Proof House, gave us a fascinating account of an industry of which few people are aware. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, Birmingham’s gun manufacturing community grew around St Mary’s Church.  The number of workshops, which began in back gardens, grew until it became known as the ‘Gun Quarter’ – an area where skilled craftsmen made guns by hand.

The Birmingham Gun Barrel Proof House is a weapons proofing establishment in Banbury Street.  The Proof House was established in 1813 by an act of Parliament at the request of the then prosperous Birmingham Gun Trade. Its purpose was to test and provide certificates for firearms in order to prove their quality of construction.  In 1868, it became an offence to sell an unproofed firearm.

The Proof House still exists today, largely unchanged, although it offers a wider range of services including ammunition testing and firearm accident investigation. The building contains a museum of arms and ammunition, and can be visited by prior arrangement.

8th December 2021: Evening Lecture:
A Black Country Winter

Local historian Ian Bott has been a welcome visitor in the past, regaling us with tales of hauntings and murder in the Black Country.   He concluded our programme of lectures for 2021 with a seasonal talk about the Black Country in winter. He replaced Joe Hawkins, head of landscape at Hagley Park, who has health problems. We wish Joe well.

12th January 2022: Evening Lecture:
History of the Gardens of Calke Abbey

After an introductory video about the house, Clive Katz talked to us about the creation, decline and restoration of the extensive gardens at Calke Abbey with ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs. He outlined how the various areas of the parkland are being used, including growing vegetables for sale in the kitchen garden and plans to make the grounds more appealing for walkers and families. In order to screen the gardeners from view of the house, a 64 metre tunnel was excavated in 1816. This leads from the gardens north to the ha-ha, From here the gardeners could continue in the ditch to the servants quarters and kitchen. 

27th January 2022
Afternoon Lecture: From Russia with Luck

Sue Clegg gave us a very interesting talk about a ‘Duke of Edinburgh Award’ Expedition to the Soviet Union in 1981. In a clear, relaxed presentation, she told of the involvement of professional Russian rock-climbers, helping and supporting the young group. There were accidents, on the spot medical treatment and dangerous moments such as narrowly missing an avalanche.
While Sue was in Russia, people in the UK were glued to television sets watching the wedding of Charles and Diana. An event in which the Russians showed a great deal of interest.

9th February: Evening Lecture:
The History of Dudmaston

Dudmaston estate is home to a stunning 17th century house with wooded parkland and gardens. It is located near the village of Quatt, a few miles outside of Bridgnorth. Alexa Buffey, the Senior House and Collections Officer, began the talk with the history of Dudmaston Hall, and told us about an exciting new Modern Movement exhibition that is coming this Spring. After coffee, Peter Carty, the Countryside Parkland and Gardens manager for South Shropshire, covered the fascinating nature conservation projects that are happening in and around the Dudmaston estate as well as the diverse range of nature and habitats. An excellent turn-out by our members who were rewarded with a very informative talk.

24th February 2022: Afternoon Lecture: One Nation: Many Sausages

We are grateful to Vivian Fairbank, our Chair, not only for stepping up to replace the booked speaker, but also for providing us with an excellent talk. Vivian took us through a thousand years of German history and still finished in plenty of time for coffee! We learned about the Holy Roman Empire, the three reichs, Germany’s influence on Europe, beer and of course sausages. Her knowledge of, and enthusiasm for the subject came across in a well-presented and stimulating talk.

9th March: Evening Lecture: Charles Darwin in Shrewsbury

Charles Darwin was born at the family home, Mount House, Shrewsbury on February 12th1809. He was a naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. Voted as one of the most important people in our history. In this talk I’ll look at his childhood growing up in my hometown of Shrewsbury and his young adult life. We will discover how his early interest in nature led him to ask questions about our origins.  He went to university, medical school and all the around the world, but he always came home to Shrewsbury. He left the Town at age 30 with his future wife, his cousin, Emma Wedgwood. Maggie Love.

Maggie enthralled us with her knowledge of Darwin’s early life and family. Her enthusiasm for this subject and for everything about Shrewsbury came over so well in an excellent talk.

24th March 2022: Afternoon Lecture:  17th Century Life at Moseley Old Hall

We were treated to not one, but three members of the Moseley Old Hall staff talking about 17th Century living at the property. Fran Davis and her two colleagues told us of the history of the house during the Whitgreave ownership. We learned how the building and lands suffered when the family chose the side of King Charles during the Civil War, and were given a run down on all the monarchs of the 17th Century. the lecture concluded with a tour of the garden and the wide variety of fruit and flowers therein.