Evening lecture – 14th September 2016

“Celebrating the all-round colour and magic of N.T. Stourhead”

We launched our 2016/2017 Speaker Events Programme on 14th September with a most enthusiastic and entertaining presentation by Alan Power, Garden and Estates Manager for N.T Stourhead. Alan explained how the ‘fashion’ of estate management in country houses changed over time from the more formal and somewhat rigid design to the great and glorious landscapes that we so enjoy today. A certain Lancelot Brown began his career at Stourhead. Visitors from Europe began to visit and wonder at the English Landscape Garden- which is so admired to this day. Alan also outlined his career path from being a student to his role today. We could all see how much he loves his job and how inspirational he is and why the B.B.C. and others invite him to share his knowledge and enthusiasm…. We will be seeing Alan again so don’t miss him next time!

The magic of Stourhead

The magic of Stourhead


Evening lecture – 12th October 2016

“Rebuilding Peggs Barn”

We had a change of speaker and topic on 12th October, when due to the illness of Michelle Leake, we were really blessed with an excellent evening lecture from Brian Teall. Brian stepped in, at very short notice to deliver his lecture “Rebuilding Peggs Barn”. He presented members with the story of ‘ Peggs Barn’, a 17th Century derelict barn – just rotting away on the edge of a coalfield in Coleshill. Through Brian’s determination, energy, battles with Planning Departments, the ability to ‘scrounge’ materials  plus securing a broken promise from Prince Charles,  Peggs Barn was dismantled, relocated and rebuilt – a most inspirational story. We look forward to a return visit from Brian in the future.

Peggs Barn

Peggs Barn


Evening lecture – 9th November 2016

“St Pancras – Victorian Gothic to Breathtaking Transformation”

On 9th November 2016 our members were certainly ‘wowed’ by Nigel Lowey in the delivery of his talk ‘ St Pancras – Victorian Gothic to Breathtaking Transformation’.

We learnt about the growth of railway empires in those early days, the competiveness to outdo rivals, to build the biggest and the best, to attract increasing numbers of travellers and all this along with the difficulties of development in London. The architectural design was really a mismatch of the most amazing styles, with well above budget proposals and all this by the man responsible for The Albert Memorial- BREATHTAKING !
Next time you go to London do visit this amazing buiding – once a delapidated building on the brink of demolition, saved just in the nick of time. Find the statue of a poet, go into the hotel, take a guided tour for £20 and don’t look back over the staircase until you get to the top – and all this followed by afternoon tea or a visit to Kings Cross Station next door to partake of a beverage in The Parcel Yard pub.

St. Pancras

St. Pancras – Victorian Gothic


Evening lecture – 14th December 2016

Calke Abbey from Medieval Priory to Elizabethan Manor”

On 14th December we heard a most interesting lecture from Colin Stewart “Calke Abbey from Medieval Priory to Elizabethan Manor”. Colin a N.T volunteer at N.T Calke Abbey modestly described himself as having an ‘interest’ in archaeology.
We saw and heard just how much commitment and passion Colin has for his ‘interest’!  We heard how, through research and hard work, this story of change is supported by documentation and evidence in the building – all achieved through enthusiasm and hard work by volunteers – which still continues.
When next you visit N.T Calke Abbey don’t forget to look up and look down for clues of changes and modifications over time to this very special building.  


Evening lecture – 11th January 2017

” Explorations of California and New England”

On 11th January Derek Clarke -one of our most popular speakers- in his talk on ” Explorations of California and New England – Special Locations and The Wonderful use of Wood” impressed us all, with his well informed narration and exquisit photographs.We saw some fabulous buildings by Green and Green- as Derek said “architects ahead of their time and acknowledged to be leaders of The California Arts and Craft Movement”.  A most interesting talk as always by Derek – we have already booked him for next year.


Evening Lecture – 8th February 2017

” The Past, Present and Future of Compton Verney”

On 8th February members received a most informative and engaging talk from Christine Cluley on ” The Past, Present and Future of Compton Verney”.   We learned about the history of the house, of the families who had lived there, how fortunes were raised and fell and how in more recent years a crumbling mansion has been saved through the generosity of  The Moore’s Foundation and Lottery Funding – and hard work !
A marvellous collection of art is there for us all to enjoy and so is
the landscaped estate of Capability Brown – go and see for yourselves!
Check their website for details of opening date and forthcoming exhibitions.


Evening lecture – 8th March 2017

Sex, Drugs and Poetry

On 8th March, Helen Bratt-Wyton, House Steward from N.T Wightwick Manor, gave us a very informative account of those Pre- Raphaelites who ‘lived life to the full’ with their artistic friends and companions. Helen first set the scene of the times and we could see comparisons with some of todays social problems- nothing is new! We then heard about the artists ‘muses’ such as Lizzie Siddal and Jane Morris. We heard how relationships developed and were shared within this lifestyle. The Pre-Ralphaelites romantic ideas are evident in their poetry and paintings and much admired ……… BUT we could see how their bohemian lifestyle lead to premature ageing, poor health, drug dependancy and sometimes an impoverished end. Next time you visit Wightwick have a closer look at those paintings!

After the talk, Helen thanked WNTA for their donation which helped to ensure that the Old Malthouse Gallery could go ahead. She confirmed that the building would be complete within weeks and the gallery would open in May. She gave us a taste of what might be on display by showing us a slide of Flora, the Roman goddess, a six foot tall painting by Evelyn de Morgan. For more details go to our news page.

“Flora” by Evelyn De Morgan


Evening lecture – 12th April 2017

Liner of the Skies – The Hindenburg

We are used to being entertained and educated by Andrew Lound’s excellent presentations and this was perhaps the most dramatic of them all.  He started by outlining the history of flight and then the development of the airship.  There were many setbacks, explosions and precarious landings, all illustrated by rare photographs.  The film of the tragic end of the Hindenburg was the most dramatic of all and we watched with a sense of horror.  Andrew is very professional in his delivery and uses archive material of the highest quality.  What a great way to complete our evening lecture programme for this season.


Afternoon lecture 28th September 2016

Aston Manor Road Transport Museum

Martin Fisher, Chair of Aston Manor Road Transport Museum, gave our members the insider account of the trials and tribulations encountered by a group of local enthusiasts in trying to save Aston Manor Transport Museum, now in Shenstone Drive, Aldridge. The volunteers having recently received a Lottery Heritage Grant, in recognition of what they are doing, are further encouraged and continue to offer many attractions including rides on vintage buses at night and during the many open event days held. Please check their website for more details www.amrtm.org


Afternoon Lecture 26th October 2016

‘Skulduggery at Soho’

On 26th October at our Aldridge venue, members welcomed Mary Bodfish – a new speaker for W.N.T.A – whose talk ‘Skulduggery at Soho’ was brought to light through her very comprehensive research into an exchange of letters and events at Boulton & Watts Soho Enterprises. We learnt that this foundry company, that made the steam engines that powered the Industrial Revolution, should have paid more attention to the management of the accounts and questioned why an employee was spending so much time in the a local ale house.

The offender was ‘sent’ to Australia where many years later a descendant became a well-respected magistrate !


Afternoon Lecture 23rd November 2016

Worcestershire Remembered

On 23rd November we welcomed Ray Sturdy to present another of his most interesting talks – this time ‘Worcestershire Remembered’. We were encouraged to make comparisons between our towns and villages today and those of earlier years. We learned that in Worcester, in those easier times, villagers were truly made up of of workers who worked on the land and were in many ways isolated from other communities. They became self-sufficient – very different from today. Those earlier towns seemed to be populated by many people intent on running businesses or just getting on with life, whatever life offered, in a very dark and bustling town. After seeing photographic images and listening to Ray’s comments and perhaps counting our blessings, we could see that we ARE better off today in so many ways. Ray posed the question, “How will our time be viewed in the future when even today, in Aldridge, so many changes are happening in such a short time?” Don’t miss Ray on his next visit 27th September 2017 when he will present ‘China’s Ancient and Modern Wonders’ for our members!

Worcester c 1900

Worcester c 1900


Afternoon Lecture 25th January 2017

The Work of the Woodland Trust

On 25th January 2017 we welcomed a new speaker Liz Taylor, a volunteer for The Woodland Trust, whose lecture ” Creating Woodland Together ” was delivered with great passion. Founded in 1972 we learnt that The Woodland Trust campaigns alonside local communities and has been proactive in ‘the fight to protect and secure U.K woodland ‘.  Liz urged us all to be more aware of our local woodlands and the need to safeguard these for future generations. We were also invited to send our memories of trees loved by us from times such as, holding picnics beneath or incorporating them into our childhood games. Please send onto Liz via their website. A most informative and interesting talk – with stunning photographs – don’t miss her when she returns in our 2017/2018 Speaker Programme.


Afternoon Lecture 22nd February 2017

“Spying – Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive”

Lieutenant commander Bob Horner’s talk, entitled “spying” gave a detailed description of the structures employed by both the British and the Nazi regimes to protect their citizens and to further their causes in WWII. His encyclopaedic knowledge and confident delivery were much appreciated on a topic about which many of us knew little. His inclusion of Harry Hinsley, Walsall’s own code breaker, was particularly well received.


Afternoon lecture: 22nd March 2017

The Sutton Coldfield Railway Accident’

Derek Hayward’s talk brought our afternoon programme for 2016/2017 to a close in a most chilling way.  The   images of those photos will stay in our minds for some time – bellowing steam from engines, carriages strewn and squashed at the station with so much devastation, the faces of those involved in the clear up – where to begin?  One of our members at the meeting told us that she knew the lady who flagged down an incoming train to the station and prevented further devastation.  We learned that the crash could have been averted and this resulted in many safeguarding recommendations and laws made at the enquiry which are still in place today throughout the United Kingdom.

Margaret Wood

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